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Rig Review: What worked and what didn't - winter 2021?

March 8, 2021.

Over the course of the winter, the truck has performed well. Four (!) trips down to the desert to stay warm have put a bunch of miles on the odometer and resulted in only a few little tweaks to the set up. But any tweak is worth understanding, so let's check them out. This rig review covers:

Whew, at ~2500 miles each, it's only the beginning of March and I've put 10,000 miles on the truck so far this year. I hope I can keep this up through the remainder of 2021!

My Headlights are Too Dim (fully resolved)

TL;DR - I ditched the LEDs for high wattage halogens and couldn't be happier. Works great in all conditions.

As I noted in the previous rig review - I generally liked the LED headlights - more than I thought anyway - but had some issues with them when it came to RFI with the ham radio. As such, I decided I'd replace them with something less noisy, and I couldn't be happier with the Ultimate Headlight Upgrade - higher wattage halogens, and an upgraded wiring harness to run them.

I've driven in both good and inclement weather with this new setup and I've got to say that it's way better than the LEDs. One thing I hadn't really thought of was icing over of the headlights with the LEDs - something that's not an issue with the halogens which run significantly hotter, thus melting snow and ice off the headlight housings.

So yeah, I couldn't be happier now. Plenty of warm white light streaming out of the front of the Tacoma.

LED headlights on the left; upgraded halogens on the right. Both color and light output are improved!


Front ADS Coilover Spherical Bearings (Stainless Steel update)

TL;DR - I'm trying something new. I've installed stainless steel spherical bearings this time, hopefully to prolong their life.

So, for anyone following along, my spherical bearings have been an ongoing issue. I've replaced them again, this time with stainless steel versions from FK. Specifically with FKSSX10T-F1 bearings. Time will tell if this fix gives me more than 10-15K miles on a set of bearings. My hope is that I'll get 30K miles or so, since that would mean changing them once a year.


My Ham/APRS Setup is Changed (ongoing)

TL;DR - I'm back to the old antenna, and I'm not longer using APRSDroid.

Not so long ago, I switched from a Diamond NR770HBNMO Mobile Antenna to a STI-CO ROOF-FT-NITI Ham Antenna in order to solve a problem I was having where the coil of the Diamond would catch on tree branches. After running a couple trips with the STI-CO antenna - much shorter and more flexible, with no coil - I found that my APRS beacons weren't getting out quite as well as with the Diamond.

That's to be expected - it was after all, a lower-gain, and shorter (¼ vs. 2/3 wave length) antenna - but I didn't love it. So, I'm back to using the Diamond on trips where I know I won't be in the trees, and I'll take the shorter antenna on trips where I'm worried about clearance.

On a related note, I've stopped using the Mobilinkd TNC and APRSDroid on my tablet for my APRS beaconing, in favor of the built-in TNC on my Kenwood D710G dual-band ham radio. The biggest pro of this new configuration is that I have fewer parts in the system - I no longer need to ensure that my Mobilikd and Android tablet are running/functioning in order for APRS to work. The biggest con is that I can no longer see where my buddies are on a map if we're all running APRSDroid.

It seems like APRS with them has become hit-and-miss over the last few years, and frankly, we're all generally within radio distance of each other anyway, so I'm not sure I really need the map. So, for now, the pros outweigh the cons for me; I'll continue to monitor.


The Zipper on the CVT Tent is Shit (ongoing)

TL;DR - For the last several trips, I've had to lubricate the zipper on the @Cascadia Vehicle Tents tarp *every* time I close it up. That sucks.

I mentioned in a previous rig review that I was having trouble with the zippers. For a trip or two, some lubricant (water) worked just fine to get the zipper cleaned out and zippable when I put the tent away. However, that solution stopped working for some reason in January, and I've really been struggling to get the tarp to close. In fact, it was so hard that I just left it open several days when we were exploring the Mojave during the middle of winter.

It got so frustrating that I had several conversations with GFC - so sure was I that I was ready to make the jump. I still think I am, pending a few design issues with their v2 platform, but in the meantime, I figured out how to "fix" the zipper for just a little while longer - I used a pair of plyers to just slightly tighten the zipper mechanism - the thing that slides along the zipper - a little bit.

