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Flat tire and hunger for adventure starts a quest for mods

Kamil Kaluski March 30, 2016 Project 4Runner 33 Comments

Perhaps slightly inspired by  or the memories of my own , my wife and I have decided on a family road trip into the great white north this summer. The plan is to pack up the trusty 4Runner and drive toward Portland, Maine, from where we will take the fast ferry to Nova Scotia, if it actually runs this summer. There we would basically just drive around, stopping in various places for a night or three.

This trip would of course require me to properly prepare the 4Runner, which is to say I’d have an excuse to perform unnecessary mods to it just because I could sort of justify them. I was planning to upgrade the lighting, perhaps get new tires, and some kind of a cargo management. I would also add stuff that I should already have in the vehicle such as: a first aid kit, flashlight, emergency tools, shovel, perhaps an air compressor, fire extinguisher.

Little did I know that a simple trip to New York City would show me just how unprepared I was for a real road trip.

It was a sunny, if a bit chilly, late Saturday morning. I was in the middle lane of I-90 going around 75mph. My son was vast asleep, my wife was watching something on her iPad with headphones on, and my daughter was reading. Suddenly I heard a pop, as if I ran over something and it hit the bottom of the car. It wasn’t loud, sort of like running over any kind of road debris, but enough for my daughter ask what it was. Wife and son were unfazed.

Then I realized that that I have gotten a flat tire. The vehicle didn’t change direction, didn’t become unstable, or anything dramatic like that. The right rear seemed lower and more wind/tire noise started coming from there. It was not a blow-out but rather a simple flat. I pulled over onto the shoulder where the road was a bit wider due to an ending of a long on-ramp. Left tires were about a foot off the white line and the right tires about three feet off the guardrail. Right rear tire was completely flat, as pictured above.

This was far from an ideal place, especially since just days before a not far from there when his cruiser was, which was stopped on the shoulder, was rear-ended. But I had nowhere else to go as the next exit was miles away and I knew that there wasn’t many other places to stop and safely change the wheel. AAA was no help as they don’t service interstates. They transferred me to the state police and they came just as I put the spare on.

Few observations:

  • The procedure to drop the spare from the bottom of a 4Runner is rather complicated. It requires an assembly of an extension wrench about three feet long.
  • Then there is the jack that has to be put under the live rear axle and raised using the same three foot long contraption of wrenches and things.
  • Assembling the said contraption was rather challenging, especially for someone who has never done it, especially on the side of the road, with the whole family in the car. It would make for a great 24 Hours of Lemons penalty.
  • The whole thing sure as hell made me a little uncomfortable, I wish I practiced it before.
  • There are six really big lugnuts on each wheel. That actually gave an appreciation for this vehicle.
  • Why do I even have locking lugnuts?
  • The 265/70-17 BFG A/T tire on an 17×8 alloy wheel is damn heavy, felt like 80 pounds heavy.
  • I didn’t even attempt to put the flat tire onto the under-car pulley contraption on the side of the road, I just jammed it into the trunk.
  • Cars were zipping by in the right lane at 80mph .
  • Drivers were completely oblivious to me on the side on the road, under the car, just a few feet away. Many were yapping on phones.
  • People merging onto the highway were even worse, I actually waved at a few to move over.

Once we were back on our way, about half a mile down the road, I noticed a Jeep with a flat tire. I assume the same debris on the road got him, possibly from an earlier accident. The hole in my tire was rather large, perhaps a quarter inch in diameter, which is the reason why the tire went flat so quickly. I brought it to have it patched at , where the mighty-ish Lada currently is, and they showed me the internal tire damage and suggested that I buy some new tires.

Given the planned road trip, I was thinking of replacing the tires anyway as they are six years old and have about 40,000 miles on them. Now the typical questions were:

  • What tire do I get? Everyone seems to LOVE the BFG A/T KO2 but they’re pricey.
  • What size do I get? 265 or do I want to go 275? 275s look cooler, raise the truck a bit and fill in the fender gaps nicely, but lower gas mileage, possibly effect handling and are heavier.
  • Paint the existing wheels? I don’t love them but perhaps they would look nicely painted gun metal gray?
  • Get new wheels? The wheels look super nice (pictured above), are kinda affordable but are oddly half an inch narrower. I nixed after-market wheels.
  • Stick with alloy wheels or get steel wheels? Steelies look cool, are stronger, but heavier. But they also look kinda cheap and I already have one of the cheapest cars in my hood.

