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Ham Radio & APRS Install | TCT MagazineThis past summer I took the test to get my amateur radio (HAM) license. One thing that interested me about amateur radio was APRS, or Automatic Packet (Position) Reporting System. APRS basically uses radio waves to transmit data automatically at various intervals. The information transmitted can include many different items, but one bit of data often transmitted is GPS coordinates. This location data can be very useful to keep track of others in your group, or for someone at home to monitor your off-road location.  http://aprs.fi/ is one online site that shows recent APRS user locations. Information of local APRS users can also be shown on your radio or on an attached GPS device.

We’ve been using our Kenwood DNX-7120 daily for over 9 months now, so we thought it was time for an update on our original January 2009 article.Kenwood 7120 topo maps screenshot
Published in October 2009

FJ Cruiser Brite BoxToytec Lifts has just announced that they're now a distributor for the Brite Box.

From the site:
The BRITE BOX™ is a self contained device that greatly contributes to driving safety on dark roads by improving both the output and coverage of standard vehicle headlights.
All vehicle headlights have two distinct beam patterns: low beam for close range illumination, and high beam for long range illumination. In most vehicles, when the high beams are activated, the low beams shut off. The resulting choice of "near" vs. "far" illumination compromises safety and comfort because at a maximum, only 54% of the vehicle's lighting potential is being used at any given time.

This looks like a really great alternative to high-end HID light conversions. We expect that if you match this product with a headlight bulb upgrade you'll see a VERY noticeable difference. We're hoping to check this mod out very soon, so look for a video & lots of pics in the near future!

You can get more details & order the Brite Box on Toytec's website.

Published in Latest News
{tab=Overhead CB Install}




This method of install will take about six to eight hours to complete, so make sure you have plenty of time. You will need basic tools and help from the feminine persuasion if available (I’ll explain that detail later). Wear hospital type gloves when working around the headliner to keep it clean. As each component is removed, use painters tape to wrap the threads to secure the bolt or screw to the component (Fig 1). If you’re going to paint the radio mounting bracket, it’s best to do that several days before you start the install.


Read all instructions before you start!

Published in April 2009

The new OEM light bar from BajaRack  is made of 0.061" Carbon Steel with Zinc primer coating and black powder paint. It includes all of the mounting hardware for installation on the FJ Cruiser factory roof rack.
Four lights (7" diameter max) can be installed and Bajarack also sells a harness that supports up to four lights. The harness is made with TXL high temp wire, Nylon split loom and weather proof mating connectors.
The light bar retails for  $190.00 and is available by contacting BajaRack at 760-621-0171, it will be available for order on their website soon.
This looks like a great solution for an inexpensive & robust light bar. We look forward to seeing it on the trail.




Published in Latest News

We’ve had the 7120 installed for about a month now, and so far so good. I’ve organized this review into a few sections: Entertainment, Navigation, and Phone integration.

The “Entertainment” category includes iPod integration, DVD/MP3 Audio, USB Audio, DVD Video, and DivX Video. The 7120 handles just about every type of media you can imagine. The unit is also satellite and HD radio ready, but I don’t use either of those services so I cannot comment on their performance.

The standard MP3 audio (WMA and unprotected AAC are also supported) from a DVD or USB thumbdrive sounds great. The interface is only as good as the organization on your disc or drive. I was impressed that you can use a full 4gb DVD of music, but if it’s all in one directory it’s difficult to find a specific song. This also applies to a USB thumbdrive. The largest I’ve tried is a 1GB, so I’m not sure how large of a drive can be used. I suggest that if you’re going to use either of these to play music, organize the directories in a manner that’s easy to find what you want.

I popped in a standard DVD and after about 20 seconds, the movie was playing. The interface for playing DVD or DivX movies is pretty standard as well. You can fast forward 1x-3x, but you cannot scroll through the movie. The chapter skip works fine for DVD’s, but pressing the same button on a DivX movie jumps to the next movie. The nice thing about DivX compression is that up to 4 movies can fit on 1 DVD. This is handy when on a long trip & space is limited. Keep in mind that video only works when the parking brake is pulled. It’s illegal in most states to watch video while the vehicle is in motion.

