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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)


Arcanine is a bright orange fire-type Pokemon. My FJ is bright and orange... I call it the "Chihuahuan desert camouflage kit," as red dirt desert is where I love to go.

I'm much handier with electronics than I am with automotive mechanics, so most of what I've done to my FJ so far is small and fiddly.

Some modifications may be more in-depth than others, and will have a link to a post that describes it in full, with photos of the process. The rest are in a list at the bottom of the first post.

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===== Trail Runs & Journeys
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ARCA9 posts dashcam videos to YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCAyo2bwZ1Urj95rSYes4pnw. Some highlights:

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===== CB Radio (full details)
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The first real modification I did after getting ARCA9 - rip out the (surprisingly nice) stock stereo head and add a Cobra 18WXSTII radio. The cobra is a convenient 1-DIN form-factor (standard "single" dashboard slot size), has a built-in front-facing speaker (perfect for in-dash installation) but moreover it has a "scan" feature that other radios in its class don't. If you only ever use the CB when you know who you plan to talk to (such as at an ORV event, or for work), then that's not important but if, like me, you like to listen as you travel across the country's interstates, "scan" is a must-have.

Antennae-wise, I went with a 4' FireStik but ended up building my own adequately-grounded, adjustable-angle roof-rack mount, operated by just a thumb screw (using key parts from the Comet RS-660U mount. Now, I can have it fully flat when I'm driving around town and may have to enter a parking garage, I can have it partway up when off-roading through low trees, and I can have it the full 11ft or so above ground when cruising down the highway.

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===== Passenger Power Outlet(s) (full details)
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Yes there are two working 120V AC outlets and two 2.4A fast-charging USB ports in my dashboard :grin

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===== Cabin Wiring Harnesses (full details)
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The prospect of wiring up a dimmable backlit switch with a separate "on" indicator was daunting... and I'd been in my dashboard console before, so I knew how tiny the wires were and how there was never any slack when you wanted it, and how they were all bundled inside tape or a cable guard. So, when I went in the first time, I went in with a plan: I'd build a simple, snap-on / snap-off harness for these center console illuminated switches so that in the future I'd be able to assemble & prepare a switch from the comfort of my home and then just click it into place inside the dashboard.

I applied the same technique to my cabin fuse box, but for a different goal - I was running out of live, un-used circuits to tap into! Now I have plenty of easily-accessible, snap-together connectors for powering peripherals.

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===== The Electric Upgrade (full details)
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The Big Five cables, a deep-cycle Odyssey 31M-PC2150 battery, a fuse box just for my accessories and a boost to the alternator's voltage.


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===== ToyTec BOSS 3" Suspension Lift (full details)
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Front: 2.5" BOSS coilovers w/ remote reservoirs
Also Front: Total Chaos urethane upper control arms
Rear: 2.5" BOSS shocks + standard springs

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===== Wider Wheels & All-Terrain Tires (full details)
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Thanks to FJ Fender Flaps and the ToyTec BOSS lift, I fit these wide tires without even coming close to rubbing on the body mount.

BFGoodrich LT305/65R17 (32.6") tires on ProComp 17x8" 0-offset wheels.

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===== LED Headlight and Taillight Upgrade (full details)
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Taillights went in with no real issues, but the headlights required a lot of blood, sweat, tears, solder, and after-after-market parts!

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===== Off-Road Lights
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Rigid makes great lights but their wiring instructions aren't really the best approach. I wired my 4 lights the right way, which gave me the ability to snap-in up to 4 more without having to run any cables!

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===== Magnuson Supercharger (2010+) (full details)
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We're supercharged, baby! A color-matched supercharger for the 2010+ V6 engine from what I think was Magnuson's first production run.

Later supercharger-related modifications include:



Illuminated, dimmable boost gauge




Oil catch can



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===== Hood Scoop / Vent (part 1, part 2)
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I made my fake hood scoop/vent real. As a bonus, I also increased the airflow, did away with the need for "one-time-use" plastic clips, and retained the original plastic insert so I can block off the space I cut out, if I want.

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===== Off-Road Garage Snorkel (full details)
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Gotta get that clean, cool, dry air when wheeling through adverse conditions! The infamous Kazakhstani through-the-fender snorkel looks rather sleek, nestled up against the A-pillar.

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===== Drifta Storage Drawers (full details)
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A gorgeous, custom-built, perfectly-fitting set of storage drawers from Australia. Now all my tools & gear are secured, rattle-free, and out-of-the way!
Hey, is that a refrigerator, too? Yes, on a built-in flush slide! The fridge has its own post; see below.

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===== Refrigerator & Rear Auxiliary Battery (full details)
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An electric refrigerator/freezer with a dedicated auxiliary battery and charging system overbuilt to keep my stuff cold in the Texas heat and support future rear electronics.

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===== Miscellaneous 4-Wheeling Improvements
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  1. Hi-Lift Jack & roof-rack mount
  2. All-Pro APEX Rock Sliders
  3. Front & Rear bumpers + winch
  4. Set of BudBuilt Skid Plates)
  5. Tool-less .5" suspension lift
  6. Trailworx Rear Link Skid Plates
  7. Off-Road-Ready Tow Connector
  8. Upgraded Engine Radiator Hoses
  9. All-Pro Sway Bar Links
  10. 130A 4Runner Alternator
  11. High-Performance, All-Aluminum, "Race" Radiator
  12. URD Mark3 3" Stainless Steel Catback Exhaust
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===== Miscellaneous Simple Improvements
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  1. Tuffy Lockable Center Console
  2. Fire Extinguisher Mounted in Trunk
  3. "Zombie Response Vehicle" Label
  4. Capacitive Dashcam
  5. TrailToys EZ-View (integrated blind-spot) Mirrors
  6. Trail Toys magnetic transfer-case drain plug
  7. Contract-free wireless WiFi hotspot with unlimited data
  8. Rago "Modular Storage Panel" trunk mount point
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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
CB Radio Installation

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===== CB Radio
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The Radio



Cobra 18WXSTII - a 1-DIN CB with a built-in, front-facing speaker and the ability to scan all 40 standard channels. It's one of the few radios in its size and price class that have a scan, and I like to eavesdrop as I road trip around the country's highways - for me, there's something romantic about the two-way radio culture, and the CB install was motivated by that much more than its utility in off-roading. I have the same CB unit in a front-wheel-drive sedan than I own, too.

The Install

In the dashboard, looking stock! I did really like the stock FJ stereo head but I like "stock" and "sleeper" modifications much more, so in the dash it goes. I got some dumb brand-name 1-DIN stereo head to maintain my music capabilities. The CB was mounted on the bottom so the mic cord wouldn't drape over the stereo controls.

The Stereo

The stock FJ stereo head has tactile buttons, in different shapes and locations, for accessing its various functions. Every. Single. Aftermarket stereo I could find has a "menu + selector" interface, where the screen shows your current function, and you use buttons to navigate through menus and select what you want. There are some physical buttons, too, but they are low-profile and do different things depending on what "mode" the stereo's in. This is a terrible design for an automotive accessory because you have to look at the screen to use a "menu+selector" stereo, whereas with the stock FJ stereo you could memorize the location and feel of the buttons, and operate the radio without having to look. If anyone knows of a good 1-DIN, full-featured aftermarket stereo that isn't a "menu + selector," please let me know...

