Cheap Tricks and Trail Fixes

I have put together a small list of cheap tricks and trail fixes I gathered from several online sources.  I have tried to give credit to who submitted the trick, but obviously this does not mean they "invented" it.  If you have any you would like to add to this page, feel free to email me at


Custom Torque Rod (Toyota) Jay Kopycinski -    You can buy the Rancho one or do this low buck fix. Cut one end off the stock one. Place a single bend in the stock solid rod as needed to clear the sway bar. Weld on a piece of tube (~5/8" i.d.) to lengthen the torque rod. Weld a 5/8" UNF nut to the end of this tube. Add a 5/8" rod end and second nut as a jam nut. For about $10-15 and some welding you have an adjustable torque rod that will clear the sway bar.

Steering Fix (Jeep CJ) Ken -  I just put a wrangler pitman arm on my CJ with 2.5" suspension lift. It leveled the steering geometry perfectly. You only need to take a hacksaw and file grooves were there are none (3 places). These are normally throw aways from your friends!

Lighted Rearview Mirror (Jeep CJ) Patrick Kulas -    I wanted more light inside but did not want a roll bar mount. I found a lighted rear view mirror at a junk yard for $10. I needed a new mirror anyway. I routed the wiring around the windshield moulding. It is not hooked up to the dome light switch, just the switches on the mirror. Works great and plenty of light where you need it.

Rearview Miror Relocation (Jeep CJ) Scott Trester - My rear view mirror kept falling off, so I mounted it to the top of the frame where the footman loop is (I never lower the windshield anyway). I had to mount the bracket and spin the stem upsided down so I could get it to move into the correct position. Now I can see lots more out of my front window and still see a good rear-view.

Rocker Panel Protection (Jeep CJ) Jonathan Poole - Rocker protection: 2"x3"x3/16" mild steel angle iron. Works like a charm and is cheap. The angle iron I used measures 7/16" at the angle.

Underbody Off-road Lights (Jeep CJ) Jonathan Poole - Rock lights. If you have some old lights kicking around, you could mount them to the steel body mount brackets on the frame for undercarriage lighting.

Waterproof CD Changer Mount (Jeep YJ) Chuck Corrigan - 12 Disk Changer: I mounted the changer inside a 50 cal ammo can (available at surplus stores for under 10 bucks) and mounted the can to the floor behind the back seat on the left side. The lid can't be opened when the tailgate is closed due to overhang of the tailgate latch mechanism - just lock the tailgate and you automatically lock the ammo box. The can also has a rubber gasket seal to protect from moisture. Easy waterproof and theft-resistant mount!

3rd Brake Light Lift Kit (Jeep YJ) Kirk Dodson - When I added my full size spare, the third brake light was hitting the tire. So I took two hockey pucks and some new bolts and made a 1" lift for the brake light.

Underhood Storage (Jeep CJ) Mark D. - On my 66 CJ-5 I wanted underhood storage for misc tools (other than my tool box in the back) that would be convenient, waterproof and lockable. I went to the surplus store, spent $5 for an ammo can, welded 2 1/4"x1" plates under my heatercore and welded the ammo can to them.

Rockcrawler bumper (Jeep CJ) Brad Ullrich - I turned my stock front bumper into a rock crawler bumper by cutting 5" off each end so it won't interfere with approach angle.

U bolt Flip Kit (Jeep CJ) Mark Courtenay - U-bolt inversion using the rear spring hangers from an '82 1/2 ton 2WD Dodge.

Wire Protection (Jeep YJ) Scott Peterson - Old garden hose acts as great protection for battery cables.

Tailgate Spare Tire Mount Combo (Jeep CJ) Scott Trester - I got tired of swinging open the rear tire carrier, then dropping the tailgate to get in the back of my Scrambler. So I removed the tailgate hinges, drilled two holes thru the swing arm and mounted the tailgate to that - one easy-open maneuver. To look at it, it looks like nothing was done, but it is quicker to open/close the tailgate.

Cheap Idle Increase (Jeep CJ) Chuck Hadley - Lot's of AMC carburetted cars and Jeeps that have AC have a small electric solenoid on the carb that has one wire running into it. For the V-8's, almost all Wgoneers have it. Anyway, its purpose is to bump up the idle when the AC is on. So get one, and just wire it to a toggle switch on the dash, and voila, instant high idle. I use this everyday until the Jeep is warmed up, when on steep hills, and when running the on-board air. Most junkyards will say you can just have it.

Flush Fit Tire Valves (Universal) Scott Ellinger - $20 at the tire store, about $6 a pair from Summit Racing. No more ripped-out valves. Installed, they're about as thick as a pair of dimes stacked on the outside surface of the wheel.

Free Articulation (Universal) David Moore - On many vehicles, you can simply disable or remove the sway bar to increase articulation for off road use.

