New to off-road builds- a little help?

Joined
Jun 17, 2018
Messages
27
Location
Colorado
Hello, Mudders-

I’m new to the whole “building an off-road rig” thing. I’ve been attempting to research and learn, but still have questions. If anyone could help out/offer insight to the Noob, I would appreciate it! The knowledge base here appears rather impressive, so I am confident I'll get off on the right track!

1991 stock FJ80 w/ 3FE. I live in the San Juan mountains here in Colorado, and want to build a rig that will be comfortable and capable for doing the “standard” off-road trails such as Imogene Pass, etc. The plan for the rig is that it will see travel from home within a less than 100 mile radius; if I’m traveling further, it stays home. Slow and steady to/from the destination is OK. My initial plan for the build up is as follows:

* ARB front bumper and some style of rear bumper w/ tire carrier, etc.

* 2.5” OME lift kit (medium duty- can upgrade to heavy duty if the build develops into such things as winch, gear drawers, etc.) Other than the springs/shocks/steering damper are there other components that will need to be upgraded, like longer brake lines, other suspension parts, etc.?

* Add 16x33 wheel/tire package (should I plan on a gearing upgrade? Current stock is 15x31)

* Would like to attempt my own fab. of step-side/slider (need to practice my welding skills!)

* Speaking of welding skills, the exhaust system is just about shot from front to back. Are there any suppliers that offer pre-bent tubes, etc. specifically for my rig?

My background is that I have had a few automotive projects in the past- ‘66 Mustang restoration, 302 motor rebuild, ’89 Toy truck front end/front motor rebuild after deer mishap, and various other tinkering/mechanic projects. That is to say, I’m not totally unskilled, just not a huge gearhead. I do have a friend that is, however, so I can get some help from him from time to time.

The gearing thing has left me with questions- I don’t believe that the 33” tires will be a huge deal with the stock gears (4.11 should be upgraded to 4.56?), but if I decide to go to a 35” tire set, then it would be a necessity (upgrade to 4.88?). With the full time 4WD, would that require re-gearing both the front and rear axles at the same time? It seems logical…? Trying to plan, budget-wise…

Also the question of the air filter. It appears to me (living on a 3.5 mile gravel road to/from town) that the airflow directed from the front pass. fender is a crappy design, and sucks up WAY too much dust. Would a snorkel help this situation? It would seem logical that one would potentially pull much cleaner air… Any thoughts on this?

High altitude: (I know, I'm already screwed.) Living at 7000 ft and running the rig up to 11,000 or so, the fact is that engines have trouble breathing. Any timing advise or other tweaks I should know about?

Thank you all in advance for any reply posts.

Cheers!
 

Azca

 
Joined
Oct 25, 2007
Messages
1,092
Location
Surprise AZ.
Rather than re-gear the front and rear diffs, look into the 10% under drive gears and 25% low range reduction gears. Several vendors such a Marlin makes great stuff as does Cruiser Outfitters. Here is a link to a post that may help. TC gears vs diff ring/pinion for regear?

I have the 10% UD and 25% Low Range Marlin's sitting on a shelf now waiting for cooler weather. MUCH cheaper than diff re-gearing and, with 33s, I think this would be a no brainer for you.
 
Joined
Jun 17, 2018
Messages
27
Location
Colorado
Rather than re-gear the front and rear diffs, look into the 10% under drive gears and 25% low range reduction gears. Several vendors such a Marlin makes great stuff as does Cruiser Outfitters. Here is a link to a post that may help. TC gears vs diff ring/pinion for regear?

I have the 10% UD and 25% Low Range Marlin's sitting on a shelf now waiting for cooler weather. MUCH cheaper than diff re-gearing and, with 33s, I think this would be a no brainer for you.
Great info- Thank you!
 
