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Rig Review - What worked and what didn't at the end of 2022?

December 18, 2022.

The final three months of 2022 have seen several more trips and the Tacoma has weathered them well (as usual). Interestingly, while the set of trips is large, the actual driving for these trips has been relatively small:

The Olympic Peninsula - while large - is located in our home state, eliminating the long drives to-and-from that have become so common. The Highway Hikes and Panamint City trips in Death Valley shared a single the long drive south, and added (essentially) no off-pavement travel to the Tacoma. Even the Inyo East trip - during which we explored several canyons leading into the Inyo Mountains - encompassed fewer than 100 miles of dirt roads.

With that in mind, let's get down to it.

My Engine is Happy (ongoing)

TL;DR - I had my first oil analysis done, and with 235K miles on the Tacoma, it came back great.

I've sort of postponed getting a Blackstone Labs oil analysis, since I was worried about what it would say. For the first 16 years that I owned the Tacoma, I probably only got 4-5 oil changes - though, to be fair, I only drove the Tacoma a sum total of 40K miles in that time. Since then, I've put quite a few dirt miles on the truck, and since 2016 I've been using an aFE air filter - something that I like conceptually since I'm not buying and throwing away air filters all the time - but which I've heard isn't as good as using a paper filter.

At any rate, I feel like these numbers show that whatever I've been doing - even if completely by accident - has been well-received by my 5VZFE engine. Mostly, I think, is that I am a reasonably relaxed, grandpa-esque driver.

Your sampling method worked fine from what we can see. This first look inside of your Toyota is a great one. Universal averages show typical wear for this type of engine after about 5,800 miles on the oil. You went almost 7,000 miles on your oil and ended up with average or lower wear -- nice!

We aren't suspicious of any mechanical problems or poorly wearing parts based on these results. No harmful contamination like coolant, excess dirt, or fuel dilution was found. Try 9,000 miles on your next oil and check back to get trends

The full report, minus my deets.

I'm Not Happy with SPC (the company) After Installing My New Upper Control Arms (ongoing)

TL;DR - I no longer recommend SPC upper control arms (UCAs) if they contain X-Axis bushings.

In my last rig review, mentioned replacing my UCAs due to a worn out bushing. Since then, I've added a significant update to Replacing my SPC Upper Control Arms ...with SPC UCAs which I think is worth highlighting here.

The new SPC UCAs that contain X-Axis joints are not lifetime parts as I was initially told by SPC when they convinced me to participate in their trade-up program. In fact, the life warranty (3 years, 36K miles) of an X-Axis joint is less than the lifetime that I got from a SpecRide bushing.

Not only that, but they are completely discontinuing the SpecRide bushings, so whatever is left in stock... is it.

For all the details, please read the update.

As I've not used the new arms long enough to know how long the X-Axis actually last, I can't say exactly how upset I am, but I've already acquired a set of used SPC arms that use the SpecRide bushings, as well as enough spare bushings that I should be covered for the life of my truck.

Older SPC UCAs with SpecRide bushings vs. newer arms with the X-Axis joint.

I Got Another Flat with My Cooper ST/Maxx (new, resolved)

TL;DR - I got my third Cooper ST/Maxx flat ever, all on the same set (my fourth) of tires. I still think they are one of the best tires out there.

I got another flat - this time the driver rear - as I was driving home on I-5 after a long trip to Death Valley. I'd been driving for approximately 20 hours when a fellow driver alerted me to the situation, only a few miles from home.

I find it strange that I've gotten two flats in my Cooper ST/Maxx in the last 4 months. Further, that they've both been on I-5 - as oppossed to on dirt roads - is also intriguing.

I also find it fantastic that SimpleTire has been so easy to deal with when getting insured replacements. Which brings me to the topic of tire certificates:

In general, I am not a fan of "additional insurance," or even really insurance in general (to the extent that it's optional), if it can be avoided. There are a lot of reasons for that, but the main one is this: If an insurance company is willing to sell me insurance (let me *definitely* give them some money, with the *possibility* that they might give me *some amount* - which could be more or less - in the future), then THEY are making the bet that they are going to come out on top. And, insurance companies have notoriously high profits (that's how Warren Buffet really made it).

