Why Billing Off-Road Show Was Awesome!

The last weekend in June we took a trip to the Billing Off-Road Show. And yes I took the truck around the infamous lakeside offroading course, obviously it showed those Land Rovers how it was done!

The show itself was incredible. Just the parking lot alone was full of nice looking Land Rovers, and of course my Nissan!

Land Rovers! Land Rovers everywhere!

I would say that 90% of the show catered to Land Rover owners (so my brother in law was very happy as he had just purchased a disco 1). With only a couple specialising in non Land Rover modifications. But then again it was still pretty cool seeing all the different things you could do to an old truck. It also gave me some ideas: a hidden winch system, creating a rear bumper with a spare tyre holder on, among many other things. So my goals for the truck have been completely overwhelmed with new ideas.

The demonstration area seemed to be a big hit. I mean there’s no reason it wouldn’t be. High powered 4x4s racing around a dirt track, climbing over logs and various obstacles, then throttle down to jump a small mound in front of the spectators. It was great to watch. All the kids watching seemed to be entranced by it.

There was camping right next to the show area, with a bar and live entertainment (basically just a guy singing karaoke from what I could see, but he was pretty good). I think next year I will camp there and experience the whole weekend of 4×4 relaxation!

The Lakeside off-road course was incredibly well done, hard challenges – with bypasses, and nice easy ‘green lane’ style parts. I think any standard 4×4 could have driven around it, as long as you were sensible and avoided the things that you’re rig couldn’t do. Learn from a brand new Land Rover Evoque that tried to do a water crossing with street tyres and no snorkel. He got stuck in the middle and killed his engine. Poor guy had to be towed out, and it would not start again. But with the abundance of Land Rover parts and expertise, I’m sure he drove home from that show.

My truck on the other hand attracted attention. There was only a couple other non Land Rovers, a Hilux and a D-max. But mine seemed to handle everything, only occasionally needing a little throttle to get myself out of trouble.

The areas I thought I would get stuck on such as the camel humps (basically a mound with a steep incline/decline), the truck handled with ease. Just gliding up, grounding out ever so slightly and gliding down. No issue.


This was called the ‘Bomb Crater’, just a small muddy hole!

The long water crossings didn’t pose much of a challenge. I just got in second gear low, and kept up a little momentum and it was easy. The back did try to float away a couple times but the truck would not stop (Some may say this was due to skillful driving… others would say it’s just a good truck!).

Water crossing seemed no issue for the skunk!

Even the infamous mud run. Second gear low and go go go! I couldn’t hold back for this. Not having big gnarly mud tires put me at a disadvantage here, but I tell you what, the truck did it with grace. Thank you BFGs! Made a big splash and the crowd loved it, Land Rover fans cheering at my import. How unconventional!

Loved playing in the mud (thanks to http://www.picman.co.uk for the awesome picture!)
(This one is going on my wall!)

I was like a proud father driving home in my muddy truck after the show. It conquered everything that those big, jacked up Land Rovers could do, and then I cruised home at 70mph no issue.

The truck looked good back in the parking area, it was nice and muddy!

Overall the Billing Off-Road show was awesome, and definitely worth a visit if you are interested in anything 4×4. Plus it gives you the perfect opportunity to test new mods to your rig without the worry of getting stranded.

I’ll be posting more pictures/videos from the show over time on my instagram @overlanding_skunk, so go check that out!

Till next year Billing!

Chasing Squeaks (Part 2)

This follows my misery from Chasing Squeaks (A guide on how not to problem solve). So go check that out if you haven’t yet.

After the last attempt at trying to quieten the truck, I had another go. This time went much more successfully.

This time I decided to do things more strategically, first things first, I dismantled the entire front right suspension system, I was certain it was coming from in there somewhere.

It went smoothly enough, everything came apart easily. Well other than breaking a ball joint separator trying to get the lower control arm free. I ended up having to use a hammer to knock the ball joint out. The lower control arm bushings were almost completely destroyed. I also found that the lower ball joint was cut up and rattling, the ball joints in the sway bar link had also gone, and the ball joint on the end of the tie rod had had it. No wonder there were so many squeaks and rattles!

