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Steve – Pacific Northwest Backroad Adventures http://www.pnwadventures.com Vehicle Dependent Overland Touring, Backroad Explorations and Outdoor Recreation Thu, 17 Nov 2016 03:54:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Lower Hood Canal Tour – 5.12.07 http://www.pnwadventures.com/adventures/lower-hood-canal-tour/ Wed, 16 May 2007 02:22:52 +0000 http://www.pnwadventures.com/?p=43 I’ve traveled along Hood Canal before, though only along Highway 106 and Highway 101. Looking across Hood Canal to the Kitsap Peninsula from the South or West, the other side of Hood Canal seemed a little less developed (as far … Continued

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Belfair State Park, Washington I’ve traveled along Hood Canal before, though only along Highway 106 and Highway 101. Looking across Hood Canal to the Kitsap Peninsula from the South or West, the other side of Hood Canal seemed a little less developed (as far as waterfront houses are concerned). Also, looking a at map of the area, there was actually primitive roads that appeared to follow the shoreline. This all added up to a day of exploring the lower Hood Canal side of the lower Kitsap Peninsula.

Belfair State Park, Washington We started our tour at the end of Hood Canal in Belfair, Washington (the last services along the way). From Highway 3, we followed the signs for Highway 300 West (also known as North Shore Road). Once we left Belfair, we started seeing the wetlands where the Union River empties into Hood Canal.

At approximately 3 miles from Belfair is the Belfair State Park. This was our first stop to let the dog out and stretch our legs. The time we arrived coincided with the low tide which allowed some great beach roaming time. It also allowed me time to start trying to learn how to use my new Nikon D80 camera.

Menards Landing Park, Washington The scenic North Shore Road follows the waterfront for approximately 16 miles, passing through the community of Tahuya, Washington along the way. At about 19 miles from Belfair is the Menard’s Landing County Park where the Rendsland Creek empties into Hood Canal. Although small in size, this park is another great place to stop wander around the shoreline. In addition the the great views of Hood Canal, there are views of the snow-capped Olympic Mountains (on a clear day of course). Amenities at the park include a small boat launch for hand carried boats (canoe, kayak, raft), a covered gazebo, picnic areas and the all important sani-can.

Menards Landing Park, Washington Immediately after Menard’s Landing, the road narrows down to almost a one lane road as it climbs from the shoreline onto the bluffs above Hood Canal. After approximately one mile, the road turns to gravel and continues to wind around the bluffs of the East shore of Hood Canal. This section of road is primarily through the forest with intermittent views of Hood Canal and the Olympic Mountains.

After about six miles of gravel road, we reached the paved road and NE Dewatto Rd where we took a left toward Hood Canal. A short distance is the Dewatto-Holly Road. We took a left toward Dewatto.

The area known as Dewatto, Washington is now only a small community of homes, most not visible from the short road that leads to the area. At one time, the community had a store, a post office and it’s own school, none which exists today.

Dewatto, Washington The area also has it’s own port district known as the Port of Dewatto (formed in 1927). The Port of Dewatto also maintains a boat launch and a public campground which was our next stop along the way.

From the Dewatto area, we followed the Dewatto-Holly Road overland to the community of Holly, Washington. Holly is a remote, small waterfront residential community of approximately 60 homes with no commercial establishment or services.

Scenic Beach State Park, Washington After our quick visit of Holly, we turned around and followed the Seabeck-Holly Road to the Scenic Beach State Park which was our next stop. Scenic Beach State Park is a relatively small beach front park along Hood Canal. We found great views of Hood Canal, Dabob Bay (to the North) and the Toandos Peninsula (also to the North). There are views of the Olympic Mountains (only the foothills were visible at the time we visited because the clouds rolled in during the day).

Rhododendron At this point in the trip, it was already late afternoon, so after our visit to Scenic Beach State Park, it was time to head home. We followed the Seabeck Highway through the community of Seabeck, Washington (the first commercial establishments we seen since leaving Belfair) then to Bremerton to complete our tour of Hood Canal on the Kitsap Peninsula.

Additional photos from this trip can be found at Lower Hood Canal Tour.

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Troubleshooting the Toyota FJ80 Land Cruiser Center Diff Lock (CDL) http://www.pnwadventures.com/vehicles/toyota-fj80-landcruiser-cdl-troubleshooting/ Sun, 26 Nov 2006 14:00:59 +0000 http://pnwadventures.com/blog/?p=6 When I purchased my 1992 Toyota FJ80 Land Cruiser, the previous owner informed me that the four wheel drive system did not work. I knew the transfer case was a rebuilt unit so I figured it would be something simple … Continued

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Toyota FJ80 Land Cruiser

When I purchased my 1992 Toyota FJ80 Land Cruiser, the previous owner informed me that the four wheel drive system did not work. I knew the transfer case was a rebuilt unit so I figured it would be something simple such as a switch or a relay. Little did I know that I would spend hours trying to troubleshoot the problem. Hopefully this article will walk you through all the diagnostics needed to check the complete center diff lock (CDL) electrical system so you can figure out the problem much faster than I did.

You might ask, why did you spend hours diagnosing the problem? My answer is, I don’t like to spend money replacing parts when the part being replaced was not the problem. I’ve been a victim of paying people to do just that. Never again.

As in all repairs on the Land Cruiser, you should purchase the factory Toyota Repair Manual and the Toyota Electrical Wiring Diagram for your specific year of vehicle (order the factory manuals at techinfo.toyota.com). A Chilton’s or similar service manual won’t cut it when you are diagnosing specific issues. Invest the money in the factory manuals. It’s worth it if you (or your mechanic) does any diagnostics or repairs on your Land Cruiser. Purchasing the correct manual will pay off only after a few repairs because you will be diagnosing problems and not throwing parts at the problem until it is fixed. The reference for this article was the USA version for 1992 model year Toyota Land Cruiser. Even though there are similarities between all 80-series, there are differences between the various years of Land Cruisers and world markets so be aware of this when making repairs to your Land Cruiser.

Toyota Repair Manual

The factory service manual is not the end all of diagnosing your FJ80 Land Cruiser. Experience (or the experience of others) is a valuable asset to have when diagnosing problems on your vehicle. One of the best online resources that fills in the blanks where the Toyota factory manual leaves off is the 80-series on ih8mud.com. I think I would still be scratching my head over the CDL if it had not been for the wisdom contained on the 80-series forum on ih8mud.

In order to make any repairs to the CDL, its a good idea to learn a little how the CDL system works on the 80-series Land Cruiser. I’ll try to use the terminology used in the Toyota Land Cruiser factory service manual (1992 model year).

The 80-series Land Cruiser Center Differential System

As you probably already know, the FJ80 Land Cruiser is a full-time four wheel drive (4WD) system that is equipped with a mechanical lock type center differential system. With the CDL unlocked (normal driving), the open center differential (transfer case) allows the driveshafts to turn at different speeds so when you are turning on a hard surface there is no binding. When you engage (lock) your CDL, it splits the power 50/50 to the front and rear driveshafts regardless of the surface you’re driving on or if you are turning. For a detailed explanation on how your 4WD system works, see Diffs for Dummies.

Toyota FJ80 Land Cruiser Center Diff Lock (CDL) Switch
Toyota FJ80 Land Cruiser Center Diff Lock (CDL) Switch

In the passenger compartment, within reach of the driver, the CDL components you see include the instrument panel 4WD Indicator Light, the Center Differential Lock Switch (stock only on 3FE powered 80-series in the US but can easily be added to 93-97 models) and Transfer Case Select Lever.

The other components of the CDL system include the Center Diff Lock Control Relay, the 4WD Indicator Switch, the Transfer Neutral Position Switch, the Transfer L4 Position Switch and the Transfer Control Motor Actuator.

The brain of the system is the Center Diff Lock Control Relay which is located inside the vehicle on the driver’s side kick panel. My relay was labled Transmission Relay. Without this relay, you will not be able to engage the 4WD from your cab.

