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I recently installed a set of Bushwacker fender flares onmy2013 Toyota FJ Cruiser. It was a change from the naked look I was previously rocking—byI, I mean myFJof course. In other words, I had removed the stock fenders a while back, and now I’ve gone from no fenders to these Bushwacker ones. The addition gives the cruiser a beefier look, while also making it look somehow more polished. It looks great! Here are the basic steps I went through to install them.

Opening the Package

I received the box for the kit—a very, VERY big box—and opened itupto check out the parts. I laid them all out and read over the manual, which describes all of the components that should be included and walks through the installation process step-by-step. Everything looked like it should, so I got to work.

Preparing the Area

First, I needed to clean and prep the areas of the FJ where the Bushwackers would be going. I happened to have a sticker on that area on one side, so I had to carefully remove it with a razor blade. Then, I cleaned off as much of the dirt and grime as I could from the area around the wheel wells. MyFJ goes ona lot of adventures, so there was a lot of dirt. I used a wax-type cleaner todo the job. Next, I needed to make a minor modification to the lower body molding on the cruiser. There is a part of the plastic trim that extends slightly into the wheel well, which would bein the way of the new fenders. I simply cut that piece off in a smooth line down, following the shape of the wheel well. Lastly, I removed the bolts from the inside of the wheel well to make room for the new bolts I would be using as part of the installation—all of which is described in detail in the manual, of course.

Prepping the Fenders

There were only a few simple steps required to prepare the fender flares. First, I puton the included trim liner, a thin strip of rubbery material that forms a transitional seam from the fender to the truck body. It sticks right on the fenders, not on the truck. I was careful to run the liner smoothly along the edge of the fender and around all the curves, so that it stuck well. Next, I puton the decorative nuts and bolts that line the fender for that tough-looking style.


The next step was to put the fenders on the FJ and bolt them on from underneath. One of the fasteners included in the kit is a specialty pin-type fastener rather than a bolt, and it goes in a specific hole; again, all is explained well in the manual. I started with the front wheels, and had an easy time with it; it was assimple as setting the fender in place, fastening it on, and repeating on the other side. Then I moved onto the back fenders, which took more effort and most of the time to install. For the back wheels, the fender flares come in two pieces which need tobe bolted together. I also had to make a modification to the fenders on the back, because I have an Expedition One Trail bumper installed and they couldn’t fit with it without modification. After determining where to cut, I put the Dremel tool to work and carefully carved some of the edge off in a square shape to frame the bumper, until the fit was just right. Then I went to work on the smaller piece which goes on the end of the fender at the bottom of the arc. I modified itin a similar way, carving out a rectangular section to make room for my bumper. I repeated the modifications on the rear fenders for the other side as well. After that, I bolted the pieces together and finally, installed them on both sides.

The Finished Look

From start to finish, this entire project took me about 5 hours. A significant chunk of that time was likely because ofmy bumper which required extra work to make the Bushwackers fit. After all was said and done, I’m definitely satisfied with the results. They look good and add something extra to the overall appearance ofmy cruiser. I would recommend these fender flares for their (general) ease and simplicity of installation, and for the way they complement the FJ’s look so well.

FJ Cruiser fender flare install 

Body molding before modification

FJ Cruiser fender flare install

Body molding after modification

FJ Cruiser fender flare install

The finished look

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    Published in Summer 2016

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    If you spend any amount of time on YouTube watching Australian off-road videos, like I do, you have heard them mention “Touring.”

    Touring is how the Aussies refer to what’s known here in the US as “overlanding”. This type of off-road travel has exploded in recent years. Fading away are the buildup of rock crawlers in favor of vehicles that have every piece of kit possible to survive the zombie apocalypse, or the weekend car camping trip.
    A natural result of prepping a vehicle for touring is that a lot of weight is added by way of steel bumpers, a winch, drawers, dual batteries, skid plates, a roof rack, roof top tent, water tank, a fridge, and many other things. That’s in addition to the personal gear that gets packed each trip.

    With the increased weight, especially on an already heavy 80 Series Land Cruiser, the need for appropriate suspension is critical. A suspension with adequate load capacity and ride quality that is comfortable enough to not wear you out after a long day of driving long dirt tracks. The Aussies have been “touring” for a long time and developing suspension for Cruisers for just as long. Darren McRae of the Autocraft workshop fame, is a long time 80 Series guru who has been pushing the limits of these cruisers and building custom suspensions for them for more than 2 two decades. He has recently been perfecting a complete suspension system, called Slinky Long Travel, for the 80 Series. He is now bringing it to the U.S. through Redline Land Cruisers of Colorado.