Joined
Jan 6, 2012
Messages
7,143
I would install sliders and heavy duty skid plates first. I would also look into recovery gear so that you are prepared if you get stuck. Also never wheel with just one truck on the trail-especially if you are new at it. That should be enough to take it on some decent trails and as you learn to wheel you will see what mods you want to do next.
 

Corbet

Supporting Vendor
 
 
 
Joined
Oct 22, 2002
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4,317
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Durango, Colorado
Wheeling the San Juan’s is pretty easy. Other than Poughkeepsie the truck stock will do most everything else with some spotting.

So your plan of 2.5” and 33’s is a good one. The t-case gearing is a good option.

And ARB bumper is great for deer protection. But heavy. I’d look at some of the tube options or the Slee Short Bus. That 3FE does not need any extra weight.

I’d extend the brake lines. They are probably original anyway.

Snorkel will help with dust but I’ve found the OEM air cleaner better than average and have not done that yet personally.

Not familiar with bolt on exhaust for 3FE.

Building sliders is not real hard but for the time it takes us just buy some off the self units. Comes down to time.

Not much for power, just make sure it’s in good tune. Look up Bill’s Toy Shop in Farmington NM for help there depending on your location. He is the best around here by far.

And check out my Barriers ;)
 
Last edited:

-Spike-

 
Joined
May 26, 2005
Messages
7,235
Location
Phoenix
ARB front bumper is a bad choice IMO, especially for a small lift. They are bulky and will flex into the fenders.

33's aren't hugely different from stock, but your motor is not a powerhouse. I regeared to a lower than stock ratio and highly recommend it, especially if you don't plan on cruising at 90+ mph. The t-case gears are an intriguing option, but do your own price comparison. If you have to go through the axles anyway for maintenance reasons, the difference is negligible and you can also add lockers if you desire. The t-case gears are easier to do yourself though, and the install is less invasive than pulling both diffs. Yes, you will need to do both diffs at the same time or run with only one driveshaft until you complete the job if you choose to regear the diffs.

I'm a believer in DIY fabbing, especially sliders and bumpers. Save the suspension stuff for when you have the skills down pat. You do need to have adequate skills to weld up bumpers, as they are your recovery points and any failure could potentially injure someone. Sliders are about the least critical thing you can do, as long as you don't jack the truck up on them and get under it.

The stock air filter setup is very good, and dorkels are stupid. You may get varying opinions on that second statement. :flipoff2:

Gearing is your friend for overcoming altitude challenges.
 

Azca

 
Joined
Oct 25, 2007
Messages
1,092
Location
Surprise AZ.
The stock air filter setup is very good, and dorkels are stupid. You may get varying opinions on that second statement. :flipoff2:
Not sure if you are just a hater or envious :rolleyes:

I really agree with going with someone else when just starting out or even improving your skills. I have learned so much from going on just a couple club rides, it is incredible. Get with the local MUD group and go on several trips. These rigs are so capable, it is very easy to get yourself into trouble in a hurry. Especially if you are a bold person.

Again a solid recommendation for recovery gear. Also another good reason not to go it alone.

The ARB is a good looking unit but, as pointed out above, not the best choice out there. You can never go wrong with Slee and 4x4 Labs and, if you change your mind later, the resale market for these is also very good. Some of the tube bumpers out there are definitely worth looking at as well.

Probably the first thing to do is baseline the rig though. This includes the brake lines as listed above. You want to be reliable and on a 25 year old rig that means replacing anything that is rubber. So hoses, belts, gaskets etc. Also take a look at your wiring. There are suggested electrical spare parts to carry here on MUD. I can't recall the link though.
 
Joined
Jun 17, 2018
Messages
27
Location
Colorado
Thanks for the expedient replies, all.
I do have off-road driving experience in tough terrain with stock rigs, just no purpose built rig. As Corbet noted, the San Juans are pretty straight forward, and I have already been out there with my '89 Toy truck (nice products, by the way- gotta get the rig out on the trails first, though). Not being out there in the mountains alone is a basic, as far as I'm concerned; it doesn't matter if its hiking, skiing, biking or wheeling- big mountains deserve respect. I always want to come home safe and sound to sleep in my own bed at the end of the day! Not wanting to rough up my '89 Toy is part of the LC build. (was a garage queen, perfect interior, no oil leaks, and now shiny new paint after the %$@# deer incident!)

