Collapsible jack stands: a review


I do have a fear of being crushed by a car while I am under it working on something. In a shop, that isn’t too hard to avoid; you’re on a flat surface and you can use solid jack stand. But, out in the field? That gets a little bit more tricky.

If you’re forced to do some kind of repair out on the road that requires a wheel to be off (anything from a rock in between a brake pad and rotor to bad wheel bearings and more…), you might find yourself with only your hydraulic jack to work with. They aren’t the best option though, as they can loose height as the vehicle sits. They also have a smallish base so they’re aren’t super stable either.

You can pack a jack stand, but those are a bit heavy and take up valuable space. After reading about collapsible jack stands in SA4x4, I looked forever for some in the States and finally found some TUV Product Service stands on Amazon.

They are rated at 2000kgs (4409lbs) and stand at 10.75in at the shortest setting and 14in at the tallest. The base is a triangle that is about 7in sides (measured at the center of each leg) when unfolded and folds down to about a 5in circle. When stored they’re  about 12.5in long. Two of them fit nicely in our tool drawer in the back of the 100.

I did use them when we did the brake pads. They were super stable and had more than enough height to hold up the Land Cruiser with LT285/75R16 tires (33×11.50).


These are a great thing to have and beats trying to come up with some plan to keep the truck off the ground in the field in case of an emergency. I would suggest using a shovel of course to level the ground where the stand will sit and using a board as a base plate if necessary.

If you’re a Land Cruiser guy…

…don’t drive a Jeep. Don’t do it. Even if it’s a rental. Or an emergency.

The Land Cruiser Gods don’t like that.

(This is me asking for forgiveness)

You see, Natasha and I went to Charleston, SC and then Savannah, GA for vacation (and to explore places for future adventures) and our rental car ended up being a Jeep Patriot. Oh no.


Then we came back and one of the first things I do is replace the rear brake pads on the 100. It was a pain in the ass and far harder than it should’ve been. Because of that, I didn’t get the photos I wanted for a good write up.

To make up for that, here are Toyota’s instructions on how to replace the rear pads (assuming your rotors are within spec and you dont need to do any of that) from the Factory Service Manual for the 100 Series Cruiser:


Read that. Print it. And then follow these tips:

It is hugely important that you get the piston fully depressed. I think there is a special tool to do that… On one side, I held the caliper up against the frame while Natasha pushed the piston in with the tire iron; we reversed positions on the other side. No, we didn’t have to let any brake fluid out of reservoir.

New anti-squeal shims and pad support plates are recommended. Mine didn’t hold the pads in place very well, so I held the caliper in position while Natasha fit the pads in. It took an extra set of hands, but if they would’ve  stayed up, it would’ve been a lot of easier.


Take pics, draw a sketch, do whatever you have to do to remember what pad support plate goes where. The factory manual and the instructions with the pads from Toyota aren’t very enlightening with those and they are different and go into different spots.

Buy a factory manual, paper or e-copy for whatever truck you have. They’re worth their weight…

And, if you do end up driving a Jeep, please pay your penance (get your truck out in the dirt, bathe in its gear oil, something…) before you wrench on your Toyota.


Bridled up!



When I installed the second factory tow hook on the other side of the Land Cruiser, this is what I had in mind… The ability to use a bridle or equalizing strap for recoveries. It’s not an often seen piece of equipment or technique, but one that makes sense.

Many 4x4s only come with one recovery point (in the form of a tow hook) on the front of the vehicle. When doing a hard pull all the force is placed on one frame rail which really isn’t the best. Using a strap between the two hooks evens that out between both sides of the frame. Plus, you’re also splitting the forces on the hooks themselves and any attaching hardware.

This particular strap came from Billet 4×4, but a solid tree protector that has no stretch could be used too. With the tow hooks, you throw a loop over one hook, then thread the bridle through the loop of your recovery strap, and then put the other end of the bridle on the other tow hook… Easy set up with no heavy things attached to your straps.

