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Old 12-10-2020, 12:12 PM #1
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Gimli's Surprisingly Light Overlanding Build



So, almost a year in, decided I should probably start a build thread. I've got a bit of a theme going to what I'm putting together, and I've tried some stuff out and am happy with where I'm going, so build time. I apologize in advance as some of the threads will not have as many pictures as they should. I'm not good about taking pictures while I'm working on things. That said, if there are questions or the like I'm happy to answer them.

Background: Moved to Albuquerque 3.5 years ago, and realized the commuters my wife and I had weren't going to cut it as adventuremobiles. Too many places we wanted to go beyond the pavement. We bought an Isuzu Rodeo, and the first trip got it completely stuck in goopy mud. Thus started my modifications to vehicles and my travel down the rabbit hole.

Unfortunately, after about 18 months of adventures, we got stuck driving home in a snow storm and flipped the thing outside of Farmington in northern NM. Everybody walked away, but we decided the next vehicle had to have at a minimum some kind of stability control and curtain airbags. For offroading, I wanted at a minimum low range and I was not a fan of pickup trucks. That combo pretty much meant a 4th gen or newer 4runner or a land cruiser.

Finding the one: We searched for a while. We test drove a new 5th gen, thinking we might replace my wife's DD with one. The nose dive did not impress us, and the handling of the 5th gen in general kind of scared us. We liked the way the Tacoma handled, but seating was limited. We kept looking.

At a family reunion, one of my Aunt's had a 4th gen limited v8. I asked if we could take it for a whirl, just to see how we liked it. All the handling we hated on the 5th gen was gone, and the v8 had go! This particular example had no XREAS, no rust, 178k miles, a v8, and a good price. We bought it, and Dec 31, 2019 we had our new runner back in NM.

Build Goals:
This build is intended as a light rock crawling or serious overlanding build, but with an emphasis on "bang for your buck" both in terms of mod dollars and weight. My wife loved the way it drove stock, and I wanted that to stay even as we upgraded the vehicle. It needs to be comfortable doing a trail like Elephant Hill or Fins and Things in Moab, but I'm not intending to throw 35's on it or anything like that.

Current Build:
I'll update this as I make changes. The rest of the thread I'll do one post for each set of mods/repairs. It will probably take me a few days of posting to get caught up with where I'm at today.
  • Armor:
    RSG Rock Sliders (Post 5)
    RCI Aluminum Skid Plates (Post 56)
    Outpost Offroad Control Arm Skid (Post 41)
  • Tires and Suspension
    Eibach Pro-Truck Lift Kit (Post 9)
    Sway-away rear coils (Post 41)
    Swaybar relocation bracket (Post 57)
    255/80r17 Falken AT3W Load E Tires (Post 12)
    FJ Cruiser Wheels (Post 12)
    DIY Sliding Swaybar Disconnects (Post 59)
  • Overlanding Stuff
    Rola Vortex Rack w/ 4xInnovations Mounts (Post 14)
    Offroad Gear Awning (Post 14)
  • Misc. Other Mods
    Rear Window Up Mod (Post 37)
    Inclinometer (Post 19)
    Scosche Magnetic Mount (Post 19)
    Washer Bottle Relocation(Post 39)
    Diff Breather Mod (Post 39)
    Cali Raised LED USB charger (Post 19)
    240 Amp BNR Alternator (Post 65)

Repairs:
This is a by no means exhaustive list of repairs that have been done to the vehicle. References to posts if its one I've written about. Feel free to ask me questions about any of them. Our trucks are reliable, but this is still a car with 175k miles on it, so I wanted to keep some kind of track of the repairs that needed to be done. No particular order, just how I put them in.
  • CV Axles Post 2, more discussion posts 21-30ish
  • Timing Belt and Water Pump Post 2
  • Thermostat Post 2
  • Coolant Drain and Fill Post 2
  • Power Steering Fluid Change Post 2
  • ATF Fluid Change Post 13
  • Radiator Cap
  • ATF Hose replacement
  • 5th Gen Brake Retrofit
  • AC/Heat blower motor
  • Actuator breather hose Post 53
  • Swaybar bushing replacement Post 57
  • PCV valve replacement Post 58
  • Power steering pump Post 65
  • High Output Alternator Post 65

Last edited by gimlithepirate; 02-03-2021 at 09:48 AM.
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Old 12-10-2020, 12:31 PM #2
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Initial Repairs

After buying a used , I am always a fan of preventative maintenance. I knew from the pre-purchase inspection that I needed new CV boots. What I did not know until I got home was the CVs were cheap after market units.

