Toyota Tacoma "TAV" Buildup
The Ultimate Trailhead
folks such as hunters, climbers, backcountry skiers and
snowboarders need reliable and effective transportation
to backcountry trailheads. Toyota trucks are an excellent
choice for such use, but they still need a few tweaks to
be truly effective. Here is a buildup we call the
Trailhead Approach Vehicle, or "TAV" for
Louis Dawson -- photos by Chris Overacker, Lou and Louie
|The vast backcountry of the American
West is webbed with access roads that require a truck or
high clearance SUV for safe and reliable driving. The Toyota
offerings are fine choices for this type of travel, especially
the TRD Off Road Tacoma shown here.
Using a 4x4 for trailhead access
is a fact of life for many, if not most North American backcountry
skiers and riders. Europeans have a vast network of aerial tramways,
ski lifts, and public transportation -- automobiles optional.
We Americans are blessed with vast reaches of sparsely populated
land, with occasional trailheads accessed by roads that are frequently
rough, and may not receive regular maintenance.
|Master fabricator Chris Overacker
readies another stick of tubing for the bender. Our Tacoma
with completed front bumper in background.
More, parking areas may be rough
and not snow plowed, making 4-wheel-drive a necessity for worry
free parking. A stock 4x4 SUV may be all you need if you drive
such roads only a few times a year, but tackle trailhead approches
or long distance rural driving much more than that, and you'll
welcome modifications such as better tires, beefy bumpers, rally
lighting, and more.
We purchased a new 2003
Toyota Tacoma Double Cab 4x4, and with the help of CODE 4x4 built
it to be the Trailhead Approach Vehicle (TAV) of our dreams.
Check it out!
Toyota dealers pretty much force you into buying trucks with more options than
you might want (you have to wait months for "strippers" with fewer
options), but the available packages worked for us.
The truck we picked came with
the TRD off road package, which consists mostly of hype and a
sticker on the left rear quarter panel, but provides a rear differential "locker" that
makes a huge difference in off-road traction by sending power
to both rear wheels. (Even when a truck is in 4-wheel-drive,
normal axle mechanicals only send power to one wheel each, meaning
that in 4-wheel-drive you still only have two wheels providing
traction -- with a locker in the rear you get three traction
wheels and it makes a big difference.) A driver selectable locker
is an an expensive aftermarket mod -- but in my view an essential
for a truly reliable TAV 4x4 and thus nice to get in a stock
truck. (The TRD package also includes so called "heavy duty" shock
absorbers, but we had to swap these out anyway for adjustable
Ranchos, as "heavy
duty" was still too soft for highway driving with a load.)
Our Tacoma also came with electric
windows, automatic door locks, AC, and more. Its other life is
as a highway cruiser and wife's daily driver, so such amenities
are welcome. Ditto for the automatic transmission, which is not
my preference for mountain driving, but makes the truck much
more useful as a commuter, and does have its place for crawling
rough roads or busting snow. We skipped Toyota's expensive tow
package as our custom rear bumper would provide a receiver hitch,
and I would could add other towing necessities myself.
Thanks goes to Marc Grandbois
at Bighorn Toyota for making our buy go so smooth, and the price
was right too!
Our first major modification was designing, building and installing state-of-the-art
custom "pre-runner" style bumpers. I turned the bulk of this work
over to our 4x4 guru Chris Overacker of CODE 4x4 (www.code4x4.com).
I've become friends with Chris while working on his website, and gained a
huge amount of respect for his engineering instincts, incredible design creativity,
fabrication skill, and aesthetic sense. More, he lets me do some welding
on our projects.
(PLEASE NOTE: CODE 4x4 receives
many inquires about these bumpers. CODE is now in the business of installing pre-made aftermarket equipment and will be happy to recommend and install such a bumper for your truck. Many fine ones are now available.)
front bumper is a thing of beauty created by Code 4x4!
A few thoughts about bumper design
philosophy: At first glance, light-truck bumpers
appear to be cheesy damage prone ways for the manufacturer to
save money. This is true to a small extent, but more importantly,
stock bumpers on modern light trucks are not really "bumpers." Instead,
they are an aerodynamic integrated part of "crush zones" designed
to absorb energy when you hit something -- or something (like
a 100mph drunk) hits you.