Just some of the damage I found.

So time to order new parts! Milner Off Road help! I ended up ordering a new tie rod end, various new bolts and a new sway bar link (oh and a new ball joint separator!) . so yet again the truck was left for a week on axle stands whilst waiting for my parts. Once they arrived, (I act like a kid at Christmas when new parts arrive, tearing them open frantically), it was time for assembly.

Weirdly everything went back together with no issue. It only took me about two hours before the wheels were back on and on the ground!

Once everything was back together and on the ground the truck looked a little weird… It was pigeon toed. The front right wheel was straight, but the front right was turning left slightly. Changed the tie rod end – messed up the alignment.

So carefully I drove it to a local garage to get the alignment sorted. It only took about 20 minutes and cost about £40. Now the truck drives nicely and guess what!

IT STOPPED SQUEAKING!

The truck was silent once again! (well apart from a knocking on the other side, which is due to the other sway bar link being bad, but that’s an easy job for another day).

Happy with how the truck was driving I decided to get my new BF Goodrich AT KO2’s fitted (Finally!)

I took the truck to a tyre garage tucked away in an industrial estate and it’s fair to say I took it to the right place.

They changed the tyres over in about half hour. But the place was surrounded by 4×4’s and I had to park the truck next to a lifted Jeep Cherokee. So I was quite happy walking around looking at the other vehicles whilst my tyres were changed.

So now the truck no longer squeaks and it has a nice new set of tyres on it. Successful week!

Well it was, but now the back left door doesn’t close properly and rattles… One noise after another…

So in brief (adding to what I had learnt before):

  1. Do not use a hammer to remove the driveshaft from the hub assembly.
  2. Make sure you know exactly where the noise originates before buying and changing parts.
  3. If bushings don’t need to be changed, DON’T CHANGE THEM.
  4. Milner Off Road have next day delivery.
  5. Use the right tool for removing oil filters.
  6. If you are changing the oil, get a new oil filter.
  7. Use drainage piping of sorts to guide dripping oil away from skid plate.
  8. Polyurethane bushings are super easy to install.
  9. If you are unsure what the problem is, investigate, you might find other problems.
  10. Ball joint separator tools are very easy to break.
  11. Ball joints all seem to break at once.
  12. Milner Off Road have really useful parts.
  13. Getting the alignment done is cheap and painless.
  14. Liquid spanner and a torque wrench seem to fix everything.

What Tyres Should I Have? (Mud or All Terrain)

From bald street tyres to budget all terrains misery, it was now time to pick some tyres that suit my needs. Then I got lucky acquiring them!

When I first got my truck, it came with practically bald street tyres. They were terrible and had to be changed straight away. So initially I bought a set of the cheapest all terrains I could find. A set of four 255/65/17 Gripmax A/T cost roughly £300 from eBay and they were delivered quickly.

I have to admit these Gripmax tyres did surprise me. For the price I thought they would be terrible. They were fitted and balanced fairly easily. No road noise to begin with, and they had no adverse effect to my mileage. So I was fairly happy with them on the road.

Off of the tarmac they were about what you’d expect from budget all terrains. Dry dirt, grass, they had plenty of traction. Gravel made pulling away a bit difficult sometimes. They would put up a fight in mud, spinning and swerving, where other all terrain brands seemed to drive right through. But overall they did the job with some persuasion.

Now we come to their performance in the wet. From a standing start they seem to lose grip quite easily. Spinning when pulling away at junctions. This was replicated in the snow. Struggling where street tyres were performing well.

Unfortunately I didn’t have much confidence in the Gripmax A/T.

This led me to believe it is time for an upgrade.

So what tyres should be next?

What did I want?

  • Bigger tyres
  • Better control off tarmac
  • More control in the wet
  • A harder sidewall
  • Better tread pattern
  • Aggressive stance.

Mud tyres?

Initially I thought that getting a big set of mud tyres would be the best course of action.

