October 2008

October 2008 (13)

coverwebSome of the articles in this issue include:

  • Communications 101: CB, FRS, & HAM - Which one is right for you?
  • Off Road Navigation Part 3: Navigation Systems. We look at the top nav systems available for your FJ so you can make an educated buying decision.
  • We've upgraded our Toytec 3" Lift with their new Adjustable Kit specifically for TRD & TT FJ's
  • Lance continues his Expedition Wheeling series with a great article about the difference between a Trip, Adventure, and Expedition
  • The coolest interior mod you'll want: TinCan's LED Dash Swap!
  • In Off Road 101, we cover some of your options for Suspension Upgrades
  • And MUCH more!

As always, we have two downloads available - absolutely free:

  • For reading on your computer, you'll want the standard edition of FJC Magazine - Download Here
  • For printing, the print-ready version with a white background - Download Here
  • The online Flash version of FJC Magazine is here


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Dash Light Mod!

Written by

While most of the articles in FJC Magazine focus on off road and mechanical performance, every once in a while an ‘aesthetic’ mod comes along that’s just too good to pass up!
We first learned about the LED Dash Mod from TinCan several months ago, but I knew there was no way I was taking my dash apart and unsoldering several LED’s. Luckily TinCan (BJ) came out to the FJ Summit and graciously agreed to dew a few dashes for Summit attendees. By the time he was done (ours was his last) he was functioning on about 10 hours sleep over 5 days, and did over 20 dashes – quite an amazing accomplishment!

I can’t begin to explain how cool this modification is! It completely transforms the inside of your FJ and really makes it stand out. We chose to use red LED’s to match our black & red TRD theme, but the LED’s are available in just about any color. The most popular color at the Summit was blue, but several other trucks used red as well.
When it was our turn for the mod (at nearly midnight), BJ jumped in the truck and had the dash completely apart in less than 5 minutes. It’s really not that difficult to remove the gauge cluster, gauge pod, and colored control panel; so don’t be intimidated if you would like to have your dash modified. Once he had everything apart, he began the process of unsoldering the old LED’s & soldering the new ones on. I can solder two wires together, but I don’t have the steady hand or the patience to replace such small LED’s. BJ did an amazing (and quick) job and in just over an hour, we had our new dash and were on our way.

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Featured Rig

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We’ve been talking with Corey Tando for quite a few months now, and finally got some great info and pics to include his Ti as October’s Featured Rig. Corey is the admin over at www.yotatech.com, which he started in May of 2002. He’s a tech guy all the way, and has the mods to prove it.
Corey’s FJ is built as a true expedition ready rig. He’s setup to go anywhere and stay clean and comfortable all along the way. There’s not much left for Corey to do, but we’re sure he’ll think of something.

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2009 FJ Cruiser First Look

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We were hoping to include a full test drive review of the 2009 FJ Cruiser. Unfortunately, as of October 1st, there are still no ’09 FJ’s in Colorado (or anywhere else). The 2009’s are available to configure on the Toyota.com website, so we parsed through every option available so we could give everyone this first look.

The main updates for 2009 are in the colors available. The silver ‘Titanium Metallic’ color has been dropped in favor of a ‘Silver Fresco Metallic’. We’re not exactly sure what the difference is since we haven’t seen one in person, but the consensus seems be that it will be a somewhat darker silver. The Iceberg color is now also available, but only in the 2WD “Prerunner” version with the TRD Package. ‘Black Diamond’ is now called ‘Black’, again we’re not sure what the difference is.
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Off Road 101: Suspension Upgrades

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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.
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Reader Rigs

Written by

{tab=Garrett's Black Diamond}


Edgewater, Florida

FJ Nickname:

NSBCruiser (I live near New Smyrna Beach, FL (NSB))




Black Diamond




285/70-17 BFGoodrich KM2


17” x 7.5” - Black Toyota Steel Wheels with Black Gorilla Lug Nuts and Gorilla Wheel Locks


