February 2016. Or March. Sort of April.
If you're going to lift your truck, there are two ways to do it. You can do it for looks, or you can do it for real. For looks, you're talking about a spacer lift or a body lift - something that raises the truck but doesn't raise the performance. For real, you're talking about a suspension lift - replacing all the parts that make up the suspension on the truck, and in doing so, improving the performance - both on and off road.
Clearly, you want a suspension lift.
But, we're getting ahead of ourselves. What I want is a winch.
If you give a boy a winch (and armor)…
Now, the winch and armor is another story, but it bears a quick summary here: Initially I was going to go with a hidden front hitch, and a winch that I could move to the front or back of the truck, but I soon found that there aren't really any hidden front hitches for 1st Gen Tacoma's, so I looked at a few different plate bumper options. Once I saw the Predator from Relentless Fab on @cmj's build, I knew that was the bumper I wanted. Of course, if you're going to put 200 lbs. of bumper and winch on the nose of your truck…you might want to look into some new suspension.
He might also want suspension
Knowing very little about the subject, I found myself reading about different pieces for the front, different solutions for the rear, and of course all kinds of different opinions on what was best. Since I know everyone's on the edge of their seat - I mean, we're talking about suspension here - I'll give you the short version: skip the next table and just go on to the following paragraph.
Seriously. If you keep reading, you're going to lose 5 minutes of your life you can never get back. OK, you were warned - there are three types of aftermarket suspension lifts for the front, and two for the rear:
- Aftermarket struts/shocks (generally Bilstien 5100's) and springs (generally OMEs).
- Adjustable coilovers (shock and spring together, and infinitely adjustable).
- Ultra-expensive coilovers (just like #2, but for people who only buy name brand and never want to retire).
- Add-A-Leaf (a leaf spring that you insert into your existing rear leaf pack).
- Replacement leaf pack (a whole new set of metal that will hold up more weight).
After all my research, I decided to go with some BOSS coilovers from @ToyTec Lifts for the front, and an Add-A-Leaf (AAL) and longer air shocks (Monroe MA-820) for the back - essentially #2 for the front and #1 for the back.
The BOSS coilovers got great reviews from everyone who had it, used heavy duty truck shocks, and came with springs that would easily hold the additional weight I had planned. The AAL for the back would give me a bit more load capacity, and longer air shocks would ensure that I maintained that "forward lean" stance that I liked so much. So, in one of my first moments of spending weakness, I dropped what I felt like was a bunch of dough on some suspension (something like $1000).
And, he'll need a way to install it
Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a woodworker, and not a car guy. The fact that this story even exists, I find surprising. But, as I get older I've started to realize that if I want the truck to be great for more than just trips to Lowes Depot, I'm going to need to start learning (and building up my toolset) to work on the truck too.
Thank goodness it's a 1st Gen Tacoma and has mechanical parts, rather than one of those 3rd Gen Tacoma's that are pretty much just a computer :).
Anyway, to install suspension on the truck, I was going to need a floor jack and to get one of those, I went straight to Craigslist. There, I found a low profile, 3.5 ton jack listed for $50 (with jack stands) and I quickly sent mail to the seller, offering $25.
Sold! No haggling. Wow. Is this stuff stolen?
I met the seller the next day at her work to finalize the deal and found out no, this stuff wasn't stolen. Rather, "My husband doesn't use it and I don't want this stuff just sitting around so I'm selling it."
Looking back on it - maybe not technically stolen, but close.
It's here. Or is it?
The package from Toytec arrived the next week, and boy was I happy. The shocks were shiny and silver, the AALs were heavy, and the various other parts were all there.
They sat in the box for a few days, and then I realized: crap, those aren't the shocks that I ordered. So I went and got my invoice so I could start a return and… crap, those are the shocks that I ordered. Turns out, Toytec sold BOSS coilovers (with big truck shocks) and Ultimate coilovers (with Bilstien 5100's). I was not happy - the set I'd gotten were $60 cheaper, but they weren't what I'd wanted. In fact, on my online order, I'd made a note:
Scott and I have been trading emails - he's been great. I think I'm essentially getting the BOSS lift kit for a 2000 Tacoma Xtracab 4WD SR5 V6, w/TRD except that I'm not getting the extended rear shocks (as I'll instead be adding some air shocks back there). If I'm missing anything from the kit except the shocks, please let me know before completing the order. Thanks!
Note in hand, I sent email to Toytec. In return I got an email that said:
Dan - I do understand your concern but please understand that we simply do not have the manpower or the time to contact every customer with notes on there order. While we do review every order and the notes, the end responsibility is on the customer to ensure they are ordering the correct parts.
Oh man, that's no good. They wanted me to pay shipping both ways plus the $60 price difference. Clearly this was partly my fault, but I felt like it was partly theirs too; I thought we should split shipping - but after several emails, they weren't having it.
Internet to the rescue.
Having done much of my research for suspension on TacomaWorld, I made a post where I asked the community what they thought was right in this situation. Unanimously, the answer was: split the shipping and pay the $60, both sides messed up this one.