If you replace a stock bumper
with one significantly stronger and more rigid, in a serious
accident you'll simply suffer a harsher more injurious jolt to
your neck and spine, and while your bumper may suffer less damage
than a stocker, the force will be transferred to your truck frame
and you may end up with more expensive repairs than if you'd
sacrificed your stock bumper. Conversely, in low speed accidents
or wildlife collisions, your stock bumper crush zones may suffer
more damage than necessary. That gets ugly and expensive.
|Tacoma stock front bumper and cowling
is trim and good looking, but impractical for real-world
backcountry use. We easily sold ours while still in new condition.
Thus, if you're traveling four-wheel-drive
roads where you might tap a tree or rock at low speeds, or driving
rural roads and possibly hitting deer, a stronger after-market
bumper can be useful, but such a bumper must be engineered to
deflect or crush in a high speed collision.
Moreover, while stock bumpers
may act as part of your truck's collision safety system, they
lack functionality. Mounting after market lighting on them is
tough. While recovering a stuck vehicle, stock bumpers provide
little to nothing in the way of jack lifting points or tow anchor
points, and have zero ability to push another vehicle, or be
pushed. And finally, the painted plastic and chrome of stock
bumpers start suffering cosmetic damage the moment you drive
off the dealer lot, and such damage is difficult, if not impossible
Designing aftermarket bumpers
that address the points above is an imperfect art, but possible
with the right materials and a bit of thought. Experience counts.
Chris Overacker of CODE 4x4 has seen plenty of bumpers after
deer encounters, and knows what kind of forces a bumper needs
to endure while low-speed 'wheeling, so we trusted him to come
up with the right thing. We are very happy with the finished
product and highly recommend his services.
bumper under construction at Code 4x4 in Rifle, Colorado.
|Fitting up the bumper, no deer hoop
yet, but one of the aluminum panels is on, with cutout for
turn signal grommet light.
The basic structure of our custom
bumpers is bent mild-steel tubing. This material provides a good
strength/weight ratio, is easy to repair, and provides "crush" in
a serious accident. The bumpers are coated with Hammerite basic
black "bomb can" paint. After a winter of driving,
rock chips and parking scrapes are easily repaired with a few
moments of sanding then a squirt of paint from a can on the shelf
in my garage. Top decks and filler panels are made with common
and easily worked 6061 grade aluminum plate, coated with clear
acrylic to prevent corrosion from Colorado's now ubiquitous calcium
chloride road salt.
The biggest challenge with the
front bumper was how to attach it in a strong yet "crushable" way,
rather than simply making it part of the truck's frame. Chris
opted to use the existing mounts, leaving space for movement,
and not going overboard on beefing up the attachment points.
It appears this will work well in a full frontal impact.
The classic pose
for a 4x4!
Yet an ongoing concern is that
unlike the stock bumper, this one extends about two feet from
the lower attachment to the top of the deer hoop. Thus, in the
event of an upper impact, the bumper will become a lever arm
and may exert excessive force to the mounting points. The remedy
for this is to install a set of down-arms that triangulate from
the upper portion of the bumper back down to the truck frame,
but including these is extremely difficult and time consuming,
so we opted out. Perhaps later -- projects like this never end!
A hitch receiver tube is built
into the center of the front bumper. This is useful for maneuvering
a trailer and works as a tow/winching anchor point, but also
serves to mount a portable winch (since we built this low profile
bumper with no winch deck). The factory tow hooks were re-mounted
when the bumper received its final install.
The stock turn signals were sold
on E-bay and replaced with the economical and easily replaced
amber "grommet lights" used on millions of commercial
vehicles across the nation. In the middle panel we added two
center running/parking lights for close in illumination. These
can be turned on without the headlights, and are incredibly useful
for night runs when your headlights are blinding a spotter. They're
also nice for setting up camp. (See the lighting section of this
article for the rest of the front bumper light story.)
The rear bumper Chris built is
a true work of art. Our neighbor owns a Tacoma, and we noticed
that his rear quarter panels were both bashed from parking mishaps,
so our first requirement was that our custom bumper would wrap
around the Tacoma's rear corners to prevent such.
|Detail of rear bumper return that
passes through dimpled hole in body work, then to bracket
on frame. Black area on body is undercoated to prevent damage
from flying pebbles while running Baja 500.
Our other big need was for the
rear bumper to include an integrated class IV receiver hitch
that didn't hang down and reduce our off-road departure angle.