Toyota FJ80 Land Cruiser Center Diff Lock Control Relay
Toyota FJ80 Land Cruiser Center Diff Lock Control Relay

Refer to the wiring diagram to follow along.

Power to the CDL relay is sent from three separate sources. The first power source (Terminal 3 on the relay) is from the 30 amp fuse in the dash fuse box labeld “Diff”. This power source should be hot at all times the ignition is on. Within the CDL relay, this power is sent to two small internal relays – normally in the closed position. Input from the two switches described below will change the polarity to the Transfer Control Motor Actuator. The reversal of polarity on the actuator is what engages and disengages the transfer case.

The second power source (Terminal 7 on the relay) is from the Transfer L4 Position Switch (located on the top rear housing of the transfer case – right side). The Transfer L4 Position Switch receives its power from the 10 amp fuse located inside the passenger compartment fuse panel and labeled “Gauge”. When you shift your Transfer Case Select Lever into low range, the L4 switch sends a signal to the CDL relay which first overrides the input from the Center Diff Lock Dash Switch and then closes an internal relay and sends 12 volts from Terminal 1 of the relay through the harness to Terminal 3 of the actuator motor which engages the center diff lock (transfer case) into 4WD. If you have the Center Diff Lock Switch, you can disconnect this wire from the relay in order to have true manual control over the CDL. See Center Differential Lock Pin 7 Mod for specific instructions on this modification.

Toyota FJ80 land Cruiser Transfer L4 Position Switch
Toyota FJ80 land Cruiser Transfer L4 Position Switch

The third power source for the CDL relay comes from the Center Diff Lock Dash Switch. Power to the switch is from the same 10 amp fuse previously mentioned. When the switch is on (CDL engaged), you will have 12 volt to Terminal 6 of the CDL relay. When the switch is off, there will be 12 volts to Terminal 9 of the CDL relay. Turning the switch on sends 12 volts from Terminal 1 of the relay through the harness to Terminal 3 of the actuator motor. Turning the switch off sends 12 volts (reversing the polarity) from Terminal 4 of the relay through the harness to Terminal 2 of the actuator motor. Unless you made the Pin 7 mod described above, this switch only engages the CDL when the center diff is in high range.

When you enage the CDL, either through the Center Diff Lock Dash Switch or through the 4 low range shift lever, the 4WD Indicator Switch (located on the front housing of your transfer case) is activated and provides a signal to the 4WD indicator light on your instrument panel. There is also a Transfer Neutral Position Switch (located next to the Transfer L4 Position Switch – drivers side) that provides a signal to the A/T indicator light on your instrument panel to tell the driver that the transfer case is in neutral.

Factory Service Manual Center Differential Lock Diagnostics

The first diagnostics outlined are from the Toyota Factory Service Manual (FSM). After that I will discuss what Toyota left out of the FSM.

If you’re at this point, you’ve probably realized that the DIFF LOCK indicator light on the instrument cluster does not light up when you turn on the CDL switch or when you shift into 4L.

Before going too far in the diagnostics, some people actually have luck by only exercising the CDL (by shifting into and out of four wheel drive) a few times to unstick the CDL. Of course, you need to make sure that the two fuses that provide power to the CDL circuit are in working condition. (Note to self – probably a good thing to carry as a spare.)

There are two tests that can be conducted to see if it is truly not working. First, find a gravel parking lot that you can turn tight circles in and make a full locked turn to the left. When the CDL is engaged and locked, you will notice that the rear tires are slipping as the rear axle follows a smaller arc than the front wheels. You will also notice a difference in the steering and a larger turning radius. If this is not the results, the CDL may not be working correctly.

The next test is outlined in the FSM. With your rear wheels chocked, your transmission in neutral, your transfer case lever in high range and your CDL switch off, jack up your right front wheel off the ground. If the CDL is not engaged, this wheel should spin freely. Next, engage your CDL dash switch or shift into 4L. With the transmission in neutral, you will not be able to rotate the lifted wheel when the CDL is engaged. If the CDL does not engage, further diagnostics are required.

To proceed with the following diagnostic tests, you will need a multimeter that reads DC voltage, resistance and continuity. I also recommend that you make a couple of test wires with alligator clips at each end. I made one wire red and the other wire black (negative and positive reference). You should also pick up a couple of standard size paperclips, a fresh 9 volt battery or two and some dielectric grease.

The FSM only outlines three tests. I will add a few more later.

The first inspection from the FSM is for the Center Differential Lock Control Relay. This is the relay that is located on the drivers side kick panel. In order to test the relay, remove the mounting nut with a 10 mm socket and then disconnect the relay from the harness. The FSM shows several continuity tests, with and without voltage applied to the relay.

With NO voltage applied to the CDL Relay, there should be continuity between Terminals 1 and 2 and Terminals 2 and 4. Between Terminals 6/7 there is a diode that only allows for continuity in one direction. If you don’t get continuity the first time between Terminals 6/7, reverse positive and negative leads and check continuity again.

Testing the Toyota FJ80 Land Cruiser Center Diff Lock Control Relay
Testing the Toyota FJ80 Land Cruiser Center Diff Lock Control Relay

Using your 9 volt battery and your positive and negative test leads, apply battery voltage to the CDL relay terminals as follows:

Positive to 6 / Negative to 5 = Continuity 1/3, No Continuity 1/2
Positive to 7 / Negative to 2 = No Continuity 9/10
Positive to 9 / Negative to 10 = Continuity 3/4, No Continuity 2/4

The FSM states “If continuity is not as specified, replace the relay”. The only test I disagree with the FSM is the continuity test between 6/7. If there is no continuity, even when reversing the polarity, it simply means that you cannot engage the CDL when you shift into 4L. If you have the CDL dash switch, this is your 7 Pin Mod already done. This is the case on my ’92 FJ80. Now for the later 80-series models without the CDL switch, this could be a problem. Just don’t run out and purchase a replacement CDL relay, buy the CDL dash switch instead. The CDL dash switch is much less expensive than the CDL relay.

Testing the Toyota FJ80 Center Diff Lock Switch
Testing the Toyota FJ80 Center Diff Lock Switch

Another test outlined in the FSM is the test for the CDL Dash Switch. Just pop out the switch from the dash and disconnect from the harness. With the CDL switch in the “OFF” position, there will be continuity between terminals 7/10. In the “ON” position, there will be continuity between terminals 7/10. If continuity is not as specified, replace the switch. I haven’t verified it, I did read somewhere that the 4-way flasher switch could be swapped in and used as a CDL switch.

The final FSM test for the CDL system is to inspect the Actuator motor. Using an ohmmeter, first measure the resistance between terminals 2 and 3. The standard resistance is between 0.3 and 100 ohms. Next measure the resistance between terminals 2 and 3 and body ground. Standard resistance should be more than 0.5 M ohm. If resistance is not as specified, replace the motor actuator.

Toyota FJ80 Center Diff Lock Actuator motor and 4WD Indicator Switch
Toyota FJ80 Center Diff Lock Actuator Motor and 4WD Indicator Switch

What the Factory Service Manual Doesn’t Tell You

The previous CDL tests are all that’s outlined in the FSM. The following CDL diagnostics are not in the FSM and are summary of various resources found on the Internet.

Test DIFF LOCK Indicator Light and 4WD Indicator Switch

The DIFF LOCK indicator light not working (when the CDL switch is on or when shifted into 4L) may be that either the dash light is burnt out or the 4WD Indicator Switch is defective. To test, with a paperclip in hand, crawl under the right side of your Land Cruiser and locate the 4WD Indicator Switch. The 4WD Indicator switch is located on the top front housing of the transfer case. Remove the harness from the switch and jump the terminals on the harness with the paperclip. With your ignition in the ON position, your DIFF LOCK indicator light should light up. If the DIFF LOCK indicator does not come on, you most likely have a bad bulb and it will need replaced. If the bulb is fine, you will need to remove the 4WD Indicator Switch and either free it up or replace it. I would first try to exercise, lubricate and test the switch before replacing it. Once the switch is removed, place the switch in a vise. Check the continuity between the terminals. When the switch is open, there should be no continuity and of course when closed (depressed) there will be continuity. If the switch is sticky, use some WD40 to clean and exercise the switch. This may or may not work but is worth a try before spending money on a new switch.