Punches & Drivers (Tool) Darren Floen - Cut off shock rods also make great punches.Some shocks from big trucks have almost 3/4" shock rods by about 12" long.They are hard,and don't tend to mushroom.Heavy truck shops will give these to you.

Socket Tip for Stubborn Bolts (Tool) Darren Floen - When removing rusted bolts that can't be heated,put a chunk of foam soaked in brake fluid,atf,etc into the socket.A little lube goes a long way.Then use Never-Seize upon reassembly.

Prevetative Measures (Tool) Darren Floen - Use Never-Seize on everything,always.Even cotter pins,and cone washers.

Seal Drivers (Tool) Daren Floen - I save all the old bearing races that I remove to make into cheap seal and bearing drivers.

 Shifter Options (Toyota) Andy Zook - Toyota Supra shifter knob fits on the truck/4runner shifter.

Option for longer front brake lines (Toyota) Andy Zook - I moved the mounts for my front brake lines lower on the frame so that I could use the stock ones.

Sealing Steel Wheels (Universal) Scott J. - On steel spoke/wagon style wheels use RV silicon to seal area where spokes are welded to rim to prevent rust. Painting the wheel black and using black silicon makes the wheel look almost like it is one piece.

Crank Bolt Trick (Toyota) Heinz Forster - When trying to break loose crank bolt, attach breaker bar to nut and have handle braced on frame(drivers side), tap starter to loosen.

Dead Battery Revival (Universal) "missouriman" - A cold dead battery will sometimes start the truck if you warm up the battery.

Heater Hose Patch (Universal) "missouriman" - A socket works good to patch a heater hose.

Temporary Coolant Replacement (Universal) "missouriman" - Windshield washer fluid works fine as a temp coolant.

Hose Protection (Univarsal) Heinz Forster - Use old rad. hoses slit down side, put over new hoses as rock/debris shields.

Spark Plug Starter (Universal) Heinz Forster - For changing spark plugs use fuel hose tubing attached to it to prevent dropping or crossthreading plug

Plunger Body Work (Universal) David Moore - Often, a toilet plunger can be used on body panals to pull out small dents and trail scars without damaging the paint or metal an worse that it already is.

Tacoma Lock Trickery (Toyota) Jason DeMello - Take the two wires coming out of the blue conector on the passenger side of the truck and cross them with a blue conector, or if you have an auto do the same but use a switch inbetween them to the cab.

Emergency Brake Locker (Universal) Jason DeMello - Partially applying the emergency brake will often help regain traction by slowing the slipping wheel allowing both rear tires better traction, acting similar to a "locker".

Shackle Substitute (Jeep CJ,YJ) David Moore - If a spring shackle is broken on the trail, 2 long bolts and one of your generic bolt on tow hooks can be used in place of a shackle to get you back to camp.

Extended Brake Lines (Toyota) Jim Brink - On Toyota mini trucks you can use two factory rubber brake lines and put them together, giving you a flexible brake line that is twice as long as stock.

Lockout Hub Tool (Universal) David Moore - A "T" junction piece of PVC pipe with a notch cut to fit the dial of your lock out hubs makes a great tool for turning stubborn or just plain muddy hubs.

Cheap Trail Creeper (Tool) Dan Merrick - Save an old piece of carpet, approx. 5' X 5', and carry it in your rig to use as you trailside creeper (works better than cardboard, especially in the wet stuff)

Clean Mirrors & Plates (Universal) Dan Merrick - Use plastic wrap (Saran Wrap) to cover your license plate and side view mirrors before you go mudding. Just peel them off at the end of the day, and Whamo! You can see out your mirrors, and Johnny Law won't pull you over for a mud-covered license plate.

Valve Stem Protection (Universal) Dan Merrick - Weld a 1.5" diameter by 1" tall piece of steel tube around your valve stems to prevent them from being sheared off by rocks, etc.

Tow Strap Protector (Universal) Dan Merrick - Old motorcycle inner tubes can be cut up to provide protection from abrasion, etc. for your tug-em strap! Rags will also work! You can also make rubber straps for wrapping up tow straps, jumper cables, etc.

Temporary Seat Covers (Universal) Dan Merrick - Stretching and taping plastic garbage bags over your bucket seats can temporarily protect them from mud and water.

Quiet Leaf Springs (Universal) Dan Merrick - A little grease between each leaf spring can get rid of annoying "squeaks". Pry each leaf apart with a pry bar to apply the grease.

Door Seal Tip (Universal) Dan Merrick - Silicone spray on rubber door seals keeps them from cracking and sticking.

Valve Stem Caps (Universal) Dan Merrick - Always use caps on your valve stems! Dirt, etc can get inside and cause the valve to leak!

Hi-Lift Maintenance (Tool) Dan Merrick - I think that Hi-Lift recommends WD-40 as a great lubricant for the Hi-Lift Jack. Lube yours as often as possible!

Brake Line Clamp (Universal) Dan Merrick - Vise Grips can pinch off a leaky brake line, as a temporary fix.

