Colorado 2019 – Part 1 – #3dads3daughters34runners

For the past few years we have made the trip to Ouray Colorado for FJ Summit or to be near the area to catch a bit of “Summit”.  FJ Summit is an annual event that brings in 300+ Toyota trucks to a little town in the middle of the San Juan Mountains of Colorado with some of the best mountain pass roads in the United States. 

This year… Complete madness at work had left me in a position where I was not sure I could plan a trip to the grand scale of years past.  Adding to the confusion… My kids were not cooperating either. One kid was graduating High School and the other had a social agenda that was hard pressed to spend time with “Dear ole Dad”.  

Never fear…  Other Trail Team trip members were making sure that something was going to happen this summer.  Three families were making plans with our without me being along for the ride. When the smoke cleared… Two Trail Team Dad’s, Don and Jake, had grabbed their daughters and started a trip to Ouray by way of the Rimrocker trail in Moab Utah.  If I hustled… I could meet up with them in Ouray for a long weekend of camping pre-FJ Summit.

When the time came to take flight and catch up with the others out in Colorado…  I was lucky enough to have my newly graduated Daughter along for the trip. We headed out early from Central Illinois to make the rendezvous for camping near Ouray.  Pekin to Denver is a 14 hour trip. Ouray is another 4 hours past that. We stopped in Denver after the first day of driving.  

There were a 100 different combinations of drivers, co-pilots and kids that could have shown up this year to Colorado.  Ironically… The other trucks, like me, had all come in 4Runners with their daughters. The trip could have just as well been 4 dads, 4 kids and 4 4runners…  On the 14 hour ride out to meet up with Jake and Don… It started to fall into place. Three Dads… Three Daughters…. And Three 4Runners. Serendipity? Kizmit?  Who knows. But it was a great trip vibe starting and a great tag for Instagram.

#3dads3daughters34runners

Stay tuned… More to come about this trip!

Breaking Camp – Day 3 – Mojave Road

The third and final day on the Mojave Road trail was an idyllic morning.  I had woken up around 6AM and could feel the presence of peaceful air from inside by ground tent.  Not a breath of wind was to be heard and the brightness on the outside of the tent meant that there must not have been many clouds either.  I unzipped by door shade and revealed the cloudless, crystal clear blue sky that I was hoping for.  

I unzipped the door and let the cool air flow into my tent.  It was so quiet and perfect that I curled back up into my sleeping bag and dozed off for a bit longer.  

It was brisk, 50 degrees or slightly better.  But experience told me that a few hours later we would be up to the mid 70’s.  Today being our last day on the trail meant a small breakfast, a few hour drive to the end of the road near Zzyzx.  To this point on the trail, I had been wearing jeans/pants and boots for the uncertainty of the trail. What if something went wrong?  I can’t be recovering a truck in sandals! 

This morning had all the signs that it was time to relax.  I put on the one pair of shorts I had packed and pulled out the Sanuk flip flops and pretended today was a beach day.   The morning was uneventful. I broke camp and took down my tent, sleeping pad and cot in a slow pace as to make sure everything was packed correctly for the ride home.  I then took the portable toilet setup and headed off a few hundred steps to have a relaxing view of the landscape. I parked the seat up near some black volcanic rocks that had some old coyote holes burrowed into them.  We had scouted them before, and they appeared empty.  

Everything was right with the world…  Until it walked into camp… A Tarantula

The day before when we arrived at camp, one of the other campers, Mike, had been out looking for the hairy spider lairs.  We found holes in the ground that might have been the home to giant arachnids. Don, our resident desert expert said with some authority that the Tarantulas were not going to be active during our visit.  This was enough affirmation for me… Nothing to worry about here.  

Well…  Our new friend with 8 legs wasn’t listening to Don.  This 4″ or 5” spider was gingerly walking into the middle of camp.  He appeared out of nowhere under a truck and then started heading towards our fire-ring.  We took a few pictures of the guy as he was moving along. He did seem to be at a slow pace because of the temps.  As he was halfway across camp… Orin, another of our campers, used a small stick to interfere with his route. The spider didn’t care for this one bit.  I swear that he jumped 2 feet and started hustling his pace.   

