Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Mounting the Lower Control Arms

While I'm not purposefully planning to rock climb or get into situations where I have to tax the Land Cruiser platform, I have been planning for potential situations that may or might occur and looking for options, individually or in combination, that will enable safe passage from point A to point B. One of these things happens to be ground clearance.

I've previously installed an Old Man Emu 2.5" lift kit that included torsion bars, springs and shocks, as well as, changed tire sizes from stock to NITTO 285/75R16 and added Slee Off-road underbelly armor for some protection even with the modest lift change. Couple this with the higher ARB bullbar winch bumper on the front and Slee Off-Road bumper on the back and the attack vectors are improved to see rubber before it sees metal. However, I still had something bugging me which was the fact that my lower control arms would theoretically hit an object before the tire had a chance to sort it out. So, after a bunch of research I ended up purchasing a set of 80 & 100 Series Heavy-Duty High Clearance Lower Control Arms from Wild West Off-Road and installed them shortly thereafter with the help of another friend who rebuilds cars from the chassis up.

We went to a local DIY shop that is a proper rejiggered garage complete with lifts and such. I don't mind being on a crawler underneath the truck. It was a pleasure to stand up under the truck and work on things, however. With the right tools and setting, things go more quickly. Friends help.

The old 100-series bolts came out pretty easily, as did the original lower control arms. I took a few pictures of the comparative old and new bolts and control arms. The stock stuff was, and has historically been, pretty sturdy. However, the new arms and bolts are actually designed for an 80-series, are thicker, change the attack angle and have thicker, beefier bolts. I was curious if there would be enough metal at the mount points to handle the new bolts and arms. After bring under there, I think we're pretty solid. Were I going to purposefully rock climb and get crazy I may consider beefing up the body mounts.

Old bolts and arms were taken out first. Then we had to drill out the holes to take the bigger bolts from 3/8" to 5/8". It may actually have been metric come to think of it, but we used English anyway since that was what we had in our hands at the time. We alternated contextually between a step drill and straight heavy duty drill bit. No problem on the drill-outs. We dry-mounted to see if it all fit and we were good to go. I greased the bolts and bushing sleeves, we put the accompanying washers on either side of the rear bushings as instructed, mounted the front points and then rear points without much effort. We did use a persuasive rubber hammer a few times, but nothing out of the ordinary. After all was said and done, we gunned them tight, made sure the rear wheels were tight as well, dropped the lift and put it out on the parking lot to check for anything silly. After that I S-curved a bit to re-adjust the suspension and help it settle and went back to work. Overall, due to have an air compression issue with the lift that first had to be reconciled, we were in and out in sub-two hours.

There are a number of comparative pictures below showing new and old arms, new and old bolts, mounts points before drill-out and after everything is mounted on the rack and on the ground. Overall, I'm pretty pleased with a) the new lower control arms themselves and b) the ease of the swap-out.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Installing the CB

Knowing that I plan to be in situations where various methods of communication will change with context, I decided to research, purchase and install a CB solution. I grew up around CBs while hunting, trapping and farming with family and so had a head start, but needed to refresh myself on options. Turns out, as usual, there are more options out there than anticipated and I actually had to do some research.

For an antennae, I looked at long and short, fiberglass and steel/aluminum, singles and duals, installation on front, rear or sides of the vehicle, as well as, mounts and wiring choices. With a whip, it will take a beating I hear. With fiberglass, it will have better reception/transmission ability. With longs, more range; shorts, obviously shorter range. Candidly, since all of my CB experience was vicariously through family when I was younger, I eventually decided on something that seemed logical until I can prove or disprove it as logical. I chose the 5ft Firestick with a heavy-duty spring and quick-disconnect to stow when not in use and sourced it from Right Channel Radios.

I read that length gives distance and fiberglass gives better communication quality. I'll know if that's true or not through time, assuming my implementation of the idea is pure and correct and thereby not giving a false positive. I also knew that I'd likely be travelling alone more than with others, so went with a 5ft. However, after some thought, given then quick-disconnect option, I could also get a shorty for when I'm traveling with others when distance isn't as important.

As for the CB, there were options. However, the requirements I had included:

  • being simple as I don't need (or think I need) bells, whistles, turnstyles and roundabouts
  • being reliable with a good reputation through years of experience
  • being stowable (I want it when I want it, and don't when I don't)

I ended up choosing a Cobra 75 WX ST SoundTracker, an SWR meter (for tuning it) and some coax cable with a firestick mount ring for the job. All also sourced from Right Channel Radios.

I installed the antennae on the back spare time mount the first time. It rubbed the paint off the spare-tire holder and started wearing into the antennae insulation. Stupid user trick I suppose. So I moved the antennae to the front bumper. And now my family feels it in the way of their forward field of view. So, after I have more of the kit together and I see how things are coming together, I'll let the new location reveal itself to me along the way (knowing that this will mean I either move the coax or install another line).

The first time I ran the coax through a fresh drill-hole in the back of the truck, up the side of the truck, under the floor/door rails and to the front dashboard. This is really because I didn't yet have an opinion about where I wanted things. The second time, I ran the coax through the engine box through an existing firewall hole on the passenger side, underneath the dash, up the center console and into the main compartment. This then is where the handset is located. Stowed when not in use, accessible when needed.

After tuning it, it seems to work just fine. Other than explicitly following the directions to tune the antennae to the CB to the implementation itself, I don't have enough experience to understand the signal-to-noise ratio coupled with the enjoyment of squelching, listening and talking. Things are logical until they aren't. Academically I've done that which I believe I'm to do. Experientially, it may be an excellent kit choice and implementation, or I may shoot it off the truck like a clay pigeon. Unknown. I now feel and believe that running wire is a pain in the arse and I know that wasn't even a comparatively difficult or complex wiring run.