My FJ had an "Aux Input" panel in the center dashboard, with a USB port and a 3.5mm ("headphone") audio port. The guy who put the stereo head in (I was in a hurry that day and didn't want to rip the car apart myself... :/) said that it wasn't possible to use the headphone jack with an aftermarket stereo head - presumably because the 5 wires (?) for the audio jack ran into a mysterious bundle of wires in the dashboard and came out in some part of the FJ that didn't make it into aftermarket stereo harnesses.

Well that's quittin' talk, so I cut one end off a 3.5mm audio cable and soldered myself a nice little connector:



It's much nicer than the photo maybe lets on... the connections are all soldered and covered in heat-shrink tubing, and the molex connector lets me easily swap out the dashboard panel or the audio cable in the future. There were 5 total wires coming out of the audio jack, and experimentation led me to determine that there was a ground, a left, a right, and a "center" or "left+right" channel and another ground. I'm not sure what you'd use that for - maybe if your stereo head didn't support stereo sound? In any case, I left those wires out of my harness...

The Mic

An AStatic 636L. They come well-recommended but aren't expensive. They're a noticeable improvement over the stock Cobra mic.

The Antenna

A four foot FireStik II. The traditional mount point is off the rear hinge, which will give you enough coverage to chat with other vehicles at an ORV event, but still stay low enough that you don't bang it on the ceilings of garages. I like to CB on the highways, though, so a mediocre transmit capacity wasn't going to do. I decided to put the antenna on the roof rack, putting my antenna roughly 7 to 12 feet off the ground! Obviously I wouldn't be able to enter any parking garage like that, nor pass through areas with low trees. The antenna would have to be able to be moved out of the way for such occasions.

On my sedan, I used a spring-loaded fold-down connector like this:

.

But this wasn't a sedan, it was my FJ! Could I do better? I searched around for fold-down roof-rack antenna mounts and found the Comet RS-660U:



I could work with that! The important thing was its custom grooved thumbscrew piece - a simple flick of the thumb allowed the mount point to rotate around the axis of the screw in fixed intervals, meaning I could lock the antenna fully up, fully down, or anywhere in-between. I threw away most of the mounting hardware, flipped what remained upside-down, and bolted it to a steel plate from a local hardware store. I then bolted the plate in-between two pipe clamps (I would come back and order these specific clamps again and again, for mounting stuff to the stock FJ roof rack) and attached them to the roof rack. It worked exactly as intended:



The tricky part was calibrating the CB. The roof rack doesn't really connect to any metal on the FJ, and it doesn't offer much of a ground plane... and the pipe clamps use rubber, so they aren't in any kind of contact with the roof rack, anyway!

The solution was a braided grounding strap usually used in vehicle electrical systems. The braids (versus traditional stranded wires, or a solid cable) give much more surface area for the RF to flow over, making it better at conducting RF ground (or at least so says the Internet). Trial-and-error revealed that I needed to use the shortest strap possible, which meant putting the antenna mount as far forward a possible. With decent washers on both ends of the strap - one end is pictured above, the other is under one of the roof rack's mounting bolts - I managed a 1.5 SWR on both channel 1 and 40. Not perfect, but definitely good enough, considering how not-groundy my antenna situation was! Just in case that wasn't clear: The braided grounding strap runs to a roof-rack mounting bolt, which - at the tip of the bolt - is in contact with the roof of the FJ and that's how the radio gets to the ground plane of the FJ's roof.



Speaking of calibrating, rather than connecting the antenna cable directly to the back of the radio, I ran a 3' heavy-duty, shielded jumper cable from the CB, through the mess of other wires and sharp things (and presumably sources of EM/RF interference) to right under the steering column, near the interior fuse-box. There, I used a male-to-male connector to connect to the antenna's cable. This means when I want to connect a SWR meter (or if I want to swap antennae), I can reach under the dash and disconnect the antenna from the CB by hand in just a few seconds:



The antenna cable runs through my dashboard up through the driver's A-Pillar, then out the corner of the door onto the roof:



I'm thrilled with the antenna mount - it articulates fast enough that I can roll around town with the antenna all the way up because I can flip it down for entering garages so quickly - 10 seconds, tops, that I have to remain stopped outside a garage.

Mmmm! Look at that nice tall transmit mast....



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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
Passenger Power Outlets

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===== Passenger Power Outlet(s)
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I like road-trips, especially with passengers! But the passengers have a lot less fun if their electronic devices run out of battery. The FJ's stock single 12v car outlet, (if you're lucky) center-console USB port, and (if you have the option package) trunk A/C outlet (capped at 100 watts) are maybe enough for a limited passenger load-out with not-too-many and just-the-right electronics.

But most of the time that's just not enough power options.

Back Seat Power

Easy-peasy, I attached a power strip under the rear passenger seat, plugged into the inverter outlet in the trunk:



Its form-factor is low enough that it doesn't get in the way of the seat folding up, or of passenger feat. Now with a push of the "Inverter" button up front, I can provide my rear passengers with 5 120V A/C Edison outlets and 2 "smart/fast-charge" USB outlets that'll charge at up to 2.4A:



Passenger Power

This is the one I'm most proud of! The trunk inverter was already used to power the rear passengers; who would power the front? I've already got dibs on the dashboard USB port (my iPod) and the dashboard 12V outlet (powering my "GPS" (cell phone)).

My original solution was just to mount an off-the-shelf car inverter in the passenger compartment - 2 120V A/C outlets for them, and 2 USB ports to be shared - one for the driver, and one for the passenger:



There were several problems with this, though:

  1. It was bulky, and you couldn't put the passenger seat all the way forward without bumping it.
  2. The FJ's console is very slick, and mounting tape didn't play nicely
  3. There was only one outlet per person.
  4. The in-dash outlet is (as you can barely see in the photo) wired for and fused for 120W max across all accessories.
  5. Texas heat plus #2 kept resulting in me returning to the parked FJ to find the inverter on the floor
Could I do better? Yes!

The plan was as follows:

  1. Mount a 120V A/C wall outlet in the FJ's plastic near the front passenger seat
  2. Stick the inverter somewhere inside the front dashboard nearby, and use it to power that outlet
  3. Run power from the battery into the driver's-side of the cabin, through a relay located near the fuse box, and then on to the inverter on the passenger side (this means that the long cable run would be 12V DC, not 120V AC)
  4. Use the highest-gauge cabling and largest fuses I could get away with, so I'd be able to install a larger inverter in the future if I wanted, without having to re-wire everything.

(Schematic diagram created at digikey.com/schemeit)

So, I disassembled my inverter:



And added molex connectors to the important bits, and to a 120V A/C outlet I found that also included 2 USB ports:



Later on, after looking up the rated capacities for the molex connectors I was using, I decided to re-do all of the 12V DC connectors with XT-60 connectors (soldered-and-heat-shrink'd), instead of crimp+e-tape'd molex:



Careful measuring was done, and then with the help of a Dremel rotary tool, I cut a hole under the passenger-side air conditioning vent for the outlet and the inverter's switch:




That was by far the most nerve-wracking part. Only slightly less was the cutting I had to do on the non-detachable plastic to get it to go back in place with the outlet added:



The outlet is affixed to the FJ dashboard with nylon nuts, bolts, and washers which I colored black with a Sharpie marker.