I don’t know what happened to our spider from that point forward…   I stopped caring about him and started thinking about self preservation.  Immediately, I looked down and my flip-flopped feet and bare legs and realized that I might be unprepared for more spiders.  I turned back to the open field behind the campsite in fear that I be looking upon view from the film “Kingdom of the Spiders” or “Arachnophobia”.  Wave upon wave a newly awoken Tarantulas crawling out of their beds to visit our band of squatters set up in their territory. Nothing yet… But they could be preparing a calculated raid.

I then started thinking back over the morning… I had slept with an open door to the desert…  I had been on my knees in the sand rolling up my tent and bedding materials… My open air bathroom visit earlier was also fraught with peril as I had not been looking over my shoulder at any point during the day.  There were countless opportunities for a hundred spiders to have murdered me in the Mojave.  

As it turned out… We only had one tarantula visit our camp (that we know of).  But this was enough for me to realize that jeans, boots and some form of Kevlar are your best protection out in the desert.  Also, I don’t know if we have a snake bite or spider bit kit… But it might be something to pack for future trips!

Mojave Breakdown, Our Lucky Day?

When you are driving 1000’s of miles… Even in a newer car… You have to be ready to deal with a sudden failure.   We drive Toyota’s for a reason…  More reliability on or off the road no matter where we go.  But even with the best of odds, you can have a one small problem turn into something that will ruin the best laid plans.

This last trip our west had us dealing with a fluke event.  A 2017 TRD Edition 4Runner started leaking oil while on the way to Mojave California. 

Somewhere outside of Kingman Arizona…  Libbie started smelling burning oil while driving her 4Runner.  We stopped our three car caravan to check and see what it was.   At first glance… It would have appeared to have been the oil filter housing.  The leak was all over the skid plate and the engine was soaked behind the filter.  Immediately, we were ready to blame the guy who changed the oil last.  (I can tell you as the service manager that I was seeing red!)

With the TRD Skid on, the filter is nearly impossible to reach.  I was able to touch it from the passenger side, and did not feel anything out of order.   The oil was still topped off, so the decision was made to try and get to a town with a quick lube or any service station that could get us in to check the filter.  We hit the road again.

After a few miles of being in the chase vehicle to keep an eye on the situation…  Oil spatter was covering my windshield.  I used the three wipers and it just smeared oil all over my FJ.  We pulled over again and this time found an area where we would remove the skid plate ourselves and check the filter tightness.

After getting everything pulled apart… It did not appear to be the filter.  But honestly, I am not a tech.  I was pretty sure it was something else but felt better with a second opinion.  I called our Master Tech, James, and asked for remote assistance!

With the help of pictures and videos…  James and I deduced that the leak was coming from the oil pressure sender on the side of the engine…  Right above some coolant lines that run near the filter housing.

This was a fresh leak, and it was doubtful it had been doing it for very long.

We called the local truck repair shop at our exit, they said they did not work on smaller trucks like this, but referred us to a shop called ADAN in Kingman Arizona.  We called them and explained what was going on.   They said to “come on over.”  This was already going better than expected.

As we pulled out… I saw what I can only describe as a “gypsy” sitting on the curb with a gas can.  She looked to be 100 pounds.  I thought she might be hiding from the law with the giant sunglasses and wig she was wearing.  Her kids were decked out in footy pajamas and looked like they had been sleeping on the desert floor all night.   And their van… Oh my…  It was something.  An older Chevy conversion van with handwritten messages of “love everyone” and “peace” told a story of spending lots of days and nights at gas stations!

I asked her if she needed money for gas.  (She was holding a gas can)  She said “yes”.  I said “I need all the Karma I can get” as I handed her a ten dollar bill, she said something unintelligible and took the money.  I like to think it was a Gypsy blessing.  Because luck was starting to fall into place.

As we pulled into Kingman… I was getting bigger puffs of hot oil smoke and I knew that we could not keep up a drive with this truck spitting out more and more.   While on the road, I called the local O’Rielly Auto Parts store and told them what I needed.   An oil pressure sender for a 4.0L Toyota is not a common repair item in our shop… I was praying that the store would have one, or be able to refer me to where to get it.  Even so, if I had to drive to another town… We may have been looking at three plus hours for a return trip with the part.  Nothing is close in Arizona.