So, generally, I don't like to play that game; rather, I like to "self insure," which is to say, bet that the vast majority of the time, I wont need the extra insurance, and save that money. If, every once in a while, I have to pay myself, then I have this "big pool of money that I've saved over time" (note, I don't actually set this money aside or anything, but I do have reasonably good financial habits, so I'm not without a cushion) that I can use to cover the cost. My bet is the same as the insurance companies - that over time, I'll come out ahead.

So, that's my usual approach. I only buy insurance if it's required (auto, home (if you have a mortgage), etc.) or if it could cause catastrophic expenses - i.e. an amount that I couldn't cover with self-insurance (health).

That said, I have two additional things that I understand are important to keep in mind:

  1. Self-insurance relies on having a buffer to cover unexpected expenses. Not everyone is in a position to have this sort of buffer, and at the very least, the buffer amount varies.
  2. A bunch of this is a mental game. It can feel reassuring to pay "a little bit" for insurance, and not have to worry about a larger self-insurance event taking place in the future.

So, given all that, my general recommendation has always been to not buy tire insurance.

...which I followed for 45 years, until April 2022. :rofl:

This spring, I had to buy new tires. I run Cooper ST/Maxx, and when I went to price them, they were $100/tire more than the last time I bought them - like $350 each tire. Holy smokes. I also tried SimpleTire for the first time (I usually buy from DiscountTire) and their insurance was *way cheaper* (as a percentage of the tire cost) than I'd ever been quoted in the past. I think it was like $120 for all four tires - so less than 10% of the overall cost, and only 33% of the cost of *one* tire.

Magically, this has been a good call. 2 months ago, I got a flat (on the freeway - I-5 in Oregon). New tire was covered. Then, this Sunday, on the way home from another trip - and amazingly, on the freeway (I-5 in Seattle) again - I got *another* flat. I'm hoping/assuming that's covered as well. So, that's $700 "worth" of tires that I will have paid $120 for insurance.

Honestly though, this is statistically improbable. "Lucky."

I've never gotten a flat off-road, and I've never had a Cooper ST/Maxx get punctured before these two (I've had 19 of the tires over the years).

So, my general guidance is that you shouldn't get tire certs - as it seems is the way you lean already (so I agree with you!) But I recognize that I just got lucky by getting them with my current set of tires.


Oh, and I know a lot of other folks (esp those who off-road a bunch) who always get certs and think they are a good deal. Of course, the certs are *technically* not supposed to be used for off-road flats, but that's hard to enforce, so I completely understand where they are coming from.

The Zipper on the CVT Tent is Shit (resolved)

TL;DR - The zipper finally failed catastrophically. Both CVT and YKK had amazing customer service and solved the problem in different ways.

While exploring the backroads of Oregon's Hart Mountain, the zipper on the cover of the CVT tent finally failed. This has been an ongoing issue for the last several years, and I've been babying the zipper by cleaning it every time I close the cover.

End of the road.

When the slider finally failed, it was time for a different approach. I started looking for a new slider online. Mine had the marking YKK 10RC cast onto the back of the slider itself, but I couldn't find a 10RC slider from YKK anywhere.

Assuming nothing would come of it, I fired off an email to CVT support:

Hi there,

I’ve been enjoying my Mt. Shasta ever since I picked it up in ... 2016, I guess. I’ve considered other options - most notably, a GFC - but in the end, it’s been a great tent and I’ve spent so many nights in it (about 80/year), that I’ve kept it on the truck.

For the last 2-3 years, I’ve been having issues with the zipper on the cover. I think this is reasonably normal, and I’ve “worked around” the problem (the zipper splitting) by washing/lubricating the entire length of the zipper every time I close up the cover. Until yesterday, that seemed to work. Yesterday, the clasp finally broke into three pieces (photo attached).

I’m wondering a few things:

  1. Do you have any replacement sliders? I’d hate to replace the entire cover if all that is wrong is the little slider. The back of mine says YKK 10RC if that makes any difference.
  2. If you don't have a replacement sliders, can I purchase a replacement cover? I don’t know if it matters, but I have the “old-style” ladder - the 2-piece sliding one - and a black cover with white writing. Shoot, you can see it all over my site, I suppose.

Thanks much, look forward to hearing from you

Sure that I'd only hear back that no sliders or covers were available - sliders aren't listed and covers for my (very old in the scheme of things) tent were listed as "out of stock" on the CVT web site - I also took a shot in the dark and called YKK America.