Also, at 178k miles it had no record of any timing belt being done. I'm guessing it was at some point, but with no idea I was not about to risk it.

I DIY as much of my own maintenance as I can. So far, a timing belt is near the limit of what I will do, but I seem to have a knack for taking on bigger and bigger projects...

Initial Maintenance:
  • New OEM CV axles
  • New timing belt and water pump using AISIN Kit
  • New Thermostat
  • Coolant Drain and Fill
  • Oil Change
  • Power Steering Fluid Change

All of this went according to plan, EXCEPT for part of the timing belt. Had the belt changed out and everything was moving along all hunky dory. I did take the radiator out, which let me get my impact in to make taking off the crank shaft bolt way easier.



I got to the part where I bolted thermostat housing on... and righty-tighty become righty-loosey. Bolt completely sheered off in the block


Thankfully, I was able to get it out with a screw extractor and some patience.


I had some bolts of similar length and thread count from my Isuzu in my garage, though I did have to shorten one with the dremel. After that, I was able to cinch everything up, and have her back on the road!
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Old 12-10-2020, 12:31 PM #3
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is the handling in stock 5th gens really that bad? never really heard issues about it but I'm also new here so
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Old 12-10-2020, 12:37 PM #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WRTR5 View Post
is the handling in stock 5th gens really that bad? never really heard issues about it, but I'm also new here so
Floaty, nose divey, and no power, the transmission is constantly gear hunting and shifting to try and get power on inclines.
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Old 12-10-2020, 12:57 PM #5
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RSG Rock Sliders

The first and most important mod in my book is rock sliders. On my Isuzu, when I was still figuring out "how to offroad" I managed to do a number on my passenger rocker panel. Sliders are cheap insurance, and most trips I come back from have a new scratch.

I looked at a bunch of options. I knew I wanted something bolt on, as being able to take them off is nice. I also wanted something with a good enough attachment method I could use a hi-lift jack on it in a pinch. I liked the way both the Shrockworks and RSG options attached. Ultimately I went with RSG as I liked having a kickout, and I like the long metal plate parallel to the frame.


I also decided to rattle can with bedliner instead of powder coating. Powder coating looks awesome, but if your going to be banging it up, rattle can is better. Got the old running boards off, rocksliders on, and the car already looked 10x more offroad worthy!
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Old 12-10-2020, 01:03 PM #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WRTR5 View Post
is the handling in stock 5th gens really that bad? never really heard issues about it but I'm also new here so
My personal opinion on the 5th gen is that toyota screwed the pooch on the stock suspension. The nose dive is a big issue. The problem is its running basically identical shocks to the 4th gen, but with a bigger heavier vehicle. This becomes VERY apparent when you are doing any kind of high speed interstate maneuvers.

Toyota does provide two ways to fix it. KDSS makes a huge difference in how the vehicle feels, as does a TRD Pro with the Fox suspension setup.

If I bought a 5th gen at some point, I would bring it home and immediately swap out the suspension for an Eibach or Dobinsons kit. Makes a massive difference.
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Old 12-10-2020, 02:09 PM #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gimlithepirate View Post
My personal opinion on the 5th gen is that toyota screwed the pooch on the stock suspension. The nose dive is a big issue. The problem is its running basically identical shocks to the 4th gen, but with a bigger heavier vehicle. This becomes VERY apparent when you are doing any kind of high speed interstate maneuvers.

Toyota does provide two ways to fix it. KDSS makes a huge difference in how the vehicle feels, as does a TRD Pro with the Fox suspension setup.

If I bought a 5th gen at some point, I would bring it home and immediately swap out the suspension for an Eibach or Dobinsons kit. Makes a massive difference.

I do t think the TRD Pro FOX suspension fixes the nose dive. I have a 2019 PRO but havenít driven in any other models to compare but I can tell you the Pro still nose dives under breaking on highway.