I had looked at quite a few but had narrowed it down to these few:

  • 265/65/17 Insaturbo Dakar Mud Terrain?
  • 265/70/17 Maxxis Bighorn MT764  Mud Terrain?
  • 265/70/17 BF Goodrich T/A KM3 Mud Terrain?
  • 265/70/17 Falken Wildpeak MT01 Mud Terrain?

The Insaturbo were cheap and my brother in law had them on his truck with no issues. Maxxis have a good reputation but they are quite expensive. BF Goodrich. I think that says enough. Unfortunately again out of my price range. The Falken Wildpeak at the very edge of my budget and seemed to have good reviews on and off road. These were my main consideration.

But then do I really need mud tyres?
Cons:

  • They are expensive
  • They wear easier that all terrains
  • They increase fuel consumption
  • They cause loud road noise
  • They are good only for mud and rock crawling.

But then again,
Pros:

  • They look cool
  • They are good only for mud and rock crawling.

The cons seemed to outweigh the pros. So I decided that yes mud tyres would be cool, but for a truck that I use daily, and very rarely use in deep mud, all terrains were the way forward.

All Terrains

The amount of all terrains on the market is a bit crazy. But above them all stood the BF Goodrich KO2’s. I cried a little when I saw the price for a set of four. Easily going over £1000…

I was about to settle on keeping my poor tyres for a while longer until I had saved the money for the upgrade. That is until I found a guy selling four that had done roughly 2000 miles, for about £400 online.

Four almost new 265/65/17 BF Goodrich KO2’s for £400!

I couldn’t believe my luck. It felt like a set up. Surely he’s not going to sell them for that price? I wondered if I would turn up and leave missing a kidney. But he turned out to be really nice guy, just needed them gone asap.

I pulled up to his house and hiding behind a bush was a huge Ford Raptor. It was lifted and had at least 35 inch wheels (making mine look small…). It was awesome. We had a little chat and it turned out he was shipping his truck to Central America soon (one more thing to add to my bucket list!) and he needed the space in his garage for bigger tyres! 

I couldn’t thank him enough. Wished him luck on his travels and left with four almost new tyres. Result!

Now I am just waiting to get these tyres mounted and then to buy a spare. Once they’re on I’ll let you know if they really stand up to the hype.

Chasing Squeaks (A guide on how not to problem solve)

A week after green-laning at Salisbury (a story for another day), we had decided to go down to the New forest camping.

It was a nice relaxing weekend surrounded by the nice peaceful forest. That is until the nightmare began. On the way home the front left wheel began to scream. It was so loud it was scaring the horses that roamed the forest. Moments of quiet sanctuary ruined by what sounds like a stampede of horses being chased by a baby pig….

Anyways once I was home I had a quick look around and nothing seemed obvious… other that the entire front wheel could be shaken and rocked! The bearing was completely gone. How I didn’t notice this while I was driving I’ll never know. So I went straight online and ordered two new front hub assemblies from Energized Customs. They came the next day. Simple.

I went ahead and disassembled the front left wheel and brakes, then onto the hub, bolts out and finally took out the drive shaft. It wouldn’t budge. Time for the hammer. Stupid decision. The drive shaft popped out, and the hub came straight off. The new hub went straight back on, and I started to reassemble. It was only when I tried to put the bolt back on the drive shaft that I had realised my mistake. I had completely ruined the thread with the hammer, and now the bolt. Great.

This complicated things. Instead of buying a complete front left drive shaft (probably the easy option), I bought a new outer CV joint, luckily Milner Off Road had them pretty cheap. It came two days later and after getting completely covered in grease, it was done. No more squeaky bearing.

However, now there was a squeak coming from the right side. Probably a bushing. I sprayed some WD-40 onto all the front right bushings (two on the upper control arm and two on the lower), this seemed to quieten the squeak for a while.

At this point the truck needed an oil change. I bought 10L of fully synthetic 5w-30. I drained the oil from the engine. For future reference it might be beneficial to use a piece of piping to direct the oil away from the skid plate and into a tray.

I forgot to buy an oil filter.

