Now that I have two 4Runners
I have decided to convert my 96 SR5 for use off road and dedicate my
97 RS for fun on the road. I have attended several off road
events carefully looked over what goes on and what seems to work the
best and developed my own plan.
I never intend to do
anything really hard core like some of these other guys do, but
wanted to be able to go anywhere I want and get back and still be
able to drive home. I also don't want to do anything that will
not allow me to return the truck to its stock configuration if
So far this is what I have
come up with.
First things first.
You just have to have an upgraded front bumper, right?
This is the
TJM-15 bumper from Australia. It is a direct bolt on and is a
real bumper unlike the stock one. Nothing special here.
I am sure that there are 10,000 out there just like it. I
sourced it through Mike at X-TREME
OFF ROAD. Mike is a great guy to deal with. Be sure
to tell him Gadget sent you.
Rear Bumper Bar: :
I wanted a rear
bumper bar, but did not like what I saw on the market. I made
friends with Dale at OZ Fabrications and was convinced that he could
make exactly what I wanted. He is located in Beckley,
West Virginia. That is about six hours from me. I rented
a auto transporter and towed my 4Runner to him. I told him what I
wanted and let him have at it for a month.
wanted something that would really protect the truck off road, not
be ugly as hell, and again not have any permanent alterations to the
truck. The most important thing is that I wanted an removable
tire rack. I think tire racks are ugly and wanted to
be able to install it for off road use as needed and then take the
thing off and put the tire back under the truck where it belongs for
normal driving. Well, let me tell you, he did it!
Here it is
with tire rack removed and the spare under the truck where it
belongs. Don't worry, that exhaust tip with be gone shortly!
overall fit and the strength is really much better then the TJM
bumper I have on the front.
It is all dirty
from driving back in a snow storm and everything is covered in road
salt. Once I have played with it for a while and I am sure I
am not going to want any other mods to it I will probably have it
sand blasted and powder coated. I kind of doubt that I will
think up any changes. Dale seems to have nailed perfectly the
bumper bar is made out of 1/8" plate steel and is rock solid.
If you want to
be the first on your block to have a "Gadget" model rear
bumper bar for your 3rd Gen 4Runner email Dale at OZ
Fabrications. Be sure to tell him you saw the rear bumper
Slider Bars: :
You just have
to have side protection call slider bars. I have looked at
several different designs on the market and did not like any of
them. It is the method of attachment to the truck that turned
me off of most of them. Most are welded directly to the truck
frame. That was out. I have also seen one type that
requires you to drill 16 holes in each side of the frame and then
attach the sliders with self tapping bolts. There was no way I
was going to do that, ever.
I was trying to
think up a way to do it taking advantage of the existing holes in
the frame and without drilling or welding. I also wanted to be
able to remove them and leave no trace that they were there. I
had this running through my mind when I took a look at a Tacoma own
by a friend of mine, Jason. I crawled under the truck and was
amazed that the sliders used the very same attachment method I was
thinking of. The sliders also looked great. Of course
they were done by Dale at OZ Fabrications.
I had him whip
me up a set while he was doing my rear bumper bar. The 4Runner
is a little different and he did need to drill two holes on each
side. I can certainly live with that. They are
wonderfully done and very strong.
As you can
see in this picture the very simple mounting system taking advantage
of the existing holes in the frame.
side can be installed and removed in just a few minutes. The
driver's side will require you to loosen the fuel tank and slide it
over until you get the sliders bolted in place and then you can
slide the tank back and bolt it down. Dale does first class
You can get
yours by emailing Dale at OZ
I knew I needed a axle
locking device and after looking a most everything out there, I
decided to go with the ARB Air Locker. It uses compressed air
to lock the front and rear differentials.
When the locker is switched
on it instantly engages. This solidly locks the wheels on each
side together so there is no slip between them and both turn at the
same speed even if you have one wheel up in the air. This
provides the best possible traction. This is different then a
limited slip differential. A limitied slip will only
reduce the differential speed between the tires on both sides, but
usually require both tires to be be in contact with the ground to
work correctly. This really is not the best thing for off road
use. You can easily have one tire loose traction from it
slipping in mud or being lifted in the air and a limited slip might
still leave you stuck. A locker will prevent this, maybe.
There are different types of
lockers. Some are automatic lockers and like limited slips
they usually require both tires to have be in ground contact and
have some level of traction to get them to engage properly. If
you get one wheel in the air you can ride the brakes to get the
locker to engage, but that to me just does not make sense.
That is why I went with the selectable ARB lockers. With a
flip of a dash switch, both tires on each side of the axle are
solidly and instantly locked together. Then again with a flip
of a switch, it is unlocked just as fast. I think this is the
best thing going.