    80 Series Long Travel Suspension Kit - Toyota Land Cruiser Magazine

    I’ve been driving an 80 Series on and off-road since 2000. I’ve had a fair amount of time in 80s other than my own and have experienced just about all of the most common different bolt-on suspension options available in North America. When I heard about the Slinky Long Travel system coming to the US I was very interested. It had an innovative design that set it apart from everything else I’d seen. I now have had two months with the Slinky Long Travel system on my 80 and this is without question the best bolt-on suspension setup I’ve ever experienced on an 80.
    Instead of getting technical, I’ll briefly describe the components and then give my review and thoughts on its performance in a variety of terrain. For technical information check out the Redline Land Cruisers website for specs and options. There is also information on this suspension on the IH8MUD forum.

    First I want to break down what makes this system different from other coil and shock offerings that use the factory coil buckets and shock mounts. The “Slinky” Long Travel coils have a unique dual-rate coil design. What does that mean? Basically you get a coil with two different spring rates, a part of the coil with a lighter spring rate for a smooth ride and for absorbing the small bumps, and a part of the coil with a stiffer spring rate for better load capacity and for absorbing the big bumps. The top few winds of the coils also compress almost completely at normal ride height and then open up with the suspension is flexed. The result is increased down travel, and also keeps the coil from dropping out with the longer shocks. More importantly, there is still force pushing the tires to the ground even when it’s at the limit of droop. That means better traction. The coils are available in a 50mm, 70mm and 75mm increase in height and with Intermediate and Heavy spring rates. The 75mm (3”) kit is adequate to fit 35” tires and yet keeps a low center of gravity, gives a great ride with excellent travel from the extra droop and 14” long travel shocks. 37” tires can be fitted with an extra 1” added to the bump stops. In conjunction with the innovative coil design, Autocraft has partnered with Icon Vehicle Dynamics to create the custom built high quality Icon suspension tuned to Autocraft specs.

    80 Series Long Travel Suspension Kit - Toyota Land Cruiser Magazine

    A Stage One kit includes four Slinky coils and Autocraft 2.0 smooth body emulsion shocks. The Stage Two and Three kits use a different combination of coils and shocks with an upgrade to Autocraft 2.5 bypass shocks. The Stage Four kit upgrades the shocks again to an Autocraft 2.5 bypass shock with CDC adjustability so the user can independently tune compression and rebound with the twist of a knob. All kits also include bump stops, sway bar extensions, brake lines and caster correction bushings.

    I installed the Stage One kit on my 80 in Moab at the start of Cruise Moab. Then I spent time on the trails with Darren, Justin from Redline, and with Woody from IH8MUD, who all have the Stage 4 kits. I pushed the suspension through moderate higher speed trails with ruts and whoops, and crawled in the rocks. The Slinky I replaced another popular Australian suspension system sold in the U.S., and S. I could tell a big improvement immediately after getting behind the wheel following installation. with the Slinky suspension installed.
    After 16 years of owning an 80, I am once again looking for reasons to drive my 80 as often as possible – because it’s just so much fun to drive with the new suspension. So here’s my review of the Stage One Kit. I plan to have a follow-up article sometime soon after upgrading to the Stage Four CDC shocks so that I can give a comparison between the more basic kit and the top-of-the-line setup.

    80 Series Long Travel Suspension Kit - Toyota Land Cruiser Magazine

    The Slinky Kits use the tagline “#ultimatetourer” referring to them as the ultimate suspension for touring or overlanding, so let’s talk about that type of travel first: primarily moderate to higher speed rocky dirt tracks with ruts and whoops, along with corrugated fire roads. Without question, this is where I saw the biggest improvements. The Autocraft tuning on the Icon 2.0 shocks with the valving used smooths out small bumps and corrugations, and increased valving deeper in the stroke absorbs the big rocks and whoops at higher speeds. Trail irregularities were smoothed dramatically. The body of my 80 remained much more composed and settled without any of the jerks or feeling of being “launched” off a bump that I was accustomed to. As a result I was immediately more confident at higher speeds because the truck felt much more controlled. I didn’t feel like I was wrestling the suspension to keep the truck going where I wanted it to go. The rebound on the 2.0 shocks is just about perfect.

    Personally, I wanted a little higher compression because since I was now carrying more speed. At higher speeds, the big bumps were transferring more force to the suspension than they would at lower speeds and the big whoops would occasionally overwhelm the shocks hitting the bump stops, so I would have to slow down a little. Maybe that isn’t a bad thing, but if I had any complaint about the Slinky Long Travel Stage One kit, that was it. But that’s the beauty of the Stage 4 kit – you can make real-time adjustments to the shocks to for your driving style. When I got a bit of time behind the wheel of Darren’s 80 with the suspension with all the bells and whistles, I could tell right away his shocks were set with a slightly stiffer valving and it felt great. Overland trips vary. Sometimes you carry a lot of gear and sometimes you carry less. The differences in weight changes how the suspension behaves and the adjustability would be a welcome feature.