Old Man Emu


Old Man Emu N140S Front Struts, Old Man Emu N141 Rear Shocks

Front Bumper:


Rear Bumper:







Come-Along Hand Winch


Portable Air Compressor



Other suspension:

Old Man Emu 886 Front Coils, Old Man Emu 895 Rear Coils

Other Mods:


-A-Trac and Locker simultaneous Mod

-Locker Anytime Mod (2WD or 4WD Hi or 4WD Low)

-VSC disable switch

-Daytime Running Light disable switch

-HID Headlight conversion

-LED interior accent light tied into the dimmer

-LED Dome Lights

-LED Glove Box lights (Driver’s and Passenger’s)

-Amber LED Mirror lights converted into Turn Signals

-Pioneer AVIC-Z1 DVD/NAV - upgraded to Z3 software with iPhone connection

-Hella TC-400 Tire Pressure Monitoring System

-Cobra 75 WXST CB

-Radio Shack Mini CB External Speaker

-Custom HomeLink Transmitter with Voice Recorder

-2nd Factory High Pitched Horn

-Electronic Rust Inhibitor Modules


-Breathers - Transmission/Transfer Case/Front & Rear Differential/Rear Locker

-K&N Drop in Air Filter

-Full Synthetic Fluids (Royal Purple)


-Custom Painted Interior (Sliver trim Blacked out)

-Interior Black Grab handles and clothing hooks

-Factory Rear Door Storage with Homemade Fire Extinguisher mount

-Factory Cargo Cover

-Passenger Armrest

-2008 FJ Cruiser Side Sun Visors

-All weather floor mats and cargo mat


-15% Window Tint

-In-channel Window Vent Visors

-Custom Roof Color Matched Painted Bezel

-Custom Painted Front/Rear Bumpers and Mirrors

-2007 Tundra Black Door Handles

-Factory Running Boards

-Headlight Stone Guards

-Manik Tail Light Guards

-Lockable Spare Tire Jerry Can Holder

-Homemade Lockable Axe/Shovel/Hi-Lift Jack Roof Rack Mounts

-Bandi CB Antenna Mount with 4’ Firestick CB Antenna

-1970 FJ 40 4WD emblem


-30’ ProComp Tow strap

-60” Hi-Lift

-Axe & Shovel

-Warn Receiver Shackle Bracket

-Come-Along Hand Winch

-22” Ontario Blade Machete with homemade rear door mount

-Portable Air Compressor

-Tool Kit





{tab=Victor's Titanium Metallic}


Chula Vista, CA / Tijuana B.C., México

Home Club:

Baja4Racing™ (aka B4R™)

FJ Nickname:





Silver/White top




BF-Goodrich All Terrain 285-70-17


5 - 17 x 9” KMC Enduro Wheels (black)


All Pro Off Road, Fox Shocks, Walker Evans Racing


Front – 2.0 Fox 8-way adjustable coilover with 3.5 inches of lift

Rear – Walker Evans Racing 12-way Adjustable with external reservoir and 3 inch All Pro inch lift springs

Front Bumper:

Custom – OTR Fabwerks Pre-run bumper

Rear Bumper:

Custom – OTR Fabwerks Pre-run step bumper




Factory rock sliders






Factory Rack with custom mounts for a Hi-Lift jack

Other suspension:

All Pro Off Road rear links, front sway bar links and collars

Other Mods:

K&N drop in air filter

7” Hella Off Road Lights

OEM lights converted to HID

Kenwood TM-271 Race Radio

Kenwood DVD/Ipod Head Unit

JL Audio 250/1 Amplifier

JL Audio 10W3 subwoofer in a custom enclosure

Additional Comments:

I would like to thank various folks for their help in modifying my rig. Thanks to Roman at B4R™ (www.baja4racing.com) for the suspension install, Terry at All Pro Off Road (www.allprooffroad.com) for the parts, Billy at OTR Fabwerks (www.OTRfabwerks.com) for the custom bumpers, and my brother Tony (www.bajahid.com) for all his help.