Why nylon? Because in a normal AC outlet, the chassis is grounded... however, 120V AC ground is very much not 12V DC car battery ground, and if a 120V AC accessory shorted out and was running to this outlet's "ground," I absolutely do not want that going to the negative terminal of my battery - so I took care to ensure that every metal part of the outlet was touching only plastic. More immediately, those screws are in contact with the outlet's AC "ground," and if there was a short, the passenger could get shocked by touching them. No good! Non-conductive nylon screws prevent this.

Why color them black with a sharpie? Because it was darn near impossible to find black nylon bolts, washers, and nuts in the size I needed.

With the outlet in place, I looked for a mounting point for the inverter. Turns out there's a little ledge to the right of the glovebox that was exactly the right size for my inverter. I wedged it in there then put a screw through the FJ's plastic into one of the frame holes of the inverter that used to hold is black plastic shell on:



Turns out 12-gauge wire was the biggest I could use (limited by the XT-60 connectors). Approximately 10 feet of 12-gauge should be good for up to 40 amps. This happened to be exactly the maximum wattage my inverter was rated for (480 Watts) and the maximum rated amperage of the relay I had (Max 40A to guarantee a disconnect). So, I won't be installing a larger inverter without having to re-wire things after all. I did try a run with 10-gauge (which would be good for 100A / 1200W) but I didn't want to have to wait to order new connectors (XT-90s would work) and re-solder everything. I wasn't planning on running a hair dryer or microwave or anything...

Per a recommendation on the internet, I twisted the power + ground lines together so they wouldn't come apart and get tangled inside my dashboard as easily. Here they are (the twisty cables on the right) running through the firewall from the engine compartment into the cabin fuse box:



I really love Fastronix' 40A/60A relay + socket; I've got 2 total in my FJ so far and will probably continue to use them for all wiring work that needs a relay. I switched the relay on a spare "on when the car's on" circuit from the cabin fuse box, taped over and secured the "normally closed" lead, and tucked the whole mess off to the right of the fuse box door, all invisible and out-of-the way except for the power lead.



Closed everything back up and it worked! I later decided I wasn't happy with the inverter's original switch, so I upgraded to a larger, amber-colored, illuminated switch. Now it's glaringly obvious if the outlet's active - this is good for the passenger (so they are sure they're actually charging their devices), and good for me (so I know that the outlet's off when not in use):



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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
Cabin Wiring Harnesses

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===== Cabin Wiring Harnesses
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Working with the little-bitty wires inside the dashboard is hard - they're small, they've got no slack, and they vanish into the dark and come out who-knows-where. There are two places where I decided I was done dealing with this: the cabin fuse box and the center console button panel.

I, in the comfort of my own home, soldered up some wiring harnesses that I would splice into the FJ's wiring which would leave me with friendly Molex connectors for all my current and future wiring needs - so whenever I went to add an accessory or a switch, I could construct, solder, and heat-shrink it at home and then just snap it into place. No crimp connectors, no electrical tape, no hurting my fingers trying to manage a messy fusebox with add-a-circuits connected to add-a-circuits.

Accessory Power Harness(es)



I made two of these:



This one is the "on when the car's on, off when the car's off" harness. There's another that's always-on. You can see the tips are labeled - I wrote with sharpie and wrapped clear scotch tape around them to prevent smudging. Now, if I need power that's on when the car's on, I just grab one of these guys and connect something to it. For example, I removed 3 (net 2) add-a-circuits and converted my dashcam, off-road-lights, and passenger inverter to this:



It looks kind of messy when I pull out all ... I think I have five things? But at least I can pull them out to look at / work with!



And look how clean and crisp my fuse box is when they're all tucked away:



NOTE: daisy-chaining things after a fuse can be bad if you do it irresponsibly! In my case, all of the things I'm connecting to these harnesses are either negligible-draw items (like the "memory" power for my CB - not the actual radio itself), or just used to toggle a relay - I'm not actually powering anything significant off any of these harnesses. I fused them with the smallest fuses I had on-hand: 2A and 3A. If you look back at the picture of my fuse box you can see that the CB's power has its own dedicated add-a-circuit and fuse and is not on one of these harnesses. The other items - off-road lights and my inverter - are powered off relays directly from the battery and their current draws don't run through these harnesses.

Console Switch Illumination Harness

If you're lucky and have blank switches with real harnesses connected to them in your center button console, and you can find the other end of those harnesses and they're near where you need them, great! But if not, you're going to have to find at least

  1. Illumination Power
  2. Dimmable Ground*
  3. Accessory Power Input
and run wires from those things to your switch. What a hassle! So, I made this:



The idea is that I'll cut the wires that feed one of the existing dashboard switches and splice in the harness. Then, I'll take that switch's harness (which is removable, because its wires were cut!) inside and add a 4-pin Molex connector that connects the right things. Then, I'll plug everything back in but now I will have two additional 4-pin Molex connectors, on all the correct circuits for illumination, waiting for me for when I want to add more switches. When I do, I'll wire the new switch's illumination leads up to the right places on a 4-pin Molex connector, and then I can just snap it in place!

After some fiddling with a multimeter and my TRAC/VSC switch's leads, I figured out the following purposes:

  1. White/Black: Ground
  2. White/Green: Dimmable Ground
  3. Green: Power
  4. Red/Black: Switched Output
"Dimmable Ground" is how the FJ dims the cabin lights: instead of the dimmer gradually reducing the input voltage from maximum to zero, it increases the "dimmable ground" voltage from zero to maximum - at full dimmness, the "dimmable ground" voltage is equal to the illumination power voltage. At maximum brightness, the "dimmable ground" voltage is zero.

I decided I'd wire my harness like so:



Note that there isn't any accessory power there - that's because this is just a illumination harness. The actual power that switches switch will come from who-knows-where - Maybe the fuse box, maybe directly from the battery - and go to who-knows-where. It doesn't make sense to bind those cables to the harness.

For example, when wiring the switch for my off-road lights, I only needed one illumination power lead and the dimmable ground to make it light properly. I added a molex connector for the input/output power that the switch will control and now my harness had snap-in connectors on all ends. Illumination connector is on the left, switched input/output is on the right.



I spliced my harness into my TRAC/VSC switch because it was on the edge of my button panel and I could easily reach to disconnect its harness and mess with it.



A butane-operated soldering iron was purchased for this undertaking and let me tell you - it's heavenly being able to make proper connections anywhere in the vehicle! I love that thing and I've been using it left and right ever since. I needed this because I couldn't get a wall-operated soldering station near enough to the FJ to solder a molex connector onto the wires that come out of the FJ's dashboard and originally ran to the TRAC/VSC switch - and I couldn't take them inside because those are not removable (that's the problem I set out to solve!) But after those four arduous solder connections, I will never have to contort myself or my tools to make a connection for a dashboard console switch again!

Aaaand it worked beautifully:



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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
The Electric Upgrade

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===== The Electric Upgrade
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As I mentioned, I'm much handier with electrical things than mechanical (for now) so many of my modifications involve wiring.

At some point, I realized I should really give the base electrical system on which I'm relying some TLC. So, let's upgrade to a deep-cycle battery, Do a "big 3" starter + alternator + ground wire upgrade to larger gauges, and add a fuse box just for my accessories.

The Battery



An Optima 31M-PC2150. Some guy over on MyFJCruiser.com did the math and that is apparently the best value battery for the FJ Cruiser in terms of energy you can fit in the stock location.

It's spec'd to provide 1150 cold cranking amps and pulse up to 2150 amps, with a 205-minute reserve capacity (meaning it can put out 25A for 205 minutes before it'll be "empty.")

