{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

{tab=OR 101: Recovery Demo Run}

One of the most important aspects of being in the wilderness is recovery. What I mean by that is having the proper gear and know-how to get yourself (or a companion) out of a ‘stuck’ situation.  Many times this knowledge goes unused, but it is crucial to being self-sufficient in case of an emergency.  Having the right equipment is essential and learning how to properly use it is the next step.

We took the opportunity to brush up on these skills during a “Recovery Run” with the Colorado FJ's.  We practiced a few recovery techniques that some of us had heard of but have never done.  It’s highly recommended that you make yourself familiar with these recovery techniques prior to actually having to use them on the trail.  A demonstration run is the best way to get people together to pool ideas and techniques that you may use down the road.

Published in April 2009
2008 was a great year for Off Road 101. We covered all the basics that a new FJ Owner should know:
January: Know your FJ
April: Tires & Wheels
July: Trail Armor
October: Suspension

Now that your FJ can handle most trails, we want to talk about being safe on the trail. We've divided emergency gear into Survival and Recovery (Part 2 April 2009).   Contents of emergency gear is always debatable. Some of the items included in your emergency kit will ultimately come down to personal preference, however, there are a few basics that virtually everyone agrees on. Please keep in mind that the items included in this article are what we feel are a good place to start. Some of them may not apply to everyone, and most people will certainly include additional items. Our objective is to give the new off road enthusiast a jumping off point for emergency preparedness.
Published in January 2009
In the past few Off Road 101 articles, we’ve discussed what we feel are the most important first modifications for your FJ Cruiser. First, you should know how everything on your truck works and what its capabilities are. Second, consider upgrading tires and possibly wheels. Most recently, we talked about trail armor and why it’s so important. Now that we have this great foundation, the time has come to touch on one of the most popular upgrades for your FJ: your suspension.

We use the term ‘upgrades’ because we’re not just talking about lift kits. Many owners choose not to lift their truck, but maybe add spacers only to just level it. Let’s discuss some of the more common upgrades for the FJ Cruiser.

“Leveling” Kits
These kits usually include a spacer that is placed above the front coils. This provides approximately 1” of lift to the front of the truck and decreases or eliminates the ‘rake’ or forward leaning stance of a stock FJ. This is a very popular first step in the suspension upgrade arena and typically costs around $100 plus installation.

2” – 6” Lift Kits
There are several lift kit options for FJ Cruisers:
The most economical kits include springs for the front of the truck along with a spacer (similar to a leveling spacer), and taller springs for the rear. There are also different spring rates available, which affects the stiffness of your ride. It’s common to go with stiffer springs when adding heavy bumpers and winches to minimize sagging in the rear and diving in the front.  While it is possible to install some kits with stock shocks, most owners choose to upgrade their shocks as well. This is where special edition FJ owners have an advantage, since the Bilstein shocks that come on TRD & Trail Teams models do not necessarily need to be upgraded.

As you move up in quality of components, the pricing of lift kits can increase dramatically. Eliminating the spacer and using a taller spring in the front improves ride quality and opens up more options. Adding longer shocks will provide excellent wheel travel & articulation and will affect the way your truck rides both on and off road. Many of the high end kits now include remote reservoir shocks. This is very beneficial for higher speed (rally style) driving where the suspension cycles quickly for long periods of time.

Most 6” kits include shocks, springs, differential drop brackets, and other relocation hardware to extensively modify your FJ. Some even include extended steering knuckles, upper control arms (UCA’s) and new lower crossmembers. These systems are significantly more difficult to install than basic 3” lift kits, but they raise your FJ enough to put 35” (or larger) tires on. These systems may also put more strain on other stock components so, research all the options and requirements before you go this route.

Adjustable Lift Kits
A relatively new option for lifting your truck are adjustable kits. These usually range from 1” to 3” of total lift, depending on the kit. These are great for many owners because you can adjust the lift as you add components. If you get a new front bumper and your front end sags a little, just dial the lift up another inch or so until you get the look you want. Raising or lowering your truck is as easy as removing the tires and turning the adjuster. Note that adjustable kits are usually for the front end only, most manufacturers don’t offer an adjustable rear suspension. For details on the Toytec 3” adjustable kit, see “Toytec Lift Upgrade” on page ??