After much research I splurged and ordered a set of BFG A/T KO2 tires. The old ones have been great and I keep hearing how much better the KO2s are. And I ordered them in the stock 265 size because they’re already over-sized. And I am sticking with alloy wheels because they are lighter and nicer, but I just don’t know which wheels yet, or if I get ’em painted.

In the future I’ll write about what other mods I am planning for the trip.


  • PotbellyJoe★★★★★

    Why do you need new wheels? Did you damage the factory set?

    I’ve always loved the look of steelies on off-road vehicles, but that leaves you with new decisions about ripping bumpers off and putting on rock-rails. It gets costly.

    • No, my wheels are fine… BUT since I have the tires off…

      Rock rails – those running board-like things are actually beefy rock sliders.

  • “…with the whole family in the car.”

    There are always tradeoffs, but ideally the passengers should have been outside the vehicle, on the other side of the guardrail, away from traffic. Generally this is better not only for them but also for the person crawling around near and/or under a minimally-supported vehicle.

    • Yes, and I would agree. But after surveying the situation and land around me I made the conscious decision to keep them in the vehicle. I just told them not to move and to keep checking to see if I am alive.

    • I’ve always felt the opposite. Stay in the car, seat belts on. The car is designed to protect you in a crash. If you’re outside, it’s hard to predict just where an errant vehicle absolutely won’t end up.

      Easter Sunday a coworker driving in the right lane in a particularly narrow 2 lane section of interstate in his late model Ram 4×4 crew cab, changed to the left lane to pass only to discover a disabled 1997 Mercury. It was in the left shoulder but not quite out of the lane. He hit the rr corner and left a debris trail several hundred feet long. The Mercury was totaled and his truck will be close. The woman who owned the Mercury was in the driver’s seat and walked away unhurt, as did he. Had she been out of the vehicle, it would not have likely been good.

      • 0A5599

        I knew someone who got killed when a drunk driver hit him while he was changing a tire for an elderly motorist. I knew someone else who got killed by a drunk driver who slammed into a parked car, knocking it forward 50 feet and onto the sidewalk where my friend happened to be.

  • Alff

    Pay close attention to road noise when buying truck tires that offer any kind of off-road capability. The Treadwrights on my pickup offer the most traction of any tire I’ve had, but the trade off is a constant ringing in my ears.

    • Indeed. Current BFGs were a bit louder than I wanted them to be. New ones are suppose to be quiet.

  • BigRedCaveTroll

    I regret going from my 15 inch steel rims to my 16 inch aluminum rims. Granted I went to a slightly larger tire and rim, but the steel rims+tires were actually lighter than the new aluminum rims+tires. Steel rims look cool, they’re rugged, they’re less desirable=less likely to be stolen, easier to paint, and they’re easier to get fixed if they get damaged.

    What I do when I buy tires is go onto a site like Tire Rack and look up the size of tires I want, then select the type. Then what I do is sort them by the reviews and find the “best” tires I can that are within my budget. Then I shop around (Google Shopping is great for this). The last two times I’ve purchased tires I ended up buying them off Amazon for an awesome price with free shipping and had them installed by a trusted garage. I saved about $400 on the two sets of tires by doing it that way.

    *Edit:* Good tires make a world of difference. They’re definitely a good place to splurge and not cheap out on.

  • PowerTryp

    I have had the same thing happen recently. I lifted my Jetta to do an oil change on Sunday and during the drain out inspection I found that my rear left coil spring was broken! “Faaaaaakkkk!” Anyway I looked at it and they are sold in pairs (in the aftermarket) and if I’m doing springs I should do shocks. Well now the rear is refreshed so I should do the fronts as well so I look up quick struts. Ok. Maths done. “How much were those coil overs again?”.

    Yup, thats right. I’m putting coil overs in the Jetta because I broke one rear spring.

    • We’re such idiots.
      I should get a Hi-Lift jack, too.

      • PowerTryp

        Actually, you’d be far more efficient to just get a good bottle jack. Hi-lift is good for an off road vehicle that has a lift point for it, but that will beat the hell out of the sides of your truck.

        And yes, we are idiot.

        • You fool! I go off-roading like all the time!!! When other idiots are stuck in traffic on the highway, I crawl over rocks and speed through the forests!!! I need a Hi-Lift jack. I shall attached it proudly to my expedition roof rack!!!