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Hands On Recovery

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In the July issue Chris Nelson was kind enough to cover some recovery basics. Fortunately for us, we saw Chris leading a group up Engineer Pass during the FJ Summit and we got to see him work first hand. While his group was pulling over to let us by, a Ti FJ managed to get high-centered on a large rock. This is a very common occurrence when wheeling in a new area, and Chris was ready. He grabbed the Hi-Lift off his truck & got out his recovery kit. Included in the kit is the Hi-Lift Lift Mate, which is an adapter that allows you to lift from a wheel.

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Communications 101

Written by

It doesn't matter if you're few hours or a few days from home, the ability to communicate with others can bring added enjoyment to your adventures and greatly increases safety. Radio communication while on the trail comes in many forms. In this article we will focus on the three most common types of radio communication available to you: the Family Radio Service (FRS), Citizen Band radio (CB), and Amateur Radio also known as HAM Radio. The first thing to understand is that each of these use the same basic technology as the AM / FM radio in your car. It’s all radio waves. What makes each type a little different is the power you can transmit with and the frequencies they use. As you dial up or down on your car radio you might use the term ‘radio stations’, but a radio station is simply transmitting on a particular frequency, for example 105.1 FM.
Here are a couple of other concepts to consider before we discuss each option in more detail. Radio waves travel at the speed of light, so there is virtually no delay in most situations. Radio waves also travel in 'line of sight'. This means the more obstacles between you and the one are communicating with, the more interference you will experience. Radio waves can penetrate objects, but different objects will require more or less power to penetrate. The type of radio wave also determines how well it will penetrate objects. The last thing to note is that antennas make a difference. There is a huge difference between transmitting using 5 watts of power with a cheap antenna and transmitting 5 watts of power with a great antenna.

Family Radio Service or FRS (also called two-way radios) is a simple solution for very basic communication needs. FRS radios generally cost from $50 to $200 and they do not require a license to operate. FRS radios transmit using .5 watts, which by radio standards is very low. This is why in real world scenarios you should only expect to be effective with FRS at ranges of a mile or two or less. The packaging might tell you the range is much more and in very good or perfect conditions it might be true, but don’t count on it. FRS radios are very common and have a limited set of 22 channels. Don’t be surprised if you hear others talking on the same channel you are using. One of you will simply need to move to another channel or enable the 'privacy' features on your radio. FRS radios use FM frequencies which are good. FM frequencies are clearer than AM frequencies (think AM radio stations vs. FM radio stations).

Citizen Band or CB Radio is a very common form of communication among truckers and off-roaders. CB radios generally cost from $80 to $200 and also do not require a license to operate. CB radios transmit using a maximum (legal) 4 watts of power, providing greater range than FRS radios. Generally speaking, one can expect about 3-5 miles of range using CB in good conditions. However, CB radios use AM frequencies which are more subject to interference. CB radios also use the concept of channels and most modern CBs offer 40 channels. CB is by far the most common form of radio communication in the off-road community.

Amateur Radio or HAM Radio is no longer for old men in basements with outdated technology. HAM radio has kept up with technological advancements and has a lot to offer. HAM radios generally cost from $120 to $1000 and do require a license to operate. Obtaining your license is now easier than ever. The test is 35 questions and is quite easy. You do not need to know Morse code to obtain your license. The fee for the test is about $15, and your license is good for 10 years.
HAM radios transmit using 5 watts up to 1000 watts depending on the radio you purchase. These radios can easily reach 40 miles or more. HAM radio does not use the concept of channels like FRS and CB radios do. Instead, HAM uses specific frequencies. So instead of tuning your radio to channel 12, like you would on FRS and CB, you tune your radio to a frequency like 147.555; this provides for greater flexibility and the ability to find a completely private channel. HAM radio can also use repeaters to make them even more useful. A repeater is an antenna that listens on a certain frequency and repeats what it hears on another. This greatly increases your range, in some cases up to several hundred miles. There are hundreds of repeaters across the United States. Repeaters can also be linked connecting one repeater to another. Using linked repeaters, HAM radios can communicate all across the country.