Toyota FJ80 Land Cruiser 4WD Indicator Switch
Toyota FJ80 Land Cruiser 4WD Indicator Switch

Test L4 Switch

The L4 switch is located on the top rear of the transfer case, right side (passenger side in the US). It appears to be the same switch as the 4WD Indicator Switch. If you remove the harness from the switch and use a paperclip to jump the harness, with your ignition switch ON, this test simulates shifting your transfer case into 4L and should power your actuator motor.

Test Actuator Motor

To test the actuator motor, arm yourself with a fresh 9 volt battery (do not use any higher voltage) and your test leads and crawl under the right side of your land Cruiser and locate the actuator motor. Disconnect the actuator motor from the harness. Locate terminals 2 and 3 and attach the positive lead to terminal 3 and the negative lead to terminal 2 of the actuator motor. With voltage applied, you should hear the actuator motor run for a few seconds and stop, engaging the CDL. You will unlock the CDL by reversing the polarity on terminals 2 and 3. If the motor does not operate with voltage applied, it’s most likely that the actuator motor is stuck.

Lowering the Toyota FJ80 Land Cruiser Transfer Case
Lowering the Toyota FJ80 Land Cruiser Transfer Case

The actuator motor can be removed while the transfer case is still in the vehicle. The trick is to get some long bolts to insert between the cross member and frame rail that allows the transfer case to be lowered. Once the transfer case is lowered, remove the breather hose and the four bolts that attach the actuator motor to the transfer case. You will most likely have to pry the motor off the transfer case.

The Toyota FJ80 Center Diff Lock Actuator Motor Removed from the Vehicle
The Toyota FJ80 Center Diff Lock Actuator Motor Removed from the Vehicle

Some people have luck cleaning up and re-lubing the actuator motor. I wasn’t so lucky. My actuator motor was fried and needed replaced. So back into the Land Cruiser and order a replacement. I was able to locate a used actuator motor for a fraction of the cost of a new unit. Once the replacement actuator motor was installed, it worked like a charm.


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Changing Drive Belts on a 3FE Powered Toyota FJ80 Land Cruiser http://www.pnwadventures.com/vehicles/changing-drive-belts-on-3fe-toyota-fj80-landcruiser/ Sun, 29 Oct 2006 02:44:37 +0000 http://www.pnwadventures.com/?p=57 After only having my Land Cruiser for about three weeks, I had had my first equipment failure – the number three belt that powers the air conditioning unit broke (the belt closest to the engine). Normally, I replace belts on … Continued

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After only having my Land Cruiser for about three weeks, I had had my first equipment failure – the number three belt that powers the air conditioning unit broke (the belt closest to the engine).

Normally, I replace belts on a regular basis and use the existing belts as spares in case of a failure, however this time around they looked in good shape so I waited. Luckily, it was only for the air conditioning pump and I wasn’t far from home on some back road adventure.

Since I haven’t done my research to find out the best belts to purchase (probably Toyota OEM) and because I wanted to get the project done as soon as possible, I visited my local auto parts store and purchased the needed belt. While there, I asked for the price and availability of the other two belts and found out that they only stocked the belt I needed and that one belt was available from the warehouse and the other is a four day order. The local availability of the other belts confirmed the need to have a full set of spare belts while traveling, especially if you need to rely on a small town auto parts store for a replacement.

Now I know this article isn’t an advanced tech subject. Most of you that work on vehicles on a regular basis don’t need a tutorial on how to change your belts. This article is for the person that may have limited experience and would like to tackle a small project to save money or learn more about their Toyota Land Cruiser.

On a 3FE-powered Toyota FJ80 Landcruiser (and probably also a FJ62), there are three separate belts that power your engine driven accessories. The first belt (closest to the radiator) spins your power steering pump, air pump and alternator. The second (middle) belt spins your water pump and alternator while the third belt (closest to engine) spins your air conditioning unit. Unless you are replacing the first belt, you will need to remove all belts in front of the belt you are replacing.

Before proceeding, I recommend that you make a drawing of the pulleys and the belts so you have record of how the belts are installed.

As in most cases, an automotive repair job is much easier if you have knowledge of where all fasteners are located. In this case, you have to spend a few minutes looking around at each component to determine what bolts need to be loosened to allow the belts to be removed. This article will provide tips to speed up your time frame for completion.


Removal of the first belt is pretty straightforward. You have the choice to loosen either adjustment pulley directly beneath the power steering pump or simply loosen the power steering pump itself. Since the power steering pump is on top and easy to access, I loosened it. All you need is a 14 mm box end wrench to loosen the pivot bolt (on right side of power steering pump when facing the engine) and the tension adjustment bolt one left side of the pump (where the slotted bracket is located). If you are simply making access to another belt, remove from the belt from the pulleys and just push the belt to the side. If replacing, you will need to slide the belt over the cooling fan.


The second or middle belt is a little more of a challenge, simply because of the lack of access. The tension adjustment for the belt is made via the alternator. On the bottom of the alternator, on the backside near the drivers’ side motor mount, there is a bolt that the alternator pivots on while adjusting the belt tension that needs to be loosened. Since there is minimal space to access the bolt from above, I used a 14 mm socket, extension and ratchet and accessed the bolt from below (next to inside frame rail and over motor mount). Toyota3FE_alternator_bracket.JPGNext I loosened the bolt on the front of the alternator that slides in the slot in the alternator bracket using a 12 mm wrench. As you are facing the alternator, on the right side, there is an addition bolt that allows you to adjust and hold the tension of the belt. Using a 12 mm socket, loosen this bolt to relieve the tension on the belt. Remove or push the belt to the side as needed.

The third belt (closest to the engine) is removed by loosening a pulley that is directly underneath the air conditioning pump. First you will need to loosen the center nut of the pulley to allow for adjustment. Next, using a 12 mm socket, extension and ratchet, access the adjustment bolt for the pulley through the passenger side wheel well, between the frame rail and inner fender. Replace the belt as needed.

Assembly is in reverse of the above order. Adjust the belts to factory specs. You should be good to go for a while. Toyota calls for inspection every 15,000 miles. Personally, I like to change the belts on a minimum of a 2 year or 15,000 mile basis. Something so simple can ruin a day of fun.

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Toyota FJ80 3FE http://www.pnwadventures.com/vehicles/toyota-fj80-landcruiser-3fe-resources/ Sat, 21 Oct 2006 02:42:28 +0000 http://www.pnwadventures.com/?p=55 After owning a 3FE powered FJ80 Land Cruiser for a short period of time, I realized there is not much vendor support or even information on the Internet regarding our unique Land Cruisers. I guess with only about 15,000 imported … Continued

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Toyota Land Cruiser FJ80 After owning a 3FE powered FJ80 Land Cruiser for a short period of time, I realized there is not much vendor support or even information on the Internet regarding our unique Land Cruisers. I guess with only about 15,000 imported into the US, there’s not much of a market to cater to.

I know we have a less powerful engine, we don’t have full-floating axles, we don’t have rear disk brakes or factory lockers. Even though we don’t have all the desired options on a FZJ80, we have the reliability of a mighty 3FE engine. No worries about cooling problems, no head gasket problems, no pesky heater hose, no timing chain, less electronics and the list goes on.

In my opinion, our 3FE powered Toyota FJ80 Landcruisers are the best expedition vehicle for remote travel. Why should I be in a hurry to get any where? Its a 3FE state of mind.

Just for us 3FE powered 80-series Toyota Landcruiser owners, I’m assembling a list of resources that pertain specifically to our mighty vehicles. If you have a resource that should be included, be sure to send me an email so I can post it here.