On the Cruiser’s hooks, the  strap really wont fall off because of the design…


If your hooks  will allow a strap to slide off, just use a little electrical tape around the strap to keep it from coming off.

Of course, the rear is a different story. The best and most commonly used recovery point is a hitch receiver shackle in your tow hitch. That attachment point is dead center of the truck; the force of any tug is also divided evenly between both sides.

Now, I just have to replace my kinetic strap and my tow strap as well to complete that portion of my recovery kit.

Mildew has to be one of the worst things ever…

I’m from a desert. Dry. Sun. Wind.


Mildew? I don’t think I had ever seen it; of course, I’d heard of it… in commercials for bathroom cleaners and that kind of thing, but I really didn’t know what it looked like or how nasty it could be.

In February, I went down to the garage (which I do often) only to see white stuff all over our camping equipment. It looked like a giant spider coughed up phlegmy webs on it. Ick. Even metal and plastic gear had mildew on them.

I panicked. I really had no idea if this ruined anything at all; then I thought about the roof top tent. Oh shit! That could be bad. A quick search on Google (as we all do in situations like this) showed me how to kill this nastiness.

  1. Get everything out in the sun. Sun kills mildew. Dead.

It looked like a camping bomb went off on our deck. I just spread everything out in the sun and popped the roof top tent to let is soak up as much UV as it could on a (lucky for me) sunny Seattle day.


I flipped things over to make sure every side got sun too; I wasn’t about to let that shit hide from the light.

2. Wash with lemon juice and salt: one cup lemon juice with two table spoons of salt in it. OR, you can use hot water with some white vinegar in it.

Mildew doesn’t like acid. For this round of cleaning, I used the lemon juice concoction. When I found it on other items in the garage, I used vinegar. After doing this, I made sure everything was dry and had been out in the sun for awhile. I wasn’t about to take chances. Then I moved everything into the house where I knew I could keep it dry.

So how did it happen? Well, Thanksgiving was our last camping trip and it was wet in Western Washington. There wasn’t any rain on the days we camped, but the air was very damp, even fires were hard to light. Everything was put away fairly moist; I knew I had to get it out to dry, but thought I would have more time before I had to because it was all in the garage. Plus, it was an exceptionally rainy season this year; there wasn’t an opportunity to air things out.

On top of that, I found that the garage in the place we are renting is leaking from the roof and one wall is weeping moisture. After I had taken care of all the camping equipment, I was in the garage for something and I found mildew on all kinds of things (benches, a leaf for our table, my bicycle, etc.).  Fun. Luckily, I caught it so early both times that nothing was really ruined (I lost one holy sweater), but the tent may have some stains on it, we’ll see.

The last two days I have been cleaning and drying things out, and moving them to dry storage. Ugh. In humid places, or places with a fair amount of precipitation, make sure you get everything to dry out after being outdoors, let the sunlight in too,  so that you don’t ever have mildew.

The cost of not being able to do your own vehicle repair…

“You have some serious problems under this rig…” That is what the salesman at Firestone Complete Auto Care told me over the phone when he called me about the results of the Complete Vehicle Inspection I had them do on our Land Cruiser.


Our Land Cruiser is 16 years old. I bought it used in Denver, but it had spent its life somewhere in California doing what most newer Cruiser wagons do in the states: pound pavement as a people hauler/status symbol.

Since we’ve had it we’ve driven it from Alamosa, CO to Seattle, WA with my then finance, two kids, the cat, and as many possessions as I could fit into the biggest U-Haul trailer I could get for it. It then served as, well, a people hauler… but one with dreams of overlanding.

It’s taken us on some short road trips, and one epic one (Seattle, WA to Chicago, IL, then to the upper peninsula of Michigan. On the way home, we hopped up to Canada: Winnipeg, then Regina, Calgary,  to Vancouver and then back to Seattle.