    80 Series Long Travel Suspension Kit - Toyota Land Cruiser Magazine

    So how were they in the rocks? It was not as easy to get a sense of the differences when crawling in the rocks at low speeds. My 80 felt more stable. The body remained flatter in off camber, cross axle ditches and rocks. I saw an increase in suspension travel, most of it in down travel. I was coming from a 3.5” suspension lift with 2” coil spacers and extended bump stops. With the Slinky coils I lost roughly 2” of ride height, which improved center of gravity, and yet with the change in bump stop, the removal of the coil spacers, and the increased down travel of the new coils, I gained roughly 6” of suspension travel. So while the suspension is targeting overlanders, it’s equally at home in the rocks. More travel, better center of gravity, a more controlled and smoother ride was giving my 80 improvements in all the important aspects of a quality suspension. I had a smile on my face the entire time during Cruise Moab as I got used to this new suspension. I took several 80 owners for rides and within the first minute of being in my truck they all said the same thing, “I gotta get this stuff!”

    80 Series Long Travel Suspension Kit - Toyota Land Cruiser Magazine

    On the road, the suspension feels firm, but comfortable. It’s not so soft that you feel like it floats. Just as it does in the dirt, it handles bumps and potholes without jarring feedback and keeps the body relatively flat through corners. It feels planted and firm giving feedback from the road surface. It’s difficult to accurately describe what the ride feels like but consistently, when anyone got a chance to experience it first-hand, they understood what the excitement was all about. Is the Slinky Long Travel suspension the Ultimate Overland Suspension? Maybe. It is clearly the best bolt-on suspension I’ve experienced in an 80, albeit though with a few minor shortcomings with the Stage One kit, but that could be attributed to my personal driving style. Overall, I’ve been extremely pleased and have enjoyed my 80 on a whole new level. If you’re an 80 owner looking for a new suspension for your build, or an upgrade from your current setup, I think it’s worth a look at the Slinky Long Travel Kits.

    80 Series Long Travel Suspension Kit - Toyota Land Cruiser Magazine

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    Published in Summer 2016

    Graduated 4Runner Build | TCT MagazineIt was time for graduate school, which meant a more reliable and efficient vehicle than my worn out Silverado was needed.  After a brief search for a car, I realized I needed an SUV.  Having some prior experience with 4Runners, I set my sights on one.  

    A 4th gen was chosen since they felt more robust than the older models and, after some interweb scouring, several were located nearby.  However, few were within mileage and price constraints.  About this time 5th gens were hitting the scene and my aunt, knowing that I was looking at 4Runners, devised a scheme in to get herself a new model and help me with a deal on her ‘03.  After a little more searching around, the decision was a no brainer and I was to be the proud new owner of a mint Limited with a stack of maintenance docs as thick as my textbooks.

    3DRobotics IRIS Quadcopter

    iris feature

    We’ve been looking at quad copters for a few years to help with our unique video capture requirements. Until very recently they’ve been expensive, very challenging to build, and not user friendly. In the last year a few options have come to market that promise ease of use and a low entry level cost, and the IRIS from 3DRobotics is one of them.

    This Quad comes fully assembled and ready to fly, so you just add your compatible GoPro camera and you’re off & flying. They also have kits that include a GoPro Hero 3 and fully articulating gimble to give you the best video shots possible.

    The absolute best feature of the IRIS though is it’s auto-pilot functions, specifically the Follow Me feature. When paired with a compatible transmitter, the IRIS will follow you (more importantly your vehicle) at a desired altitude and distance automatically. No flying needed! While the 15 minute estimated flight time isn’t perfect, we see a big future for quads like this in the off-road video world.

    SOURCE: http://3drobotics.com/iris/

    ArkpakArkPak Battery Box
    If you’re interested in a battery power solution for your Toyota Cruiser, Truck, or SUV, or a solution for emergency or trailer use, the Australian made ARKPak Battery Box has finally hit the US shores!
    The ArkPak is a 12V battery charger, a portable power source, a battery management system, a jump-starter and a dual battery system all rolled into one. It delivers both 12V and 120V power via a built in 150 watt inverter and 6 amp battery charger. Depending on the battery you add to the system, you can get up to 3 days of 120V power or 7 days of 12V power (depending on usage of course).
    Simply add the battery of your choice (the higher capacity the better) and a suitable charging solution and you’re good to go. The system can be charged from your vehicle, from a 12V home charger, or via solar panels. We’re looking at using an ArkPak based system to build an emergency solar generator for under $1000. It’s normally priced over $500 for a kit that includes the ArkPak, a 12V DC Charger, and mounting bracket, but ArkPak USA has discounted it to $399 for the time being.
    We contacted ArkPak about this article and they even offered our readers a special deal: use the code TCT5014 to save $50 off the price. Here’s the catch: that code is only good from Jan 6th through the 14th, so if you want one now is the time to get going!