So after letting the truck sit for a day with no oil in it, I picked up a Mann oil filter. Getting the old oil filter off was a pain, I ended up breaking a chain oil filter remover tool, removing the front right wheel and wheel well liner, hammering a screw driver through the filter to try and turn it. That didn’t work. Eventually I ended up borrowing a metal strap filter tool which did the job.

After all that excitement my steering started to squeak! Great. We’ll get to that later.

On to the squeaky bushings. I removed the front right upper control arm as this is where I thought the squeak originated. I took it to a shop to get the old bushings pressed out. After an hour or so of them beating the bushings with a sledge hammer they finally popped free. I had bought some polyurethane bushings from Milner Off Road as a replacement. They pushed in easily and went back on to the truck with ease. Wheel back on and truck on the ground, there is still a squeak…

This is where I am now, 3 months from the first squeak. I’m pretty sure it must be the lower bushings squeaking now and possibly the lower ball joint causing the noise with steering. I decided the best action was to buy a lower control arm complete with new bushings and ball joint installed. This does mean that I won’t be able to put in polyurethane bushings but with all the rough terrain of green-laning I think it won’t be too many years before they need changing.

With the new control arm installed I should have a quiet truck! But for now I’m stuck with this squeaky thing.

So in brief:

  1. Do not use a hammer to remove the driveshaft from the hub assembly.
  2. Make sure you know exactly where the noise originates before buying and changing parts.
  3. If bushings don’t need to be changed, DON’T CHANGE THEM.
  4. Milner Off Road have next day delivery.
  5. Use the right tool for removing oil filters.
  6. If you are changing the oil, get a new oil filter.
  7. Use drainage piping of sorts to guide dripping oil away from skid plate.
  8. Polyurethane bushings are super easy to install.

I’ll keep you updated.

Rock Sliders! (My first real welding project!)

Looking around online for new side steps for the skunk proved to be difficult, they were either really expensive (over £700) or the same as stock ones (gross). I was tired of the old ones, they had been painted by the previous owner, probably more than once, the paint was chipping, they were rusty, and the plastic step surface on them was all warped and discoloured. They were too short. I did not like how they looked.

The old side steps.

So I decided to make my own.

I ended up buying about 12m of 30x30x2.5mm square steel tubing for around £80 online. I had a plan in my head so I started to draw out the measurements on an old dirty piece of cardboard. (Engineering at its finest). It didn’t take long before I had cut out the main shape and laid it all out on the floor.

Once I was happy with how the step looked I began to weld it together.

Now I’m pretty new to welding, and I was using a small arc/stick welder that I got from Aldi. So I wasn’t expecting perfect welds, but I think I did a pretty good job!

Once I had the main steps welded together I was pretty happy, although I had no idea how to attach it to the truck. I decided to use where the stock steps had been bolted on. So I just measured out some small bits of flat metal and welded them on.

Once I had welded these parts on I put it onto the truck and quickly realized how unstable they were. Time to attach them to the frame like ‘proper’ rock Sliders. So measured some more tubing and some thicker flat metal for the bolts, welded and Vola!

They fit snugly on the truck and even unbolted could withstand me jumping about on them. Now to attach them to the frame I decided to use rivet nuts. At short notice I could only seem to get rivet nuts that were hexagonal.

Rivet nuts similar to the type I used.

Have you ever tried to set these things using two spanners and a spare nut and bolt? It sucked! This led to me going out and buying an electric impact wrench (Best tool I have ever purchased!). This made setting the rivet nuts in the frame easy. With everything in place and tested, (and a load of grinding to get rid of my bad welding…), time for paint!

I ended up painting them with a cheap bed liner paint from Halfords. Which made them durable and grippy making getting in and out of the truck easier.

And so here they are, the finished product!

I’m pretty happy with them to be honest, especially with my welding skills!

They are tough and sturdy. Since I’ve had them on I’ve hit them against quite a few rocks and banks whilst green laning, the occasional tree, and they are perfect.

The only issue I’ve had is the paint isn’t super durable and I have had to go over parts every now and then.

So there it is. You don’t have to go and buy super expensive rock sliders to make your truck look good. I built these for about £100, even if you include the welder it’s still below £200.