My Toyota FJ80 Land Cruiser Expedition Build Articles

My Toyota FJ80 Land Cruiser Repair and Maintenance Articles

Toyota Land Cruiser FJ80 3FE Resources

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My New Toyota FJ80 Landcruiser http://www.pnwadventures.com/vehicles/toyota-fj80-landcruiser/ Thu, 12 Oct 2006 02:49:50 +0000 http://www.pnwadventures.com/?p=61 After a several week search, I purchased a 1992 Toyota FJ80 Landcruiser from a private party. I know it’s not a FZJ, but I was able to pay for it with cash from the sale of my Jeep Wrangler and … Continued

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After a several week search, I purchased a 1992 Toyota FJ80 Landcruiser from a private party. I know it’s not a FZJ, but I was able to pay for it with cash from the sale of my Jeep Wrangler and still have a little left over for some improvements.

The person I purchased the Landcruiser from had put over $10,000 in repairs over the past three years, including rebuilding of the transmission and transfer case, new exhaust, tires and much more not to mention all the required preventative maintenance. ToyotaLandcruiser.JPGThe only real repairs that I need to make is track down why the central diff lock is not working, fix the drivers power window, and fix the power antenna.

The Landcruiser is completely stock and sports 31×10.50×15 BFG A/T tires. Many future improvements are in store as funds allow, including suspension, lockers, tires, bumpers and more.

Until I resolve the center diff lock problem, my ability to go on adventures is limited because of the lack of 4×4. I got to get it fixed soon.

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Temporarily Without a Vehicle http://www.pnwadventures.com/vehicles/temporarily-without-a-vehicle/ Fri, 22 Sep 2006 02:47:05 +0000 http://www.pnwadventures.com/?p=59 After two and a half years of ownership, I sold my Jeep Wrangler this week. For the first time in my life, I was actually kind of sad to sell a vehicle. Usually I was glad to be rid of … Continued

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After two and a half years of ownership, I sold my Jeep Wrangler this week. For the first time in my life, I was actually kind of sad to sell a vehicle. Usually I was glad to be rid of the vehicle I was selling, but not this time.

I guess you get somewhat attached when you have spent several years customizing a vehicle to suit your own needs. My buildup of the Jeep was finally being realized and it was performing better than I planned. However, I had to be practical and sell the Jeep in order to purchase a larger vehicle.

I’ve been going back and forth for the past nine months whether to sell or keep the Jeep. It all started last winter when my daughter started snowboard lessons and I realized that a soft top Jeep is not the ideal vehicle to haul snowboards and gear for multiple people to the mountains. By myself, fine, two or more people, not so good. I managed over the winter by driving the family Grand Cherokee to the slopes when I took my daughter and leaving my wife without a vehicle (she had the option of driving the Wrangler but never did).

Once winter was over, the weather got nice and it was hard to part with Jeep, so I decided at that time I would go ahead keep it. I continued on with my buildup of the Jeep. I had a plan for the buildup but not for how I was going to use the vehicle.

In June, I fractured a bone in my foot which left me off my feet for a few weeks and a lot of free time. During this time, I was introduced to the Expedition Portal by my son and soon realized by reading through the forums, a clearer picture of how I would be using my Jeep. It’s what I’ve been doing since I was a child when I would take off with my dad on trips camping and exploring the Cascades Mountains. My true passion isn’t specifically four wheeling in it self, it’s the adventure of exploring remote areas that may (or may not) require a four wheel drive vehicle (thus this web site).

After several multi-day trips, I realized that a short wheel base Jeep would only suit my needs if I only traveled by myself with my dog and maybe one other person. If I wanted to take my wife, daughter, dog and all of our camping gear, a larger, more comfortable vehicle would be required.

So that is where I’m at now. My Jeep has been sold. I have cash in hand. About the only vehicle that’s available in the US that even comes close to fitting my needs is an 80 series Toyota Land Cruiser. So the search is on for my next adventure vehicle.

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Cascade Overland Adventure – August 2006 http://www.pnwadventures.com/adventures/cascade-overland-adventure-august-2006/ Thu, 31 Aug 2006 02:33:57 +0000 http://www.pnwadventures.com/?p=49 With an actual weekend off, and knowing that I would probably soon be selling my Jeep Wrangler to buy a larger adventure vehicle, it was time for a three day Jeep adventure. Our first goal (my son Steven and myself) … Continued

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With an actual weekend off, and knowing that I would probably soon be selling my Jeep Wrangler to buy a larger adventure vehicle, it was time for a three day Jeep adventure.

Our first goal (my son Steven and myself) was to travel from I-90 near Cle Elum, Washington to Highway 410 near Cliffdell, Washington via logging roads. I heard people talk about such a road in the past, but have never attempted to locate it.

Our second goal was to travel from Highway 410 to Highway 12 over logging roads. We would then travel Highway 12 over White Pass to Packwood. From Packwood, we would head South on logging roads towards Mt. Adams and locate a campsite for the night.

As in previous adventures, I turned to the book Washington Byways: Backcountry Drives For The Whole Family by Tony Huegel for some of my planning. The most likely route was to use Tour 43 – Quartz Mountain as a starting point for our weekend adventure.

Day One


After getting our Jeeps loaded up for a three day adventure, we headed East over Snoqualmie Pass to Cle Elum. After a quick fast food lunch and fuel, we headed over the Wenatchee National Forest Information Center to purchase a forest service map of the area. These maps have been hard to come by on the west side of the cascades, so I made the purchase plus a few other National Forest maps in Washington state. They were three dollars cheaper than in the local sporting goods retailers.

After obtaining the map, it was time for route finding from Cle Elum over Manastash Ridge to Highway 410. Unfortunately, we were unable to locate a gravel road that wasn’t on private property that did not require extensive back tracking to Ellensburg to reach our goal. Because of the time of the day, we noted some designated four wheel drive trails that would link us to our destination.


Our plan was to have waypoints and actual mileage points for this article, however my son’s GPS unit would not cooperate so we had a good lesson in route finding via a forest service map and compass.

If you were to use Washington Byways Tour 43 – Quartz Mountain as your guide, you would start at the end of the tour as outlined in the book. To add some detail, you will get off at any Cle Elum exit from I-90 and find First Street (the main road through town). From First Street, head south on Stafford Ave (one of only few traffic lights) to South Cle Elum. Take a right on Madison Ave and then a left on 6th St and then a right on Marie Ave. Marie Ave turns into Westside Dr. once you leave town. You’re looking for South Cle Elum Ridge road (FS Rd 4510) which will be on your left. This is where I zeroed my odometer (Caution: the distances stated are only approximate, my Jeep odometer runs fast and shows more miles than actually traveled).


We switched back up out of the valley on a single lane gravel road with occasional views to the valley below and the mountains to the north. At about 7 miles there will be junction with FS 119. Follow it to the right toward Taneum Campground.

At 12 miles, we passed a junction with FS 33 where it turns to pavement (and a school bus turn around). Travel a short distance further and take a right on FS 3330 toward Quartz Mountain.

At 23 miles, follow FS 3120 toward Buck Meadows, then shortly thereafter take a left on FS 109 then a right on FS 3111.


At 32 miles, take a left on FS 31 toward Ellensburg, then a right on FS3104.

At approximately 34 miles, we reached four wheel drive trail 4W307 that heads up the hill to the left. I would estimate 4W307 with a Trail Rating of 3.0 (see Trail Rating Guide). There were only a few tight sections through the trees where a 80 series Land Cruiser or similar sized vehicle would have to be cautious when squeezing through.

At approximately 39 miles, we reached an area called Tripod Flats. There are large open meadows where it seems many people end up camping. From here, there were multiple directions we could travel. To continue further, with the exception of the trail we chose, a short wheelbase 4×4 with lockers and a solid roll cage would be recommended.


We headed left down Trail 687, then onto Trail 686, then to Trail 685 (all rated as “more difficult”, probably a Trail Rating of +4.0 for SWB vehicles). A shorter trail but definitely more challenging then the first trail we traveled.

We came out on FS 589 which led us to FS 1708 (Milk Creek Road) and down to Highway 410 at 51 miles.

After a very dusty 50 miles, we decided to make camp at the Crow Creek Campground off of the Little Naches River. We set up camp, had a quick washdown in the creek, ate dinner and settled in for the night. Surprisingly, not many people for a Friday night.

