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Rig Review: Death Valley & Mojave 2019 - What worked and what didn't?

January 4, 2020

Another year of wheeling and camping is in the books. I find myself here writing a rig review as one of 2020's first posts, for the last couple of trips that we took in 2019. By and large, the truck performed well on those trips In Search of Overlooks in Death Valley and though an unexpectedly snowy trip to the Mojave Preserve. There were - as always - a couple things worth calling out - so without further ado, let's get to it!

The Windshield Has Seen Better Days

TL;DR - it's time for a new windshield.

I've had my current windshield for 20 years now. Up until about a year ago, it'd been cracked by a rock only once - and even then, it was minor and easily fixed by one of those chip repair shops. Today, the glass is pitted and glitters in the sun. It has also taken at least four hard hits and on the last trip, a combination of freezing temps and defroster use caused the windshield to expand/contract unevenly, resulting in two of the cracks creeping into and across the driver's field of view. As such, they are finally annoying and I'll have to find somewhere to replace the whole windshield. Not looking forward to that, as I've heard it often results in leaks.

CBI Rear Bumper Swing-out Latch

TL;DR - The latch broke, and I need a new one. CBI's customer service leaves something (major IMO) to be desired. Destaco (who makes the latch) really stepped up though!

Bit of a rant here, you've been forewarned.

I was seriously surprised when the latch that secures the swing-outs closed on my CBI Outback 1.0 bumper broke in the middle of the trip. The roads in the Mojave Preserve were in such good shape that @mrs.turbodb and I commented on it to each other several times during the trip. But the latch breaking isn't what really got my goat about this experience - rather, it was CBI's handling of it that left a bad taste in my mouth.

Let me start by saying that CBI has every right to respond the way they did - it's their company and they can run it how they choose. My bumper is over 1 year old, and perhaps things would have been different if it were newer.

At any rate, after the latch broke, I contacted CBI, and asked them if they could send me (for free) a new u-bolt - or even better, two... just so I could have one in my kit in case another one broke on the trail. And I included several photos showing the broken part and how I jerry-rigged the bumper for the remainder of the trip. The response that I got was essentially, "We have those - they are $12.99 each plus tax and shipping; give us a call to order."

Hoping they'd just missed my actual request, I reiterated it to them, adding that it'd be great in the write up of the current trip report and rig review - to be able to relate a totally awesome customer experience with CBI. Still, the response from them was, "No."

That of course is their prerogative, so I asked if they could let me know the part number of the u-bolt, since for such a small part, it might be cheaper to find it locally. The response I got was simply a photo of a number, and a note that said they "could find no other information" - manufacturer, etc. - about it. Two things about that are crappy - first, they clearly know who made the part because they have to order the parts themselves. Second, the only reason they would have replacement u-bolts (in stock!) is if they are known to break.

At any rate, armed with the part number only, I set about researching swing-out latches on the internet. It took a while, but I eventually stumbled on Destaco - a company that makes the latches - on a Jeep forum, and I was pretty sure that the latch I had was the same as the one I saw on their site. So I sent a similar email to Destaco that I'd originally sent to CBI, along with the same photos. Within hours I had an email from Destaco saying that, "Of course we'll send you two new u-bolts - we're sorry this happened to you."

Now that's a company with some great customer service. They could have easily told me to pound sand and work with CBI, since I've never actually given them any money at all, but they didn't. They recognized that this shouldn't have happened and wanted to make it right. Kudos Destaco!

So, this is the second poor customer experience I've had with CBI - the first being when I initially installed my bumper in their parking lot and they (a) gave me a really hard time for it - as though I was somehow inconveniencing them on a snowy day when no one else was there and (b) several parts - ironically including the Destaco latch - were missing from the bumper, and if I hadn't been installing locally, I would have been totally screwed.

So, does the bumper work well and do I generally like it? Yes. But can I really recommend working with CBI? Ehh, not really. And that's too bad. But hey, there are plenty of other fabricators out there who I've had only great experiences with. Eric @Relentless Fabrication and Jerry @BAMF come to mind.

Overall Weight of the Tacoma

TL;DR - I've addressed the Tacoma's weight loss as much as I am going to for now.

Look, it's really hard to tell if the various bits of "cutting things off of the Tacoma" that I did for the winter weight loss regime made any difference. I mean, it definitely weighs less, but gas mileage is the same, and the truck doesn't really handle any differently. Why would it when I only removed something like 2% of the overall weight?

Still, it felt good to do what I could, and I'm happy I did it.

Oh, and @mrs.turbodb likes that the kitchen and dry food boxes weigh less now - only a few pounds less, but she can handle them on her own now, when she couldn't before. Success.

Front ADS Coilover Spherical Bearings (maintenance)

TL;DR - Replacing the spherical bearings, misalignment spacers, and lower shock bolts is done and things are working correctly as far as I can tell.

Not much to say about this one beyond the write-up I did about the install of the new spherical bearings and related components. Tyler at ADS was great to work with - as always - through the entire process, giving me great pricing on the parts, and looking out for me when I mistakenly ordered too many misalignment spacers.

Seemingly solved from previous Rig Reviews

  1. Front ADS Coilover Spherical Bearings (maintenance) - Bearings and spacers are replaced and working great - as noted above.

Unchanged / Still an issue from previous Rig Reviews

There are some things that have been featured in Rig Reviews that are - as yet - unchanged from when I originally reviewed them. Rather than highlight those things again, I'll simply link to them here.

  1. The Swing-Out Table - as expected, it was unusable on this trip.
  2. The Ham Radio Antenna - continues to have the shortcoming mentioned.
  3. Oil Leaking from Transfer Case - I haven't done anything about this yet, though I seem to be getting less leakage.
  4. Relentless Skid Plate Attachment - continues to need the modification mentioned.


Check out older Rig Reviews

One Comment

  1. Chris
    Chris June 14, 2022

    That latch design leaves a lot to be desired. I have a similar latch on my swingout and I broke in a similar spot.
    I think it might have been from over tightening the u-bolt and it stretched and broke.

    So I carry a spare now and tie a strap around the area to help prevent it from happening again, tell I ca. Figure out a suitable replacement

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