On both counts Chris filled the bill. More, he built curved corners
that will serve as spindles when we add a swing-out spare tire
carrier. The rear bumper deck is another slice of basic 6061
alu, but extensively dimpled by Chris so it's a safe place to
step when slimy. Perhaps the coolest detail is the way the corner
wraps return back to the frame through holes in the body work.
These are so nicely done they appear to be OEM factory features.
|Rear bumper during construction fitup.
Note corners are a spindle ready for swing-out tire carrier.
Beefy returns protect the Tacoma's lean but vulnerable butt
Rear bumper completed,
aluminum top deck is a traction step.
-- or lack thereof
I'm calling this a buildup, but
we didn't go "up." While we stuffed slightly taller
tires under our Tacoma TAV, we opted for no body or suspension
lift. The truck drives superbly at highways speeds, and lifting
a truck can severely compromise highway handling. Bear in mind
that this purpose built 4x4 is not intended for extreme trails,
but rather the "moderate" jeep trails one encounters
while accessing climbing, backcountry skiing, and hiking areas
in North America, especially in the west.
Adding lift and significantly
taller tires has its place, but also opens a can of worms and
starts a nearly endless cycle of modifications (bigger tires
need re-geared axles, while added torque and tire weight may
break components -- thus requiring expensive and complex modifications
such as complete axle swaps -- and on and on.) That said, as
our TAV ages and gets used for more brutal trails and less highway
driving, I'll probably add a moderate 2-inch body lift so I can
move up another step in tire diameter.
Also known as nerfs or rock sliders, rocker guards are essential items for
almost any truck, on or off road. The simple fact is that in any larger vehicle,
there will come a day when you turn into a passenger side obstacle that's low
and invisible until known by the rasping clunk as it puts a big expensive dent
in your passenger side door or the panel below.
|Chris trial fitting the foundation
of the rocker guards. This section of beefy 2-inch tube is
located under the pinch seam in the body, and welded to beefy
stand-offs that are then welded to the frame. It will act
as a rock slider if necessary, and adds a huge amount of
side impact protection in an accident. Standoff "nerf" hoops
will go on later, after he gets these perfect.
Power and Fuel Economy
Many truck owners spend tons of cash on power mods such
as after market ignitions, air intakes, and what have you. On
some trucks this stuff can reap huge rewards, but Toyotas
are so well designed the aftermarket bang-per-buck is usually
After studying a huge amount
of Internet fact, rumor, and outright fantasy, I realized there
are at best a handful of basic and cost-effective ways to gain
more power and fuel economy with the Tacoma and its 3.4 liter
First is to do a reasonable break-in
period, during which you use normal (not synthetic) oil, and
don't wind out the engine too aggressively. This should last
around 10,000 miles and is a huge reason to buy a new truck,
as most new vehicle owners put very little effort into doing
this correctly. After that you change over to synthetic oil for
a small gain in power, fuel economy, and engine longevity. Ditto
for both differentials, which you change over to synthetic gear
lube after the break-in period. Synthetic oil is more expensive
than normal oil at the checkout counter, but ultimately equal
in cost because you can extend the change interval enough to
cover the added expense (instead of the 3,000 mile or less interval,
I change mine at 4,000 or 5,000 depending on style and location
|Our Tacoma TAV air intake tube with
silencer assembly removed and replaced with straight pipe
(red). Airbox to left, throttle body to right. This is known
as the Intake Silencer Removal "ISR" mod.
A combustion engine uses power
to suck air -- the easier it breaths the more power you'll have
at the wheels, and the better your fuel economy. Unless you
are driving at high revs, using a good quality paper air filter
in the stock air box allows enough flow, but switch to an easier
breathing filter if you like to wind up the motor frequently,
as that's when it's gasping for air. To help with air flow at
all RPMs, removing the Toyota intake silencer assembly may be
a worthwhile mod, if for no other reason than it cleans up the
engine compartment, and may result in a small economy and horse
|Above shows our air filter box with
custom easy-breathing opening formed by installing a 4-inch
marine "deckplate." This has a screw-on cover so
the mod can be taken back to stock if necessary. Screen inside
hole is to keep bugs and leaves out of airbox. Only downside
of this mod is increased engine noise above 2,500 RPM.