On top of that, it's a deep-cycle battery meaning that it can be deeply discharged (say, by keeping the lights on at night while working/camping, running a refrigerator overnight, or pulling heavy loads with an electric winch) without damaging the battery. This isn't the case with normal "starting" car batteries.

Plus, it's got four terminals - I can run all the core/stock stuff off one set, and tap into the others for my own accessories!

Unfortunately, the stock FJ battery terminal connectors, being L-shaped to hang over the edge of the stock battery, would not fit on the Odyssey. Furthermore, its larger size placed the terminals farther to the front of the vehicle than the stock terminals, meaning the stock wires weren't long enough anyway.

Pop Quiz: How do you add length to critical high-current power cables? Answer: You get new cables.

Using this battery would require all-new power cables... might as well upgrade them, too, right?

The Big Five

The "Big 3 Upgrade" usually refers to increasing the wire size of the following cables in a vehicle:
  1. Battery (-) to Frame/Chassis (grounding)
  2. Frame/Chassis to Engine Block (grounding)
  3. Alternator (+) to Battery (+) (power)
Not one for half-measures, I also had my eye on upgrading

  1. Battery (+) to Starter (power)
  2. Alternator (-) to Frame/Chassis (grounding)
I frequently drive my FJ in a state of ~85% together-ness to the local hardware or home-improvement stores while in the middle of electric or interior upgrades... but that would not be a possibility here, so I tried very hard to plan out the upgrade before starting, to ensure that I would have every piece necessary! The most crucial information I needed to know was https://www.fjcruiserforums.com/forums/stereo-electronics-electrical/632970-wheres-starters-power-cable-how-long-what-gauge.html#post8365113 - see that thread for pictures + answers.

For grins, here's the list of parts:

  1. 31M-PC2150 battery
  2. Class 31 battery tray
  3. NVX "Big 3" Upgrade Kit
  4. 5' 4-gauge welding cable, red
  5. 4x 4-gauge copper crimp ring terminals - flat & bendable
  6. 2x 0-gauge set-screw terminals
  7. Set KnuKonceptz ABSOLUTELY AMAZING battery block terminals (see below)
  8. 2x 3/8" Rubber Stud Terminal Covers
  9. 5/8" split wire loom - for 0-gauge cables
  10. 1/2" split wire loom - for 4-gauge cables
  11. 3/8" split wire loom - for 8-gauge cables & (re-)bundling stock wire harnesses
  12. Black zip ties!
  13. 8" J-Hook
  14. 10" J-Hook
Let's take a moment to talk about the battery terminals: "KnuKonceptz Ultimate Positive and Negative Battery Terminal Pair with OEM Top Post Adapter." Just go look at 'em:



  1. Square
  2. Set-screw terminals for 0, 4, and 8-gauge wires
  3. Side-facing threaded hole can either take ring-terminals or be a "normal" battery post for attaching your stock wiring harness. That doesn't work in the FJ... but it does provide a great place to connect a jumper cable!
I watched
of
and read lots of threads about accessing the core electrical components of the FJ.

In the end, I decided I could probably do it myself if I had a solid 3 days where I wouldn't need to drive anywhere. But, the 2017 Lone Star Toyota Jamboree was approaching and I did not have 3 days... so for the battery + wires, I sweet-talked one of the techs at my mechanic into heading up the project.

I brought all the parts, drew pictures of what I wanted, measured as much as I could ahead-of-time, and crossed my fingers. I told him they could do whatever they wanted with the "accessory" wires currently on my battery's screw terminal, but leave the winch cables alone. They got it done in less than one business day:



Coming off the positive terminal from top to bottom, we have 0-gauge to the starter, 4-gauge to the fuse box, and my pre-existing accessory power leads bundled up inside a protective split loom.

Coming off the negative terminal from top to bottom, we have a 0-gauge to the starter and a 4-gauge to the chassis.

In the top right, next to the stock fuse box is a 0-gauge ground from the alternator to the chassis.

With the hard work done in a timely fashion, I was technically ready - electrically - for the Jamboree and could take my time tidying it up.

The Fuse Box



A Blue Sea Systems box. They come highly-reviewed and with free 2-day Amazon Prime shipping ;)

I decided to mount it on top of the lid of the existing fuse box. Lucky for me, the 6-circuit box's mounting holes mostly didn't overlap with any important information printed inside:





The box says it can handle 100A total, up to 30 per circuit, and should be fused at 125A upstream. I'd be using the 8-gauge set-screw mount off the positive battery block to power the fuse block, so I went looking for an inline 125A fuse + holder. Turns out those are really hard to find - I've got one on back-order currently that's expected to ship in a month. In the interim, I went with a 100A inline fuse + holder as I don't have the block maxed out yet, anyway:



Beautiful!

I'll tie the fuse holder down once the "real" one arrives. Accessing the stock fuse box is a a bit of a pain now but still possible without tools: When I unscrew one end of the inline fuse holder, I can pop out that side of its connection, cutting power to the fuse block and allowing me to flip the lid up and to the back of the FJ. Hopefully I don't have to go into the stock fusebox much anymore, since all of my accessories will be on the external block.

I connected my winch's cables to the 2nd set of battery terminals and added a protective rubber cover to the positive side.

Also note the big gold lug coming off the side of the positive battery terminal now, where my accessories were formerly connected. That's for connecting a clamp if I'm going to jump someone else's vehicle.

I put a narrower-diameter washer between the battery terminal and the post, forming a small lip that the second rubber cover (they came in a pack of 2) fits snugly over:



Charging the Battery

That Odyssey battery runs at a little higher voltage than a "normal" car battery - or at least higher than the stock FJ battery. The stock FJ alternator outputs a voltage suitable for charging the stock battery, but it's a bit too low to charge the Odyssey all the way. Specifically, the Odyssey requires 14.1 to 15 volts to charge, and my FJ's alternator usually output 13.4 to 13.8.

Fortunately, the FJ's alternator tries to sense the battery's voltage and output an appropriately-higher voltage to charge it... and the circuit that does this runs through a fuse in the stock fuse box! If a bit of resistance were added to that circuit, the alternator could be tricked into operating at a slightly higher voltage...

I learned this from a post on this very forum: Alternator Voltage?.

Not one for blindly trusting folks on the internet, I used my ScanTool OBDLink LX Bluetooth OBDII reader (I chose that particular model because it will shut itself off if the battery voltage drops too low, preventing it from discharging the battery if left connected - which I do. I leave it in my OBDII port permanently so I can always pull up my statistics when I'm in or near my FJ) to collect all the voltage information I could in a dashboard in the Torque android app and kept an eye on it for a month. I also periodically checked my battery's voltage with a voltmeter directly across its terminals, when the FJ was not running.

While driving, I would sometimes see 14.1 or 14.2 volts, but never for very long. And sure enough, the battery's "resting" voltage dropped little-by-little, over the course of a month, indicating that it was not able to be fully re-charged by the lower voltages of the FJ's alternator.

I ordered the $50 special handmade-in-Australia device from the thread linked above (I'd actually ordered it a while ago, but it took around a month to arrive), popped it into the slot in the stock fuse box, and BAM - my alternator now outputs 14.1 to 14.5 volts while driving, happily charging the Odyssey.