The iPod (in my case iPhone) integration is top notch. While you don’t get the ‘standard’ iPod interface, the Kenwood interface is intuitive and works well. I was very excited to plug my iPhone in for two specific reasons. First, I’m glad that this system charges the 3G iPhone right out of the box, many aftermarket accessories and head units do not. I was also excited to see a ‘Videos’ button on the Kenwood interface. I keep a couple of movies and video podcasts on my iPhone at all times, and the picture looks just as good as it does on the phone. Some aftermarket systems don’t support video through the head unit, so I’m very happy that this one does. Every once I a while the iPod connection will drop and I either get an ‘Authorization’ error or it just stops working. Most of the time simply unplugging the phone & plugging it back in fixes the error, but a few times I’ve had to completely power off the system (which means turning the engine off) to reboot the 7120. Even with this minor bug, the iPod integration is excellent.


Published in January 2009

In the last issue, we discussed several options for in-dash navigation suitable for on-trail use. In that article we chose the Kenwood 8120 as our favorite pick for FJ owners, mainly due to the Garmin navigation and integrated media features. We also briefly touched on the Kenwood 7120, which is virtually identical to the 8120, but with a few less features. When it came time to install a system in our FJ, we ended up going with the 7120. Why? Well, the 7120 can be found for well under $1000, even after adding the Bluetooth module. For our purposes, the additional upgrades on the 8120 (more input/output options, higher end pre-amp outputs) did not justify the additional $300-$400. As it turns out, the 7120 meets our needs perfectly.

Published in January 2009

When you’re ready to install off road lights, make sure you have lots of time and patience, a proper installation will take plenty of both. Dealing with wiring, soldering, electrical connections, switches, and the disassembly off the FJ's interior can be pretty demanding. We only recommend installing lights to those with quite a bit of experience in modifying vehicles. This is about as difficult as it gets.

With that warning out of the way, let’s get to it! Please keep in mind that the following is an account of how we chose to install our lights. Every offroad light install will be different, please evaluate your situation and do what’s right for your aftermarket lighting needs.

Published in January 2009

Off road lights are on virtually every FJ owners wish list. Some form of additional lighting is vital if you plan to hit the trails after dark. There are literally dozens of different light combinations available for our trucks, how do you know which one is best? Ultimately the light setup that’s right for you depends upon how you intend to use them and your environment. FJ’s in the northeast will no doubt have a very different setup than those that spend most of their time in the desert. Combinations of large driving lights, amber lights for greater visibility in dusty areas, and smaller fog lights that are closer to the ground all have their place.

We gathered several FJ’s for a night run and light comparison late in December in an attempt to capture how some of the different setups perform. We were not able to test some of the popular brands of off road lights such as IPF and KC, but we did have enough combinations to illustrate some of the options available.

Published in January 2009

While most of the articles in FJC Magazine focus on off road and mechanical performance, every once in a while an ‘aesthetic’ mod comes along that’s just too good to pass up!
We first learned about the LED Dash Mod from TinCan several months ago, but I knew there was no way I was taking my dash apart and unsoldering several LED’s. Luckily TinCan (BJ) came out to the FJ Summit and graciously agreed to dew a few dashes for Summit attendees. By the time he was done (ours was his last) he was functioning on about 10 hours sleep over 5 days, and did over 20 dashes – quite an amazing accomplishment!

I can’t begin to explain how cool this modification is! It completely transforms the inside of your FJ and really makes it stand out. We chose to use red LED’s to match our black & red TRD theme, but the LED’s are available in just about any color. The most popular color at the Summit was blue, but several other trucks used red as well.
When it was our turn for the mod (at nearly midnight), BJ jumped in the truck and had the dash completely apart in less than 5 minutes. It’s really not that difficult to remove the gauge cluster, gauge pod, and colored control panel; so don’t be intimidated if you would like to have your dash modified. Once he had everything apart, he began the process of unsoldering the old LED’s & soldering the new ones on. I can solder two wires together, but I don’t have the steady hand or the patience to replace such small LED’s. BJ did an amazing (and quick) job and in just over an hour, we had our new dash and were on our way.

Published in October 2008
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