After a few tries over the course of a couple days, my call finally connected. Toni - who answered the phone - was fantastic. Generally, YKK only sells large quantities of zippers to wholesalers, manufacturers, etc., but after I explained my situation to her - the fact that I couldn't find these sliders anywhere - she asked me to hold on for a few minutes so that she could see if they had any on hand.

Not only did she happen to have one available, but she offered to send it to me completely free of charge. Three business days later I had a tracking number and an ETA of seven more business days until delivery. Way to go YKK!

Coincidentally, as I was waiting on the sider from YKK, I received this email from Amber at CVT:

Thank you for reaching out and apologies for the delayed response. Glad to see you are enjoying your tent to the absolute fullest! That always make us smile and is definitely what we love to hear! ?

Unfortunately we don't have a clasp to send you, but I'm happy to send you out a replacement travel cover for your Shasta that functions properly.

I have an address of ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮ . Is that still a good address to ship?

Look forward to hearing from you soon!

Way to go CVT!

At that point, I had both a new cover and replacement slider on the way, and they both arrived a little more than a week later - along with replacement instructions.

In a rush to leave on my next trip, I immediately put the new CVT cover on the tent, knowing that it would be a "sure thing." Figuring that I might as well repair the old cover as well - it does seem to fit my old-style ladder a bit better - I also installed the new slider using Toni's instructions. This took less than five minutes and when I was done, the zipper on my original cover was working better than it has in years!

Talk about great customer service from two companies who stand behind their product.

Bright and shiny cover from CVT and some replacement sliders from YKK. Works like new for the first time since 2016!

I'm Starting to Question My Choice of GPS Navigation Software (new)

TL;DR - For years I've used Backcountry Navigator. After checking out Gaia on our last trip, I'm considering a switch.

When I started exploring in 2016, there wasn't much choice when it came to offline mapping applications. That, combined with the fact that the guys who introduced me to my first long trip used Backcountry Navigator, and it was an easy decision for me to use the same.

I started with the free version and ultimately splurged the $12 for BCN Pro (which is totally worth it). Then, when BCN XE (Android and iOS) was released, I loved the idea that it would work on both platforms, so I went with the 10-year plan.

I have to admit that I've been a little disappointed with BCN XE. The maps - and especially downloading offline maps - are better, but battery life and GPS accuracy are worse, and the iOS version still doesn't work all that well after three years of updates.

On our most recent trip to the Inyos, @mrs.turbodb downloaded Gaia onto her iPhone. Not only did it work well tracking our routes, but the default (free) map was significantly more detailed than any map I've been able to find on BCN. I can only imagine that the paid version - with overlays - is even better, so I may be jumping over to that platform for a little while to see how it compares with extended use.

The detail of our location using BCN (left) and Gaia (right).

The Rear Diff is Weeping (new)

TL;DR - the form in place gasket (FIPG) used to seal the carrier to the rear axle housing is leaking just a tad and needs replacing.

Not much more to say about this for now. I suspect this will be a reasonably straightforward fix, which I'll take care of when I change the oil in the rear diff this winter. The biggest issue will be cleaning the mating surfaces well in order to get a good seal.

Caked dust - a telltale sign of a slow leak.

The Transmission is Leaking (new)

TL;DR - The seal in the transmission that accepts the input shaft from the transmission is leaking and needs to be replaced.

At the same time I noticed the slow leak at the rear diff, I also noticed a drop of gear oil on the transfer case skid plate. A quick inspection led to the seam between the transfer case and transmission - a cavity that should be dry. More often than not, a bit of oil leaks into this location, with the probability increasing if the two components have ever been separated.

After noticing the gear oil, I added a bit of oil to both the transfer case and transmission and then proceeded to drive a few thousand miles, checking the oil levels again upon my return. Only the transmission was lower than I'd left it, making it the prime suspect.

Given that I replaced the transfer case about a year ago, the likely culprit is the seal on the transmission side that accepts the input shaft of the transfer case (90311-40007), so I've ordered a new one and will replace it at the same time I work on the rear diff.

Is this cavity ever dry? In real life?

Carrying Three (3) Jerry Cans of Fuel

TL;DR - I've begun to carry three, 20L Scepter military jerry cans full of fuel and despite the extra weight, it's been great.

For a long time, I've carried two (2) 20L Scepter military jerry cans full of fuel. Each one holds about 5.9 gallons, giving me a reasonably good cushion when it comes to feeling confident that I can make it to fuel no matter how remote the roads I'm exploring have taken me.