The "Alternator Voltage" thread contains ideas and instructions for making your own, for less than the cost to buy + ship from 'Straya, but it's such an elegant, simple solution that I don't regret the money spent.

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Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
Hi-Lift Jack

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===== Hi-Lift Jack
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Everyone's gotta have a Hi-Lift Jack, right? Right. I couldn't find any well-reviewed jack covers that were reported to survive the Texas heat, and I didn't really want to put the jack on the front of the vehicle - where it would get filthydirty, block my view, and decapitate me in a highway accident - nor in the rear, where it'd block visibility (just kidding we all know there's no rear visibility) and get in the way of the door.

What about on the roof? Away from road grime, away from mud and dirt, not blocking any visibility, and not going to decapitate me if it comes loose in a collision!



I didn't want to spend a bajillion dollars on a custom-made jack mount, so I got a(nother) trusty set of pipe clamps, a bolt, two washers, a lock washer, a lock nut, and a wing nut (times two) and built my own. It worked very well, holding the jack through the pin holes in its main shaft... except it didn't quite fit at first. A little percussive coercion on the bolts (I smacked them upwards with a wrench) gave enough clearance for an easy but snug fit of the jack. Here's a closeup:



Speaking of the jack, the model I got had its red handle held into the black base by a single cotter pin which protruded out through a hole in the base and prevented the handle from sliding out. Pull the cotter pin out and the handle could easily be removed.



It was a tiny cotter pin, and not weatherproof. It snapped off the first time I tried to use the jack. The jack was still serviceable (and the handle was held in place by the rubber brace when stored on the roof) but I definitely wanted to fix it.

So, I drilled a hole in the other side of the handle and its sleeve on the base for a 1/4" hitch pin:



Now the handle is extra-secure but also more-easily removed!

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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
APEX Rock Sliders

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===== All-Pro APEX Rock Sliders
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After the 2016 Lone Star Toyota Jamboree, these turned up for sale, un-painted. I don't have powdercoating tools but I've successfully painted PVC before - how hard could metal be?

I chose Rustoleum self-etching primer and Rustoleum textured black paint, then turned my patio into a paint studio:



and after too many ounces of mineral oil, painter's rags, strips of sandpaper, cans of paint and primer, and elbow grease, I swore to myself that I'd never plan to paint something on my patio ever again. I'll order with powdercoating if possible, and I'll go find a real garage or yard to paint in if I can't.

The APEX sliders came with little stand-offs to move the brake lines up and away from the slider's supports. I found that they didn't quite move the brake lines off of the sharp metal edges, so I wrapped my brake line in some 3/4" (I think...) protective split wiring loom:



There is more discussion of these standoffs over here: https://www.fjcruiserforums.com/forums/misc-technical-discussion/633617-e-brake-relocation-sliders.html

All done and lookin' awesome:



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Arcanine is a bright orange fire-type Pokemon. My FJ is bright and orange... I call it the "Chihuahuan desert camouflage kit," as red dirt desert is where I love to go.

I'm much handier with electronics than I am with automotive mechanics, so most of what I've done to my FJ so far is small and fiddly.

Some modifications may be more in-depth than others, and will have a link to a post that describes it in full, with photos of the process. The rest are in a list at the bottom of the first post.

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===== CB Radio (full details)
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The first real modification I did after getting ARCA9 - rip out the (surprisingly nice) stock stereo head and add a Cobra 18WXSTII radio. The cobra is a convenient 1-DIN form-factor (standard "single" dashboard slot size), has a built-in front-facing speaker (perfect for in-dash installation) but moreover it has a "scan" feature that other radios in its class don't. If you only ever use the CB when you know who you plan to talk to (such as at an ORV event, or for work), then that's not important but if, like me, you like to listen as you travel across the country's interstates, "scan" is a must-have.

Antennae-wise, I went with a 4' FireStik but ended up building my own adequately-grounded, adjustable-angle roof-rack mount, operated by just a thumb screw (using key parts from the Comet RS-660U mount. Now, I can have it fully flat when I'm driving around town and may have to enter a parking garage, I can have it partway up when off-roading through low trees, and I can have it the full 11ft or so above ground when cruising down the highway.

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===== Passenger Power Outlet(s) (full details)
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Yes there are two working 120V AC outlets and two 2.4A fast-charging USB ports in my dashboard :grin

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===== Cabin Wiring Harnesses (full details)
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The prospect of wiring up a dimmable backlit switch with a separate "on" indicator was daunting... and I'd been in my dashboard console before, so I knew how tiny the wires were and how there was never any slack when you wanted it, and how they were all bundled inside tape or a cable guard. So, when I went in the first time, I went in with a plan: I'd build a simple, snap-on / snap-off harness for these center console illuminated switches so that in the future I'd be able to assemble & prepare a switch from the comfort of my home and then just click it into place inside the dashboard.

I applied the same technique to my cabin fuse box, but for a different goal - I was running out of live, un-used circuits to tap into! Now I have plenty of easily-accessible, snap-together connectors for powering peripherals.

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===== The Electric Upgrade (full details)
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The Big Five cables, a deep-cycle Odyssey 31M-PC2150 battery, a fuse box just for my accessories and a boost to the alternator's voltage.

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===== Off-Road Lights
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Dear Rigid: You make great lights but your wiring instructions aren't really the best approach. I wired my 4 lights the right way, which gave me the ability to snap-in up to 4 more without having to run any cables except from a snap-in connector near the battery to where I actually want the lights.

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===== Miscellaneous 4-Wheeling Improvements
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Coming soon: Separate posts with details


  1. Hi-Lift Jack & roof-rack mount
  2. All-Pro APEX Rock Sliders
  3. Front & Rear bumpers + winch
  4. Set of BudBuilt Skid Plates)
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===== Miscellaneous Simple Improvements
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Coming soon: Separate posts with details


  1. Tuffy Lockable Center Console
  2. Fire Extinguisher Mounted in Trunk
  3. "Zombie Response Vehicle" Label
  4. Capacitive Dashcam
  5. TrailToys EZ-View (integrated blind-spot) Mirrors
  6. Contract-free wireless WiFi hotspot with unlimited data
Wow! You are a regular Tesla Edison!
Nice job!
:bigthumb:
 

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Discussion Starter #11 (Edited)
Fire Extinguisher

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===== Fire Extinguisher
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I ordered a 2.5 pound "Purple K" fire extinguisher. 2.5 is kind of small, but it'll fit more nicely.

I'm not expecting any engine fires (but then again, who is?), least of all while driving - so I'm OK'ing myself with a smaller extinguisher. Additionally, there wasn't anywhere convenient to mount it within arm's reach of the driver that I liked, so it went in the rear:



After following the https://www.fjcruiserforums.com/forums/how-technical-articles/55663-dash-console-door-panels-removal-inst-w-pics.html#post1040226, I simply bolted the extinguisher's mount to the rear panel:



I used washers where I could do so without compromising a reinforcing plastic ridge. I did have to omit one of the six bolts in order to retain one of the panel's mounting clips.

And the finishing touch:



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Discussion Starter #13 (Edited)
ToyTec BOSS 3" Suspension Lift

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===== ToyTec BOSS 3" Suspension Lift
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At the 2017 Lone Star Toyota Jamboree, I entered the time-trial "Lone Star Stampede" but didn't run it as fast as my engine would let me because I'd never pushed my (OEM, original) suspension to it's limits and I didn't know where my shocks would bottom (or blow) out... and I had to drive home the next day.