I did this after noticing that the plastic teeth of the zipper had worn away some of the paint and metal of the mechanism over time. I wondered if the decreased tolerance was just enough to mean that the mechanism didn't quite force the teeth together all the way, resulting in a "split zipper" situation. So far, after tightening the mechanism, it seems to be working again, though I continue to use water as lubrication every time I close the tarp.


My Horn/Hazard Fuse has Blown Twice

TL;DR - I think there's a short in one of my horns.

On my last couple of trips, I've noticed something strange. The first time, I was honking my horn at a couple of cows and suddenly everything went quiet - the horns had stopped working! I was pretty sure I blew a fuse (though I shouldn't have) but didn't worry too much about it - I don't use my horn all that frequently.

However, I later noticed that my hazards didn't work either. I use those more frequently when travelling to/from destinations and so I reasonably quickly swapped in a new fuse.

Then, it happened again on a second trip. I don't actually know when/how it happened the second time - I wasn't using my horn at all; I only noticed it when I went to turn on my hazards.

So, I likely have a short somewhere; my guess is in one of the horns (though, it's taken five years to manifest a problem; perhaps I've bumped the wiring in the work I've done recently). So, I'm going to be investigating and hopefully getting this sorted for the next adventure.


Seemingly solved from previous Rig Reviews

  1. My Headlights are Too Dim

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. Oil Leaking from Transfer Case
  2. The Windshield Has Seen Better Days
  3. Relentless Skid Plate Attachment
  4. The Drawer in the In-Cab Battery Cabinet Rattles



Check out older Rig Reviews





  1. Mark Bohne
    Mark Bohne April 15, 2021

    Im sure someone has mentioned using a candle on zipper---or if stuck--bar of soap?

    • turbodb
      turbodb April 15, 2021

      I've heard it mentioned a few times. Question (i.e. I'd love more than one answer if other folks read this as well) - how do bee's wax or soap do as far as attracting dust/dirt? I've hesitated to put anything (except water) on the zippers for fear of it being a short term solution, with longer term consequences.

    • Mark Bohne
      Mark Bohne April 15, 2021

      the only "dry"lube is silicone spray. it does leave a very thin dry film. would work in easy problem--then if problem persists- candle wax would provide long lasting thicker film. hard wax is rated dustproof by the national candle wax association. lol

  2. Brandon
    Brandon April 15, 2021

    Ditto on candle wax or bar soap on $#@$ zippers. I have to confess that my sinister side wants those CVT zippers to stay stuck or not close and you get the sweet GFC. 🙂

  3. Mark Bohne
    Mark Bohne April 15, 2021

    where would i find sperical bearings on a tacoma?

    • turbodb
      turbodb April 15, 2021

      You won't find any of those on a stock Tacoma. The only ones I have are on my (aftermarket) suspension. Really, on any Tacoma (of any generation) you're only likely to find spherical bearings on shocks (and only then on the higher end King, ADS, Fox, Icon variants).

      Stock, Tacoma's come with shocks that contain rubber bushings. Those are less maintenance prone, but don't offer quite the same performance, and when they wear out (30K miles or so), you have to replace the entire shock vs. just the bearing.

      The closest thing to spherical bearings on a stock Tacoma are the upper and lower ball joints.

  4. Samuel Wagenseller
    Samuel Wagenseller April 16, 2021

    Some of my motorcycle adventure gear, endless dust, was suffering from zipper problems. I ride the crayon and the candle then I found Zipper-Ease the two sticks I bought on Amazon for less than $10. Will take many years to consume, works well and doesn’t attract dust!

    • turbodb
      turbodb April 16, 2021

      Awesome, this sounds worth trying; thanks! ?

  5. Michael Vermette
    Michael Vermette April 16, 2021

    As a veteran of Burning Man, I have learned a lot of hard lessons about zippers and dust 🙂 Candle wax, bee's wax, etc will help the zipper initially but will gum it up horribly shortly thereafter because it collects dust and grit. Silicone spray is nice but hard to control and can stain the material surrounding the zipper. The best solution I've found over time is to use the silicone liquid used to lube bicycle chains. I saturate a cotton ball and run it over the length of the zipper a few times. Easy slide, no stain, and it's easy to carry in your gear box.

    • turbodb
      turbodb April 16, 2021

      Thanks Michael, this is exactly what I was worried about. Decisions decisions!

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