My Girl: Gettin' After It!!

My Girl: Gettin' After It!!
My truck on her maiden voyage in Moab 2012

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Duty Calls...

Or actually doody calls and necessitates a diaper change. I have been a lot more focused and calculated in going about making modifications to the truck. Gone are the days where I can sit isolated in the garage pontificating on a concept or experimenting through trial and error. The benefit of this shift is that I am doing a lot of this planning while attending to chores and then undertaking changes in concise shifts of work on the truck. The Mrs. is happier because I am attending more to my household duties, and I am happy to be relieved of some of the friendly 'reminders' that she used to make.

So I've been driving around with no power to my radios, the rear winch out of the commission, and no power inverter for any 110V accessories drawing more than an amp or so. (The one in the cab can handle about an amp or two tops; the rear maxes out somewhere around 9amps).

These past couple of days I was able to make the permanent connections. I still need to zip tie the wires so that they are fixed and neatly routed.

 I didn't have an exterior shot of the full and finished Trail Rack.

 I had been held up trying to identify a suitable place to enter the cab on the passenger side. I went on the forums and found that some of the stereo modders had identified this existing knockout in the wheel well above the liner. I reamed it out with a dremel and fed the power wires in through here to my Blue Sea fuse block.
 I probably use more decking parts on my truck than a carpenter uses on a deck. Took one of these offset plates and welded a 4" junction box cover to it, drilled holes in the cover, and bolted the fuse block to it. Then I used self-tapping screws to mount to this hump in the floor pan so that it is just beneath the passenger seat. Radios are now powered.
I reconnected the wiring to the toolbox and affixed these terminal posts along the upper shelf of the toolbox. The rear winch is now served from these junctions and a power offshoot is now available to the inverter.

Now just need to tidy up the wires.

Up next will be, in all likelihood, routing control wiring from both winches up into the cab. My goal is to retain the option of either hooking up the controller into the stock ports or to run them from the driver seat. I may also consider putting in a disconnect switch adjacent to the momentary control switches. More on that to come...

Sunday, September 7, 2014

My new co-pilot

Well, my new copilot arrived about a week ahead of schedule. He was born full term and all that jazz.

This won't be a long post, as I've spent most of the past few days either in the hospital, getting the house final-prepped, and running errands to host the visitors coming to see both of our families' first grandson.

New baby selfie
 My wife hates that shirt as I invariably wear it outside of St. Patrick's day season. It features a leprechaun (like the Lucky Charms guy) with the caption "Lucky". We certainly felt lucky that Thursday morning.
Getting dressed for the ride home.
 We got to leave Saturday morning. The truck was still airing out. The fumes were appreciably diminished, but there was to be no arguing with a pregnant lady about what vehicle her baby boy was going to ride in. I actually had to agree. He came home in a Nissan nonetheless- the wife's Rogue.
Guys with nice trucks get laid....
I went to Babies R Us today to pick up a second base for the car seat to outfit my truck. The stroller came with a car seat and base. The bases can be purchased separately for ready transfer of the carrier/seat between vehicles.
And then they have to go to Babies R Us to deal with the aftermath...
 Well, I was delighted to see this 4Runner. I had hoped to run into the driver, but alas, we missed one another. I'll have to look at the photo closely, but the rims at least gave the appearance of bead locks. It was also fitted with a Gobi Ladder and rack. Kinda pricey if all one is doing is mall crawling. No, I suspect this guy might actually wheel. Or at least he used to until he started having to make runs to Babies R Us.

Rear view of his Gobi ladder setup
 So now with the two of us posed here, I'm certain other 'regular' customers were like, "Who is breeding with these jokers?!" Well, I can only hope that we offroad enthusiasts grow in sustainable numbers.
Dodge Power Wagon with hidden winch. I respect your gangster
Right across from us was this Power Wagon. I award the owner several points for the discreet hidden winch setup. It says, "I don't have to be showy or flashy to get the job done". Well played, sir or madame.

I'm off this week. If the little guy continues to settle in well, I may actually get to finish up my electrical system. There just hasn't been much continuous sleep in the evenings due to feedings and such. I can't really help much with that as they recommend his nutrition comes straight from mama for the first two weeks and then later reserves can be pumped out for bottle feeding. I'd like to have the truck fully ready with also some provisions for bottle storage/preservation should we find ourselves in a Bug-out situation. I really need someone to raffle off an ARB Freezer/Fridge. I don't think anyone else offers anything close, but at $800, it is quite a pricey investment. We will see.

