• Summer 2017 | Solar Eclipse, South America, FJ Summit, MORE!

    Another amazing issue! Read More
  • Winter 2017 | Toroweap, New Zealand, GX-470, More!

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  • Spring 2017 | Bears Ears, Installs, Overland Expo!

    Your Toyota Adventure Awaits! Read More
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Get Toyota Cruisers & Trucks Magazine on the Google Play Store!Get Toyota Cruisers & Trucks Magazine on the App Store

What do you do when you’ve explored every FJ Summit trail in the Ouray-Silverton-Telluride area multiple times? Find something new.


Hema Explorer-Clear Lake

The Hema Explorer system helped to scout a high alpine lake that we’ve never explored. With a route planned in the cloud, I synced the tracks to my phone & tablet and downloaded the proper maps. We hit the pavement south of Ridgway, headed for Red Mountain Pass. 

After turning off the highway, we found a standard forest road complete with a washboard surface. We aired down to 22psi on the new tires, hit record on the app, and headed for the hills. 

Despite the cloudy & rainy day, we were able to find some really great views throughout the ~8 mile journey which included over 3,000ft in elevation gain. We spotted the Golden Horn a few times, along with several lakes, waterfalls, and great potential campsites. 

Hema Explorer-Clear Lake 

The end of our trip revealed a socked-in yet still beautiful Clear Lake. At an elevation near 12,000ft the lake is actually....quite clear. It’s also cold, and a really great place for lunch. Alas, the rain caught us so we enjoyed our sandwiches in the comfort of the GX. 

This trail is suitable for any stock 4x4 or SUV with low-range and you should plan 2-4 hours for a round trip, depending on how often you stop to capture the views. You can see our track on the Hema Explorer Cloud: http://hema.li/clrlkco

Hema Explorer-Clear Lake

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    Get Toyota Cruisers & Trucks Magazine on the Google Play Store!Get Toyota Cruisers & Trucks Magazine on the App Store

    The goal was to escape the August Texas heat and land me in an ideal spot for the solar eclipse. My plan was to start in Colorado by hitting sections of the Enchanted Rockies Trail, stop off at Canyonlands National Park for an early morning sunrise photo at Mesa Arch (bucket list item), head north into Glacier National Park, Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, Canada, Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, then finish the trip by meeting a group of fellow Toyota off-roaders in central Wyoming for the solar eclipse.


    I already had a long list of things I wanted to get done for my 2007 4Runner, but planning didn’t stop there. I had just sold my XVenture trailer in hopes of buying a teardrop style enclosed trailer rugged enough for medium difficulty trails. This meant getting a new trailer ready. For eclipse preparation, telescope and lens filters had to be researched and ordered. Wildlife photography was my primary goal in the national parks, so I bought a few guidebooks on where to locate wildlife. Books don’t do much good if you don’t have time to read them, and time was quickly working against me as the trip date approached.

     

    Singer 240-amp Alternator and NorthStar 27 AGM Battery  

    My 4-year-old 31 group Marine battery had already toasted 2 alternators, and was struggling to stay above 50% after 3 days of being parked. The need for a new battery and a higher output alternator prior to the trip was the top priority. I jumped on a group buy for a NorthStar 27 group AGM battery. Having edited Brian Patton’s dual battery article in the Spring issue of TCT Magazine, I knew about Singer Alternator. Knowing I would be charging a 2nd 27 group battery located in the trailer while driving, the higher amperage was a requirement. After spending an hour on the phone with Mike Singer, I was confident the recommended 240-amp alternator with lifetime warranty was the right solution. Toyota specialist Pablo Moreno, owner of Tandem Automotive in Fort Worth, TX, did the alternator install and testing. During the alternator swap, he noticed my belt tensioner was in bad shape and possibly wouldn’t make the journey. Glad he discovered it before I hit the road.  

    4Runner Preparation (Eclipse Expedition)

    4Runner Preparation (Eclipse Expedition)

    Kenwood DMX7704s and Kenwood CMOS-230 Backup Camera 

    My 4Runner came with the JBL audio system, which sounds pretty good. However, at 173,000 miles, the head unit was suffering signs of potential failure. For a replacement, I wanted a large screen, but the units with built-in navigation cost nearly double of those without. I also didn’t want a CD/DVD player. The Kenwood DMX7704s seemed like the ideal solution:  priced at $500, 7-inch screen, no CD/DVD, digital equalizer, and it comes with a GPS antenna, but no navigation software. Instead, it relies on a smartphone to provide the navigation software via Apple Car Play or Android Auto. Coupled with the TYTO-01 amp interface, the Kenwood unit utilizes the JBL amp and the result is an improved sound quality. Even Sirius XM sounds great. I added the Kenwood CMOS-230 Backup Camera for safety.  