Also members of TacomaWorld, I soon got a call from Toytec and a few minutes later I was paying to ship back the Ultimate coilovers, and they were paying to ship me out the BOSS coilovers. Whew.
The package from Toytech arrived the next week, and boy was I happy. Again.
A couple weeks later, it was April. A mere two months after I started on the journey, and it was install day. I figured - one day should be enough. Enough to do the front and back suspension. I mean, putting in an AAL shouldn't be too hard, and the coilovers just bolt right on. Right?
Day 1. Let's start with the back.
The spare tire came down, the truck went up, the wheels came off quickly and easily. The Gabriel air shocks came off with only a minor fight (that may or may not have involved a hammer, and some denting that resulted in them not being resalable). I blame the bushings.
The next step was to install the AALs. Out came my ratchet to remove the U-bolts, but I couldn't budge the nuts on them. Since my only means of automotive transportation was out of commission, I fired up my (pedal) bike and headed off to the auto-parts store where I picked up a 24" breaker bar. (Note: I also nearly killed myself riding back up the 45th St. viaduct; it is steep and long.) Breaker bar in hand, the U-bolts came off and the rear axle was hanging precariously in space.
Then it was time for AAL insertion and reinstallation of the leaf packs. Following instructions from Toytec and the internet, I knew I was going to need some clamps to pull the leaf packs together so I'd purchased a couple at the auto parts store when I'd gotten the breaker bar. The lightest C-clamps I'd ever picked up, I thought they were made of some space-aged composite. Turns out they were just cheap, and one exploded (literally, it just missed my face as it flew 15 feet) about 12 seconds into it's application. From that point on, I used some tried and true quality clamps - from my wood shop.
Ultimately, installation of the AALs took about 10 hours longer than I'd planned, and by the end of the day I was fangry (that's anger due to frustration). Getting those leaf packs lined up with the AAL, and U-bolted back to the rear axles was no easy task. Oh, and the whole time I was worried that my rear brake line was going to snap, because it clearly wasn't long enough. One more thing to buy; who wanted this damn winch in the first place?
Well, eventually I got the leaf packs back on, the wheels back in place, and the truck pushed into the garage. I was far from done with a project that I'd planned to finish in one morning. The rear shocks weren't on yet, and I hadn't even considered the front.
Day 2. With so much less to do, I'll go for my Sunday morning walk, and still be done by the time @mrs.turbodb gets back from church (around lunch time).
I pushed the truck back out of the garage and got to work installing the new Monroe MA-820 air shocks. These puppies are like the old air shocks I had, but a bit longer, and black. The black part is not relevant. This should be easy - I mean, just pop them on, and plonk in the air hoses.
If you haven't read the rubber bushing story with my original Gabriel air shocks, you should read that story now. Are you done? Good. OK, seriously - why can't companies make bushings that are the right size? I spent another three hours and a trip to the auto parts store (to buy a bolt to suck the bushing onto the mounting pin) just getting the darn things installed. Oh, and @mrs.turbodb got back from church about an hour into the whole thing. But finally, the back was done.
Except that the brake line was too tight. I'd have to be careful driving, Oh, and I hadn't even started the front suspension. But I had lost the battle - I was done for the weekend. Mentally. Physically.
Two weeks pass. In my old age, I forget the pain and suffering of early April.
Day 3. Let's do the front suspension. It just bolts on, remember?
As always, setup is pretty easy. The truck goes up on jack stands, and the OEM TRD shocks come out in just a few minutes. And by "a few," I mean an hour, but that's pretty reasonable for never having done this before, I think.
But of course, I just hadn't hit the hard part yet. Turns out the new shock is about 1" longer than the OEM ones (part of what provides the lift), and there's no way that in my old age and weak state, that I can push the upper control arm (UCA - that thing that holds the top of the shock) down enough to get the shock installed. Luckily, the internets saved me again and I'd learned a trick - use the jack to push the UCA down far enough to slide in the bolts for the new coilover. So, that's what I did, and it worked. Only, it also stripped a bunch of nice rubbery paint off of my wheel well, so I had to go buy some paint to fix that.
Now, one of the things that installing these front coilovers does, is that it puts extra stress on your CVs. I don't really know what CV's are, but they are apparently important to a car. Or truck. Anyway, to alleviate some of that stress, you can install a "diff drop kit," so that was the next thing on my list. That installation went smoothly - until of course I tried to reinstall my skid plate. The skids it turned out had some reinforcement channels right where the diff hung down, and I couldn't get them reinstalled. So out came the grinder, and like the champion I am, I proceeded to over-cut the channel, making the skid un-mountable.
Thank goodness for the dude at Microsoft who welded a bit of the channel back on (for free!) so I could get the skids back in place.
And with that (and the extended rear brake line that got installed (and the brake system bled), the suspension was done. An alignment at Sears, and I was sporting a 2" lift, ready for some armor.
And it only took two weeks. Just as I'd planned originally. That morning, when I was sure I'd be done by lunch time.
OEM Ride Height
Note: Measured on brand new Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac's 10.5x31 tires.
Lifted Ride Height
Note: Measured on brand new Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac's 10.5x31 tires.