Probably still a few weeks out before I can venture out to a nearby trail guilt-free to test out the Coopers and generally scratch the trail itch.

'Til  next time.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Labor Day(s)- Bedlining the interior and making a trail rack for the bed

It was such a harried weekend, I am realizing now that I didn't even get a picture of the finished product of either effort. I don't have a pic with all the seats back in or with the rack painted and the toolboxes back on. It was another weekend of trying to maintain progress on a couple of different fronts of overhauling the truck setup and also being available for family and friend functions.

Without even meaning to launch into conversations about what is going on with the truck, it still invariably comes up. In the case of the brunch my wife and I attended on Saturday, we didn't even take my truck because it was still airing out (more on that later). So it's not even like we pulled up and someone was like, "What the F- is that?!". And that does happen. But we took her car and were meeting another couple. They're talking about a sister that lives in Oklahoma. I inquired where specifically as I've spent some time in Oklahoma. Incredulously, they inquired, "So what were you doing in Oklahoma?!" And there were two instances. One was for the Women's NCAA basketball tourney in 2003. It drew not really any follow up inquiry. "And then there was the time I was coming back from the Grand Canyon." And when I explain that was not my first time driving cross country, we then get into what I do with the truck and why.

Even that little digression necessitated a paragraph. Anyway, my intent this weekend was to remove all of the carpeting, apply a bed liner coating, and concurrently fabricate a new rack system over the bed to create a second tier of storage, spare tire management, and recovery gear portage. It was not intended to be anything fancy. Just needed a sturdy frame. Along the way, I figured I would also need to rework how things are laid out in the cab of the truck since I would no longer have any upholstery to conceal cables that were previously traversing portions of the cab. That was my mission. I got about 85% of the way through.

 So this is where we left off last week or so. Ultimately I overestimated a bit how much steel I was going to use. I allowed initially for an approach that would have involved some outriggers and some vertical posts. I then realized that there may be some advantage to incorporating the headache rack (which has often been more of a headache than a help). I think that relationship has begun turning a corner after I was able to use it as the basis of the jerry can mounts, with which I am very happy.


I parked behind this Lotus outside of one of the sites that I assist with. I think Veronica wanted to mount the truck. I was actually surprised by the driver of the vehicle. I thought maybe, smug, pretentious guy in an impeccable suit. But he was actually pretty casual, as if he just rolled out of bed, put on some chinos and a comfortable tshirt and that was it. A guy walked up as I was finishing taking pictures of it.

I think that's him in the background. He asked if it was mine. "Noooo, no. I'm the pickup behind him". 

"Not a bad ride either," he replied. I don't think we are in the same calibre as a Lotus, but I am fond of my ol' gal. 

 Other than this one guy on the Frontier/Navara forum and the dude we met up at Rausch, there have only been two such trucks that I have encountered or seen footage of. In basically the same block as the Lotus, I stumbled upon this Unicorn. No mud flaps. There's a chance he wheels. I never ran into the driver though.
 I ordered a decal while awaiting my opportunity this weekend to do some wrenching. I had set up a gmail account for the club; now this is where folks can send an email to while I'm out and about if they see the truck and want to know more about it or where there are trails local to us (and not so local) if they'd be interested in accompanying us. So far, no emails. I've also not even had it a full week.
 I think this was later that same day, I passed this well built Land Rover coming back from a second site in which I have a more active role in managing. I think we were both trying to be subtle in checking out the other rig. He would pass me, and then slow up. I would do the same. I don't know if he noticed me snapping shots.

 That's the best I could get of the side/front.
 Once again, I had to squeeze into one of the last available spots by the time I got in to the office. I appreciate the flexibility of the mid-size platform in these instances.

I certainly  need to be able to do some wheeling soon. All of my photos are now urban or are of other trucks that probably see more malls than trails. Need an offroad intervention.
 So I began this Thursday night, knowing that Friday would be a pretty light day. I'm not very good with the truck's hygiene. And I generally do my own just enough to not smell. On the weekends, all bets are off.  Sorry. Just being honest. As a result, my girl is pretty grimy. I've actually tried more to clean her than I have any other vehicle. At this point, service techs don't even bother to put down those little foot well paper mats. When I go in for oil changes, Jiffy Lube makes no effort to vaccuum or wipe the windows. I think they're just like "Why bother? You're just going to smut her up again next weekend."