As gas prices rose last year and with several trips to California in the works, I decided that it would be a good idea to add a third jerry can to the mix. Given that any trip to California entails travel through (at least) Oregon and Nevada, I could fill up all three containers for less than half of what I'd pay in California, resulting in 17.7 gallons of fuel - essentially an entire tank - that I could use to avoid the high priced stuff in the Golden State.

Additionally, the third container has been great to secure the tent on windy nights. Tied to the ladder, it keeps strong gusts from folding the tent closed with us inside. Previously I used the 5-gallon Scepter water canister for this, but as that empties over the course of a trip, the fuel container means that I've always got the maximum weight possible to fight the wind.

These are the best fuel canisters out there. They are hard to get in the United States, but if you can, you should.

The Canon R6 and RF Lenses

TL;DR - I don't ever really mention them, but my Canon R6 and lenses are doing great.

It was nearly two years ago that I made the Involuntary Evolution to a New Camera and Glass (Canon R6) after running over my Canon 80D DSLR. In that time, I've taken more a lot of photos and I have to say that I'm impressed with both the Canon R6 body and the lenses (Canon RF 24-240mm F4-F6.3 IS USM Lens and Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8 L IS USM). Most impressive to me has been the 15-35mm F2.8 lens, to the point that I've mentioned to several people that I'd happily pay whatever it cost for an RF 24-240mm F2.8 (Canon doesn't make one) to replace the lesser quality version that I'm using now.

There are only two things I wish were different about this camera:

  1. I wish the electronic viewfinder would only activate when the shutter button was half pressed, rather than being "smart" and sensing when it is brought to your eye. This sensor is too sensitive for me, and cuts the battery life in half (or worse) if I don't turn the camera off between shots.
  2. I wish there were more megapixels. With only 20MP, it's hard to crop some images (birds, planes mostly). I think 30MP would be enough. Certainly the 45MP of the R5 would be more than enough. Who knows - maybe I'll pick up an R5 when prices drop after the R5 Mark II is released!

Love this thing!

Seemingly solved from previous Rig Reviews

  1. The Zipper on the CVT Tent is Shit - I don't know how I'll ever address this, short of getting a GFC.

Unchanged / Still an issue from previous Rig Reviews

There are some things that have been featured in Rig Reviews that are - as yet - unchanged from when I originally reviewed them. Rather than highlight those things again, I'll simply link to them here.

  1. Skid plate attachment could be better - While I've got the skids working for now, I'm going to need to work out an attachment solution for the front skid at the LCA tab location for them to work longer term.
  2. My Suspension Squeaks - still squeaky. I'm not all that worried about it, so I'm in no rush to fix it.




More Rig Reviews


  1. SK
    SK January 23, 2023

    I've been too cheap to pay for Gaia but I am pretty happy with the openstreetmap data via the OrganicMaps app. free with downloadable maps for the whole planet.

    • turbodb
      turbodb January 23, 2023

      Thanks for the tip SK - I hadn’t heard of that app before and I just checked it out. Looks like a pretty good light weight mapping app!

      Probably a little bit too lightweight for me, as I need to have at least public land designations, but I can imagine that this would be great for many, many scenarios.

    JOHN D MORAN January 23, 2023

    Great update/reviews! Also, probably, very helpful! Sorry to hear about the bearing problem. Great to hear that CVT & YKK did you good. I've been concerned (from day 1) about the cover/zipper on my BodyArmor tent. The cover fits so tight that it's a huge chore to get it back on and zip the darned thing up. I struggle with the cover in effort & time more than anything else. Originally thought the cover would stretch in time and BodyArmor customer service sucks when it comes to advice. I've been looking at GAIA also & when spring comes (travel season) may try it out. Congrats on your oil analysis, you're doing something right evidently! I've been driving my pickup for a few weeks since all new shocks and front end lift and it's much more comfortable. Still not sure if I'll need a front end alignment as tire wear shows nothing (looks even) in spite of looking like it's off a bit. Always enjoy your trips AND you're equipment analysis!

    • sk
      sk January 23, 2023

      yeah public land designators are indeed helpful

  3. Tom
    Tom January 23, 2023


    • turbodb
      turbodb January 23, 2023

      Thanks Tom!

