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Rig Review - What worked and what didn't in Death Valley?

December 15, 2021.

It's been three months since the last rig review, and in that time I've put another 10,000 miles on the Tacoma. With a nearly catastrophic failure, as well as a few great successes, it's time to dive into the good and the bad from the last several trips:

200,000 Miles!

I want to start off this rig review with a reasonably significant milestone - the Tacoma hit 200K miles. I feel it's important to lead with this, since on my last trip - Back for More - we ended up ending the trip early due to my transfer case losing a bearing, and because I recently had my rear axle housing crack. It may seem that the Tacoma is having a tough go of it, but I like to look at it from a different perspective: in the last five years, I've put more than 140K miles on a 22-year-old truck and by and large it has been trouble free. If one thing is for certain, it's that I chose the right platform when I bought my Tacoma so many years ago. This thing is fabulous!

I added 40,444 miles to the odometer in 2021 alone!

The Axle Housing Reinforcement is Working Well (crack temporarily resolved)

TL;DR - I've put 10K miles on my reinforced axle housing and it's working great. I'm really in no rush for my new one to arrive.

Back at the end of September, as I was driving home from the Aftermath trip, I noticed that my rear axle housing had cracked at the perch for the passenger leaf spring. Taking a cue from Ryan @Reh5108, I refrained from simply welding the crack, opting instead to fabricate a patch to fit over the entire housing in that location. At the time, my solution was meant to see the Tacoma through one or two trips - just long enough for my custom Diamond Axle to be fabricated and delivered. As with everything these days, the six-week estimate on that has dragged on, and I've now been waiting upwards of 12 weeks. However, the patch has been working so well that I'm no longer in any sort of rush. In fact, I'll be taking my time to prep the new housing once it arrives, as it's no longer a pressing issue. #superhappy #ThanksRyan

It's amazing what a little metal glue can accomplish. This fix was a huge success.

Transfer Case Input Shaft Bearing is Imploding (new-ish)

TL;DR - I need a new transfer case.

Like most of the rest of the Tacoma, I "only" have 200K miles on the transfer case. While these are generally viewed as rock solid components that can last upwards of half a million miles, mine actually started to show signs that something was wrong nearly 100,000 miles ago. I thought I'd rectified the problem after changing the oil, but clearly that wasn't the case - the damage already done to the bearings that keep things spinning smoothly.

Everything came to a head in the Back for More trip, when a strange noise from the case was diagnosed as an input bearing and abruptly ended the adventure. My plan here is to replace the case with a low-mileage junkyard case in the short term, getting me back out on the trail as expeditiously as possible. Then - without the pressure of time - I'll crack open my original case and rebuild it before swapping it back into the Tacoma.

I'm quite looking forward to this, as I thoroughly enjoy learning about the various components on my truck and how they work.

I've already picked up the replacement transfer case I'll be swapping in.

Third Jerry Can

TL;DR - I recently added a third jerry can to my pack-out for certain trips, and it's been great.

Winter means trips to the desert, and more specifically to the California desert. Trips to California mean high gas prices, and so I've added a third Scepter Military Fuel Can to my pack-out. While each can is rated for 5 gallons, in reality - by the time they expand a bit due to pressure - they hold almost exactly 5.75 gallons, meaning that three of them together can fill my tank from nearly empty, significantly reducing the amount of fuel I need to add at exorbitant prices.

So far, this has meant that I've only needed to fill up once in the Golden State, and even then, I was able to be selective about the service station I used. I've found Scepter MFCs - while they aren't cheap - to be by far the best Jerry Cans; there is a reason they are used by both the U.S. and Canadian militaries.

Nearly a full tank of gas.

Broken Leaf Spring (new)

TL;DR - The top, military wrap half-leaf on the driver side broke in two places. I'm not sure what I'm going to do as far as replacement goes, but I have two options.

A couple days into the Last Minute Rush trip, I discovered that a new clanking sound from the rear end wasn't something rattling in the bed, but was the military wrap top leaf of my rear springs. It'd broken in two places - at over the rear axle at the u-bolts, and also in the very front where it wrapped around the main leaf. Needless to say, I'd never expected my Alcan springs to fail; I think they did for two reasons. First and most importantly, the leaf wasn't part of the original leaf pack, and in order to make it fit, Alcan didn't wrap it as tightly around the main leaf and front bushing as normal. This allowed it to move more in normal operation, and metal movement leads to fatigue. Secondly - of course - my leaf springs have a lot of miles on them - eventually, failure was inevitable.