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Old 12-10-2020, 02:19 PM #8
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Thanks for sharing your build. I like the idea of an awning on mine, but I wanted to ask what do you use yours for? Also what do you use to sleep? A tent? I am starting out and wondering if a tent on top of the truck is worth it.
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Old 12-10-2020, 02:42 PM #9
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Lift Kits

With the basic armor on the truck, I knew I was living on borrowed time with the original tires, given they were mismatched and of questionable age. However, I did not want to buy one set of tires just to replace with a different set as soon as as I lifted it. Thus, I decided the next step was to get the lift on there ASAP.

I looked at a LOT of lift kits. The big concern was my wife already liked the way the car rode, so I didn't want to get something too stiff like the Bilsteins. I also didn't want to spend a fortune, so Icon and King were out. When I first bought the car, my plan had been to go OME. They have a great reputation, and Rocky Road Outfitters has OME shocks + UCAs for a very reasonable price. However, the more I looked into it, the less I liked them. Reports of rusted shock bodies gave me pause, but what ultimately did it in for me was realizing there really wasn't a good spring for the rear. I wanted a 3/2 lift, and none of the OME options seemed to work.

What I ended up looking at were the Eibach Pro-Truck lift and the Dobinsons options. Dobinsons was my preferred option, but then there was a sale on Eibach. More importantly, the Eibachs had adjustable fronts like the Bilsteins, so whenever I got around to replacing the bumper I could compensate for the weight. Essentially, Eibach is selling a USA made Bilstein with a progressive valve that makes it more comfortable on road. Sounded like a winner to me.



The kit arrived, and I was ready for install. I used the spring compressor free method, where you use the weight of the car to compress the springs. This felt way safer than any other method I have used. Took me and a couple of buddies about half a day to get everything installed.


I've posted a review of the suspension here: 4th Gen Eibach Pro-Truck Lift Review
Basically, Eibach is a step above a mild lift, but not quite a full 3/2 lift. Consequently you can get an acceptable alignment on stock UCAs, but still get bigger tires on. The ride quality is fantastic both on and off road. I currently have mine on the lowest setting up front and am getting about 2.5" over stock in the front. The biggest issue with the kit is that the rear spring is only 1" taller, and barely any stiffer than stock. The shocks are good enough though that I think it is still worth checking out.
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Old 12-10-2020, 02:53 PM #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by freshedie92 View Post
Thanks for sharing your build. I like the idea of an awning on mine, but I wanted to ask what do you use yours for? Also what do you use to sleep? A tent? I am starting out and wondering if a tent on top of the truck is worth it.
I'll get to the awning in a few more posts in detail (need it to stop snowing so I can take pictures of the mounts xD)

I use my awning in camp to keep dry and have some shade depending on the weather. It's better for shade than rain, as it's a little small if its really raining a ton. Main advantage over a stand alone awning is setup/takedown is very quick, and storage is not much of an issue.

For sleeping, I have a plain old REI half dome 2 plus I setup. There are only 2 reasons to get an roof top tent as far as I am concerned. The first is if you just love treehouses. They are basically the ultimate treehouse, and as long as you understand you are doing it for fun, it's great. The second is if you are doing hard core overlanding where you need to get in 8-10 hours of driving per day and may not have space for a ground tent. RTTs were popularized in Australia where sleeping on the ground is a much more dangerous proposition than here in the US.

Sleeping in the car is a whole other issue. My Isuzu was built as a sleeper, and was kind of awesome. It does let you camp in places that a ground tent isn't as practical, and has some real upsides with regards to security. Plus glass means you can see stars and moon at night. However I have no plans to do this with a 4runner because I'm 6'3", meaning that I need a pretty serious platform to make it work, and we have a kiddo that probably would make that more challenging.

The most important things for a starter though are to get out there, do your research ahead of time, and know when to use your reverse gear. OnX Offroad is a decent resource for finding trails and the like. Plan out a trip, and at least initially try to stick to out and backs. That way, you always know you can get back to the trailhead. The big thing though is, don't be stupid. If you see something you don't think you can get through/over, turn around. It's all fun and games as long as no one gets hurt, and no one gets stuck without backup.
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Old 12-10-2020, 02:59 PM #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SnoRnR View Post
I do t think the TRD Pro FOX suspension fixes the nose dive. I have a 2019 PRO but havenít driven in any other models to compare but I can tell you the Pro still nose dives under breaking on highway.


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It does nose dive, but it's better than stock. Stock feels borderline dangerous.