So I want to change that. Despite my meager efforts to vacuum or remove stains, I just find that the carpet just trapped EVERYTHING. Mud never came fully out. Dog hair refused the power of the best shop vac I have in my arsenal (and I have like 5). And then for the plastics which need a judicious amount of soap, water and scrubbing, I always felt limited by not wanting to introduce that much water into a carpeted area with limited opportunities to air out.
 So I decided to again borrow a page from the jeep guys, and take on the drastic measure of divorcing myself from the carpet altogether. I'm thinking with the kid on the way, all I had to look forward to were ground up cheetos and spilled apple juice.
 I took photos throughout to try to document all of the attachment points. And then there was a point in the reassembly that I wanted to reference but none of the photos were at all helpful. With that in mind, I'm not even sure why I am bothering to post them.
 This was to remind me that the seatbelt latches have this little bungee keeper that prevents them from sliding down into the crevice. I only really observed it when I tried to remove the first part of the bench and the bungee denied me.
 Most of the split loom and definitely the liquid tite in this shot were my own additions. And this garbage needed to go.
 I spent a lot of time early on being apprehensive about removing parts of the truck for better access. So I basically temped things in and left it like it was suitable for permanent use. A lot of excess cabling doubled back on itself. A lot of experimental connection and routing approaches. Really just mess. It served a purpose for a while, but it was nothing I would have documented (and I generally didn't) as if it were a professional effort or something I was proud of. I needed power in the back of the truck. I found a path that was not likely to short and I ran it and hid the work.

I'm much more interested these days in getting it right and revising the things that worked..."OK" and making them better. For posterity, some of these photos will pretty much exemplify what not to do.
 Some dog food spilled down here and it was inaccessible to the shop vac and obscured from my vision. No longer a problem. I took the shot to show the connectors under the front passenger seat for the airbag sensor and some other stuff.

NOTE** If/when you disconnect these, you will get an airbag warning on your dash. I thought simply reconnecting when I'm done would resolve it. It does not. I found on clubfrontier what can be done by the home garage mechanic to reset it. Kind of the same deal you have to do to clear/check you Service Engine Soon. So I will attempt that some day this week and report back if it clears up.
 That box is where I ran power from the second battery way back in the toolbox back up front to a few accessories that I spliced into this junction box. The box sat awkwardly partly beneath the seat and partly exposed because the liquid tight was too long and stiff (just keep reading) to be bent back to fully obscure it. Again one of those things that 'worked' but I wasn't proud of. I scrawled a little label on the cover that read "Secret Government Technology". I have been asked about the technology a few times. This, thankfully, is gone.
 I stripped out the carpet painstakingly in the event that I encountered something so dreadful or unanticipated that would cause me to just give up on the whole plan. The closest I got to that was 1) the gap in the console from the body; 2) the strange glue patch pattern stuff; and 3) the routing of the air vents along the floor aimed at the rear of the cab.

1) The gap is livable and I'm fine with it. I also think it opens some options for concealing some wiring.
2) The glue stuff. I saw where a guy painstakingly ground all of it away. It was very hard, but the ends were brittle. There were also some portions where the center had cracked, but all of it was very well adhered. I thought it might do well as a traction aid once the bed liner was applied. In hindsight, I probably should have removed it. It has reacted with some of the solvents in the bedliner. It is, so far, still well adhered. However, its texture has changed. It is now a bit pliable and gives a little bit under pressure. Time will tell if it will hold up or will ultimately prove to be a regret. The one plus side is that it generally occurs in areas that would be covered by a floor mat.
3) The air vents don't bother me so much at this moment. There is one section where they are kind of in the foot area of the front passenger and driver. If they become too obnoxious, two quick screw/bolts and the floor portion can be unbolted and the ducting can just be allowed to blow into the center console.