O’Rielly had one!  I told the others to head to repair shop with the truck while I headed for the part.  Once in the store, I inspected the “sender” and verified it was correct.  (Believe it or not… Sometimes parts stores say they have something… And its not correct!  Shocking right? )

My Gypsy luck was holding.

ADAN had checked in the truck and was getting ready to lift if when I pulled in.  They were very firm about a $100.00 rack fee and said they would not be responsible if my diagnosis was wrong.  We were just fine with those terms.  The techs at ADAN went to work on the repair.

An oil pressure sender is something that could be done with the small amount of tools we had in convoy, but it was much easier to do on the lift in a shop.  The $100 fee was a small price to pay versus doing it ourselves on hot Arizona pavement.

We started the truck after the repair.  No leaks.

We ended up being 2 hours late to our meeting point with another truck outside Ft Mojave later that day.  But, the alternative was far worse.  2 hours is small potatoes when weighed against getting a hotel room and being stranded.

Some say you make your luck.  Traveling with tools, experienced staff and having a master tech one phone call away dampen the chances of failure on the road.  I still say a little old fashioned luck never hurts and I’ll thank the Gypsy for her help as well.

Great Smoky Mountain Trail Ride 2019

To start the story of our Trail Team trip to Tennessee this spring… We need to go back to October 2018 in Arkansas…  The Southern Cruiser Crawl in Hot Springs. As you know from our previous ventures to SCC, this is a favorite haunt of the Trail Team and we were there again in full force at last years event.  

It’s a tradition that our guys buy into the saturday night charity raffle at SCC and this year we all walked off with some great prizes.  One of them was Jake’s certificate for a free entry to the Great Smoky Mountain Trail Ride, donated by Southeast Toyota Land Cruiser Association.  The event is held at Windrock Part in eastern Tennessee in late spring. It was decided then that the group who were present for SCC would make the trip to GSMTR.  (Thats a lesson for you other TLCA events… 1 registration for free turned into 6 total!)

Only a handful of our crew in Fort’s Trail Team have been to Windrock, Jake, Stork and Chism made it down for the Appalachian Trail Roundup a few years back.  Of that crew, only Jake was making this trip.

It was 5 greenhorns and one veteran.  But, as we later found out while venturing around the park, it would take a long time become a veteran at Windrock.

We left as a crew of 6 trucks from Fort’s on Wednesday morning.  The drive has you go from Indianapolis, to Louisville to Lexington and straight south…  All told… It’s 550 miles and 8 hours of driving. Anyone with a V6 was making this in 2 tanks…  The V8 guys seemed a little thirstier!

Windrock park is 73,000 acres of wooded Tennessee knobs, hills and rocks laced with gravel roads to get you around.  In between those service roads are a variety of terrains that go from moderate (Blue Trail) to difficult (Black Diamond) to extreme (Double Black).  

We spent the first day getting our feet wet in the park.  We picked up maps in the office (Pro Tip, these are the best maps we have ever gotten at an off-road park) and headed into the trails without much thought about where to go.  That worked for a while, but after a few hours we found ourselves doing a few circles on some trails that didn’t quite follow the map. The goal was to have lunch in a spot that would give us a scenic view.  That didn’t happen and we ended up eating lunch in a 6 way crossroads for 45 minutes or so.

Now at most Off Road parks…. You would expect to see a couple dozen trucks pass by while you are sitting at an intersection like this.  If we saw two trucks, I’d be lying. We saw a couple of side by sides and a jeep… But other than that, we were out there on our own.

The park is massive, and its not something I can’t stress enough.  Our experience with off-road parks has always been something much smaller.  You go run a few trails… Then come back to the pavilion and eat lunch… People relax and tell some stories, meet new friends, or even take a siesta before heading back out for more fun.    It doesn’t work that way at Windrock. Once you are committed to some trail time in this park…. You should plan to be out all day, and return when you are done for the day. Fortunately, we had all planned for eating on the trail that day and had packed our coolers accordingly.  The smart guys had brought chairs.