Day Two

Crow Creek Campground

After a very restful night of sleep on my new inflatable camping mattress, I awoke to something dropping on and around my tent. Upon investigation, I found a squirrel in the tree above my tent chewing off pinecones and sending them down upon my tent. These weren’t ordinary pinecones, they were solid and heavy. When the pinecones hit the ground, they would bounce up several feet in the air. One even bounced onto the picnic table to hit my cook set.

After a while, I realized that this bombardment with pinecones seemed to be intentional. The squirrel was at work only over my tent and the picnic table. It was a large tree so there were other areas that the pinecones could have dropped, but that wasn’t the case. Either it was a territorial instinct or the squirrel did not like the presence of my dog.

Crow Creek

Once I began breaking down my tent, the rain of pinecones intensified. After each drop, I could hear the squirrel chattering, almost like it was laughing each time a pinecone was dropped. After I pulled the stakes on my tent, I picked up the tent and moved to a safer area. Once the tent was removed, the pinecones stopped falling.

Once everything was packed up, it was time for the day’s adventure. Our goal for the day was to travel from Highway 410 to Highway 12 via logging roads, then over White Pass by highway to Packwood, Washington. Then from Packwood, we would head south via logging roads to the Mt. Adams area and locate a campsite for the night.

Rattlesnack Creek

As in the previous day’s adventure, we chose another route outlined in the book, Washington Byways. This day, we again started the route outlined in the book in reverse. The route we chose is listed in Washington Bywaysas Tour 47 – Bethel Ridge.

From our campsite at Crow Creek, we traveled back to Highway 410 and headed East toward Yakima. We turned right at the first sign for the Nile Road. The Nile Road parallels SR 410 and loops back to the highway. We took the longer scenic route to get to our turnoff.

From our direction of travel, we turned right on Forest Service Rd. 1500 (follow signs to Highway 12). FS 1500 starts out as a single lane, paved road with turnouts. The road climbs up and travels through the Rattlesnake Creek canyon. There are some great views to the surrounding peaks and the canyon below.

Old Cabin

After about 8 miles, the pavement ends and the road transitions to gravel. FS 1500 continues through the forest eventually ending up on Bethel Ridge. At about 17 miles (only an approximation because of my odometer) is the turnoff for Timberwolf Mountain FS 1500-90). On a clear day, this excursion is worth the side trip for the extensive views. Along the way, the road climbs, passing open meadows and an old cabin. The road ends in about 3 miles. At the roads end is the site of an old forest fire lookout. Nothing remains of the original fire lookout structure. The 360 degree views are fantastic, including Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams, Goat Rocks, the Cascades, and even views in to high desert of Eastern Washington. If you need to check in with the family, there is excellent cellular phone reception on the peak.

Timberwolf Mountain Timberwolf Mountain

After lunch and photographs, we headed back down to FS 1500. If a person had more time and wanted to explore, there are many side roads that travel miles from FS 1500. From the Timberwolf Mountain road, the FS 1500 switch backs down into the Tieton River valley to Highway 12. Along the way are views of the valley and Rimrock Lake below. At approximately 34 miles, we arrived on Highway 12.


If one wanted to continue the backroads journey east, you could take FS 1200 around the south side of Rimrock Lake which will lead back to Highway 12. Since we had +30 miles of dust in an open Jeep, we opted to travel on Highway 12. The pavement was a welcomed change.

We traveled over scenic White Pass down into Packwood in approximately 40 miles. After a fuel stop, lunch and a quick stop in the grocery store, we headed east a short distance to FS 21 (follow signs to Walupt Lake). Our next destination was to locate a campsite for the night.


FS 21 starts out steadily climbing through the forest, following the Johnson Creek canyon. In about 18 miles, we reached the junction with FS 2160, which is a paved road that leads to Walupt Lake (a popular destination for camping). We headed east on FS 2160 for about two miles, then a right on FS 21 in order to head a little further south and get away from the crowds.

A short distance later, we took a right on FS 2329. Since FS 2329 was marked as not maintained, we assumed that there would be very little traffic. We were wrong of course. We encountered many vehicles including trailers on the narrow, winding gravel road.


After a few miles of traveling on FS 2329, we came to a junction with a wide, well maintained road that leads to the Yakima Indian Reservation only a few miles from the junction. This vast area, much of it wilderness, is closed to the public.

FS 2329 eventually becomes the western border of the Mt. Adams Wilderness area. This easy access makes it a popular starting point for hikes into the wilderness area.

Our desire for a campsite in a designated campground (in order to have a legal camp fire) was soon spoiled. Every high country campground we stopped at, including Horseshoe Lake, Killen Creek, Takhlakh Lake, Chain of Lakes and Olallie Lake were all full. Our only choice was head to the lowlands and hopefully find a primitive site along a creek or river to camp.

Cispus River

We followed FS 23 until it intersected with FS 2801. FS 2801 follows the Cispus River on its south side. Unfortunately, most of it was on high bank so there was minimal river access. Every campsite we found that was near any water was already claimed.

Our quest for a camp site continued until near dark when we finally located an isolated campsite, only yards from the Cispus River, just upstream from Tower Rock.

Once we arrived, it was time for an ice cold beer while setting up camp. Obsidian Stout was the selection of the evening. After cleaning up a bit and eating a gourmet dinner of hot dogs, it was time to kick back and relax (my dog decided to relax early on). DSC03071.JPG Since our camp site was literally on the bank of the river, we had a beautiful scenic setting to just sit and enjoy. Just before dusk, the trout in the river had a feeding frenzy on all the insects that were buzzing the river’s surface. I wish I had brought along a rod and reel.

After the sun set, the stars would out in full glory, with the Milky Way nearly direct over us. With no city lights, satellites and shooting stars were easy to spot. Eventually, we heard some splashing in the river near our camp. Upon further investigation (with a spotlight), we found a large salmon resting in the water near the river bank. The spot light would spook the fish, but it would soon return to the bank. We also found a large frog on the river bank feeding on insects on the sand. Just like the fish, the light would scare the frog, but in a few minutes, it returned to continue feeding.

I don’t think we could have found a better camp site to spend the night. Good things come to those who wait.

Day Three

Tower Rock

After another restful night of sleep, we awoke to another beautiful sunny morning in the northwest. When camping, first thing in the morning, I like to take a morning walk with the dog. On this day, I walked my dog downstream a short distance and got some photographs of Tower Rock. Very quiet and peaceful.

After breakfast and packing up camp, we decided upon the day’s journey. We were now in country that I was very familiar with. I spent many hunting seasons learning about life in elk camp. This was the area that my dad would annually go elk hunting for the entire season in addition to multiple trips throughout the year deer hunting and camping.

Even I didn’t need a guidebook for this area, the next leg of our overland adventure is outlined as Tour 50 – French Butte in the book Washington Byways.

From our campsite, we headed west on FS 2801 a very short distance until it met a junction with FS 28. We turned left on FS 28 and the almost an immediately right on FS 76 which continues to follow the Cispus River downstream on its south bank.

Burley Mountain

After a short distance, there is another junction with FS 77 where we turned left up the hill (the only direction). This road is marked as Burley Mountain. From here you start to switchback out of the Cispus River valley on a nice winding paved road passing numerous waterfalls along the way. Eventually the road turns to gravel.

At about 17 miles, there will be a junction. To the right is FS 77 (which we will follow later). To the left is FS 7605. We traveled left on FS 7605 and in less than two miles is a spur road to the right (086) that leads to Burley Mountain. Travel about 0.5 mile and there will be a parking area. Many people park here and hike up to the lookout. The gate was open this day so we continued up the steep, narrow road to the lookout. If you meet another vehicle, somebody will need to back up a short distance because there is no turn around. Fortunately, the pick up truck we met only had to back up a short distance to a switchback wide enough for us to pass. Burley Mtn Lookout In about a quarter mile from the first parking area, we parked just below the summit of the lookout (plenty of room for two short wheel base vehicles to turn around). You can drive to the summit, but there is only room for one, maybe two vehicles.