There are additional features available to HAM radio which we won’t go into in detail, but here are a few of the key ones: APRS – This is a feature that allows HAM operators to use the radio to include GPS information in the signal. Using this feature and GPS devices you are able to see on the where others are located. AutoPatch – This feature, which is available on some repeaters, allows the HAM radio to connect to the public telephone system and make a normal phone call. So you can be out in the backcountry, connect to an autopatch repeater and call your loved ones. Editor's Note: In times of emergency, HAM radios are almost always the only method of wireless communication that works. When cell phone networks become overloaded, HAM radios will still work fine. There is much more to HAM radio that can make for a lifetime hobby but we will save that for future articles.
In summary, consider what your needs are and get the radio equipment that will meet or exceed those needs. In best case scenarios, communication can greatly enhance the enjoyment of your adventures and in the worst case scenarios communication can be a life saver. Happy transmissions!

Taft Babbit is a technology professional and avid blogger. He's very active on FJCruiserForums.com and can be found online at http://mountainthinking.blogspot.com/

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A Big Thank You!

Written by
The fall is a very exciting year for all of us at FJC Magazine. After a great summer of wheeling, we're ready to concentrate on winter mods in preparation for next spring. We're planning on a few great snow runs in the mountains of Colorado, and the wax is already hot on our boards & skis. As we publish our fourth issue of FJC Magazine & complete our first full year, we'd like to thank each and ever reader for their encouragement and support. We truly couldn't do it with out you.

I'd personally like to thank all of our contributors this year: Lance, Eric, Stan, Mike, Trevor, Brandon, Chris, Taft, Kevin & Team Neccessary, and all the FJ Groups & Clubs out there. I sincerely apologize if I missed anyone, flame me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Without these great contributors, our sponsors, and everyone reading this – we wouldn't be able to make FJC Magazine happen. As I've said before, it's cheaper than therapy & we have a great time.

We're already making big plans for 2009. We're planning on making it to several more events next year, and we already have some great articles lined up. We always welcome your thoughts & feedback, at http://fjc-mag.com/feedback-form.html. If you have content that you'd like to submit for an article, e-mail us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. & we'll be in touch.
Can't wait to see everyone in '09. Until then Stay The Trail, Tread Lightly, and HAVE FUN!
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A Trip, Adventure or Expedition?

Written by

We each take a trip when we pull out of the driveway, and those trips sometimes become adventures, but what does it mean to embark on a true expedition? While it's fun to use the term 'expedition' to give our trips or adventures a cool sound, it’s important to know the difference and understand why overlanding is gaining in popularity.

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Toytec 3" Lift Upgrade

Written by

The 3” Toytec lift we installed for the April issue has been working perfectly. We've put almost 300 off road miles on the TRD with it, had it on through the FJ Summit with no problems at all. When we originally installed the kit we expected to be adding a new bumper within a few months, which would weigh the front end down a little to give the FJ the “rake” we like. Well, things don’t always go according to plan. We decided to black out the bumper wings and for now, it's working cosmetically so we're not in as big of a hurry to add the bumper & winch. This left us with a lift that was about 3/4" too high in the front (in our opinion).

I talked to Doug at Toytec Lifts about our options. As luck would have it, he was just putting together a new adjustable setup for TRD & TT FJ’s with Bilstein shocks. This new front lift is just what we needed! It allows us to lower the front about 3/4" to get the rake back, and when we add the bumper & winch, we’ll be able to adjust the front up to compensate for the added weight. The best part is, since our shocks work perfect (they’re the same shocks he includes in his full coilover assembly), this kit is a very cost effective option for our FJ.

The kit includes taller springs, a replacement coil seat that’s fully adjustable (from about 1” to 3” of lift), and sway bar relocation brackets. As we mentioned in the original lift install article, you will need a GOOD coil compressor. Many auto parts stores will rent you a compressor, or you can have a local install shop swap out your springs.

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