After lunch, we meandered on some blue trails towards the western side of the park.  The trail markings were becoming clearer and we started to get a better sense of where we were at.  We spent another 3 hours going around small rocky hills and thickly brushed trails. Unfortunately… As we wandered to the end of the park… We started to wonder if we could get out!!!  The trails end near the edges of the park, and we soon worried that we would have to backtrack the whole trail system to get to an exit. (In a small park, this is not a problem, here it could be another 2 hours!)  Harper ran ahead on a trail that was marked dead-end… We were skeptical of the markings because our GPS’s were all saying that this was 4×4 road that exited on a paved road.

Thankfully, this one did end up on a road.  Not sure you can get so lucky every time so take this story as a cautionary note.   A couple of us ran into town for provisions… Others stayed and had the provided Taco dinner in the pavilion.  (Which I heard were far more delicious than the Chik-Fil-A that we had in town!)

Day 2 had us back on the trails with a little more confidence… And a plan!  We had studied the map and decided to hit the eastern side which had some long stretches of blue trail.  We were all wanting something more difficult than the previous day.

Again, Windrock demonstrates its massive size.  In order to get to the inlets for the trails we wanted, we had to leave the park and drive through town… And then drive another 20 minutes on county/state roads for the entrance.  This is great, but we are all aired down to 15 to 25 psi… Its a slow slog on the pavement with tires that mushy. Again… This park has you plan differently!

We took green trails back to the beginning of the blue and began a great run of scenic and challenging driving though the lush Tennessee backwoods.  There were areas and roads that appeared to be chiseled from rock… There were other spots that had 18” to 24” boulders cast down the roadway like it was class 5 riverbed…  Sans the water. All in all… The blue trails were fun… But, we were kinda hoping to find a black trail to see if the grading was the same caliber as these blues. Honestly, the blues were not anything we had been threatened by to this point.  There were a few blacks off-shooting from our route, unfortunately as we came upon the trail guides, they were marked for quads and bikes only. (Eric didn’t see that part in the map legend that describes each trail… Because that’s really hard to read while driving!)

At the head of two trails..  82 and 83… There is a high road and low road “route” that take you around American Knob (cowpunk band name idea!).  The merge onto 82 looked a little daunting, it was up a hill with some severely cut grooves around some boulders. If this trail had been marked black… I probably would have stepped out of my truck and double checked the route.  But this was still “blue”. To this point. Blue had not meant anything that we could not conquer with ease. I lined my 2010 4Runner up and ascended the hill with a moderate clip to fight off gravity. I dodged the first obstacle and then quickly made a zig to the left to get some traction on the rocks and boulders that looked the least scary.  Physics got the best of the truck and I was suddenly stuck underneath with neither forward nor rear movement. Jake and a couple others were yelling for me to stop, as it appeared I was making matters worse. I was high centered on my CBI skid around the transfer case area.

We tried a couple different wheel directions.  Tried all the of the fancy controls on the ATRAC, Diff Lock…  We didn’t try a different driver! But I did have plenty of spotters with experience.  I was “treed” up on this boulder. Fortunately, we had just installed a new 12,000lb line and control bezel on my Smittybuilt XRC winch before this trip.  I was ready. We found a tree on center and started the arduous dance of back and forth with the winch and truck drive-train to get off of the protruding rock.  When your muffler is getting crunched… You get amazing noises from the spring loaded connections in the exhaust line. (Trail damage this trip is underneath). Harper got Tree Hugger in line and I got to the top.  

Once I was on top…  Its was decided that this was not a trail for the whole group!  Jake and his 2017 TRD PRO Runner were certainly capable… But was it worth the risk of damage to his new truck.  Same thing with Trey and his new Tacoma. Ultimately, Scott and Harper decided this was a route their 4th gens would take with me.  Harper made it up and made it look easy. Its amazing what aggressive tires can do in these situations. Scott’s route was based on the muscle of his V8 engine…  He nearly jumped the boulder… Only to end up with 1 wheel hanging off the obstacle at the top. Smittybuilt winch to the rescue again!