Burley Mountain is one of the few forest fire lookouts with the original building still standing. The door is unlocked so you can even go inside the building. It’s a wonder that it hasn’t been vandalized or even worse yet, burned down. The views of the southern Cascades don’t get any better than this. From this 5300 foot peak, you’re standing almost in the middle of four snow capped volcanoes. You look one direction there is Mt. Rainier, another Mt. St. Helens, in another direction there is Mt. Adams, and further south in Oregon is Mt. Hood.

Mt Rainier

After lunch and photos (where I ran out of space on my memory card and had to delete some shots), we headed back down the mountain back to FS 77. Soon after reaching FS 77, we reached a four way junction and headed straight though (the roads were not very well marked the day we drove them) to continue on FS 77. The road begins to climb on a narrow pumis, dirt and gravel non-maintained track.

We soon reached open meadows with additional views Mt. Rainer, Mt. Adams and Mt. St. Helens. In August, the huckleberries in this area are ripe. As in years past, there were many Native American groups camped out in the area picking the delicious berries. As the road zig zags followed the ridgeline, we passed French Butte and just below Pinto Rock.

Pinto Rock

A short distance past Pinto Rock, we came to the junction with FS 28. We took a right (west) that led us to FS 25 (a nice paved forest road) in about 3 miles.

Since we were in the area, we decided to make the trip to the Windy Ridge viewpoint of Mt. St. Helens. We took a right (north) on FS 25 a few miles until we reached FS 99 that is clearly marked for all visitors.

FS 99 is a nice paved road designed to handle visitor traffic to the Windy Ridge visitor center overlooking Spirit Lake. There are multiple vista points of Mt. St. Helens and of the devastation of the 1980 eruption. At the end of the road, you reach the visitor center. At the visitor center, one can take in the view directly into the crater of the mountain, and then take in a hike on one of the many trails in the area. A forest pass is required if parked at any of the designated trailheads. Since I had the dog (not allowed on the trails) and no way of locking our gear in an open top Jeep, we enjoyed the views and took some photos before setting off.

Mt St Helens

A few miles from the Visitor Center, there is a parking area and nature trail system for Meta Lake. Immediately past the parking area is FS 26 that leads to Ryan Lake then onto FS 25 to Randle, Washington. This road used to be part of a loop that the forest service developed to keep traffic flowing in primarily one direction. Apparently that idea has been abandoned because there are no signs on the north end directing travelers to Mt. St. Helens and none from FS 99 directing visitors back to Randle. We soon found out the reason why.

FS 26 is marked as a non-maintained road. This probably scares a lot of the tourists to visitor center away (plus there are no signs that state where the road leads). Spirit Lake
The road was actually in decent shape. There were multiple areas where the road was repaired intermixed with short sections of gravel. There are also many spots where the pavement has sunk down, but nothing that would prevent a careful driver of a standard car from driving it.

FS 26 starts out by dropping into the Green River drainage on the western flank of Strawberry Mountain, initially in the area affected by Mt. St. Helens and then into various stages of growth from past clear cuts. Once past the Ryan Lake, the road follows the Quartz Creek drainage most of the way back to FS 25. Once we were back to FS 25, it was only a short distance to Highway 12 and the end of our overland journey.


In three days we traveled around 500 miles, much of it on dry, dusty logging roads. In our journey, we visited two fire lookout sites, traveled over multiple passes, and flanked the borders of the three major volcanoes in the Southern Washington Cascades and several wilderness areas. The weather was perfect for camping and traveling in an open top Jeep.

Once we were home, I could practically take a measurement of the layer of dust in my Jeep. It would take me several days to clean my gear and all of the dust out of my Jeep. Well worth the effort for the adventure we had. I can’t wait for the next adventure.

My photo gallery of the trip is located at http://www.flickr.com/photos/locked4low/.

My son’s photo gallery of the trip can be found at http://www.flickr.com/photos/smbisig/.

The post Cascade Overland Adventure – August 2006 appeared first on Pacific Northwest Backroad Adventures.

ARB Bull Bar Installation on Jeep YJ Wrangler http://www.pnwadventures.com/vehicles/jeep-yj-wrangler-arb-bullbar-installation/ Thu, 24 Aug 2006 02:39:36 +0000 http://www.pnwadventures.com/?p=53 One important aspect of any outdoor adventure is the ability to make it home safely. Animal strikes are one of the leading causes of vehicle damage when traveling in rural and remote areas, especially at night. As anybody who travels … Continued

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One important aspect of any outdoor adventure is the ability to make it home safely. Animal strikes are one of the leading causes of vehicle damage when traveling in rural and remote areas, especially at night. As anybody who travels the highways knows, here in the Pacific Northwest, we have our share of animal strikes. The most common you see along the side of the road are deer. I have also seen collisions with elk, cattle and horses. Our friends to the North in British Columbia frequently witness collisions with moose.

In a full head-on animal strike, at a minimum, you will most likely damage your radiator, which can totally incapacitate your vehicle. Hopefully, the collision will be a glancing blow, minimizing the damage. I’ve seen pickup trucks where a 60 mph collision with a deer caused damage to the entire front end including the bumper, grill, radiator, core support, hood and both front fenders. The loss of your vehicle far from home is the last thing a person wants on an adventure.

After during my research, I found that by most opinions, ARB makes the best aftermarket bumper that protects against animal strikes. Most bumpers are for clearance for wheeling and do not offer substantial protection. The ARB Bull Bar offers a very secure location to mount a winch plus it also enhances the look of any vehicle (my opinion of course). And of course, any bumper that protects against animal strikes is going to offer a great increase in safety if involved in a collision with another vehicle.

The following outlines the installation of an ARB Bull Bar on my Jeep YJ Wrangler.

DSC02919.JPG Here is the before picture. A stock chrome bumper with minimal protection to the front end.
DSC02922.JPG This is how the bull bar comes when shipped. Two pieces include the bar and the assembly kit.
Removed all shipping packaging.
This is the business side of the bull bar.
Looked over the installation instructions.
DSC02931.JPG Inventoried the assembly kit.
DSC02932.JPG Removed the front bumper. I had to use a little PB Blaster to loosen up the bolts. The bolts required a T-55 bit instead of the T-50 as listed on the instructions.
Installed the cradle assembly to the chassis.
DSC02937.JPG Lowered the winch plate over the front cross member. Secured the plate to the cross member with the supplied u-bolts. Used a small level to match the level of the cradle assembly. Adjusted with a block of wood and hammer before final tightening.
Using the holes in the cradle assembly tab as a template, I center punched the location of the hole on each side. I then removed the winch plate and drilled the required 7/16 inch holes. I then remounted the winch plate and fastened it to the cradle assembly with the supplied fasteners.
Slide the bull bar over the cradle assembly. Secure with provided fasteners. If you are installing a roller fairlead, you would install it during this step. Two of the bolts are not in the most accessible location.
DSC02946.JPG The bumper comes with supplemental indicator lights. The lights are mounted using small nylon plugs that are a very tight fit. I had to use a mallet to fit into place. Be careful and do not overtighten the mounting screws like I did. The lense will crack if over tightened.
Remove the factory indicator lights.

For the right turn indicator, locate the brown/red wire (right turn signal) and the black wire (ground wire). Wire the bull bar indicator using the included wire spices.

For the left turn indicator, locate the gray/black wire (turn signal) and the black wire (ground). My Jeep had two gray/black wires leading into the left turn indicator harness. Use a wire tester to determine the correct wire to use. I got lucky on my first try.

I secured the extra indicator light harness with zip ties and placed the excess in the front cross member tube.

Note: The wiring diagram I used was from a 1992 Jeep Factory Service Manual. The colors and/or the harness may be different on other years.

DSC02950.JPG Here is the finished installation. The kit comes with a license plate bracket to install the plate above the roller fairlead. I chose to install my license plate over the fairlead cut out. Looks pretty good.

The installation was straight forward and can be completed in only a few hours with basic mechanical skills. As usual, you will need a few more tools than the instructions call for.

Of course, such a bumper will add more weight to the front of your vehicle, so a heavier spring rate may be required for your vehicle.