Adding a breathing hole to the
front of the engine intake air filter box is another low cost modification
that may add a small amount of power and fuel economy, but must be done in
a way that can be closed off if you're driving in wet conditions (so your
engine doesn't suck too much water). By installing a marine "deckplate" this
mod only takes an hour or so, and the hole can be closed off using the cover
that screws into the deckplate.
Another effective power mod is
to upgrade your exhaust system to an aftermarket high-flow setup,
but this is only cost effective after your existing exhaust
has done a few years duty and in need of replacement because
of dents or rust.
|A few months after doing
the deckplate mod, I realized that while it breaths easier,
it inhales hot air from the engine compartment, especially
at slow speeds on the trails. Hot air is less dense than
cool air. If an engine breaths cooler air, it gets more power
and possibly slightly better gas mileage. More, by observing
the stain pattern of muddy water that splashed into the engine
compartment, I realized that a simple airdam system would
also block most of the water that splashes up from the front
wheels (it splashes up through the space between the airbox
and fan shroud). I built an air dam water shield using mud
flap material and a few stainless sheet metal screws. It
works well. Detail shots below, click to enlarge.
|First step was fastening a piece
of mudflap rubber to the side of the airbox, and wrapping
it under a few inches. I removed the airbox to do the final
||Next, I screwed another hunk of rubber
to the front of the airbox, above the deckplate mod, then
fastened the two pieces together. I also placed a foam seal
under the airbox.
||The rubber is high enough to be within
1/2 inch of hood when it's closed. To shape it, I used a
needle gauge to make a pattern. It didn't end up perfect,
but makes a huge difference.
Thanks goes to folks at Yotatech.com for
help with my engine mods and light wiring.
It's a law of physics that when
you add weight to a real-world automobile, it burns more gas.
We were very careful with our bumper design to keep them as light
as possible -- they don't add as much weight as would appear.
More, while our pre-runner front is certainly not as aerodynamic
as the factory configuration, it's not terrible either. Fully
loaded, on a highway trip from Colorado to Utah, we got a true
23 miles per gallon. I'm not complaining -- that's excellent
mpg for a truck full of people and their whole junkshow. With
synthetic oil and no load, our loaded TAV might even hit 24mpg
with a tailwind. My wife gets between 24 and 25 mpg during her
commute here in Colorado because it's mostly slow and steady
driving, and she's not carrying cargo. Recently, with extremely
careful featherfoot driving, she clocked 32 mpg for a tank! While
driving around Salt Lake City and up and down the canyons our
mileage dropped considerably, but we were skiing the Wasatch
Mountains, so who cared!
|Topper loaded for a day's adventure.
The double cab bed is small, 180cm skis have to go diagonal,
but it's still nice to pile the junkshow in a pickup bed
rather than the rear area of a hatchback. Out of sight, out
of mind. 150 cm skis easily fit left/right.
We picked a basic cab-high Leer that integrates nicely with the truck bed,
both in color and shape. The added option of a "windoor" on the
driver side allows us to step out on the trail, open the window, and reach
in for gear. Other options are a dome light, beer window, and factory installed
hardpoints on top for a rack or cargo box.
Ever notice how the rear door
gasket of most toppers wears the paint off the tailgate? I added
aluminum protection in this area when I installed the tailgate
Aluminum to protect
paint from topper door weather strip.
We added a custom cargo rack to the
topper, and also a huge Yakima cargo box. Details
protector and work surface
The Tacoma tailgate is a cheesy piece of junk. When I got the
truck back from the topper installer, I noticed that the workers
had made a bunch of dents when they stood on the gate to work
on their install. Not their fault -- a tailgate should support
a standing human without denting! Rather than whine, I ordered
up a custom bent sheet of aluminum to cover the inside of the
tailgate and wrap over the top edge. Aftermarket pieces of
this sort are available, but all are made of diamond plate
aluminum, one of my least favorite materials in terms of aesthetics,
and a crumby work surface as the bumpy diamonds make it hard
to clean and uncomfortable to sit on. Speaking of gates and
beds, I've been asked why we didn't opt for spray-in bed liner.
I like bed liner in some situations, but did not see the added
weight and cost as being necessary for the type of use our
truck bed would receive. Instead, I'll probably just cut a
hunk of carpet remnant to fit the small area of exposed bed.