Once we gathered back on the merge point on backside of American Knob…  We decided that the Windmills and overlooks might be a fun way to decompress!  Again, the mega park had us driving for a while… But when we found the overlook…  It was worth the trip. I have no idea how far you can see from these hillsides… But it felt like being on top of the Sears Tower (I know I know…  Willis Tower is what you call it these days) with a view of trees for 10 miles through the “smoky mountain” haze.

Towards the end of the second day of wheeling.  We found a rocky little hill climb and started heading to the top.  It was a soft pile of yellow rocks sitting in orange dirt. We hadn’t seen much action in the past hour…  So, this was a welcome distraction. Tree Hugger made it to the top with little incident… The rest of the group followed.  Jake told us as he got to the top that he had blown a tire… Every rotation of the passenger front wheel let off a little air hiss.  

For the record…  If you have followed us at all…  You know that Jake somehow takes the brunt of trail damage and field repairs!  Not sure why… He is not the craziest person on the trail… He is actually one of the most reserved.  Here was another incident that we can use to prove our trail prowess. A multiple patch repair. Tree Hugger was holding an ARB tire repair kit.  We started adding plugs to the sidewall of the Falken until it stopped hissing. Then we added two more plugs for good measure. Jake had a Milwaukee portable compressor that we set to 35psi.  That little guy worked for about 10 minutes before shutting off. The tire did not appear to be leaking. In that 10 minutes, Jake found 4 or 5 places that had a tire near the park. They were all $50.00 overpriced!  But, you take what you can get!

We figured this bit of afternoon drama was a good place to stop for the day.  Now… The long path back to the main entry trail began. It took nearly an hour to cross the park and get to the formal entrance.  Jake watched his on-board tire monitors the whole way back and found that our patch was holding.

We got back to the camp and headed for dinner at the Pavilion.  Friday night was burgers and dogs covered in your event admission.  This was my first chance to sit down with a couple locals putting on the event.  I had sought out Jason Hoffman for the past two days. He is one of the hosts of the Toyota Trucks and Trails Podcast.  We had been chatting back and forth over the past few months, and we wanted to meet up. After dinner we sat down and were talking about his show…  It was then that I discovered he was the VP of the SETLCA. As we chatted, Jamie Murphy, the secretary, sat down with us and I asked some questions about the event.  I knew the event had been going on for a long time… 29 years. But when he told me that they had registered over 200 trucks for this year… I was blown away! This park is soooooo big, you really can’t feel the crowd.  This event had moved to Windrock a few years ago and now has the space to grow. As they keep fine tuning, they are moving some future dates as well.

I met a few people at the pavilion that night and had a moment of realization that even though the faces were 100% new to us…  They all love Toyota trucks and anything that has to do with off-road, gear or travelling all over this hemisphere. There is a community within TLCA that makes traveling anywhere to any event feel like you are among family.  When Jason’s wife said she had had enough of this truck talk (and mosquitoes) she gave me a big old hug that made me feel like we had been friends for decades.

After dinner and chatting, a few of us decided to head back on the trails in the dark.  We headed back to the lookout point and were blown away by the view that a full moon and clear sky were presenting.  What during the day had looked like thick green forests with no civilization in sight now showed off ribbons of lights.  Roadways and small towns were all over the horizon.

Saturday, I had to blow out early with Trey.  We both had graduation commitments on Sunday. The rest of the crew stayed behind for one last day on the trails.  Jake got his tire fixed up that morning and the team sought out the “tunnels”. I’m waiting for a full report, but it sounds like these long caverns are akin to a sensory deprivation chamber.  Pitch black and filled with water.

That night, southern style BBQ Chicken and pulled pork were the menu. The food, its just one more reason to come to a park during these group sponsored events.  Jake sent me a picture of his plate as a reminder that leaving early deserves punishment. I was also missing the best part of all TLCA events, as per tradition, they hold a charity raffle.  This years proceeds were going to the Tennessee Fisher House Foundation.  Nearly $25,000 in gear were up for the grabs. Just $100.00 in tickets won Scott a voucher for Upper Control Arms and a brand new Power Tank setup.  That’s a bargain! Also of note, for the first time ever, Jake came back win-less from a raffle? He did snag two t-shirts from mid-air… So he wasn’t completely empty handed!

