As I head into year five with my favorite mechanical buddy, I am proud to announce that I have officially achieved my goal of bringing this site’s textual content and photos up to the FJ’s current status. I’ve scoured through nearly all of our photographs and can now confirm that I’ve completed documentation on all of the major modifications. There are still a few minor modifications, however, that have remained in hiding thus far. The main reason I have not yet addressed these items is that no one single mod was worthy of an entire article. But rather than just skip these upgrades entirely, I’ve decided to compile them all together into a single mini-mod article. Although a few of the below-mentioned items fall into the pricier category, most of these upgrades are either do-it-yourself type mods and/or modifications that fall into the quick and cheap category. In the end, whether your mods are major or minor in nature, it is the combination of the alterations that makes each person’s vehicle their own. So without further delay, here are a few of mine. Continue Reading →
The Coal Mine Cruiser Classic (CMCC), is an off-roading event for Toyota Land Cruisers held annually at Rausch Creek Off-Road Park (RCORP). Like the FJ Northeasters (FJNE) event, the CMCC attracts a wide variety of folks, both new and old to the off-roading community. The entrance requirements are a bit more stringent than some of the other spon...
When I initially purchased my Toyota FJ Cruiser, engine performance was the last thing on my mind. The 1GR-FE 4.0L engine had more than enough pulling power to meet the needs of the everyday driver. Even pushing the stock weight of an FJ Cruiser at nearly 4,300 pounds posed no difficulty for this well-built engine. But as time went on and the ...
This article is actually part three in a series involving electrical upgrades to your FJ Cruiser. For those interested in adding a second battery to your FJ Cruiser, I suggest checking out part one, which details the installation of a Dirty Parts dual battery system. The second part provides detailed instructions and photos on how to add an auxi...
For those quick trips to the trail where you plan to return in a matter of hours, it is probably a safe bet to limit on-board recovery gear to the bare essentials. The story changes, however, when these two-hour trips become multi-day excursions. For longer trips or expeditions into areas devoid of the basic support elements, it's always a good ...
This is technically part two of a series of articles on upgrading your FJ Cruiser's electrical system. Part one discusses the addition of a second deep-cycle battery to support additional fuse panels and other accessories. The main idea behind the second battery system is to isolate all the aftermarket accessories as much as possible from the st...
When it comes to modifying the FJ my goal has always been to achieve increased capability without negatively impacting vehicle performance. There's no doubt that a vehicle designed for hardcore off-roading is going to witness its share of bruises. And the greater the number of modifications, the greater the chances that the stock integrity will ...
As the ratio of off-pavement to on- tips in favor of the dirt path, I've found myself in need of a slightly more aggressive tire. For a daily commuter and general off-road use, the Nitto Terra Grappler is a great all-around choice. I ran this tire for roughly 40k miles, wearing the tread to approximately 50 percent of its original depth. For tho...
With some of the larger upgrades out of the way, it was time to review the list of smaller items required for the upcoming trip to Rausch Creek. The following items are in no way limited to an FJ Cruiser. These are simply my recommendations for anyone who wishes to travel off-road or longer distances into remote areas. For those of you lo...
The mid-Atlantic region recently experienced several rather severe snow storms which left us with with more than four feet of accumulated snowfall in less than a week. Because of the road and parking lot conditions, many businesses remained closed during that week, to include my current work location. As a result of these closures, I had som...
In preparation for a multitude of electrical devices within the FJ Cruiser, one of the next logical steps for me, was to upgrade the existing electrical system components. There's certainly nothing wrong with the stock setup as is. But with only a single 12v power port, the FJ lacks the ability to support multiple devices without potentially...
Okay, so maybe the term “bulletproof” is a slight exaggeration. But sometimes it’s the small things in life that seem to have the largest impact. In the case of Ricochet’s lower control arm (LCA) skids for the FJ Cruiser, nothing could be truer. Like their name implies, Ricochet’s assortment of skid plates offer great deflection through light-weight protection. I originally purchased these skids back in November of 2009 and I’ve been running the same set since installation. They have taken a significant beating since they were installed and they have the scars to show for it. But despite the harsh environments they’ve witnessed, these skids continue to provide the same great protection they offered when they were first installed.