That'll protect it and keep things from sliding around on the
|Our custom tailgate protector is
a smooth surface for cooking and what have you. Fasteners
are countersunk flush, whole piece is coated with clear acrylic
to prevent attack from the chloride slime monster.
power and lighting
For the style of driving we do during mountaineering trips and family camping
(lots of 2-lane, along with night 4x4 runs and camp setups), a ton of aftermarket
lighting might be the most important part of our TAV. Such lighting is complicated
and prone to glitches. It has to be done right. To that end, every after-market
wire run in the TAV is protected by wire loom, while nearly every connection
is soldered and protected from corrosion by dielectric grease, silicon caulk
and/or shrinkwrap tubing. All our lighting and aftermarket electrical is controlled
by nicely finished black aluminum panel located over the ashtray opening on
the center console, with power sourced from a Painless Wiring aftermarket fuse
block located in the engine compartment. More, every accessory is powered by
a relay, rather than running the full amperage through the control switch.
6-toggle auxiliary panel was worth the pain, but next time
I'll space the switches a bit farther apart so the wiring
is easier! Switch labels are on the white label below.
All switches have indicator lights.
In most cases, while we ran dozens
of wires to all manner of locations, you'll never notice a wire
or accessory that looks anything but "factory" or better.
We added so many lights and more, I'll list them one at at time:
-- Parking lights. As mentioned
above, we added auxiliary parking lights to the front bumper
center panel "skid." We also added two small parking
lights to the rear wrap-around bumper corners. All the parking
lights can be lit without the headlights being on, a useful feature
for setting camp, working with a trail spotter at night, etc.
visible at lower left, aux driving lights upper middle.
-- Cargo lights. Above the topper
rear door we mounted two 55 watt halogen driving lights pointed
rearward. These are controlled at the cab control panel, and
provide light for camp setup, trailer loading, or backing up.
They can also be flicked on while you're towing a trailer at
night, to check your load on the fly.
|Behind the rear seat
are 3 relays that contol the rear lights and power. Black
box at lower right is Toyota towing electrical converter.
Expensive but probably worth it.
--Topper interior dome light.
To prevent dead batteries this only works with accessory or ignition
on and parking lights on. It's bright and useful, provided by
Leer as an option.
--Third brake lights. The topper
has a nice LED third brake light that's wired into the factory
tail light wires. I disabled the brake light behind the cab so
it wouldn't reflect red through our rear window at night.
--Rear power points. In the rear
of the bed I mounted an enclosure with 3 cigarette lighter style
12v power points. These are controlled by an on/off switch on
the cab control panel. We use this power for an AA battery charger
and a boot dryer, among other things.
--Backup lights. A pair of clear
grommet lights are recessed in the rear bumper. These are controlled
with a cab panel 3-way switch that manually turns them on and
off, or sets them to automatic mode so they go on in reverse
gear. These low mounted bright lights are perfect for hooking
up a trailer or towed vehicle. Two small grommet "marker" lights
in the bumper corner wraps also go on when the backup lights
are on. I put those in just for fun.
|Aux backup lights are low and recessed,
perfect for hooking up a trailer or setting camp. Marker
light on side is visible to left.
--Tow connection. I mounted a
beefy RV style trailer electrical connector in a protected location,
with standard tow wiring and a few extra wires in case we ever
want any electrical accessories in a trailer.
|All our auxiliary power is sourced
at this aftermarket Painless Wiring fuse block we installed
in the engine compartment on this custom aluminum bracketry.
According to the service techs at our Toyota dealer, using
such a block, combined with relays, keeps the do-it-yourselfer
from voiding the vehicle warranty.
--Driving lights. Two flame-thrower
Hella driving lights are mounted on the front bumper deck. These
are controlled with a cab panel on/off switch, but will only
ignite when the headlights are on and the high beams are on.
Essential anywhere there is wildlife on roads.
--Daytime running lights (DRL).
These things come stock and are a nightmare. They make wiring
aftermarket lights a tough job, wear out your headlights 'cause
they run all the time, annoy spotters on the trail, annoy other
drivers, and annoy you when you're doing custom electrical work.
They even use a small amount of extra gasoline! That said, driving
with daytime lights can add safety on 2-lane roads, so they have
their use -- whether automatic or turned on by the driver simply
switching on their headlights.
Thus, first order of the day
with the DRLs was to install an on/off switch to make them optional.