The reason for the ARB front bumper is 1st for the deer/elk issues we have over here, and that design provides the most protection while on the highway, passenger to driver sides. The weight issue is a problem, but the protection is key, as a front end rebuild gets expensive quickly. I have yet to see another design that provides that kind of protection coverage. Please let me know if I missed someone's bumper design in my research!
Luckily, the PO (original owner) did a LOT of work to the drive train prior to selling, nice receipts from the shop to verify. I have PSI washed the heck out of the underside of the beast, and only see a hint of oil suggesting that a rear main seal replacement will need to be done in the not-to-distant future. Most mechanical items are looking good, so I am pretty excited to start with the fun additions/mods!
Cheers!
 
Joined
Dec 17, 2007
Messages
3,420
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Sydney, Australia
The stock air filter setup is very good, and dorkels are stupid. You may get varying opinions on that second statement. :flipoff2:
Agree that a snorkel is not necessary.
2nd comment, I'll leave for the peanut gallery :hillbilly:

The Toyota filter housing design is very effective at separating dust from the air stream.
Use OEM filter elements, they are far superior to aftermarket filters, they can be washed out and blown dry for re-use a couple of times, or keep a spare and alternate the filter when you wash it.

Sliders and lockers, and good tyres, lift later if you decide you "need" it. (most of Ih8mud has already decided you can't possibly leave the mall with out 4"lift and 37s)
 

chap79

Wheel. Break. Fix. Repeat.
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Kansas City, MO
For bullbar protection I would try and get an AOE or an old Cruisin Off Road. Way more stout than the ARB and will help deflect Bambi under the tires vice up in the windshield.
 

baldilocks

Battle Ground, WA
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Jan 29, 2014
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Welcome to Mud. It’s a great forum that has tons of information already archived. Asking your own questions may or may not be the best route to the info you are seeking but it’s always an option.

Doing a smaller 2.5” lift keeps things simple and less expensive. I suggest using castor correction plates for a 2-3” lift rather than castor correction bushings that will fall apart.

Mathematically, 4.10’s are appropriate with 33”, 4.56 with 35’s and 4.88’s with 37’s. This will keep your speedo and odometer working quite accurately.

However, 4.56 doesn’t seem to be a popular ratio here on Mud and 4.88’s with 35’s is more the norm among those who have re-geared the diffs.

I went with 4.88 when I was sure I would never go bigger than a 35” tire. My speedo was off by nearly 10% at highway speed. I have since stepped up to 37’s. Now, my speedo/odometer is quite accurate but the truck lost a little pep, nothing major, but noticeable. I leave my tranny etc button engaged 100% of the time and let the motor rev to where it actually starts putting out some power/torque.
 

subzali

 
Joined
Jan 31, 2005
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Denver CO
My two cents. The ARB really isn’t that heavy, and you’re not cruising interstates in that part of the state anyway. I would do without a rear bumper until you tear into your OEM one and then upgrade. On an 80 I really think you need sliders first.

Same with the air filter, don’t judge it harshly until you’ve given it time. You might be surprised on how long you can go between changes. See how often the filter needs changing first, heck even try a filter minder. Unless you just want a snorkel anyway.
 
Joined
Feb 4, 2016
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Broomfield, Colorado
Hey,
This is my 4th summer with my Cruiser. I live in Colorado as well, and have wheeled my truck all over. Here was my order of upgrades:
1st summer Baseline
1st summer 33" MTR
2nd and 3rd summer 2.5" OME
2nd and 3rd summer Slee Sliders
This summer Harrop Locker
This summer Switch OME springs with stock and 3/4" spacer front, 1" spacer rear.