After I got my skid plates later that night, I measured the clearance from the ground to the front differential's skid... and found it to be only 10 inches!

I thought FJs came from the factory with 12?! Could the loss of clearance be due to "abusing" my OEM suspension off-road for a year, and strapping on a whole bunch of heavy-duty steel armor?

That's when I concluded it was time for new, taller suspension that was up to the beatings I intended to give it (and maybe I'd be able to say "goodbye" to the significant bodyroll when braking and turning).

I went with ToyTec's BOSS "Performance" 3" lift kit (2.5" + reservoir front coilovers, 2.5" rear shocks, standard rear springs) after oogling suspension for ~4 months and actively shopping for 1.

I chose it because:


  1. While not my only car, my FJ is my daily driver and I don't want to have it out-of-comission mid-upgrade waiting for a missing part to ship.
  2. I don't have a garage or workspace for large, multi-day projects, so I'd have to get the upgrade done at a shop and a complete kit with instructions will be faster, cheaper, and more likely to be successful.
  3. Its performance specs sounded right for what I was looking for, and there were positive written and video reviews of the BOSS kit online.
  4. It claimed to be "fully adjustable from 1" to 3"" - meaning I can level and re-level the FJ as I add more weight.
  5. I had a pleasant conversation with the ToyTec representative at the 2017 Lone Star Toyota Jamboree
The internet recommended upgrading the front upper control arms when lifting 3+ inches, so I also ordered a set of Total Chaos (stock length, urethane pivot) UCAs. I chose them 'cause of Total Chaos' reputation and a friendly chat with the Total Chaos tent at the 2017 LSTJ. Plus they look really cool.

Installed


Not too loud from a distance...


But get in there at the right angle and it looks, well, BOSS!


The full beauty of the shiny red coil is mostly hidden from the outside...


And there's just a whisper of a hint that something's not stock in the rear.


(Shiny) black springs, (matte) black shock, and bright silver spacer.

Take-Offs

Because I'm a pack rat, I saved all the old suspension pieces... I wanted to know what kind of condition they were in! My other ride (a Camry) has passed 20 years and 200k miles on its original factory suspension so I was expecting no problems or untoward wear on the FJ's pieces after just 4 years of life and 50k miles.

Upper Control Arms

They appeared to still be structurally sound:



But what's that?



A boot has cracked and I can see the shiny metal inside! I wonder how much longer before that'd've started causing noise or problems...

Front Coilovers

Undamaged and uninteresting. I can compress them a little bit by hand. I was unable to compress the ToyTec coilovers by hand.



Rear Springs

Undamaged and uninteresting. They stand 15.25" high. I have no idea if this is how high they're supposed to stand. I can compress them a little bit by hand. I was unable to compress the ToyTec springs by hand.



Rear Shocks

At first blush, undamaged... but they were leaking slightly when removed from the vehicle. I can compress them fully by hand, with ease, and they take 17 seconds to return to their full length afterward. I'm pretty sure it was time to replace these...



Results

Lift

~2" in the front, ~3" in the rear. I forgot to take some of the interesting measurements beforehand... (click the image to expand it)



Previously, I had a levelling kit on the front (post-install of the front bumper), that, well, leveled the stance. Now, the original factory rake is back. As a result, the front is slightly lower than I'd like. When the above image was put together, I was still in the "break it in and let it settle" phase. In a week or so I'll see if I can crank the front up high enough to ride level once again.

This slant plus all my armor (front bumper, rear bumper, sliders, skid plates) plus the new, heavier suspension has added significant demands on my tires - while measuring the before-and-after of the lift, I realized that my patch-of-contact with the pavement on the front tires looked larger than all the other cars in the lot. Also, nearly every turn squealed regardless of how fast or sharp it was:



I'm now running at 38 PSI on-road (up from the factory-recommended 32 from a year ago, and 34 PSI before the lift) and may still need to go up to 40 to get my front tires round again. I gained a half inch of (on-road) clearance by bumping the tire pressure, too.

Performance

Day-Of

I feel taller. It's definitely stiffer than before and a little bouncy but the braking and turning bodyroll is almost completely gone.

There is a slight plasticky squeak audible at the beginning of acceleration or end of deceleration.

I haven't had a chance to go off-road yet but taking speed bumps at high speed isn't noticeably quieter, though it is less bouncy.

Taking dips in the road at high speed is both quieter and smoother.

I have to get used to turning at speed again because I can't use the degree of bodyroll to gauge how severe the turn is.

After one week

It feels slightly bouncier/boatier over small dips, but larger disturbances in the road are handled more smoothly and recovered from more rapidly than before.

I haven't taken it off-road yet.

After one month

Been off-road twice. Aside from the extra height, it seems to be a smoother ride when on the constant shifting of off-road trails (versus the occasional dip or bump in pavement). A couple "large" drop-offs that previously had me worried about the stock suspension bottoming out or hitting its bump stops, were taken nicely in stride.

The on-road ride is still more up-and-down/bouncy than before, though. But, I didn't get this suspension setup with a smoother on-road ride as the goal, so...

After six months

I had to send a coilover back for warranty service. The driver-side coilover failed in early November 2017. It's January 13th, 2018, and the process has finally finished and I'm back rolling on the BOSS suspension.

I was 100% thrilled with the ride height and quality before the incident. It was noticeably stiffer than stock and than other vehicles, and I started feeling strange when I rode in a vehicle where I couldn't feel the texture of the road below me, or in a vehicle with bodyroll. It will be a few months, probably, before everything settles and I can get all rubs and wobbles tuned out again.

The BOSS kit significantly eliminates the FJ's bodyroll when turning, and I have learned that I really, really like that aspect.

See this post for details on the failure.

After one year

After learning the correct minimum droop (2 inches!) to avoid blowing out the shocks... I did upgrade the front coils to 700lb springs, from the 650lbs they came with. I suspected that my front end was heavier than "normal," (at 3,260 lbs) and that stiffer springs would help me get a few extra quarter-inches of lift while bringing the ride quality up a little bit as well. Overall, I'm very happy with their performance.

Let me let you in on a little secret: I didn't launch off the ramp at the Lone Star Stampede off-road time trial at the Lone Star Toyota Jamboree in 2017 because I was on stock suspension and they cautioned us to "maybe don't do that unless your rig is really built for it."

I chose the ToyTec BOSS Performance kit explicitly with launching off that ramp in mind. Just about a year later (at the Lone Star Toyota Jamboree 2018), I soared up a dirt mound and smashed the front coils back to earth with all ~5900 lbs of FJ, armor, and cargo, then slammed left and right a couple times on the moguls at the end:



And I drove away with no issues and I drove home on the highways the next day, and the suspension didn't seem to care one bit. It did literally what I chose it for to be able to do. I'm calling it a success.

One Small Issue

The front coilovers are allegedly adjustable while installed. However... the positioning of the hose for the external reservoir (an upgrade that I opted to go for) creates a problem:

It's easy to fit the spanner in and adjust a coil in one direction:



But the spanner is too large for the available clearance to flip it around and adjust the other way:


If it locks in a groove, the handle hits the frame and there's no space to turn it...


But if you go for a groove that will give the handle clearance, the reservoir hose gets in the way.

As you can see from the scuffs on the finish, the solution was to (after jacking the FJ up a little bit) get a straight length of metal, wedge it in the plate's spanner groove, and hammer on it.