To be fair, the 4th gen has nose dive too. It's not that the pro doesn't have nose dive. It's just more controlled.
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Old 12-10-2020, 04:24 PM #12
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Wheels and Tires

With the lift kit on the 4runner, the next step was tires. Given our flip in the snow, whatever I got needed to be 3 mountain snow flake rated. The Isuzu had Goodyear Wranglers, which I later found out are notorious for having different sizes that are and aren't snow rated. The ones on the Isuzu weren't.

I looked at a couple of options and had it narrowed down to the Cooper ATP or the Falken AT3W. To answer my question though, I needed to decide on size.

The issue was, with a limited I had 18" wheels. I was (and still am) trying to avoid the body mount chop, which meant I was looking for a 32-33" tire. One option I considered was a 265/70/18, which works out to like a 32.6" tire depending on brand. The issue was that I wasn't sure that was going to clear the front UCAs on stock wheels. There is so little offset with the stock wheels that I was pretty sure I would be rubbing unless I also got new UCAs.

About this time, I saw someone selling a set of 4 FJ Cruiser wheels for 200$ on the local Facebook marketplace. These have more offset than the 4runner wheels, but significantly less than most aftermarket options. Plus they look great, and are 17" size. I grabbed them, and then decided to go big or go home, with a 255/80/17. Cooper didn't make this size in anything but the ST MAXX, so I went with the Falken AT3W. This tire size on a Falken is a 33.1" tire, and is pretty much the biggest tire you can run on this particular lift. Sold my old wheels for 140, and I was good to go. Gotta say, the results are hard to beat!



As a side note, since I could only find 4x 17" tires, I did need a spare. Consequently, I grabbed the cheapest All Terrain 265/70r18 Discount Tire had and put it on my old stock wheel. This size *barely* fits in the stock spare location, but it does in fact fit. And as I was afraid, it will rub against UCAs up front, but if I get something in a front tire, I'll put the spare on the back and rotate the other tire to the front.
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Old 12-10-2020, 04:34 PM #13
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ATF Fluid Exchage

I decided to follow one of the guides on here about doing an ATF fluid exchange without getting under the car.



For anyone else doing an ATF exchange, this method is a serious mixed bag. The big advantage vs a drain and fill is that you get everything out. The disadvantage is that filling via gravity is incredibly slow, and you will probably over or under fill it.

I found out about 4 months later that I overfilled mine. Ended up having a hose leak due to the extra pressure. Replaced the hose, got the extra ATF out and it was good to go.

Next time I need to do this, I will follow the exchange procedure, but will finish by putting the car in test mode, getting up to temp, and then checking the actual level under the car. That way, I know I've got the right amount of ATF in it.
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Old 12-10-2020, 04:55 PM #14
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Roof Racks and Awnings

If your truly going for that safari look, you've got to have a roof rack and an awning right?

In all seriousness, the roof on my 4runner is already not in great shape due to past owners putting things directly on it. Between that and my desire to carry a gas can I decided I was definitely going to need a roof rack.

Prinsu, LFD and the other custom options are amazing, but they are expensive and specific to the 4runner. Instead, I got a Rola Rack along with the low profile mounts from 4xInnovations. Total cost was 300$, and the rack will work on other vehicles. From a functionality and quality standpoint the Rola is pretty great, but the low profile brackets are a must. If your handy, you can probably make something similar to the 4xInnovations bracket, but I decided I wanted to do it once, do it right.


With the roof rack on, I figured out I could mount my hi-lift to the side using a few U-bolts. I put some clear tubing over the Ubolt to keep it from rubbing the powder coat off the Rola.


I also attached an awning. The awning I got is basically an ARB knockoff: 4x4/SUV Retractable Rollout Awning w/ Front Extension – OffroadingGear.com. I paid about 250 for the 6.5 x 8 ft one. Unlike the ARB awning, this one comes with stainless mounting hardware and an extension.

The instructions called for attaching the stainless L brackets to the cross rails. Instead, I got some U-Bolts and attached them to the side rails.



The awning works great for sun. For rain its a tad on the small side, though still functional. All the parts are pretty solid quality, especially for a "knockoff" of another famous brand.

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Old 12-10-2020, 05:00 PM #15
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What kind of clearance between the tire and UCA do you have? Do you think if you had a 285/70/17 instead of the 255 width in the 33 that it would rub?
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