Now all I need to do is mount a winch and I’ll be ready for even more adventures.

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Custom Jeep Drawer Cargo System http://www.pnwadventures.com/vehicles/homemade-jeep-storage-system/ Thu, 17 Aug 2006 02:25:17 +0000 http://www.pnwadventures.com/?p=45 As anybody with a sort wheelbase Jeep knows, it’s easy to run out of storage space fast. Jeeps were never intended to be multi-day expedition vehicles such as the Toyota Land Cruiser or a Land Rover, but we continue to … Continued

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As anybody with a sort wheelbase Jeep knows, it’s easy to run out of storage space fast. Jeeps were never intended to be multi-day expedition vehicles such as the Toyota Land Cruiser or a Land Rover, but we continue to try and make it work.

For my current needs, I decided that I would rather sacrifice the lack of storage space for a smaller, open-cab, short-wheelbase vehicle like a Jeep to maximize my adventures in the Pacific Northwest.

This article outlines my first attempt in maximizing the available storage space available in my Jeep.

Storage Options

Like in most off-road vehicles, you only have certain places to store your gear. The storage areas include the main cargo area, a roof rack, or on a tire carrier. Of course, each vehicle has its own areas to stash your gear other than those listed. Each storage area has its advantages and limitations, depending on the use of your vehicle.


After considering the options (and my budget), I decided that the first priority was to maximize the internal cargo area storage space in my Jeep. In most situations, my travels will usually only include my dog, and at times, possibly another family member or friend.

My first solution was to simply stack all my gear and tools in the cargo area. The main problem I found with this option is that it leaves no space for my dog to ride in the Jeep, especially when I had a second person riding along (I prefer for her to ride in the back as she somehow always finds mud).

At this point I decided I needed some type of storage box to place within the cargo area. I started looking through the Jeep aftermarket catalogs and found a variety of cargo storage devices, including boxes with flip up lids, boxes with drawers, cages, and trunk lids. Each style of box has its advantages and disadvantages.

In addition, not only were these storage boxes out of my budget, none provided a flat, carpeted storage surface that was even with the wheel wells on an YJ. So I decided to build my own storage box.

What inspired me was the utility boxes that I seen in the Australian 4×4 magazines. These boxes are designed with a pull out drawer, are carpeted and have aluminum angle to protect the edges. If designed right, I would have a 54 inch wide by 32 inch deep flat surface to mount and strap down gear to the top, such as refrigerators/coolers and all my camping gear plus have room for my dog. Wishful thinking? I’ll find out.

The Construction.

I actually started work on the box over a year before, and then it sat over the winter. Once the weather started getting nice it was time to finish the project. That’s the reason I don’t have any pictures of the construction process, only the finished project.


To get started, I measured the area you want the box to be installed. For my Jeep YJ, I made it 32 inches deep x 35 inches wide (well it’s actually 36 inches wide and its a very tight fit squeezing it between the wheel wells). I chose this depth so it would allow for clearance of the tailgate latching mechanism that protrudes into the cargo area, plus it allows me to store the upper half doors between the box and the tailgate. With this arrangement, there is also a small amount of storage between the front seats and the box for those items you would like access to while driving. I chose to make my height ¾ inch higher than the wheel well so that I could butt up ¾ inch plywood over the wheel well to the box to make one large flat surface.

I ended up purchasing two sheets of ¾ inch exterior grade plywood for the box and the drawer. If you have access to marine grade plywood that may be a better choice if you live in a wet region. While shopping, I also purchased a heavy-duty drawer slide (on roller bearings with a 100 pound capacity), wood screws and wood glue.

After cutting out the wood components of the box and drawer, I glued and screwed them together. I sealed the inside of the drawer with paintable caulking (to keep water out and any spilled fluids in), and then applied a weatherproof finish. I initially used exterior porch paint (discount bin at Lowes), and then I applied marine varnish over that. If I were to do it over, I would only apply the marine varnish.


I fitted the slides to the box and drawer following the slide manufacturers instructions. I discarded the wood screws that came with the slide and used #10-32×1″ machine screws, nuts and washers to attach the slide to the box and drawer. I countersunk holes where I didn’t want the screw protruding and cut off any excess threads.

I purchased the marine grade outdoor carpeting from Lowes. I cut each piece to size and glued it down with Weldwood Original Contact Cement. I tried the non-flammable contact cement from Weldwood and it does not work very well for this application.

In order to protect the edges of the box, I finished each edge with ¾ inch aluminum angle. I only used a heavy set of tin snips and a file to miter and fit my corners since I did not have any other method of cutting the aluminum. I countersunk the holes and used wood screws to fasten down the aluminum angle.

Other finishing touches include hinges to fold up the sections that rest on the wheel wells, two handles on the drawer, tie downs and a clasp to lock the box. I used existing holes for the seat and seatbelts in the rear cargo to fasten the box to the Jeep cargo area.

The Road Test

It was time to test the box on a short adventure. I loaded up the box for a Mini Expedition to the Olympic Peninsula.


My intentions for the drawer are to store my tools, vital fluids, spare parts, repair kits, recovery gear in order to be as self sufficient as possible. The drawer was packed tight for the trip with all that I placed in it. I was a little worried that the slides would not bear the weight of a fully loaded drawer but I was wrong, the drawer works perfectly even when loaded down.

On the deck of the box, I stored my cooler over the left wheel well, my Rubbermaid box with cooking and camping gear over the right wheel well, and my tent, sleeping bag and pad towards the rear. This allowed my dog (at 60 pounds) plenty of room to move around. On this trip, with what I had stored on top of the deck, I had no problem opening the drawer.

Obviously, having a dog limits some of the space that could be used to haul gear. Even so, I feel that I could take my dog out and short of the necessary fuel (I’ll take care of this later) I could take enough supplies and gear for a week long adventure.

See all the photos of my Jeep drawer system at Custom Jeep Drawer Cargo System.

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Olympic Peninsula Backroad Adventures http://www.pnwadventures.com/adventures/mini-expedition-olympic-peninsula/ Wed, 16 Aug 2006 02:18:52 +0000 http://www.pnwadventures.com/?p=40 After getting my Jeep back together, I wanted to get a multi-day camping/road trip in. I wanted to see how my newly built cargo box was going to work and experiment with stowing camping gear for a 3-day mini-expedition plus … Continued

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Deer Park Road Olympic National Park.JPG

After getting my Jeep back together, I wanted to get a multi-day camping/road trip in. I wanted to see how my newly built cargo box was going to work and experiment with stowing camping gear for a 3-day mini-expedition plus a dog.

My goals for this trip weren’t to go wheeling, especially since I was traveling solo. I wanted to hit the back roads and travel as much gravel and/or primitive roads as possible, carrying all my supplies, stopping only for fuel as needed (since I don’t have a gas can carrier yet).

After looking through the book Washington Byways: Backcountry Drives For The Whole Family, I decided upon driving an Olympic Peninsula route. The book lists several routes that could be connected together with no backtracking. Perfect for a loop around peninsula.

See the photos of this trip at Olympic Peninsula Backroad Adventures Photos

Day One.


After finalizing everything for the trip, I was off (much later than desired). From my home near Puyallup (WA), I headed west towards the Olympic Peninsula via Hood Canal.

Near Key Center, I passed a Renaissance Fair and saw a guy dress like Peter Pan directing traffic. No visible wenches to report.

I also found out that when a dog sits behind you in the cargo area of a Jeep, dog slobber has a tendency to float forward in strings and land on everything in the passenger area, including me, the windshield etc.

Once I got to Quilcene, I made several stops to purchase a Forest Service map. Unfortunately, none of the local stores carry them and I missed the closing time of the ranger station by fifteen minutes. I fueled up, backtracked a mile or so to Penney Creek Road and headed off into the hills with only a guidebook.

(NOTE: I don’t list any distances because my speedometer is off by a good 10 percent or more and I don’t have a GPS)

Olympic National Forest Rd 27-210 Campsite.JPG

The first leg of my journey (Tour 5 in the book Washington Byways) was to take Olympic National Forest Rd. 27 up and over Bon Jon Pass and down to Sequim via FS Rd. 28.