Sunday morning, the rest of the crew broke camp and headed home.  Fortunately there were no more incidents with trucks, tires or ignition coils… Just a big May rainstorm to wash the trucks on the way through Indiana.  

This was a fun trip with new folks and new trails.  Regardless of not winning any more tickets to future TLCA events at the GSMTR raffle.  You will likely see this whole crew in Arkansas at Southern Cruiser Crawl for another SCC in 2019.  

See you on the trails!

Eric Stahl

Links:

  1. http://www.stlca.org/
  2. https://toyotatrucksandtrails.com/

The 8 Cent Trail Repair

Oh sure…. you are reading the headline, and are ready to call my bluff…. what can you get for 8 cents?

This past July while on our Colorado Expedition with the Trail Team, I developed a small problem.  It all started while making the trek to the top of Mosquito Pass. My 2010 4Runner, which has performed flawlessly across any obstacle I ever asked of it for the past 4 years, decided to get a little hot.  

Nearly ¾ of the way up the trail to the 13,185 foot pass…. I got a whiff of something hot.  Thank God I smelled it, because when I looked down at my dash I could see that my engine temp was a good 80% towards the top reading.  I quickly cranked up the heat on the truck and rolled down the windows. Within a minute, the temp started falling as I sat and idled.

This was a big shock to me…. The day before, I had been in gridlock traffic in Denver, and the temp was nearly 100 degrees.  Even with the AC blasting… I don’t recall seeing or smelling anything unusual. Before that, I had driven over 500 miles from central Illinois.  

With the heat on and the windows open, I was able to creep up to the top of the Pass.  We took pictures of the trucks in the caravan and I popped the hood. I was dreading a low coolant level, as I was not sure if this probably had been going on without me noticing.  The coolant was completely full in the overflow. That was a great sign. I kept the heat rolling for the trip back down…. by the time we hit the halfway down mark…. I was in the clear.

The mechanics and educated drivers out there probably know what happened.  After some inspection later when the engine cooled off…. Our “Trail Tech”, Dustin,  found that the cooling fan was spinning freely at the end of the crank. Unlike cars, thr 4Runner does not have electric fans at the radiator.  The viscous fan clutch fully engages when the temperature in the engine increases. From what we could tell…. This fan was idling at a lower speed even when hot, thus. not removing heat from engine as quickly as designed.  Low 4 climbing with its higher RPMs and the the higher altitude had created a bad mixture that led to my hot temps on the Pass.

Now…. what to do about it?  The nearest Toyota dealer on our route was in Montrose.  We gave them a call and found they did not have a part on hand.  But, they were willing to expedite one that could be in sometime the next day.  That sounded pretty good, but a call to Autozone gave us better news…. They could have it by noon, guaranteed.  We ordered the autozone part and prepared for a repair the next day. We could get into why I didn’t get the manufacturer part…  But as a dealer, I know that the possibility of not getting a part exists in this neck of the woods. We have the luxury of getting parts nearly within hours in Central Illinois… Whereas these dealers in the western states have to have parts dispatched out of Dallas Tx and rely on FedEx.

Ah-hah!  We busted you Eric, this repair was more than 8 cents!  Yes, but you have to read on… This is not the repair in question.

The part arrived on time to Montrose.  We grabbed the box and headed to our campsite in Ouray looking over the town.  For the next 90 minutes we proceeded to make repairs. In order to make this happen, we decided that pulling the shroud and taking off a radiator hose would make it easier.  This called for some improvisation. Coolant is not something we take lightly to spilling, so we ended up making a funnel out of camp tin-foil in order to direct the flow into a catch bucket.  

From past experience, I have been witness to aftermarket parts that do not look the same as their factory counterparts. This visual helps me understand why I am  paying more for OEM. This fan clutch is no exception. The ribbed heat diffusers on the Autozone part are a much smaller surface area than the factory part. You have to wonder if it can do the same job.  When we made a turn on the shaft by hand to feel the tension in this new part versus the factory part… It was obvious that this new part was working correctly. The old part was nearly “free-wheeling”. We were feeling much better about the diagnosis.

