My base vehicle was a stock new 2005 Toyota 4Runner 4x4, SR5 model. My intent was not to modify the vehicle in some way that would negate the OEM warranty or be so irreversible as to ruin the resale value. The latter never really was an issue because nine years later I am still driving my 4Runner. I am currently at 189,000 miles and I fully expect to pass 200,000 miles without an issue.
What I desired was a very reliable overland vehicle that would easily traverse rough roads or uneven terrain where a paved or graded dirt road did not exist. I can divide the design approach into these 5 categories:
- Exterior - cargo rack, skid plates, sliders, tires
- Interior - lighting, mats
- Systems - GPS, comms, air compressor, dual batteries, Engel Fridge, DC power outlets
- Suspension - coilovers, rear shocks & springs, Lower Control Arms (LCAs)
- Drivetrain - rear air locker, cyclone air cleaner, extended rear axle breather
The stock Toyota roof top cargo rack is adequate for loads up to 150 pounds total. If you add any sort of type of aftermarket cargo basket you must deduct the weight of that basket from the total. Those big & burly "macho" steel baskets from various companies look great but at 80 to 100 pounds you cannot safely load up the rack full of gear. For a while I had a Thule aluminum rack that weighed maybe 30 pounds but had limited space. Also note that the 4Runner has only 4 points of attachment for the roof rack and 6 points would better distribute any load over the roof.
After trying the Thule rack I installed an African Outback all-aluminum rack; a big and strong platform that weighs less than 60 pounds with 6 points of attachment to the roof and a versatile system of tie-down points for cargo. Here is a picture showing how it can be loaded for an extended trip. When I am not off-roading the rack is easily removed to help keep my MPGs reasonable.
The Toyota running boards are nice for high heeled ladies to climb into the 4Runner but they will be damaged during any serious offroading. A more useful addition are "sliders" which are heavy wall steel tubes that are bolter directly to the frame. They not only protect the 4Runner's body but can support the weight of the vehicle as you literally slide on them across large rocks. The sliders also offer strong points to lift the vehicle with a Hi-Lift jack.
I've chosen a slightly larger than OEM size tire: LT265/75/R16 load range C. Light truck tires are much better than P-metric and this size provides 1/2" more lift to the vehicle when new. The tougher and taller sidewalls are an advantage when airing down. Up until now I have run Bridgestone Revo all-season tires but I recently switched to a tire that best fits between the categories of All-Terrain (A/T) and Mud Terrain (M/T). The center lugs are like an A/T but the outer lugs are designed like an M/T. They are made by Goodyear and are the Duratrac model. So far they are good on pavement with only slightly increased noise and on a recent trip in Utah they were excellent in rocks and sand, even while towing my trailer.
My Expedition Trailer
This is the trailer when I first bought it in 2010 and it had giant tires and rims, no awning, no backup lights and other minor problems that I eventually corrected.
This trailer is a one-off built by a company that went out of business. Lots of companies out there sell similar designs so mine is not truly unique in size of design. However, I have improved upon the original platform by improving the wiring, correcting mistakes, adding in new features such as a Fiamma awning and powerful LED back-up lights.
One recent project was to replace the two straps that hold down the roof top tent (RTT) cover. They are to help prevent the cover from ballooning up due to pressurized air from the truck's slipstream while at speed. Besides having deteriorated two straps were not enough as the area of the cover over the ladder would balloon up six to ten inches. So I purchased new 2" wide straps and made new retaining plates for the ends.
Lock & Roll Hitch Failure
I believe that the more aggressive tires will shed mud more easily and eliminate this issue but the drought in California is not providing any usable test conditions.
Trailer Batteries & Solar Charging