    4Runner Preparation (Eclipse Expedition)

    4Runner Preparation (Eclipse Expedition)

    4Runner Preparation (Eclipse Expedition)

    4Runner Preparation (Eclipse Expedition)

    4x4 Labs Rear Bumper with Dual Swingouts

    My previous rear bumper had a single swingout, which became quite heavy when spare tire, HiLift Jack, and 2 cans of fuel were attached. I struggled to get it closed at times. Worse, I couldn’t open it when a trailer was attached. I sought out a dual swingout solution that would meet my needs and decided on the 4x4 Labs model. In addition to designing the rear bumper to my specs, Luke at 4x4 Labs suggested I go with the optional drop-down aluminum table and drop-down cutting board. I placed the order and started psyching myself up for the install—there were 2 install steps that had me a bit nervous:  cut off the rear crossmember, and cut 3-inches off the rear frame. Doing so allows the bumper to be positioned further into the truck while serving as the new rear crossmember. The swingouts come with small shocks to prevent slamming them shut. The table and cutting board drop-downs are mounted with bicycle quick-release axles, and can be removed when not traveling. The bumper angles offer superb clearance and the fabrication pieces offer excellent protection. 

    4Runner Preparation (Eclipse Expedition)

     

    4Runner Preparation (Eclipse Expedition)

    4Runner Preparation (Eclipse Expedition)

    GOBI Roof Rack and Front Runner Monsoon Bag

    I always wanted a GOBI. My previous 2 roof racks were lower cost solutions, but lacked the ability to haul gear securely and were noisy. I joined in on a group buy and 3 months later, I had the roof rack I should’ve purchased years ago. My aluminum travel boxes fit snuggly in the rear while the Front Runner Monsoon Bag fits securely in the middle. I used a pair of Front Runner Stratchits to keep the bag to the rack. The newly released bag (see the New & Noteworthy section of this same issue) is waterproof, rugged, and carries a sizeable amount of cargo. The bag has an air release valve, which is necessary to open when sealing the bag. Once the bag is tight, close the valve and everything inside stays dry. I was in the Colorado Rocky Mountains for 2 days of solid rain, while the bag was mounted on the roof rack. All of the bag contents remained dry.  

    4Runner Preparation (Eclipse Expedition)

     

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    Get Toyota Cruisers & Trucks Magazine on the Google Play Store!Get Toyota Cruisers & Trucks Magazine on the App Store

    We have had an on-again, off-again relationship with Cooper Tires ever since we purchased our 1998 4Runner in 2006. We initially ran a set of their Adventurer A/T and a set of their Discoverer S/T tires before embarking on a five-year, 82,000 mile fling with remolded tires. That fling ended tragically last July with a sidewall failure and blowout as we were traveling through Montana. It was then that I reachedout to our readership to ask which tire you would want us to review. Much to my surprise, you overwhelmingly asked for us to review the Cooper Tire Discoverer S/T MAXX. So, we reached out to Cooper Tire, and three weeks later I had five brand new 285/75R16 tires sitting at my house.


    As with its more aggressive sibling, the Discoverer STT Pro, the Discoverer S/T MAXX utilizes Cooper’s patented 3-ply “Armor-Tek3®” construction, which consists of a full 3-ply carcass. The third ply is overlapped at an 8-degree angle to produce a 66% stronger and 2.5 times more tear resistant side wall compared to the Discoverer S/T. The S/T MAXX also features a new, and proprietary, cut and chip resistant blend of natural and silica-based rubber compound for the tread. Cooper Tires’ goal with combining these two elements into the S/T MAXX was to produce a tire that is “built for demanding off-road use to give you the confidence of having a tire that is built to last.”