We had the new part secured and installed pretty quickly.  After that, we reinstalled the shroud and topped off the coolant with the fluid we removed.  It all looked great. It sounded great as well. If you have heard the difference in an engaged fan clutch versus one not working…It becomes audibly obvious.  Unfortunately, its a sound you become tone deaf too as it slowly fails. After idling… We took another look. Hmmm… Something didn’t look right. The fan blades appeared to be a little closer to the engine than we remember.  So much so that they were eerily close to the black rubber hoses coming off the front of the engine. Coolant hoses. We had spun the fan blade and inspected the clearance. It was not much. 1 to 2mm?

1 to 2mm might be spec?  Hard to say looking at it while making a repair at 9000 feet where we were camped.  We fired up the truck… It looked fine. I drove around the campground and we made more inspections.  All clear.

The next day, we headed up to another trailhead to make a new campsite.  After we had that done, I took another quick look at the fan. Better safe than sorry right?  My worst fear had started showing itself. The hoses had probably expanded a bit when we moved the new campsite that morning.  In doing so, they had started making contact with the fan blade. You could see the smallest trace of black debri and dust on the fan.  

This is where the OEM part would have been far superior.  This Autozone part was probably made to Toyota SPEC… But it was shorter than the factory part.  

Our options included:

Gambling and hoping that it will be ok?  (Never the best option)

Cut off parts of the fan blades that are rubbing?  (That plastic is hard!)

Remove the inner hose and chop it down about a quarter inch?  (Would require a lot more coolant being handled)

Shim the part from autozone?  (Might create a balance issue for the fan)

Our “Trail Tech”, Dustin, came up with a better idea.  The fan can be removed from the new clutch… We could attempt to shim it at the front.  While that sounded great… We were pretty far removed from town. We started looking for washers or some way to space out these bolts.  It couldn’t be anything too big, as we had limited threads to work with. We were at the point of removing bolts from the expedition trailer when Dustin started asking for loose change.  Coins? There was not a vending machine for miles, what was he up too?

He started with 4 pennies.  4 pennies stacked in a vice grip and drilled with a small bit turned into 4 perfectly matched washers.  After taking a look at the end results.. We decided that another 4 cents would probably give us a bit of insurance.  Everyone dug through their cupholders. (For folks worried about defamation of currency, see link at end of the article)

We figured out that draining the coolant was not completely necessary to make the repair a second time…  We loosened up the fan shroud and installed 2 pennies on each bolt holding the fan to the clutch. The end result pulled the fan away from the hoses that were risking being ruptured.

Upon firing up the truck…  We could see that we were free and clear.  Disaster averted!

For just 8 cents we had improved the Autozone part, and it would handle the rest of our trip without incident.  

This is the third time we have seen a fan clutch fail on the trail.  One time we witnessed it on the trails at Southern Cruiser Crawl. Altitude was not an issue…  But a mud soaked radiator and low speeds with a high idle are just as potent of a mix. A second time, while only 4 miles into the Mojave Road.  Both of those previous times, we had to grab an aftermarket part.

I would like to tell you that there is an interval that you should start paying attention to the replacement on this item… But we have seen it on new and old trucks alike.  I would recommend at 100,000 miles that you pay attention to the sound of the fan and keep an eye on the coolant temp whenever you are in a high engine temp situation. I would also recommend cleaning your radiator out vigorously after any wheeling trip…  A dirty radiator can enhance this problem.

Unfortunately, since we don’t use L4 until we are at the trailhead, you may not know till you have a problem until that moment you are looking to have a little fun with your truck.  

 

Post Script:

I had taken some pictures of the repair in action… And a few people quickly became concerned that posting the pictures may put us in a position of an illegal operation.  Currency mutilation. It was a fair question as none of us are experts in currency laws!

I did some research and found various statutes and legal speak.  The most common concern was regarding the machines at tourist attractions that smash a penny into a souvenir.  

What we can take from the law is this.  If you deface these coins and then attempt to parlay them into a transaction… You are breaking the law.  You should not mutilate currency and then try to spend it. That would be illegal.

https://www.parkpennies.com/pressed-penny/are-penny-press-machines-legal.htm