I've run trails all over Colorado including your neck of the woods. Without a doubt, the locker has been the best upgrade for Capability. I found myself needing locker way more than needing lift. You being local, I'm sure you know more of the area than me, but the week I spent in Ouray, I ran all the big name trails in the area stock with the 33" tires and never had anything close to a challenge to the truck. The challenge to my fear of heights, oh ya. Keep it light and simple, add a locker and you should be fine doing most of Colorado.
 

dogfishlake

Go on a living spree
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greenville mi
Welcome to mud :flipoff2:! Great comments above. My .02 is that since you know your way around wheeling and you live where you do, keep it cheap and simple and build as you learn. There are more awesome people here than just about anywhere so take your time and just keep learning. Pretty much 33's and sliders will get you most anywhere in an 80. Let experience, time, and mud reading guide you from there.

Good luck. Will be in the San Juans in a few weeks!
 
Joined
Feb 8, 2015
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Eastern Washington
Since no one has addressed the exhaust system there is/was a vendor that was selling a kit for the 80's here on Mud. I looked at them a few months ago and now cannot find it again for the life of me. Looked really nice, with heavy wall stainless but it was priced accordingly. Was a bolt on affair so no welding needed.

I've not seen a weld it together kit specifically for the 80 though I was able to piece one together with a stainless steel rod builder kit from summit racing. I had to cut some of the bends to make what I wanted but it had all of the pieces I needed to make a new system that went over the frame rails rather than under. Can see some pictures of how it came out in my thread 40th Family Wheeler.

A possibly better option is take your rig to your local custom exhaust guy and have them build you a new system. To be flat honest I don't think I saved all that much building mine myself but I really wanted to try it at least once. Plus I needed a reason to fire up my new TIG welder or the wife was gonna start asking why I needed it in the first place...
 
Joined
Jun 17, 2018
Messages
27
Location
Colorado
Since no one has addressed the exhaust system there is/was a vendor that was selling a kit for the 80's here on Mud. I looked at them a few months ago and now cannot find it again for the life of me. Looked really nice, with heavy wall stainless but it was priced accordingly. Was a bolt on affair so no welding needed.

I've not seen a weld it together kit specifically for the 80 though I was able to piece one together with a stainless steel rod builder kit from summit racing. I had to cut some of the bends to make what I wanted but it had all of the pieces I needed to make a new system that went over the frame rails rather than under. Can see some pictures of how it came out in my thread 40th Family Wheeler.

A possibly better option is take your rig to your local custom exhaust guy and have them build you a new system. To be flat honest I don't think I saved all that much building mine myself but I really wanted to try it at least once. Plus I needed a reason to fire up my new TIG welder or the wife was gonna start asking why I needed it in the first place...
Thx for the reply- I have tried to contact two different shops in my area- the 1st shop had someone that had no idea what she was doing and I cut that conversation short... Figured, "try a local 4x4 shop!" Wrong! Had a 15 min. conversation with someone who was supposed to get back to me... waited 4 days and called back. Different 'owner' on the phone, no idea who I was or what was supposed to be happening! One and a half weeks later, still no call back. I guess it is nice to be swimming in so much work that you can ignore customers calling in to GIVE YOU WORK. Enough of this BS. If anyone knows of a good shop in Durango, Grand Junction, Denver area... I'll make time to make a trip over to anyone that understands what customer service is.
 
Joined
Apr 23, 2005
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2,521
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Oregon
And ARB bumper is great for deer protection. But heavy.
I bought a rig that came with an ARB bumper. I took it off to mount my winch. The ARB bumper is not heavy at all. One of my sliders weighs more that that thing. IMHO, it is not designed for wheeling. And being so thin, I doubt it would come out unscathed in a confrontation with a deer.

For me, if you're going to wheel your rig, sliders are #1 item and a skid plate is #2. JMHO.
 
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