Spark Plug Wire Maintenance (Universal) Dan Merrick - Dielectric grease helps waterproof spark plugs by providing a better seal between the spark plug wire boot and the spark plug. Smear some around the insulator where the boot slides over. Works well on most electrical connections. It also prevents wire breakage, by allowing the plug wire to pull off the spark plug much easier! Only costs about $3 at most auto parts stores.

Two for One Plug Wires (Universal) Dan Merrick - I bought a Generic "build your own" spark plug wire kit for a V8 from Mallory. I was able to build two complete sets of plug wires for a 4 cylinder engine!

Vacuum Diff Trail Fix (Universal) Tim S. - On my S15 pickup, the vacuum actuated front differential wouldn't engage (it turned out that the problem was the vacuum line that went from the top of the transfer case to the vacuum actuator was rotted out. Rather than crawling under the truck if it goes out when you're off roading, you can hook the vacuum actuator into a source of engine vacuum and it'll keep it engaged until you can fix the problem.

Differential Fluid Fill (Universal) Anthony Brandolino - Putting gear oil in diff. (front or rear)? I always remove the axle vent to clean it at the same time. So I decided, why not but the gear oil in thru that hole? Cut the top of your 1 quart "bottle", stick it in the hole and squeeze. Make sure the filler plug is out or the air has no where to go. This also lets you know when you're full.

Vacuum Lock Axle Trick (Toyota) Anthony Brandolino - If your front I.F.S./A.D.D. vaccuum operated diff lock won't lock and you think it's the vaccuum hose, remove the hose from the diff. (the one closest to the front of the truck) and a simple mouth suck on the tube should lock the sleeve in place. It takes vaccuum on the other hose to unlock the sleeve. So it should stay locked.

Front Brake Line Extension (Toyota) Mark Lockwood - Need extended brake lines but don't want to pay for them? Simply remove the clips that hold the hard line to the frame bracket and push the hard line through the bracket a couple inches. Sleeve the hard line with rubber fuel line and zip tie it in place to prevent chaffing in the bracket and you have an easy few inches extra brake line travel.

Cheap Fluid Pump (Universal) "Bigguy" - Hate to squeeze the gear lube into your tranny or differential? Go to Walmart and buy a hanging plant waterer. It is a quart bottle with a long hard plastic hook that extends from the top. Take a drill, put a small hole (1/16"or so)in the bottle next to the lid. Cut the "J" to more easily go into the transmisson or transfer case, be sure to clean the little plastic fuzz off carefully. Fill the bottle with your favoite gear lube. Take a foot pump or bicycle pump or old fashioned bend over and pump type, put the needle valve on it (the one you use to pump up footballs, basketballs etc.) Push the needle through the hole you drilled and in two or three pumps, the gear lube is screeming into the transmission. To do the differntials, cut the other end of the "J" to shorten the tube and repeat pumping to easily fill the diffs.

Seal Saver for Pulling Axles (Toyota) Anthony Brandolino - I did my 1st rear diff swap and came up with this one. I didn't want to pull the axles all the way out. I had just had new seals put in and had no reason to replace them again. But I was told NOT TO LET THE AXLES REST ON THE SEALS. So once I jacked up the rear end and supported the axle housing on jack stands I removed the tires/ wheels. I had been told as a youth to slide the tire under the frame when changing a tire. Incase the jack slips the vehicle won't end up on the ground. This got me to thinking. I slid the tire under the and of the axle shaft. The I put a short (2 ft) 2x4 across the tire. Put one end on the rim lip and the other on the rubber of the tire. This way the 2x4 sits at a slight upward angle away from the axle. When I unbolted the axle and slid the axle out I simply slid the axle out until it contacted the wood. The 2x4 held the axle off the seal. Worked great.

Flat Tire Changing Trick (Universal) Chris - Stuck with a flat tyre and hydraulic bottle jack only (no Hi-Lift)- rather than digging down, place your spare in front(or behind)the flat and CAREFULLY drive your flat tyre up onto the spare (onto tyre only - not rim) - thus raising the vehicle high enough to place extended screw on bottle jack to an almost changeable height.Saves a hell of a lot of pumping and skin left on knuckles - not to mention the choice anglo-saxonisms. Make sure all passengers well clear during drive-up.

 Extended Diff Breathers (Toyota) Pat Murphy - 8" toy differential extended breathers can be made by getting two 10-12" Lubrimatic grease gun flexible hoses and a coupler. The thread on the little Lubrimatic grease guns is the same as the fitting going into the top of the differential. Hook the two together with a coupler from ACE, and hang upside down from your floor or bed floor. Attach another coupler to the extender and put the original breather vent on it.

Timing Mark Tip (Universal) Johnnie Browne - In order to see the timing marks on the bottom pulley use Liquid Paper on the pulley.


This page last modified 07/10/03

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