  4. Sam Wilson
    Sam Wilson January 23, 2023

    I used to use backcountry navigator exclusively(except for paper maps as a back up) for my offline GPS use and it seems like the past 2 years, the interface and downloading have gotten more difficult to use, so I have been using CalTopo(out in the field) now in combo with Google Earth (on the desktop) and that has been working nicely. I think I will be transitioning fully to CalTopo once it proves itself over time. Thanks for all your posts !

    • turbodb
      turbodb January 23, 2023


      Over the last couple years, I have started using Backcountry Navigator XE and I find its downloading interface to be better than Backcountry Navigator Pro (the old version).

      However, I’ve never found XE to be as stable as Pro, so I’ve been using a combination of the two on trips, XE to do real time mapping, and PRO to record the track of the trip.

      I haven’t used GaiaGPS get myself, but so far it seems to have better maps for the real time navigation, and my wife seems to be able to record tracks just fine. I will probably give it a try, in conjunction with BCN on an upcoming trip.

  5. David Devoucoux
    David Devoucoux January 23, 2023

    I love Gaia. I bought the pro version. The layers are amazing. They are constantly working on new features as well.
    Recommended, Dan....
    P.S. I'm deleting two other programs(not to be named) as they are no longer needed!

  6. Machine Man aka Kurt
    Machine Man aka Kurt January 23, 2023

    I purchased Gaia Pro about 4 years ago and am very happy with it. You need to plan ahead to download maps so you have fast internet if you don't have every detail of a trip planned when you leave home. I am using it mainly on an old iPad and that works out quite well. There are no USB ports in my 1st Gen Tacoma so we pack a small inverter with a cigarette lighter plug that offers both 120 VAC and also has 2 USB ports. With this we can charge the iPad when driving during the day which works great for use in the vehicle. We also pack a 6 Ah, 12 VDC Lithium ion battery and a suitable battery charger but we mainly use that for running an awesome old Sharp boombox for listening to music while camping.

    In the Death Valley area there is a CalTopo map that has many features located by users which is worth checking out.

    I went through a zipper repair a few years back on an old good quality down bag that I just couldn't throw away. It is a 10 degree rated bag so deals with most of the 3 season work in DVNP & dry climates except in winter at higher elevations. After a lot of screwing around I was able to match the YKK zipper pull and the little brass clamp that holds the pull captive which were both from a vendor on Amazon. Worked like a charm and the whole repair probably cost $8. Almost like new.

    Bummer about the seal leaks and rear diff flange leak. The diff leak is probably due to not putting the sealant on perfectly when you pulled rear axles and removed the 3rd member (can't remember what repair you were doing). I would think that is a very minor leak and it appears to be near the top of the flange where 90W is not normally in contact with housing (shouldn't be a lot of driveway mess). I think I would probably sit tight on the diff leak but unfortunately the transmission leak probably needs to be dealt with (is that an automatic or 5 speed?).

    I do hate pulling the transmission and transfer case on a driveway but you probably have a garage to work in.

    Thanks for doing all these Rig Reviews, I think they are extremely helpful to folks that maintain their own vehicles.

    • turbodb
      turbodb January 23, 2023

      I have to pre-download maps on BCN (both Pro and XE) as well, so doing that with Gaia doesn't bother me too much. Plus - at least so far - the downloads seem relatively small and quick, so that's a plus.

      That's two votes for CalTopo. Gonna need to check it out.

      As for working on the truck - part of the reason I'm going to leave the work for a few months (and just refill lost oil) is that I don't have a garage I can work in. My garage is *just& big enough to park the truck in, with almost no room on either side. Oh, what I would give for a 2-car garage!

      Glad you're enjoying the posts, it seems pretty rare that people actually talk about how the gear they have works out (vs. just trying to make it look awesome for the 'gram), so these are some of my favorite pieces to put together, and it's always nice to hear when they are found useful.

  7. Tylar Overturf
    Tylar Overturf January 26, 2023

    I've seen the complaints about the new SPC joints also. I think I saw somewhere that they're working on a new joint that won't fail so early.

    • turbodb
      turbodb January 27, 2023

      Man, I sure hope they are (a) working on a new joint and (b) will replace X-Axis joint owners arms if/when they fail. I'd love to hear more if you remember where you heard about the new joint, and/or if you hear that the new joint gets released. Thanks for letting me know!

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