I hope this brief discussion of lift options helps you decide what is best for you. The great thing about the FJ Cruiser is that it’s very capable with no lift at all. Adding an extra couple of inches of clearance and enhancing articulation are a great and relatively inexpensive way to get you to more places safely. For more information and to find the kit that’s right for you, check out the vendors directory at www.fjc-mag.com.
Published in October 2008
Even when completely stock, the FJ Cruiser is one of the most trail-capable vehicles available. With specs like, a ground clearance of 9.6”, approach and departure angles of over 30 degrees, and great suspension flex, there isn't much your truck can't do.

After upgrading your tires and wheels, (see Off Road 101, April 2008) the next addition  for many owners is in undercarriage armor. The term ‘trail armor’ can be applied to many different modifications. We are focusing on two primary trail armor upgrades, rock rails and skids.

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Published in July 2008
When it comes to off roading and spending time in the woods, perhaps the most important pieces of equipmentare your navigational aids. Our FJ’s can go just about anywhere. But, if you don’t know how to get there and back your trip will not be nearly as enjoyable, and also dangerous.

In the next few issues, we’re going to cover several types of navigation options. We’ll start with paper maps, then discuss portable GPS systems and finally, we’ll cover in-dash options. Each of these options has pros and cons that will be cover in detail.

A Necessity
A good set of paper maps for the area you’ll be wheeling in, is an absolute necessity. Even if you use a GPS, the ability to navigate with a paper map will save you hours of frustration, and could save your life. Remember that electronics are not 100% reliable. You can run out of batteries, drop your GPS in a river, or suffer some type of failure eventually. It’s not a question of if, it’s just a matter of when. I tell everyone, “It’s not the 99 times you don’t need it, it’s the 1 time you do” when it comes to safety gear. So the question is, with hundreds of different map products, which is the best?

The one paper map that I ALWAYS bring is the Gazetteer , from DeLorme. I’ve carried a Gazetteer in my rig since I first moved to Colorado over 12 years ago. I never go into the woods without it, ever. If I plan on spending a fair amount of time in another state, I’ll pickup the Gazetteer for that state as well. DeLorme produces a Gazetteer for most states. The major advantages of this map book includes information on campgrounds, lakes, rivers, scenic drives, and various other places of interest. The very detailed maps include National Forest / BLM land, forest roads, hiking trails, campgrounds and campsites, mines, ghost towns, etc.
Published in April 2008

While the FJ Cruiser is one of the most capable off road vehicles when stock, most come with a significant limiting factor: tires. The Dunlop tires that come with most FJ Cruisers are good for pavement driving and offer decent tread life, but they're not very well suited to most off road situations.

When the time comes to upgrade your tires, the choices are almost limitless. It's not within the scope of this article to cover EVERY tire on the market, but we can talk about the two basic options: All Terrain (A/T) vs. Mud Terrain (M/T). A quick disclaimer, the benefits and drawbacks that we'll talk about for each type of tire are general, and may not apply to EVERY A/T or M/T tire. Please research the specific tire you're interested in before making your decision.

All Terrain's

All Terrain Tire

The A/T will be the preferred tire for many people that use their FJ as a daily driver. Traditional A/T's provide a very good mix of on and off road capability. They come in various tread patterns, and most have a tread life of over 30,000 miles. While A/T's are very good off road tires, they're not rock crawling grapplers or mud boggers. All Terrain tires will tend to slick over in deep snow and mud, which will definitely limit their trail use in some climates.

Mud Terrain's

Mud Terrain Tire

Most M/T tires are easily identifiable by the large lugs in the tread. They're much more aggressive than most A/T's, and provide increased off road performance. Mud Terrains will tend to 'self clean' in deep mud and snow, and provide excellent contact area when aired down and crawling on rocks. If you use youre FJ as a daily driver like I do, there are some definite drawbacks to M/T's. First, many (but not all) M/T's tend to wear out quicker than other types of tire. Mud Terrains also tend to slide around more on ice, and can provide less traction in heavy rain.

Published in April 2008

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