    Cooper ST MAXX Long Term Review

    I explained the backstory at the beginning to set in your mind where I am coming from when writing about my experience with the Discoverer S/T MAXX. Over the last year our set of Discoverer S/T MAXX tires have seen just under 10,000 miles of mixed driving. They have seen everything from hot pavement to muddy back country roads and snowy winter driving. So now that we are a year in to running them, I would like to take the opportunity to reflect on how well the S/T MAXX tires have performed.

    Dry Pavement Traction
    I am starting with the dry pavement traction first because I believe this is the only area where I found the S/T MAXX to be, well, underwhelming. It wasn’t good, but it wasn’t bad. I say this after driving for over five years on softer remolded tires. The S/T MAXX’s cut and chip resistant tread compound, I believe, makes for a harder/stiffer tread which provides less grip than I am used to. This is not to say that I slid all over the highway while driving but did have to slow down while cornering on roads I have been driving for the last five years.  

    Rating - 3 tires

    Wet Pavement Traction

    I was surprised when, after driving on dry pavement for a few weeks, we experienced our first monsoonal rainstorm. Much to my surprise the S/T MAXX performed beautifully. Even in a heavy downpour and standing water on the roadway, I experience little to know hydroplaning. I attribute this to the tire’s 4-5 rib tread pattern and the natural and silica rubber compound.  

    Rating -  4 tires

    Cooper ST MAXX Long Term Review

    Off-Road Traction

    Off-road traction is really where the S/T MAXX shines. Whether driving on dirt and gravel roads, sand, or muddy water crossings: this tire chews up the terrain. It is a far contrast from my experience on dry pavement. Without a doubt, these tires either find traction or they somehow make it. Even with open differentials, I have only struggled to find traction twice in the last year. The first was when I buried the 4Runner to the frame in snow and had to use our MAXTRAX to get out. The second was an off-camber corner where one back tire slid into a gully and I had to be pulled out.

    Rating - 5 tires

    Cooper ST MAXX Long Term Review

    Winter Traction

    As with my experience driving on dry pavement, I found the S/T MAXX to provide average traction during the winter. I believe the cut and chip resistant rubber tread compound limits the tire’s ability to find grip when driving on snow and ice. We experienced several weeks of sub-zero weather here in Central Wyoming and the cold weather only proved to cause the tread rubber to become even stiffer.  

    Because I run these tires year-round I chose to not run studs in the tires.

    Rating -  3 tires

    Cooper ST MAXX Long Term Review

    Ride Quality

    After running a remolded copy of the Goodyear MT/R for over five years, I had forgotten what it was like to not hear the MT/R whine. It boggles my mind that the S/T MAXX are so quiet driving down the highway and interstate, considering the aggressive tread. All of our tires balanced beautifully with minimal counter weights which is a great test of build quality. Our four primary tires remained balanced until I installed the ARB internal TPMS kit, which forced a rebalance.  

    Rating -  5 tires

    Cooper ST MAXX Long Term Review

    Tread & Tire Life 

    As I mentioned earlier, we have driven just under 10,000 miles on this set of four Discoverer S/T MAXX tires. In that time, I have had the tires rotated three times and have experienced zero issues. A quick survey of our four primary tires revealed zero chipping or other tread damage. A quick measure showed that the tires have lost 3.5/32nds. If this wear rate stays consistent, we should easily see this set of tires lasting 45-50,000 miles before they would need to be replaced when the tread reaches a depth of 2/32in.

    I am also pleased overall with how well the tire has lasted. The sidewalls, despite rubbing up against curbs, rocks, and tree roots, still look great and show no signs of damage.   I am also pleased overall with how well the tire has lasted. The sidewalls, despite rubbing up against curbs, rocks, and tree roots, still look great and show no signs of damage.   

    Rating -  5 tires

    Cooper ST MAXX Long Term Review

    Conclusion

    I came back to Cooper Tires thanks to you, our readers, and I am glad I listened to your request for this tire review. Despite my gripes with its dry and winter traction, I have really enjoyed driving on the Discoverer S/T MAXX tires. I would, without reservation, recommend this tire to anyone looking for an aggressive all-terrain tire that is capable of tackling demanding backcountry trails and doesn’t compromise a daily commute. This is not to say that the Discoverer S/T MAXX is the perfect tire. As with everything, there are tradeoffs. I believe the MAXX sacrifices some on-road performance in favor of off-road performance, and that is something I am okay with. 

    Cooper ST MAXX Long Term Review

    Vehicle & Tire Specifications

     Tire specifications

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