Take those trips, the day to day usage, and some 4x4ing/camping trips with little maintenance to it other than oil and filter changes and you can imagine where my brain jumped when the sales guy called from Firestone and said those words…

“Oh shit. I wonder what is broken under there?” my brain said.

The guy starts listing the serious problems: front brake pads are worn, rear brake pads are really worn, front CV shafts leaking. And, well, that’s it really.

What? Those are serious problems. Those are things I would assume are in need of replacement. Especially with how much we’ve driven it.

The quote to do front and rear brakes, both front CV shafts, and some miscellaneous stuff (fuel system cleaner, brake fluid flush, diff fluid change, and an engine oil leak detector) came to $2329.85 before tax.


And it’s all stuff I can do on my own.

Now, I don’t think they are fleecing me in anyway. And I was pleasantly surprised that was all that came back from the inspection. I worked for them and learned that their vehicle inspections are well done and informative. But pay somebody else to do this? No.

Right now, I am pricing parts. With new seals that the didn’t quote, all the brake pads, and CV shafts I am in for less than $400. I will have them do the fluid changes when I am all done and come in under $700 probably…

And I get the chance to become more familiar with my rig.

It pays to do your own stuff. If you have zero experience, take a class at a community college, or join a 4×4 club that has wrenching parties. You can do quite a bit on your own, and only have to find a shop when it is a bigger project (plus, you’ll be better informed when you do have to pay someone to work on your truck).

Now to order parts. Happy wrenching!

Second project on Zoe’s 4Runner

IMG_1754After getting new wheels and tires on my daughter’s 4Runner, the ride, power, and fuel mileage greatly improved. But the shocks! They were horribly worn out; each bump or pothole just sent the truck bouncing: not safe, especially a young driver.

At first, I was going to have her purchase Rancho RS5000 or some comparable “off-road” shocks. Her driving needs don’t warrant that type of shock. I figured a good stock quality stock replacement shock would better suit her for now. A quick look at RockAuto Parts and we found a set KYB Excel-G shocks for really cheap. Done.


Shocks are super easy to do on your own; it does help if you have somebody with you. This was the prefect project to start Zoe wrenching on her truck with. We did the swap with the truck parked and the wheels on; there is plenty of room to work under these 4x4s.

On the rears, simply remove the old shock by taking out the bolts top and bottom. To install the new ones, bolt up the top, cut the plastic strap that keeps the shock compressed, and guide the bottom mount into position as it slowly expands. Bolt it all up and you’re done!

The fronts are a bit tougher, but same concept. The top mount is a stud; rotating the mounting nut will cause the dustshield and top mount to rotate; you’ll never get it off solo. I used some water pump pliers to grip the dust shield while Zoe removed the top nut. We removed the bottom bolt, took out the old shock, and slid in the new.

The ride of the truck has greatly improved. Zoe text me this morning and says that not only does it ride better, but she feels safer in it. It’s great to tackle a project that isn’t expensive and has immediate seat of the pants improvement! And it’s nice to get Zoe started on DIY vehicle maintenance and modifications!

NOTE: Always wear safety glasses! I’ve had too many pieces of rust or greasy debris get into my eyes. The top pic shows Zoe without eye protection: an oversight on my part that we quickly remedied.

Brief update on the work lamps..

…on the back of our 100 Series.

I posted awhile back about mounting two Hella Optilux lights on the rear of our roof rack (one long range work lamp LED, one short range work lamp LED).

On Thanksgiving, we finally made it out on a camping trip to test them. Due to a few technology failures, I’ve lost a bunch of photos, but I do have one left of the camp.

This photo was taken by me standing at the back corner of Cruiser. The table is about 6ft away or so from the rear of the truck; the tent is about 25ft away.


You can see that the light is a little hot that close to the truck, but nothing to bad. The two lights definitely make the need for lanterns in camp unneeded. Because they are LEDs, the draw on our battery is super low; we left them on for hours with no fear of draining the battery.

This was a an easy-ish mod; rear facing flood lamps are a great addition to our camping life.


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