    SOURCE: http://www.arkportablepower.com/

    spod-fjcFJ Cruiser sPOD
    FINALLY! The sPOD is available in an FJ Cruiser flavor!
    We saw the prototype of this perfect little switch and relay system during CruiserFest last September, and it really fills a need! In addition to their award winning super-easy-to-wire sPOD fuse block, the FJ Cruiser version is available with a fully plug & play switch bank for up to 6 switches.

    If you’d rather use the stock FJ switch block, simply wire the sPOD to your switches. There’s also a 2nd Gen Tacoma version available as well. Other Toyota options are currently in the works.
    SOURCE: http://www.4x4spod.com


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    Stay The Trail & TCT Magazine

    2014 4Runner Trail Edition Test Drive | TCT Magazine | Photo by Phillip Jonesdownload_now

    After climbing into the 2014 Trail Edition 4Runner and sliding onto the seat, it takes a minute to soak in the rather lavish interior. Starting the engine brings the colorful gauges and a mid-console screen to life. Gripping the steering wheel is a treat. A glance across the dash and console assemblies and one quickly realizes that Toyota has upped the ante with interior treatment. Toyota has brought elegance to off-roading in ways that were previously experienced only in the upscale Lexus models.

    {tab=Tire Options}

    Which tire to choose?
    With over 40,000 miles on our original BFG All Terrain tires, discussions of what our next tire should be have begun at FJC Magazine headquarters. A quick Google of ‘off road tires’ yields more than 300,000 results, so we won’t find any answers there. Heading to the wheels & tires section on FJCruiserForums.com shows a little more promise. There are dozens of discussions on virtually every option. Still, the tire you choose is (like many things in the FJ world) a little like religion. That’s true for us as well, our family has owned seven different 4x4 vehicles in the last 10 years, and we’ve run the BFG A/T tires on all of them.all tires

    Published in October 2009


    Although they’re new to FJ Cruisers, Ricochet Off Road Armor has been producing skid plates for dirt bikes & ATV’s for over 30 years. During the Toytec / FJC Magazine Fun Run in June, one FJ Cruiser managed to get a rock wedged in the open space in front of the front lower control arm (LCA) and had to be jacked & yanked off the obstacle. That’s when we first thought of adding a little protection to our LCA’s.

    After reviewing all the top vendor websites, we found very few options for a front LCA skid that was lightweight and provided great protection. That’s where Ricochet comes in. Just a couple of months ago they released their front LCA aluminum guards. They’re very lightweight, super easy to install, and fit perfectly. At only $129, they’re a great way to protect one of the most vulnerable areas on your FJ. For all the install pics, click the Install tab above.

    We’ll be testing them out in the coming months, so look for a long term review in 2010. For now, we’re happy to have this added protection.



    Ricochet Front LCA Skids for FJ Cruiser

    An LCA skid before installation


    Insert the bolt & washers as shown

    DSC_0175 DSC_0177

    Insert the bolts & washers up through the factory holes in the control arm & slip the nut on.
    Leave them loose until all bolts are in, then tighten.


    Installed & ready to go!

    Published in October 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

    The 3” Toytec lift we installed for the April issue has been working perfectly. We've put almost 300 off road miles on the TRD with it, had it on through the FJ Summit with no problems at all. When we originally installed the kit we expected to be adding a new bumper within a few months, which would weigh the front end down a little to give the FJ the “rake” we like. Well, things don’t always go according to plan. We decided to black out the bumper wings and for now, it's working cosmetically so we're not in as big of a hurry to add the bumper & winch. This left us with a lift that was about 3/4" too high in the front (in our opinion).

    I talked to Doug at Toytec Lifts about our options. As luck would have it, he was just putting together a new adjustable setup for TRD & TT FJ’s with Bilstein shocks. This new front lift is just what we needed! It allows us to lower the front about 3/4" to get the rake back, and when we add the bumper & winch, we’ll be able to adjust the front up to compensate for the added weight. The best part is, since our shocks work perfect (they’re the same shocks he includes in his full coilover assembly), this kit is a very cost effective option for our FJ.

    The kit includes taller springs, a replacement coil seat that’s fully adjustable (from about 1” to 3” of lift), and sway bar relocation brackets. As we mentioned in the original lift install article, you will need a GOOD coil compressor. Many auto parts stores will rent you a compressor, or you can have a local install shop swap out your springs.

    Published in October 2008
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