I was surprised by how much padding there was incorporated in the carpeting to provide a level walking surface. It was some pretty high density stuff. I would not have otherwise known that there were vents underfoot or that there were so many changes of plane in the contours of the body.
 I saw this guy preparing to turn a corner when I was heading home from a Doctor's appointment Friday to resume work on the truck. I do take care of my healthcare. I had been at the dentist twice in the past two weeks and they took my pressure. It appeared to be high on both occasions. I set up a follow up with the primary care and all checked out good. But the episode allowed me to travel this road which I normally wouldn't and see this truck. I also saw a pretty well built Tacoma on a Landrover dealership (as a trade-in now offered for sale). I was going by too quickly to get a picture. They even put LandRover promotional tags on it. I thought that was a bit interesting. If I get by that way again, I may stop in for a closer look.
 Daytime shot on Friday of what she looks like completely stripped out. I kept the carpeting in tact. In the background is my little secondary circuit panel. I have removed it and am working on a more thought out plan for its new home.
 Masking everything off. If the work to prepare the nursery taught me anything, it is that my painting hand is not as steady as it once was (or not as steady as I once mistakenly believed it to have been). So I masked off. No shame in that. Besides, this stuff is less like painting and more like, "controlled glooping and spreading".
 I very much wanted to try the Monstaliner product that a lot of the Jeep guys rave about. I fully believe it is a superior product and they offer it in an assortment of tintable colors. It was also going to ring in at close to $400 bucks for the quantities that I thought I needed. And it is only available for ordering. There's no retail hub I can swing by to get more. So I decided to go with a product that is available off the shelf which could be replenished if I really ran short or needed to perform maintenance in the future. The product that fit the bill which could be found on a store shelf was the Rustoleum Truck Bed Liner. There is a Professional Grade kit which is a two-part epoxy that can be obtained from Walmart. I ultimately decided against that one as it states that it may need as long as 7 days to cure. I was able to locate the conventional duty product also by Rustoleum at Tractor Supply. I heard good things about Herculiner, but I had to order that from Lowes. I also liked that the Rustoleum product also could be supplemented by an aerosol touch up can. The spray cans are on the shelf at Home Depot. In my zip code, I could only get the gallon and quart quantities at Tractor Supply. So I went to TS and also picked up two cans there. The one closest to me, online, stated that quantities of the spray could not be confirmed. There were plenty when I arrived.

I was nervous initially when I bought the two gallons (at about $60 each) that the contents sounded too watery. I thought maybe the grit had settled and the oil was what I could hear sloshing around in such a watery way. I never got around to seeking out a drill powered mixer. So I smashed an old roller handle to liberate the stem and fed it into my drill bit. Instant mixer.
 By the time I had prepped the interior, it was nightfall. I also needed to get a jump on this because I had aspirations of potentially making it down to Richmond to catch the tail end of the Virginia Xterra Club mod days, or at least catch the front end of some celebratory pints thereafter. Sadly, my participation was not to be. But I did give it the college try by committing to applying the two coats throughout the night. The second coat went much faster. My neighbor came by at like 2am to talk to me. It actually was a good segue between the first coat and the delay that had to be observed prior to the second application.

 I was nervous because it was looking like a soupy, shiny mess and not the tough stuff I had been hoping for. But I decided to have faith.

 I napped out in the driveway in my wife's car so I could observe any shenanigans that might take place overnight while the doors were ajar to allow for the curing.
 At this point, the surface feels hard and dry to the touch. And you will have the false confidence that it has cured and you can use it. Do not. I misread the instructions and thought that it would reach working strength in 2-4 hours and full cure after a day. That was wrong. Maybe that's what I wanted to believe, but that is not what the words on the side of the can form to actually say.

It needs a minimum of 24 (twenty-four) hours to be ready for light service. More time is recommended.

My goofy @ss decides to go get breakfast for me and the wife. I put the driver seat in and it kinda knicks the stuff away as it is going in just a bit too readily. Then I think I should maybe put down a mat to prevent my heel from digging in too hard while driving. As I got out at the BK, my left foot had made a bit of a depression at some point when I was being inattentive. I realize it has not cured as hard as it seemed to the touch. I went to remove the mat and it tried to take some of the bedliner with it. My heart sank. All of this was for naught. My dreams of an impervious, cleanable surface were sacrificed in the names of thrift and convenience.

This, so far, has proved not to be the case. I just need to read.

 Upon reading, I decided to shift gears and work on the bed rack. I had aspirations of either calling it an Expedition Rack (TM)  or an Adventure Rack (TM). I then recognized that I have not truly gone on an expedition; that would be a bit of a misnomer. I have certainly adventured though. There is already something called that. So it is just my Trail Rack.

I took this pic (above)  'cause I thought it was kind of clever how I figured out how to use my light stand tripod and a clamp to make an adjustable brace to hold the assembly in place while I completed the tack welds.