This caused the installation to take more than one business day at my mechanic, as getting the initial ride height set and leveled was extremely tedious. Once everything's settled, I'm probably going to leave the front slightly askew, with each coilover adjusted a little bit too far in the direction that I can't adjust it easily...

We wondered by the reservoir hose didn't come straight off the side, or maybe angled up and over the UCAs... It seems like up-and-over would still clear the UCAs and the wheel well, but make it possible to easily adjust the coils while installed. The hose hardware is not adjustable.

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Discussion Starter #14 (Edited)
Wheels and Tires

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===== Wider Wheels & All-Terrain Tires
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Premise

I went off-roading with a bunch co-workers, and despite being the most capable rig, there was a hill I couldn't get up (none of them tried). I felt that I should've been able to get up that hill. I wanted more traction! And I always want more ground clearance... and it might be nice to be able to steer through mud, and to not worry about my sidewalls so much...

Time to get new tires! The FJ's wheels are 7.5" wide and offset +15mm, so I'd probably need new wheels (with a smaller offset), too...

Decision

I ended up going with Pro-Comp "La Paz" (5129) series 17x8.5" in Satin Black w/ a "fake bead-locker" lip, and BFGoodrich T/A KO2s in LT305/65/r17 (total height of 32.6" - about exactly 1" more than stock).

I wanted the lip because it came in relatively-unfinished steel - versus chrome or black - and I've learned that I grind my rims on rocks. Anything other than "unfinished" metal was going to get its aesthetics ruined pretty quickly.

I went for wider 32" over narrower 33" because

  1. I have added ~800lbs, so I wanted the extra traction
  2. I have added ~800lbs, so I didn't want to make things harder on the engine than they already were by increasing the tire diameter excessively
  3. I have added ~800lbs, most of it armor, so it's less bad if I can't fully clear every obstacle
  4. I wanted additional track width for added stability
  5. I haven't done the body-mount chop and didn't want to budget time for it right then
Preparation

While I wasn't planning on a BMC, this did catch my eye:

So what I have is a product that provides 2" of additional space inside the wheel well and eliminates front tire scraping with the most commonly recommended after market tires, looks good, is inexpensive and can be installed in less that an hour.
-- Fj Fender Flaps : About
I'd seen them around before, but never internalized the "additional clearance in wheel well with no BMC required" part of them.

I ordered a set and they went on exactly as described, leaving a healthy amount of clearance between my stock tires (Bridgestone Dueler H/T 684 II in P265/70/r17) and the body mount:



They cleared the new tires well, too:



End Result





They look good, IMO. I opted to keep the white lettering on the outside... As a canvas on which to paint and mark good times off-road!

No rubbing - not even close - no matter how much the wheel's turned at resting suspension height.

Probably if I were turned all the way to one side, and the side to which I was turned was also fully compressed, I'd catch the tire on the body mount. I haven't tried this yet :D

I've already noticed that I can turn much more sharply and at higher speeds on-road without slipping, skidding, or tire squealing. I can't wait to take them off-road!

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Discussion Starter #16 (Edited)
Off-Road-Ready Tow Connector

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===== Off-Road-Ready Tow Connector
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ARCA9 came with a 7-way tow connector. It, as is usual for tow connectors, hung down below the rear bumper. At the 2016 Lone Star Toyota Jamboree, a rock decided that that wasn't a good place for the tow connector, and bent it up above the bumper:



I flipped the connector around and ran it between the tow bar and the bumper, and all was good...



... Until I got the rear bumper replaced with an ARB steel bumper which necessitated removing my tow bar. The tow connector was relocated to the bottom of the new bumper, and at the 2017 Lone Star Toyota Jamboree, a rock decided to remind me that this wasn't a good place for the connector and ripped it off, breaking the mount in the process.

Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice...

Clearly, I needed to put that connector somewhere else. So, I found a hole and a bracket on the inside of the frame that the bumper was mounted to, and with some targetted application of bolts and washers, mounted the tow connector mount:



Which allowed the mounting of the tow connector nestled up inside the frame, protected by both it and the bumper:



It's invisible from the outside, nearly-impossible to catch on a rock, but still proximate and available for towing!

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Discussion Starter #17 (Edited)
Front and Rear Bumpers

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===== Front and Rear Bumpers
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Not much to say - just an ARB Deluxe Front Bumper for the FJ, an ARB Rear Bumper with ARB's high-clearance tow hitch, and a WARN M8000 winch.

I actually got the front bumper in April 2016, and the rear in April 2017...

Things I did with the bumpers include

  1. Tucking my 7-way tow connector up inside the bumper.
  2. Adding DOT reflective red tape to the rear bumper to replace the reflectors on the stock bumper.
  3. Drilling 2 holes in the front so I could fasten the license plate with 4 screws instead of just 2.
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Discussion Starter #18 (Edited)
LED Headlight and Taillight Upgrade

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===== LED Headlight and Taillight Upgrade
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I finally shook an incandescent light's filament (a brake light) loose while 4-wheeling after over a year - I'm surprised it took that long! That was the catalyst I was waiting for to justify replacing my head and taillights with LEDs.

Lookin' Slick

I first looked for well-known / popular (per the forums and PureFJCruiser) taillight replacements, but I noticed that when they even mentioned it all of the turn signal lights seemed to be red. I personally don't believe in red turn signal lights - they ought to be yellow, so you can distinguish between someone braking (or just with their running lights on) and someone signalling or with their hazard lights on.

So I went looking on Amazon and I found this:



Aw heck yeah! Cool-looking "track"-style running lights with yellow blinkers, all LED! Just over $600 from a no-name Chinese seller: what could go wrong? Let's buy 'em and find out because what's life without a little adventure?

Taillights




The internet says that a lot of FJ Cruiser replacement taillight assemblies re-use one or more factory bulbs. Since I wanted to replace all my incandescent bulbs with LEDs, this wasn't going to fly. These particular taillights did try to re-use the factory reverse bulb, so I picked up a set of model 921 LED bulbs to use instead.

The internet also said that 2 of the 3 bolts that hold the taillight assemblies on are easy to remove but that third one is hellacious. The internet wasn't wrong - after all the contorting and two-ratchet-clicks-at-a-time unscrewing on the third bolt (on each side...), my forearm looked like I'd tried to wrestle a feral cat - or maybe a feral honey-badger. I expected (and accept) this by now, though - no modification of any significance gets done without at least two of blood, sweat, and tears.

There were two tricky bits:

First, for one of the connectors on the new taillight assembly (circled in red below, though I don't recall which one it actually was), I had to bend the contact pin around to the other side of the plastic to match the contacts on the connector on my FJ. I'm not sure if anyone was "wrong" in this situation, but it technically didn't work out-of-the box with my 2013 FJ's taillight harness.

Second, in order to get the bulb mounts to engage and lock in the slots provided, I had to break off a bit of the plastic lip (circled in blue below, though again I can't remember which of the two it was) to make room for the teeth of the FJ's bulb mount.



All-in-all, none of this was difficult, time-consuming, or hard-to-figure out. It took two hours total, and I only needed assistance from someone else when replacing the taillights - to push them up against the body, from the outside, to make it easier to tighten the nuts back down on the bolts.

Headlights




Here, though, there's a nearly week-long adventure!