Most of the way up FS 27 was a typical single lane, winding mountain road with turnouts. I had to watch out for the hikers hurrying back to civilization on a Sunday night. It’s funny how people don’t realize the potential for a collision with other vehicles on blind corners (not to mention cliffs).

Just prior to reaching the summit of Bon Jon Pass, I had approximately two hours to dark so I started looking for a camping spot. I spotted a hilltop that was clear-cut to the summit. I found the double track (the road wasn’t marked but I believe it was FS Rd. 212) that led to a landing near the top. This site provided a perfect place to camp for the night with awesome views. From the campsite, I could see Mt. Baker, the North Cascades, the San Juan Islands, and Mt. Rainier.

Olympic National Forest Rd 27-210 Quilcene Range.JPG

By time I had a few beers, set up camp and finished with dinner, night had fallen. Luckily a slight breeze started blowing and the mosquitoes disappeared.

At night, the moon was full nearly full. The moon provided excellent visibility, no need for a lantern. The hills and mountains were well lit up. The city lights of the Puget Sound lowlands were quite visible, all the way from Bellingham to Tacoma.

Later that night, the wind picked up and was blowing quite steady for several hours. The flapping of the tent made the dog a little nervous. Luckily, the winds passed and it remained calm the rest of the night.

Day Two.

Deer Park Road Olympic National Park.JPG

The next morning, I awoke to clear blue skies and surprisingly warm temperatures. The first thing I did was take the dog for a short walk down to the roads end and snapped a few photos.

Just off the road, I noticed a bird flopping around like it was injured (to divert me from it’s nest). So what do I do, I look for the nest. I found two small birds huddled down motionless in their nest.

After breakfast and packing up camp, I was on the road again. Up and over Bon Jon Pass and FS Rd. 27 links up with FS Rd. 28. FS 28 slowly winds down with occasional views of the Olympic Mountains, then connects with Highway 101 near Sequim. According to the guidebook, this route is approximately 40 miles one way.

Kloshe Nanitch Lookout.JPG

Once back on the highway, I headed west towards Port Angeles. Just prior to reaching town, I headed south on Deer Park Road (Washington Byways Tour 3). Look for the Toyota dealership. The road steadily climbs, first on pavement then turning to gravel upon entering the Olympic National Park. The further up the road climbs, the better the views become. The road ends at a trailhead at the base of Blue Mountain with excellent views of the Olympic Mountains, Port Angeles lowlands, the Straight of Juan de Fuca and Vancouver Island.

From Highway 101, there is no sign mentioning the Olympic National Park. Because of this, there is probably a lot less traffic to this point than to Hurricane Ridge.

Once again after photos and a brief break from driving, it was time to head back to Highway 101. The out and back from Highway 101 is approximately 34 miles.

After fueling up in Port Angeles (the Safeway had the best fuel price in town), I headed west on Highway 101 then west on Highway 112 towards Joyce. I had to wait 30 minutes for a repaving project.

Klahowya Campground.JPG

Once past the Lyre River, I started looking for the East Twin River Road (FS Rd. 3040). I took a left (south) and started climbing steadily for approximately 16 miles (according to the guidebook) with occasional views of the Straight and Vancouver Island. The guidebook lists an alternate side trip to Pyramid Mountain, which I didn’t take.

Once I reached the ridge top, I followed the signs to the Kloshe Nanitch lookout. According to the guidebook, this is a replica of a lookout that was located nearby. There is a balcony that offers excellent views of the Sol Duc River valley below and the Olympic Mountains. After more pictures, I headed down the steep, winding road to Highway 101.

Once back on the highway, I headed east a short distance and found a campsite at the Klahowya Campground. Since it was a Monday, I had my choice of campsites so I found one right on the Sol Duc River. I set up camp and settled in for the night. Since it was a designated campground, that evening I was able to have a legal campfire.

Day Three.

Ruby Beach Olympic National Park.JPG

I woke up a to a cool, cloudy morning. I broke camp and headed west on Highway 101 and found out that it was raining. The campsite in the trees kept me dry all night. Since it was wet and only about 50 something degrees, with my upper doors and side curtains for my Jeep at home, I donned my raincoat for the next leg of the journey (good thing I came prepared for rain).

I made a stop in Forks, got a warm coffee and fuel (be sure to top off here because the prices are outrageous between Forks and Aberdeen). I stopped at the ranger station in town and purchased a forest service map.

After Forks, I had a choice to do an inland route or follow Highway 101 to the coast. I decided upon the coastal route because Washington State has some of the most beautiful coastlines, especially those portions in the Olympic National Park.

I made a brief stop at Ruby Beach for a short hike to the beach and for some cool pictures.

Wynoochee Lake.JPG

Back on the road again, I traveled south on Highway 101 past Lake Quinalt.

The next portion of my journey was one I located on the forest service map I purchased. Basically the route I chose would take me from Highway 101 (near the coast) overland and meet up with Highway 101 (on the Hood Canal side).

I located Donkey Creed Road (FS Rd. 22) and headed east toward the Wynoochee Recreation area. The road starts out as a paved two lane and then narrows to a single lane with turnouts. At about nine miles from the highway it turns to gravel and winds through clear cuts and replanted forest. Watch out for logging truck traffic in this area.

Olympic National Forest Rd 23.JPG

At about 22 miles from Highway 101, I reached the Wynoochee Dam. There is a good viewing area of the dam. There are several campgrounds and of course Wynoochee Lake if you want to spend some time here.

Just past the dam turnoff, at the junction for the town Montesano (where most of the log truck traffic follows), I stayed to the left, and then I took an immediate right on FS Rd. 23. At the next junction, I followed the signs to Spider Lake (FS Rd. 23).

On the way to Spider Lake, the road climbs and descends through several drainages and saddles. At about 16 miles from the dam is Spider Lake. I briefly saw the lake through the trees but wasn’t able to locate the access. There were no signs in the area that noted the location of the lake. I found some cool camp spots that require a 4×4 to get to though. I assume there must be a trail that leads to the lake.

After a few miles past Spider Lake, the road widens to two lanes and is a combination of gravel and pavement. Finally FS Rd. 23 ends at the Skokomish Valley Road and follows the river valley through farmland back to Highway 101 (about 20 miles from Spider Lake) where it was back home via the highways.


It would be easy to spend a week’s time touring the Olympic Peninsula. There are many side roads and attractions a tour could include, even more if you included some hiking in your itinerary.

Areas that I would have liked to visit included Hurricane Ridge/Obstruction Point and Cape Flattery.

If I had properly prepared and actually had a Olympic National Forest map that listed the forest service roads and numbers, I may have chosen some alternative routes.

After looking over the forest service map, I noted some possible routes to include in an extended expedition to the Olympic Peninsula.

1. From Highway 101 (near Hood Canal) follow signs to Lake Cushman. From the lake, there are forest service roads that lead to the Hamma Hamma River (FS Rd 25) and back to Highway 101.

2. It appears that from the Bon Jon Pass Road (see day one and two), I may have been able to follow forest service roads and exit to Highway 101 west of Sequim.

3. From Highway 101, just west of Lake Crescent, it appears that you can drive from the Sol Duc Hot Springs Road all the way to Forks by linking up with FS Rd. 29.

4. From Highway 112, there are several possible routes to take to Ozette Lake, including one from Neah Bay (unknown if open because its on the Makah Indian Reservation), and one that follows the Sekiu River. From Ozette Lake, it appears that one can travel south to near La Push, and then to the Hoh River, then back to Highway 101.

5. From Highway 101 (coastal section south of Forks), follow the signs to the Olympic Corrections Center, then back to Highway 101. This bypasses the coast portion of Highway 101.

All of the routes I listed can be done in a two-wheel drive vehicle with reasonable clearance. Of course, I can’t attest to the road conditions of the other possible routes.

If you have traveled or know the condition of these other routes, post up in the comments sections.

See you on the trails.

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