 I called my Dad and invited him over because I drink beers when I do these things and he also drinks beer. He doesn't do any metal working, but he hangs out. On this occasion, I was actually down to my last Great Lakes beer. Dad did me a solid and picked up some MGD. Not my personal preference, but it'll do.
 I decided to incorporate the headache rack. Part of the decision was that I needed to provide some means of extending the support for the rear uprights out past the end of the bed a little bit and I wanted to have sufficient anchorage to support this slight cantilever. (Not a true instance of a cantilever, but close enough). Anyway, I had wanted some 3x3 angle, but the quotes I was getting for the metal were a bit higher than I had hoped in some regards. I liked it much better when I could get surplus iron works for free. Anyway, I decided that if I relied on the headache rack, I could regain the lengths reserved in my takeoffs for the front uprights and instead run along the length of the bed. I could then anchor the bar to the headache rack and the bed rails, and then anchor the toolboxes to the bar. That, in turn should be more than sufficientn for the slight cantilever towards the rear of the truck.
 So this was an unfortunate downside of the failed approach to mounting the Hi-Lift jack to the top of this tool box. When I went to undo all of that garbage, I found that it had fatigued the lid so badly that there were three distinct cracks radiating out from the mounting point and a half-dollar sized chunk of the metal actually fell out with the bolt as I was removing it. I am still not setup to weld aluminum, and thus, I do not have any around the house. So I took some of the sheet metal from the failed battery trays, and drilled and pop-riveted this into place for now.

I have a lot of failures it seems.

The other thing I tried to do as a part of reworking the toolboxes was to get rid of the vertical supports. I bolted together some of that slotted angle in the days where I did not yet have a welder. The back of the truck just looked very junkyard-ish as a result. Like I just assembled it with whatever spare parts were around. There is some definitely some truth that I do used things that are spare or available, but the idea is that it shouldn't look like I've been thrift shopping or salvaging EVERYTHING. So I searched online and thought of using some deck strapping to brace and 'lift' the rear and lower portions of the boxes. I also affixed the last usable portions of my 3x3 angle (literally the last 6 inches) and made angle supports at the underside of the rear portion of the boxes. I'll need to trail test this to see how it holds up. I'm excited for what appears to be reclaimed clear space along the floor of the bed to maybe stow a small cooler beneath one of the boxes. At worst, I can use an angled brace almost like what you would use to support the underside of a shelf towards the front end of the boxes over the wheel well. That would at least preserve some of this free-floating clearance that I tentatively have gained.  We will see.

 This is a success,I hope. Previously, I pretty much just had the HAM radio shoved up underneath the drivers seat with a SWR meter, an antenna switch (to switch between two dedicated HAM antennas- one quad band; one dual band) and some extra wiring from the remote head. Well, with some of the storage reclaimed in the toolbox by relocating the battery under the hood, some of the stuff I used to tuck back here can go in the toolbox. I decided to clean up this area and mount the radio here up high to keep it away from any water/cleaning solutions that might pool in the pan or in the event I encounter high water that floods the pan. This is a more professional arrangement that I think I can be proud of.

I didn't get to finish rerouting my auxiliary electrical. We went over to Steve's to visit him and the new addition to the family. No it is not this truck. It happened to be parked in his neighborhood. Funny thing is I mentioned it to Steve and he had already scoped the guy out and had planned on approaching him about whether he would do some wheeling. Great minds. Great minds.

So my to-do list is a bit long.

  • finish re-wiring of auxiliary electrical. Contemplating a new location for the fuse block. I'm limited to 10 feet worth of marine grade cabling I picked up assuming I would be entering the firewall from the passenger side. Also includes re-installing the inverter and reconnecting the rear winch to power. I can temp it together in a pinch, but, we are trying to get out of so much...pinching. 
  • start and finish the long-deferred in-cab controls for both winches. Sigh. Don't remind me. Actually someone probably should remind me.
  • figure out if I'm even interested in reworking the new PA speakers. The last ones drowned from repeated dunkings and one smashed to bits basically. I mounted them low to be discreet, but they will need to go higher. Possibly up on the Trail Rack. 

Actually I suppose there are lists, with an S

The wife got on me for neglecting some home duties. She got more stuff for the nursery which needed to be hung. My main apprehension is that I didn't want to take the time to do all of the measuring and triangulating after taking as long as I did this weekend doing the same thing essentially in a different environment. But to her point, if I can spend all of that time measuring and cutting and such, why can't I do that in the home? I had just gotten to a point where I thought all that needed to be done to that room was done, and I mentally and emotionally had moved on. It's also one of those things I feel like I can do even once the little guy gets here. I don't think I should be in the garage all day when there are shared duties that have to happen when he arrives. So that is why I was approaching this weekend and some of the other weekends prior in such earnest.

Men and women can see the same things but approach them differently, is all. I'm not sure I have any female readers in my audience. But if I do, know that there is sometimes a method to the seeming madness of men. Now go get me a beer :)

Until next time. I'll post some pics of the completed setup and how the bedliner is holding up.