This was easier said than done. I found some info on the web
that was not highly accurate, but led me to the DRL relay under
the dashboard. By wiring a switch into one of the DRL relay wires,
I was able to add a DRL on/off control to the switch panel. Below
are some hero shots of our DRL mod. Why this is not a stock option
is a mystery of the ages. Probably government regs or something...
|Beefy 120 V hardware store toggles
work great. Cover the metal with rubber covers sold at same
||First I dug out the DRL relay, in
this 2003 Tacoma it is buried in the dash left of the stereo.
A total PITA!
||Unplugging the relay to make room
for wire work and so it doesn't get fried. Battery disconnected
|The moment of truth, wire clippers.
I cut the wrong wire first try.
||DRL toggle switch installed and ready
for panel install.
||The back of the infamous switch panel,
more room next time! Lesson learned.
--Deer lights. Also known as cornering lights,
these are simply el-cheapo 55-watt wide beam fog lights mounted
on the front bumper to the outside, and pointed a bit sideways.
They are controlled with an on/of switch from the cab panel.
Very useful. Along with illuminating the critters, they make
it easer to see the edge of ragged Colorado roads,and can be
handy for setting up camp. At $16.00 from Wally World they get
replaced when rocks smash 'em, and can easily be upgraded to "real" foglights
if we enter the Paris Dakar rally or Baja 500.
|Sharp lugs, infinite siping slits
and tons of studs make a snow tire that actually works! Don't
run 'em too wide, and keep your tire pressure a few pounds
low if you're driving lots of ice and snowpack.
We don't drive our trucks aggressively,
so all the better quality known-brand-name "LT" rated
tires work fine for us on pavement. But WARNING: the
stock OEM tires the Tacoma comes with are lame. They're about
as strong as tissue paper (you can practically poke a pencil
through the sidewalls), and the tread pattern is so meager it
does virtually nothing on rocks or mud. Honestly, we tried to
run the OEM tires to get our money's worth out of them, but after
six flats in eighteen months (several in the backcountry), we
gave up. Most of the flats were from rocks on improved dirt roads
cutting through the tread! Incredibly bad! Thus, if you use your
Tacoma for any off-road
travel, you'll need to immediately buy set of stronger thicker
tires with slightly more aggressive tread, with perhaps a slightly
taller profile (you'll need a body or suspension lift to fit
tires that are more than an inch or so larger than the stock
diameter). We've been very happy with the Toyo Open Country LT
tire, but any quality LT rated all terrain tire with at least
6 plys will work.
We're still partial to running snow tires
when the white stuff starts to stick here in Colorado. We've
found It pays to shop for snow tires -- not all are equal in
performance. Our favorite snow and ice tires are studded, and
combine plenty of big sharp lugs with lots of "siping," meaning
the tires are cut with hundreds of small slits. Tread compound
is also a factor -- soft and designed for ice and snow is best.
We keep 'em skinny as well. Wide fat tires may look cool, but
lack the contact pressure to really dig and grab when you need
it. We store our snow tires during summer and run regular rubber.
|Our relocated oil filter. Home oil
changes now take all of 10 minutes and are the easiest of
all our vehicles.
Oil filter relocation
I do my own oil changes because the quick lube charges too much for synthetic
oil. Home changes are easy on our other vehicles, but painful for the Tacoma.
Mean little gnomes must have designed the stock oil filter location. If you
don't have arthritis in your hands, you will after you contort your digits
to spin off the Tacoma filter a few times for oil changes. Solution: install
a relocation adapter and bracket -- somewhat of a project but worth it in
the long run. An added benefit of this mod is increased oil capacity because
of the huge Napa 1515 1-quart filter and extension lines. More oil capacity
means I can go slightly longer between changes, and the engine receives slightly
more cooling as the extra oil flows through the lines and large filter.
60,000 Update on Filter
Since we used fuel line and hose clamps to
connect the remote oil filter, along with other 60,000 mile maintenance
I figured we'd better replace the relocation oil lines. While
removing them I found that the adapter they connect to on the
engine block had come loose, and the O ring gasket in the adapter
was totally trashed (compressed and hard). I'd noticed a bit
of oil seep in that area, but couldn't tell if it was from a
hose leak or the adapter gasket. Now we know.
After installing and using a number of these
basic oil filter relocation kits on various vehicles, I've concluded
they're of inferior quality and not recommended. I removed mine
and took the vehicle back to stock.