As far as what to do - I've already purchased a replacement set of leaf springs from Alcan. The "easy/obvious" solution would be to install them when my new rear axle housing arrives, since I'll be disassembling the rear end anyway. Alternatively, I also still have the original military wrap leafs that came with the springs. I could drill a center hole in the correct place and replace the single leaf. Doing so would allow me to continue to use this pack for another several years, as it's not currently showing any indication of sagging.

You've served me well, but I'm still a little disappointed in you.

Avocado Storage

TL;DR - if you're a fan of avocados, a little care can keep them safe and unbruised for up to 10 days.

I eat a lot of avocados. For the last couple of years, I've been using a storage method that's worked amazingly well, and that I realized - even after all my talk of tacorritos and guacamole - I've never mentioned. Better late than never.

The key is to start with green, hard avocadoes - preferably with a little bit of stem remaining. You should always start this way - even when buying avocados for home - since anything that's ripe in the store won't last more than a day and likely already has brown dents and bruises. The little bit of stem keeps the avocado from losing too much moisture and also keeps it from growing mold where flesh is exposed when the stem is detached.

Once you bring them home from the store, avocados should always be stored at room temperature until they are just ripe enough to eat. Beyond that point, ripening will continue - more slowly, a good thing - in a refrigerator (be it at home or on the trail).

When headed out on the trail, storage becomes critical. In the thin plastic bag you got at the store, bouncing around with the rest of your food, is a sure way to end up with gross, brown, dented avocados. Instead, spend a few minutes before leaving to wrap each avocado in its own hand towel, and place it carefully in a structurally sound cardboard box. Ideally, the box will hold one layer of avocados - mine holds six to eight, depending on size. Store the box somewhere in the cab of your vehicle, so the avocados sit flat, and the box isn't being jostled around. The floor is a good spot, I've found. Bonus points if you cover the box with something soft to insulate and keep heavy items from collapsing it.

After about 3 days, your avocados should be ripe enough to eat. If you'll use them within 5 days, you can just take them out of the box as you need them. If you need them to last longer than that, move a few the fridge or cooler, storing them in the same way - wrapped in a towel and contained in a box. This uses a bit more space, but will result in perfect avocados every time!

An avocado a better than an apple a day.

1lb Propane Bottle Extension Hose (update)

TL;DR - I love this simple modification and it's made cooking with the propane stove much more enjoyable.

Over a year ago now, I made my Genius Camp Stove Tube Extension. I've used it for more than 100 nights of camping at this point, in temperatures ranging from 18- to 105°F. In every situation, it has been fantastic, and the hose seems to be in just as good shape today as it was when I installed it. For less than $2, this has to be one of my favorite little modifications, and something that just makes camp life better. A side benefit is that @mrs.turbodb finds it easier to install on the stove than the original neck, since it doesn't require the propane bottle to be installed at a weird angle.

Cheap and convenient.

Breakfast the Easy Way

TL;DR - we're always looking for ways to speed up meal time. Storing spoons, bowls, cereal, and paper towels separate from the rest of the kitchen stuff - and within easy reach - makes breakfast a snap.

In order to maximize exploration and relaxation, we're always looking to streamline meal preparation. Breakfast - when we usually just eat cereal with fruit - was always a pain because we had to get out the dry box for the cereal, the kitchen box for the bowls and spoons, and the fridge for the milk and fresh fruit. Six months ago, I made a small change: I put the bowls, spoons, paper towels, and cereal in the cab of the truck - just sort of thrown in wherever they fit, since none of them are fragile - and suddenly, breakfast is so much more convenient! We've gone from needing to pull everything out of the bed of the truck (when it's generally the coldest part of the day) to only needing to open the fridge for the milk and blueberries. Awesome.

Adding blueberries to breakfast is a huge win. They aren't cheap, but they are worth it.

Toyota Tundra OEM Brake Pads

TL;DR - I couldn't be happier with the performance, longevity, and low dust of the Toyota Tundra OEM brake pads.

They aren't cheap, since you have to buy both brake pads (04465-35290) and shims (04945-35120) separately, but these pads have lasted me over four years and 120,000 miles, with a truck that weighs 5,500lbs! I don't know what I expected when I installed them in October 2017 as part of the Tundra Brake Upgrade - one of my first mods to the Tacoma - but they've certainly outperformed anything I could have imagined. I've replaced them with the same product again and look forward to another long service life!