          Supposedly I can put a jack under my running board/rock slider thingy. See link in first comment. No, I won’t try it.

          • PowerTryp

            Installed them yesterday! In case you were wondering. You probably weren’t. I don’t care, I’m super pleased.

            • Sweet! My tires are here, no time to install. 🙁

        • ptschett

          A random tidbit I’ve known for a long time (might have gotten it from Four Wheeler in the late ’80’s when I was 8 or 9?) but never needed to use: a hi-lift can be used as a winching tool.

          • GTXcellent

            and work well to pull fence posts

          • PowerTryp

            Thats pretty cool! I’m not sure I’ll ever be in a situation where that will be handy but hopefully if I am I will be sure to remember that.

  • 0A5599

    AAA doesn’t service interstates? Since when? Or were you in one of those areas where authorities grant exclusive road service rights to whichever towing company is most generous with campaign contributions?

    • karonetwentyc

      Having had my share of ‘oh crap’ moments where whatever pride and joy I’ve recently purchased has decided to start its long, downward spiral into madness on a freeway… It’s news to me as well that AAA won’t come out to you if you’re on an Interstate. Is this possibly a regional policy?

      • dead_elvis, inc.

        Must be. I’ve made use of AAA on interstates twice, in two different states.

    • Possibly. I don’t know.

  • engineerd

    Get a BajaRack with the tire clamp doohicky and put the tire up top. The hardcore rockcrawlers will cringe because “man, you just put so much weight up high! Your center of gravity is all messed up, man” but 80 lb. up top is nothing on a 4000 lb. rig.

    Then you can also get the hi-lift clamps and shovel clamps (or make your own) and attach those to the rack. Just don’t leave them on there all the time if you want to keep it and keep it useable. On the Jeep I only put it on when I’m going to be somewhere that AAA can’t get to me. The shovel will be critical if you’re in backroads at all on your trip.

    Research what the trails are like where you’re planning on going. Are they sandy or rocky? Let that drive what you get. MaxTraxx aren’t going to do a lick of good on rocks and will be a waste of $$$.

    Finally, have fun!

    • I think I need one of those cargo boxes for the roof simply due to its functionality. I can live with the spare under, it was literally the first time I ever had a flat tire that wasn’t caused by my own stupidity.

      Regarding clamps for the rack and jack and shovel… dude, c’mon, you think I way more hard core than I am. 🙂

      • karonetwentyc

        Clamp down the at least the Hi-Lift – it and the shovel are items you do *not* want flying around the interior in an accident.

        There’s a photo I’ll have to see about finding: it’s one of my Jeeps with the Hi-Lift laying on the ground about 15 feet behind it with a trail of broken glass between the jack and the hole it left in the back window. I’d put it on top of my cargo boxes when we broke camp that morning, forgot about it, started on a steep and fairly rutted climb a little ways down the trail, and had the fun experience of watching it go through the rear window right before I made it to the top.

    • Vairship

      I would be careful with putting an 80lb spare on top of a 4Runner. Nothing to do with center of gravity, more with poor Kamil trying to get it down without the tire flattening him when falling 6 feet down, and then proceeding to bounce off across the interstate…

  • Ross Ballot

    Blowing a tire is definitely bad luck, but might have been a blessing in disguise (the cliche to end all cliches, sorry ’bout that). Would have been a lot worse to get that blowout up in Canada…

    Keep us posted on how you like the KO2s. Friend of mine just put a set on his F150, and everything I’ve read seems positive. Just wish they weren’t so expensive…otherwise I’d have a set on the VX in a heartbeat.

    • So far: much quieter than KO1s with 40k miles on them, and smoother. I went by people’s reviews, my limited experiance with KO1s, general reputation, and finally looks, and decided to just do it.

      On a VX, and really any car, your mileage will go down as they are over-sized and heavier compared to whatever came on your Subi.

      • Ross Ballot

        Haha, VX as in VehiCROSS, not as in XV Crosstrek :p

        Glad the KO2s are working well so far!

        • I knew that, of course, but figured you may have a Crosstrek, too. 🙂

          • Ross Ballot

            Oh man, if Subaru was producing a WRX/STI Crosstrek I’d own one for sure

              • Ross Ballot

                Yup, saw that as well…too bad it’s a custom build and not available with a warranty…



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