I'm still a fan of oil filter relocation,
only it has to be done as a factory grade project or better.
How? Lines must be the best quality stainless steel braided,
connections should be the AN type, not hose clamps. Engine block
adapter should be a high quality unit made for auto racing,
and must be attached using high temperature epoxy such as
A proper install of this sort on a Tacoma
requires a full day of work, as well as several hours of research
for parts ordering. To access the filter boss on the block and
install the remote as shown above you need to remove the vehicle
battery, alternator, and skid plate.
As the oil filter location on the Tacoma V6
engine is so hard to access it should probably be reported to
the United Nations as a human rights violation, I'll be installing
another relocation. Only this time it'll be bomb proof.
Unless Toyota sends us a check, we have no desire to drive around with their
decals hanging all over our ride. Ditto for Leer. And ditto for those big
4-wheel-drive badges on the mud flaps. I mean, do I really care if people
behind me at a stop light know that my truck is four wheel drive? It took
the family a few hours to strip every decal and logo off our Tacoma, but
we love that "sano" look. Along with that, we relocated the license
plate from the stock rear bumper to an aluminum billet machined holder/light
mounted on the tailgate. This makes room for the receiver in the center of
the bumper, and is less prone to parking and trail damage. Thanks goes to
Chris Overacker of CODE for suggesting the license relocation -- a much better
way to go than trying to build a plate holder into a custom bumper.
We've kept the cab pretty much bone stock other than the switch panel. Under
the back seat is a Club anti-theft device we use for public parking -- after
all this work we don't want mister Taco to go missing. We leave room In the
glove box for a full set of road maps for the western U.S., along with tire
warranty, travel Bible, and other assorted paper. We keep our CDs on the
driver side visor in one of those fabric holders with a bunch of slots. All
the seats are covered, the back with a beefy kid-proof Cordura nylon fabric
cover my wife built, the front by Wally World el-cheapos.
In the back under the topper and behind the
rear window is a large lightweight plastic truck box (you should
have seen me heating this with a propane torch so it would mold
down between the wheel wells -- the pyro within me is alive and
|Large lightweight plastic box was
heated and molded to wheel wells, then bolted in with stainless
steel fasteners. It provides security for valuables, as well
as a stash for seldom used tools, etc. The 55 watt cargo
lights are visible at top of photo. They shine through the
glass door when it's open.
The box is bolted in and serves as secure
lockable storage for guns, video equipment, or what have you,
and is a place for lesser used junk such as jumper cables and
recovery gear. The storage box also creates a shelf under the
rear window, thus adding storage space that a passenger in the
rear seat can easily reach.
A 10 lb. fire extinguisher is mounted on the
passenger side bed wall. On driver's side bed wall, under the
windoor, we mounted a long mesh cargo bag similar to the stock
one that is behind the rear Tacoma seats (highly recommended
for any TAV, available from Toyota dealers). In here go small
items that would otherwise get lost, or things we need to access
from the windoor. We keep oil and other fluids in a small Action
Packer that floats around in the back, and probably should be
bag inside topper can be reached by opening windoor.
I also added a switch to the door open/close
sensor so we can disable the driver-side door chime -- useful
when you've got the engine off but the door open and don't want
to keep jerking the key out of the ignition to stop the ceaseless
dinging. If you need this mod -- you'll know it! But warning,
the Tacoma computer uses the door open/close sensor for a variety
of functions, such as the automatic headlight cutout, so use
this mod with discretion. Why not just add a switch to the actual
chime, or pull it out? It's built into the interior factory circuit
panel in such a way that modifying it is difficult -- but perhaps
I'll try some day.
In all, we are delighted with our 2003 Tacoma
TAV, and we're happy with all the mods and improvements. It's
a joy to drive. The bumpers give us much more confidence while
parking and 4-wheeling, while the extensive lighting and electrical
improvements add a huge amount of safety and functionality. It's
easily the best vehicle we've ever owned, and will probably keep
that status for quite a while. And thank you Code 4x4 for all
your wisdom and hard work! Now let's go skiing -- or driving?! Yotatech
Dawson is our CODE4x4 webmaster and a well known Colorado
outdoor writer who's first drive was his dad's flatfender
Jeep. Article copyright Louis Dawson, WildSnow.com )