For the die-hard rock-crawling fanatics out there, I should point out that these skids, like most of Ricochet’s products for the FJ, are comprised entirely of aluminum. Some of the most popular skid plate vendors out there will tell you that when it comes to underbelly protection, nothing beats steel. And from my own experience, I’d have to agree. Steel is stronger, more pliable, and will slide off rocks and other hard surfaces much easier than an aluminum skid. From a material standpoint, aluminum tends to be more brittle than steel and is more prone to sticking on rocks than sliding. The malleability of steel makes it a popular choice for wheels, skids and other parts used in the off-roading arena, because these parts can be bent back into shape when struck and warped by obstacles. Continue Reading →
There’s a lot to be said for consistency in life. For a lot of us, the day’s pace is tracked through a step-by-step set of procedures that take us from waking up in the morning to setting the alarm clock again that night. Repetition has it’s place in life but every once in awhile, I like to mix things up a bit and break the trend. In the spirit of adventurism and spontaneity, I decided it was time to change the visual theme of the Expeditionr web site. When the site was originally created back in late 2009, I opted for using WordPress as my blogging engine behind the scenes. I still hope one day to build a fresh site based on my own code, but time is limited and WordPress works quite well. So for the time being, it will remain in place as the foundation for Expeditionr content. In addition to all the other beneficial features of WordPress, the 3rd party support for themes is tremendous. This gives WordPress authors a wide variety of different themes and styles from which to choose. After sifting through several hundred themes yesterday, I finally found one that fit to my liking and the underlying thematic content of the site. So without further ado, I present to you, the recently updated Expeditionr.com!
This article is actually part three in a series involving electrical upgrades to your FJ Cruiser. For those interested in adding a second battery to your FJ Cruiser, I suggest checking out part one, which details the installation of a Dirty Parts dual battery system. The second part provides detailed instructions and photos on how to add an auxiliary fuse panel to your FJ. The current article makes up part three in the series, and will cover the addition of 12-volt outlets to your FJ. In its stock configuration, the FJ Cruiser only provides its passengers with a single 12v outlet. The addition of more outlets gives passengers the ability to plug in extra accessories such as phones and portable media devices.
I spent more than a reasonable amount of time researching and experimenting in order to determine the best location for aftermarket outlets. It sounds a little strange I suppose, but any mod that requires drilling or otherwise modifying the FJ’s stock configuration, normally leaves me to pause a bit. For those keeping up with my previous articles, you’ll note that I prefer to keep modifications as close to stock, in appearance, as possible. It’s about blending in and avoiding the “sore thumb” syndrome. Luckily, there were quite a few folks who paved the road before me, so I was able to view photos of outlets installed in a variety of different locations within the FJ before I began my own 12v installation. When all was said and done, I came up with a perfect outlet location for my needs – the rear vertical face of the center console. Continue Reading →
I’m currently working on another update to the electrical system and hope to have the article up soon. In the mean time, I thought you all might enjoy a few videos from various excursions over the last few years. These are not professionally shot by any means, but a few friends were kind enough to hang back and take some shots while we played, so I’m more than happy with the results. Over the last couple of years, I’ve discovered that one of the biggest challenges to writing articles is capturing events as they transpire. Whether the format is audio, video or still photograph, and extra pair of hands is usually required to ensure the time line of events is properly tracked.
In the case of installation, it becomes rather a nuisance to have to stop at every step in order to detail progress after the fact. So much of the time, my photographs only tell part of the story. When I have the privilege of participating in off-road events, event capturing will oftentimes translate to standing in the bushes, hanging from tree limbs, or sinking knee-deep in the mud if necessary, in order to do the shots justice. It also means hanging back from the group while everyone else gets to play. For those of you who are willing to go this extra mile, I extend my whole-hearted thanks. Without folks like you, I’d be left with only memories of events past. Continue Reading →
This post is for those of you who utilize Twitter and Facebook to keep in contact with your friends, family and other favorite activities. For anyone who is interested in following our progress here at Expeditionr, you can now subscribe to @expeditionr on Twitter for the latest updates. We also have a Facebook fan page now for anyone who wants to follow us there. Alternatively, if you don’t have a Twitter or Facebook account, you can always subscribe to our Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feed by adding www.expeditionr.com/feed to your favorite feed reader. All three of these methods require an account of some sort, but signing up only takes a few minutes and gives you access to all the other cool features that these services have to offer. Or if you’re one of those types that prefers to keep your web travels to a minimum, you can simply continue following us by visiting this site. Zero hassle with 100 percent of the return.
As I was digging through photos for my latest articles, I happened across an older directory that has not seen activity since early 2007. I’m speaking, of course, of an image repository that has remained largely isolated over the last four years. Like most things in life, memories fade all too quickly and in our haste to move into the future, we often forget to appreciate the past. I’ve spent the last four years performing a variety of modifications to my FJ Cruiser. Some were minor projects that I completed in less than an hour. Other upgrades required multiple days, even weeks before they reached a state of completion. And though I have yet to reach the solid axle conversion stage, I’d still rate the extent of my particular modifications somewhere between medium and high. It’s quite amazing how the FJ has transitioned over time.