The headlight assemblies had "five" connectors:

  1. The 3-pin high-beam/low-beam connector
  2. The 3-pin blinker/parking light connector
  3. A 2-pin low-beam connector that came off of the assembly, intended to use to power the primary headlights
  4. A loose wire labeled "Daytime Run Light"
  5. A 2-pin connector that connected to a box labeled "diode" in Chinese
I connected the 4 real connectors (leaving the DRL wire alone for the time being), and experienced the following:

  1. DRLs (the LED track/outlines) only on when headlights on.
  2. High beams always on (unless you disconnect the "diode", then they aren't).
  3. Activating high beams from the lever in the driver's seat turns off the headlights.
So that didn't work out-of-the-box... time to investigate and make these suckers work.

Headlights - Connectors

The "extra" connectors (the ones that didn't connect to a harness on the FJ) were very low quality. One of them fell apart while trying to figure out how the headlight assemblies were wired and how they were supposed to work! I decided to replace all the bad (or missing!) connectors with robust weatherproof ones.

I didn't actually get a picture of the back of the raw assembly before I started mucking with it, but this was the first draft:



Headlights - DRL

Incandescent DRLs - the kind the FJ comes with from the factory - shine the DRL lights and the "regular" headlights out of the same bulb, controlled... somehow. Typically

However, even if I had that kind of LED headlight, that wouldn't have worked the way I wanted - I wanted my headlights off completely when in "DRL only" mode, and the LED tracks/outlines illuminated.

This meant that I could not use the traditional headlight circuit to run the DRLs. Fortunately, there's a "DRL" fuse in the engine-compartment fuse box that activates at the appropriate times, so I built a harness to tap that fuse and bring DRL power up to the driver-side headlight assembly.



I also built (not pictured) an extension to run power from that harness over to the passenger-side headlight assembly, all using weatherproof connectors for the parts that would be exposed.

Now, the LED outlines activated all the time except when I switched the headlight selector to "everything off."

However, the headlights were still on when in "DRL Only" mode or "Parking Light" mode. Luckily the classic "DRL Disable" method of popping a single connector (https://www.fjcruiserforums.com/forums/interior-exterior-visual-tech/138543-how-disable-drls.html#post2031828) worked perfectly. I didn't have to cut, re-wire, or solder anything!

Now, finally, I had the LED outlines and only the LED outlines illuminated when in "DRL Only" or "Parking Lights" mode.

Headlights - High Beams

These headlight assemblies use a projector-style setup, meaning that "activating the high beams" consists of moving a shutter out of the way, allowing all of the light out. When in "low beam" mode, that shutter is physically preventing the upper portion of the light from shining out the front.

With the mysterious Chinese "diode" connected:



the shutter was always open and the headlights were always on except when the high beams were activated!

The correct way for the assemblies to be wired would be for the headlights to always be illuminated if either high beams or low beams were on, and for the "high beam" power to lower the shutter.

You could wire this by hooking the low beams up normally, then using the high beam circuit to power the shutter - except, when high beams were activated, you'd lose power to the headlights as the low beams would be turned off.

So, you would need to connect the high beam power to the low beam power, as well - that way, whenever any kind of beams were on, the headlights would be on... but when high beams were activated, the shutter would also lower and let the full light out.

But actually there's a problem with that - if the high-beam and low-beam power is connected, and the high beam power lowers/opens the shutter... then the shutter will be lowered/opened when the low beams are on, too, and you'll see high beams all the time!

That was almost what I saw... except for the part where activating high beams turns the headlights off altogether. You'd actually need one more thing to make this all work - you'd need a diode. A diode allows current to flow through it only in one direction - so you'd put the diode between the high beam power and the low beam power. That way, when high beams were on, power could flow from them to the low beams to keep the headlights on... but when the low beams were on, power couldn't flow back from the low beams into the high beams to incorrectly open the shutter.

We clearly had a diode... but what I was seeing would make sense if the diode's polarity was backwards. If the diode were wired backwards, then it would instead let low beam power through to the high beam circuit all the time (causing the shutter to be lowered/opened all the time), and would prevent the high beam power from flowing into the low beam circuit when the high beams were activated and the low beam power was cut off.

This is what I was seeing! Did the diodes come from the seller wired backwards? I reversed their polarity and then the high beams and low beams worked as expected.

Yes, they came from the factory wired backwards. Yes, I get to say that reversing the polarity solved an issue in my FJ :D

Headlights - Dust Cover

These headlight assemblies were intended for HID xenon bulbs. At the end of the day, HIDs have a filament that could be shook loose and broken during aggressive off-roading. Plenty of people assured me that probably wouldn't happen, but you know how I could guarantee it wouldn't happen? By using an LED with no filament at all.

Unfortunately, most LED bulbs that fit the form factor of these headlight assemblies (H7 form factor) have some kind of fan, heat sink, or both which makes them much longer than an HID bulb:

H7 LED:


H7 HID:


So, I had to cut the dust cover a little bit:



But there was another problem, too - the original assembly, intended for lower-profile HID bulbs, had the power connector for the headlight inside the dust cover. As you can clearly see above, my LED headlights' connectors were outside the dust cover. I couldn't run the cables through the cover's seal, and I didn't want to squish them up against the LED headlight's cooling fan.

Thankfully, there were two other dust-proofed "exits" in the headlight assembly that were un-used. With a snip of a wire and bit of careful threading, I was able to re-route the headlight power connector so that it lived outside the dust cover:

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Headlights - Recap

In order to get the headlight assemblies working properly with LED headlights, I had to


  1. Replace stock connectors with my own, because the stock ones broke or weren't provided. 2x 2-pin and 2x 1-pin were needed.
  2. Tap the DRL fuse in the engine's fuse box to power the DRLs
  3. Disconnect the old DRL circuit
  4. Dremel the provided dust cover to fit LED headlights
  5. Cut and re-route the headlight power cable
  6. Reverse the polarity of the included diodes
Personally, I think it was worth (I had fun!) it but I couldn't recommend these headlights to anyone! Perhaps if you went with HID headlamps and didn't mind the LED tracks/outlines not being on except when the headlights were on, it would be a plug-and-play affair... unless you got unlucky like me and your diodes are wired backwards or the connectors broke.

(archive link)
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Re: Wheels and Tires

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===== Wider Wheels & All-Terrain Tires
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Premise

I went off-roading with a bunch co-workers, and despite being the most capable rig, there was a hill I couldn't get up (none of them tried). I felt that I should've been able to get up that hill. I wanted more traction! And I always want more ground clearance... and it might be nice to be able to steer through mud, and to not worry about my sidewalls so much...

Time to get new tires! The FJ's wheels are 7.5" wide and offset +15mm, so I'd probably need new wheels (with a smaller offset), too...
Update: Went back out with co-workers this past weekend and killed that hill like it warn't no thang. The tires did what they were supposed to!

A co-worker had a GoPro. Footage of me got eaten by the GoPro, but the other drivers all got to see their escapades... :(
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Re: Front and Rear Bumpers

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===== Front and Rear Bumpers
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Not much to say - just an ARB Deluxe Front Bumper for the FJ, an ARB Rear Bumper with ARB's high-clearance tow hitch, and a WARN M8000 winch.
For anyone wondering about the actual towing capacity of the ARB rear bumper... I successfully dolly-towed (2 wheels on the trailer, 2 wheels on the pavement) a friend's PT cruiser (curb weight 3,165 lbs) at highway speeds without any noticeable issues except the (obviously, expected) longer braking distance.
 
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