As a dedicated BFGoodrich tire guy for almost ten years, I was surprised to see such a loyal following in the FJ forums for Nitto brand tires, specifically their all-terrain series tire known as the Terra Grappler. The positive feedback for this tire and rating for its performance under the FJ was so overwhelming that I decided to take a chance and branch away from BFG. With the new rear suspension on the way, I decided nothing would complement it better than a new set of shoes. Plus, with the suspension raised three inches higher than stock, the original tire size was going to look somewhat dwarfish. So I decided to upgrade the tire size in the process. After calling around to various tire shops, I finally got a smokin’ deal on five brand new Nitto Terra Grapplers in a size of 295/70R17 and an appointment to get them installed. For those who may have missed my previous post, I had recently ordered the remaining pieces of a Stage One suspension from Icon Vehicle Dynamics. So two new springs and shocks, five new tires and one alignment later, I was driving home in a lifted, but very smooth-riding FJ Cruiser.
It’s been almost two years and 40k miles now since I swapped out the suspension and tires and I must say, I couldn’t be happier with my purchase decisions. The performance of both the Icon suspension and the Nitto Terra Grapplers has been superb. The tires do have a slight whine to them at highway speeds but no more so than the BFG all-terrains. And their performance in snow, mud, rocks and dirt has been quite good. I’ve never been stuck at any obstacle during off-roading events, although I did have difficulty getting up a mud-slicked trail during a recent trip to Vermont. In the Nittos’ defense though, the hill was quite steep, and the Terra Grapplers are an all-terrain tire, not a mud-terrain. Since the FJ is first and foremost a daily commuter, I went with an all-terrain design to get better mileage, traction and less wear and tear. So I’m still quite happy with my choice. Mud-terrain tires would definitely excel in the steep, muddy areas. But when it comes to rocks, the Terra Grapplers are superb and their highway manners are quite gentlemanly as well. Add to that fact they’re priced well below the BFGoodrich all-terrain series and you’ve got yourself a killer tire. Plus, after nearly 40k miles of use, I still have over half the original tread remaining. All in all, if anyone is looking for a great all-season tire that doesn’t cost a fortune, I highly recommend the Nitto Terra Grappler.
As far as the Icon suspension is concerned, it’s definitely taken some abuse during a few of the trips up to Rausch Creek Off-Road Park. That combined with almost two years of wear and tear resulted in damaged seals in the passenger-side coil-over and one of the rear shocks. With several components down for the count, I contacted Icon to see about getting replacement parts. In case I didn’t mention it before, one of the biggest advantages to a coil-over system like Icon’s is that they are completely rebuildable. The initial purchase price is a bit more than their non-rebuildable counterparts, but since they last about two years and a rebuild only costs an average of $50, it’s more than worth the up-front investment. The rear shocks are not rebuildable but you can purchase a brand new Icon rear shock for around $90.
Since I needed to send the coil-overs directly to Icon to be rebuilt I decided to take advantage of the opportunity and try to do the work myself. Surprisingly, removing the Icon coil-overs from the FJ was much simpler than I anticipated. So simple, in fact, that I eventually took on the task of re-installing the coil-overs once they were returned, along with swapping out both of the rear shocks. If you have a semi-decent set of tools and the initiative I now recommend you do this type of work yourself. I’d just always assumed it was beyond me and taken the vehicle to a shop. I was very surprised to find out how easy this was to accomplish. And the confidence and knowledge I gained from that experience has led me to take on even more challenging tasks and modifications.