I have an ARB Air Locker in
both the front and rear axles. It is amazing how much traction
you can get with dual lockers!
There is a new type of
locker entering the market that might just give ARB a run for its
money. It is made by Detriot and it is called the Select
Track. They do not currently have an application for the
Toyotas, but you can always to a custom axle conversion.
What makes this so good is
that it is a gear type limited slip just like the True Tack or
TORSEN, but then with a flip of a switch it totally locks like the
the stock cruise control servo and mounted the ARB air compressor in
its place. I will be relocating the servo to the firewall as
soon as I get a bracket made.
I originally installed Old Man
Emu suspension all the way around. I used their medium coils
and firm shocks. It was a great combination. I got
somewhere between 2-2.5" of lift on both ends and the ride was
dramatically improved over stock. The stock suspension just
Later I added the TJM-15 front
bumper and the front sagged a little bit. I decided to upgrade
the front to the Race Runner coil over front suspension from
Sway-A-Way. I went with the stiffer Tundra valving and 650
pound per inch springs. These are super nice and are
adjustable for height. I was able to adjust the height to
compensate for the heavier bumper and then again later when I added
the Warn M-8000 winch. Easy height adjustability is a
wonderful thing to have.
Nuke provided the quick
disconnects for the front Addco sway bar. Disconnecting the
front sway bar makes a world of difference in the off road ride and
greatly improves suspension articulation so you can keep more tires
in contact with the ground for greater traction.
I also had an Addco rear sway bar
and was disconnecting it to improve articulation off road, but the
ends kept flopping around and banging on the frame. I decided
to try a different way. I cut the sway bar near the place
where it connects to the rear axle on the passenger side. I
then placed a sleeve over both of the cut ends and drilled holes
through and bolted the two sides together. When the bolts on
one side are removed it has the same affect as disconnecting the
ends with out the end flopping around since they are still connected
to the frame. It worked, but the bolts are kind of hard to
install and remove if the bar is not exactly lined up correctly.
Steve Schafer did some testing
with different rear sway bar configurations and found the best thing
was just to leave the STOCK rear bar connected if used with his new
rear super soft bump stops. I thought I would reinstall the
stock rear sway bar and give it a try. Well he was
right. The stock rear bar does not restrict articulation at
all. I can still get max stuff on one side while getting full
extension on the other.
There was another beneficial side
affect. The truck was much more stable over all especially on
the road traveling from the camp site to the wheeling area. In
the past the truck was real tippy and kind of unstable when
traveling on the road with the tires aired down and the sway bars
disconnected. I had thought it was due to the tires being
aired down, but with the stock rear bar connected the truck is very
stable on the road even with the tires aired down and the front bar
disconnected. This is a great combination.
In addition to Steve's super soft
rear bump stops, I installed his panhard bar drop bracket and his
parking brake cable mount extension. The drop bracket
recenters the rear axle under the truck after it is lifted and the
parking brake cable mount extension takes the stress off of the
cable during flex of the rear suspension off road. These are
very good things to have.
I am very happy with my current
suspension configuration. The parts list is:
SAW Race Runner front coil-overs with Tundra valving
OME medium rear coils
OME firm rear shocks
Schafer super soft rear bump
Schafer panhard drop bracket
Schafer parking brake cable
Addco front sway bar
Nuke front sway bar quick
Stock rear sway bar
There is a lot
of expensive stuff underneath the truck that you can damage off
road. Some good skid plates are money well spent.
This is a
picture of my underbelly skid plate made by Trail Carnage.
This picture was taken from underneath the truck facing forward from
near the rear differential.
This is the
front section of the Trail Carnage underbelly skid taken from the
left side of the truck.
Here is one
of the middle section that shows how it is mounted to the cross
frame member. It uses existing holes in the cross member and
there are no holes to drill. It just bolts right up.
Here is the
rear section. Again you can see how it bolts up to the cross
members using existing holes. You can see it fully protects
the transfer case, that very expensive transfer case.
This skid plate
works well. I spent three days wheeling at Paragon Adventure
Park. It has some nice scrapes in it, but no dents or divits.
I feel much better with it under there.
Tom at Trail
Carnage does good work and this underbelly skid plate came out
really nice. Mine is the second one he did and it bolted right
Skid Plate Mike
from Arizona is developing a new front skid plate to replace the
stock one. It is make of 3/16" steel and is super heavy
duty compared to the stock one.
He sent me a
prototype one to try out and find its weak spots so he could make
improvements for the production version coming out soon.
It is a very
stout unit, but as you can see I found a few weak spots...
I tested it
out at the Paragon Adventure Park during the East Coast 4Runner
Jamboree '03. That place it no joke.
production version is going to have greater side and radiator
protection. I'll bet I can still bend it.