For those of you who have yet to be bitten by the “mod bug”, these pictures might seem all too familiar. But for me, there are a pleasant reminder of where it all began. If the FJ had a story to tell, mine would have started here. I’d had the FJ less than a week when these photos were taken and it brings back fun memories when I browse through the photos. Quite frankly, I don’t remember another time when the FJ looked this clean. I’ve become quite used to the mud and dirt residue throughout. It’s part of history now and a big part of my daily life. From the day I picked it up at the dealer, my enthusiasm for the FJ Cruiser platform has only grown, and I have Toyota to thank for it. So here’s to Toyota for building not just a vehicle, but a legacy that will hopefully continue for years to follow! Continue Reading →
One of the more common complaints heard in reference to driving an FJ Cruiser is the lack of visibility from within the cabin. Sadly, many test drivers move on to purchase alternate platforms because of this very issue, never getting to experience all those other features that make the FJ Cruiser great. Admittedly, the pillars in the FJ are rather sizable. But the side visibility problem is easily eliminated with two $3 convex mirrors, and rearward visibility can also be somewhat resolved by selecting Toyota’s optional backup sensors or camera package. With these solutions in place, the average daily driver and commuter should not have any problems safely navigating most paved suburban streets. Mountain trails, muddy ravines and boulder-strewn rock gardens are a separate issue, however.
When venturing off-pavement, visibility becomes a key factor in determining the path your vehicle will travel to reach its destination. Although I believe Toyota did an outstanding job designing the FJ Cruiser in general, the height of the stock doors is simply not conducive to good visibility on the trail. One option would be to remove the stock doors altogether but this option leaves the front passengers somewhat vulnerable to branches and other flying debris and is actually illegal in some states for safety reasons. So the logical solution to this problem is to replace the stock doors with an aftermarket alternative – one that improves the view from the driver’s seat but still offers some amount of safety and protection. On that note, I’d like to introduce you to Metal Tech’s tube door for the FJ Cruiser. Continue Reading →
It’s that time of year again folks! The countdown has officially begun and as of this writing, we’re less than 90 days away from one of my favorite runs of the year. The FJ Northeasters run is hosted by FJNortheasters.org and our friends at Rausch Creek Off-Road Park in Tremont, Pennsylvania. The park features miles upon miles of trails with ratings ranging from mild green to hard-core red. There something for everyone at Rausch Creek so I highly encourage anyone even remotely interested in this event to attend. This year’s (2011) run is scheduled for Friday and Saturday, the 22nd and 23rd of April. Like previous years, the FJ Northeaster is officially slated as a two day event, however, attendees are more than welcome to stick around on Sunday as well for an informal day of trails.
Currently, event organizers behind the scenes are busily working to get registration forms online, arrange for sponsors, etc. I am told they hope to have the registration web site ready in a week or two. But like most events of this size, it takes a lot of hard work and coordination to make it all come together. So please be patient and in the mean time, hit up the FJ Cruiser or FJ Northeaster forums for more details. I’ll update this post with a registration link once the forms are up and ready to go. I look forward to seeing those of you who regularly attend and hope to see a fresh batch of new faces as well. See you on the trails!
The registration form is now live and ready for sign-up! Once again, I’d like to remind everyone that even though this event is FJ-centric, registration is completely open to anyone who wants to join in the fun. There are no limits based on vehicle brand or manufacturer. If you’re looking for a great gathering of folks and enjoy wheeling, rock crawling, or off-roading in general, the FJ Northeasters run is a great event to attend.
For those quick trips to the trail where you plan to return in a matter of hours, it is probably a safe bet to limit on-board recovery gear to the bare essentials. The story changes, however, when these two-hour trips become multi-day excursions. For longer trips or expeditions into areas devoid of the basic support elements, it’s always a good idea to plan ahead and include additional gear for those unexpected events. As someone who hedges on the side of safety, I tend to carry more gear than I expect to use, but I’d rather “have it and not need it, than need it and not have it”, as the saying goes. But there are penalties to pay for this peace of mind – penalties paid in the form of increased weight and reduced storage space.
One of the best solutions for on-board storage in the FJ Cruiser is provided by a company called Springtail Solutions. I won’t go into too much detail here since I posted a complete review of their storage racks several months ago. Suffice it to say, their rear door storage rack is a life-saver when it comes to the wide assortment of smaller items that I require for longer trips. These racks, and the optional MOLLE bags that attach to them, have no problems supporting the weight requirements for items such as small tools, various camping supplies, and a well-rounded first aid kit. But by the time you add two of these racks, loaded with all the accompanying gear, to the FJ Cruiser’s rear door, the strain becomes somewhat noticeable. The weight of the internal gear, combined with the spare tire and wheel mounted on the outside of the door, is a bit more than the stock hinges can handle. This is especially true for those folks who have upgraded their tires and wheels to larger, heavier models, increasing the outside weight dramatically in some cases. Continue Reading →