I highly recommend Toyota Tundra OEM Brake Pads.

Scepter MFC Wrench

TL;DR - I should have gotten one of these long ago; it makes opening the Scepter Jerry Cans so much easier.

On my Last Minute Rush trip, I finally broke my homemade - from a 2x4 - Scepter jerry can opener for the last time. Luckily, I broke it in a situation where I didn't actually need access to the fuel in the Military Fuel Can (MFC), but that didn't make me any happier at the time. Never having wanted to spend the money on the actual Scepter wrench, I finally gave in. This thing is amazing. It fits well and makes opening the cans a snap. I should have gotten it a long time ago.

A few items I recently added to my kit that I should have added years ago.

Garmin inReach Mini

TL;DR - After a couple solo trips where I had limited cell coverage, and some thinking I should have done long ago, I now have an inReach Mini.

I've known for a long time that - especially on trips where mine is the only truck - I should be carrying an emergency satellite locator device. The problem - for me - is the subscription; I hate subscriptions. However, I finally realized that the subscription for the Garmin inReach Mini is such a small percentage of the overall amount that I spend on this hobby that it is silly for me to to have it. And so, now I do. I haven't used it much so far, but I'll throw together a bit more info about it, why I decided to buy it over other options, and how I have it configured in an upcoming post.

Seemingly solved from previous Rig Reviews

  1. The Axle Housing is Cracked - fixed as noted above.
  2. Oil Leaking from Transfer Case - I guess it's a good thing I never did anything about this, now that the transfer case is getting swapped out.

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 Drawer in the In-Cab Battery Cabinet Rattles - unaddressed. Still rattles.
  2. Front ADS Coilover Spherical Bearings - I'm giving the new FK stainless steel bearings several thousand miles to see if they perform better.
  3. The Zipper on the CVT Tent is Shit - I don't know how I'll ever address this, short of getting a GFC.
  4. I Need New Seats - Still rocking the bottom-cushion-swapped OEM seats, but I've already got something in the works; won't be long now.
  5. My Suspension Squeaks - still squeaky. I'm not all that worried about it, so I'm in no rush to fix it.



Check out older Rig Reviews



  1. Wells Shoemaker MD
    Wells Shoemaker MD January 30, 2022

    I'm now a follower. Thanks for the first experience on the "receiver end" of rescue tow rope from the Moon Dust in the dug up playa southeast of the Eureka Dunes.

    • turbodb
      turbodb February 1, 2022

      Hi Wells! Welcome to the web site, glad you made it over here. I hope that you have a chance - eventually, no rush since I know you're busy fighting the good fight in real life - to read through some of the trips/stories. From our impromptu meeting, I have a feeling you'll enjoy at least some of them.

      In fact, I'd like to point you at this one to start: Through Dunes, Arches and Canyons - Panamints 1. It's got a place in it that you recommended to me ?.

      • Wells Shoemaker MD
        Wells Shoemaker MD February 1, 2022

        Fantastic places before you arrived, and now so much more genuinely appreciated. That campsite among the limber pines you discovered on the way to Telescope? George and I spent 2 nights there in late May...and got snow-blown out. Telephone you found that. What a joy you can find these places, hike them with healthy spirits and fabulous photo skills...and share it. You two are rockin!

        Only concern about mines and cabins out there and Utah--hantavirus. Nearly claimed the life of one of the healthiest young mountaineer/naturalists I know. I sorta stay outside where the deer mice are less likely to spread their cooties.

        I'll read them all with time.

  2. Sean M.
    Sean M. February 1, 2022

    Question. Where have you found the best price and least hassle for scepter can purchase?

    • turbodb
      turbodb February 1, 2022

      The sad answer to this in the USA is that eBay or Craigslist are your best bet. Sometimes, you can find military surplus, but it's rare. The reason - I think, but don't know for sure - is due to EPA/CARB regulations - the military cans are definitely not that, since they don't have safety spouts, etc.

      I'm lucky enough to have visited Canada a few times of there last several years and they are relatively easy to find up there, so I've purchased a few for myself and friends. Unfortunately, they can't ship to the USA, I think for the same reasons you can't find them new here.

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