Essential 4x4 Tools and Products For Trail Riding - Things That WorkPosted in How To on October 1, 2006
As a magazine writer I get to test a bunch of different stuff-tools, trucks, parts, toys, and such-and over the past years I've found a handful of products that I would hate to be without. These are things that have truly made my wheeling and wrenching experience better. Most of them are what I would consider expensive-meaning my initial price check left me a bit stunned, but after use and abuse I feel they are all worth the money.
I really hate to give any sort of endorsement of a product since it can quickly be construed that I'm getting paychecks from said company, but the fact is the only paycheck I get is a measly one from Primedia Inc. and as such I know the value of products that really work. Do I think each of these are required items for four-wheeling?
Nope, but they sure are nice, they take my abuse and ask for more, and I would recommend them in a heartbeat. This stuff just plain works.
Can you imagine paying more than $600 for a cooler? Neither could I until I tried this ARB Fridge Freeze strapped to the back of my Toyota Clampy. I understand that $600 can buy a lot of ice to put in your Styrofoam cooler, but when you are stuck with a sloppy mixture of melted ice water, soggy sandwiches, and sticky beer or soda cans floating around your cooler, I'll be eating ice cream. I first tried the ARB cooler two years ago and since then it's been through rollovers, multiple camping trips, two Ultimate Adventures (the second one it was strapped outside the truck and subjected to mud, heat, rain, and severe dust), and countless abusive miles that would rattle a lesser unit to pieces. So how does that justify a $600 investment? Easy. Open an icy cold beverage at the end of the day, or better yet in the middle of the day, in the middle of a nasty trail, in the middle of the desert, and you'd pay six times that price.
I never thought a battery-powered impact gun could ever perform as well as an air-powered unit, but this Milwaukee 28-volt cordless unit does. With only one charge we tore the entire front suspension out from under a 15-year-old truck. Whether busting loose old bolts or quickly replacing busted CV axles, this is a tool that every 4x4 I wheel will have a place for. I had seen them in many race trucks to change tires out in the desert, but I still had my doubts. However, Milwaukee claims up to 325 lb-ft of torque and I don't doubt it. If you work far from an air compressor, whether it is on a farm, 4x4, or construction site, I would highly recommend this tool. If I'm headed for a long weekend, I make sure I have two batteries charged, but I have never had to use the second battery on a trail ride yet.
Loctite Threadlocker is great stuff for keeping your truck together, and I seem to use it by the bottle on every project I build. It works by simply filling the minute gap between bolt thread and nut threads and then cures, locking them together. The problem is that the stuff isn't cheap, and I always end up kicking over a full bottle so that half of my 10- to 30-dollar threadlocker ends up making a sticky mess on the floor of my shop. When I found these new threadlocker sticks I was sold. They come in medium- or high-strength versions but work like a Chapstick so they don't end up spilled across the floor or dripping off bolt threads. The nice thing is they cost the same or less than the bottles and they work just as well, plus you can pack one in your toolbag for on-the-trail repairs and you don't have to worry about it spilling all over your tools.
A year ago I had to get my Toyota Clampy ready for Ultimate Adventure and a buddy recommended I contact Driveline Tech in Oregon to have my driveshafts made. I figured I'd give them a try and see what they could do. Let me tell you, those two driveshafts have been battered, abused, and literally had half the weight of the truck sitting on them while stuck on a rock and every time they just laughed it off. Brian at Driveline Tech built me a set of 1/4-inch-wall thick tubes with long slip splines, Toyota U-joints and CVs up front and a 1410 U-joint out back, and other than some serious scratches these things still perform beautifully. When I'm up on a rock and the peanut gallery starts warning me that I'm on my driveshaft, I really don't worry about it, and that makes wheeling much more fun.
I have this problem. I like to work on my 4x4s but unlike most professional mechanics I know I cannot stay clean. Somehow as I pull open my toolbox I am instantly a greasy mess. I don't know how that is, and I really don't care, because when I'm working I feel it's fine to be dirty. But the problem occurs when it's time to go eat or wheeling. That is when I would like to have clean hands, one to firmly grasp my burger, the other to clutch the steering wheel without leaving gear-lube fingerprints. Over the years I have tried tons of different soaps, but none have given me the result of Wood Ease. This stuff is crazy. It's actually made of some mixture of sawdust, soap, and hand moisturizers so not only does it dig out the grease, but it also doesn't make your hands dry and chapped like some soaps. Simply wet your hands, sprinkle some sawdust soap on them, and scrub away seriously ground-in grease. The stuff is 100 percent biodegradable so it shouldn't pose a problem to your septic tank, garage pipes, or downstream when you wash your hands on the trail.