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HomeOff Grid & Self Sufficiency4Runner Upgrades: Westcott Roof Rack, Baja Designs Lights, & sPOD

4Runner Upgrades: Westcott Roof Rack, Baja Designs Lights, & sPOD


Mountain climbing, tenting, capturing, and off-roading — these are a couple of of our favourite issues. Even should you’re not a customized automobile fanatic, it is onerous to disclaim the worth {that a} well-equipped truck brings to every of those outside actions. It affords the house to load up all of the gear you need, the ruggedness to make it by mud and snow, and the emergency provides you want should you get caught or injured. Primarily, it affords the liberty to go on a wide range of adventures. This was the conclusion that led me to begin our Toyota 4Runner overland automobile mission, which started with the set up of off-grid communication and navigation tools contained in the cab. The following part includes some extra noticeable upgrades: a Westcott Designs roof rack, an array of Baja Designs LED lights, and an sPOD system to regulate the onboard electronics.

Operate Over Style

Above: Here is a photograph of the 4Runner in inventory type shortly after I bought it.

Loads of guys prefer to improve their vehicles with heavy-duty roof racks piled excessive with restoration gear and sufficient LED lights to resemble one of many UFOs from Shut Encounters of the Third Type. There’s nothing fallacious with these flashy builds, however personally, I choose the “much less is extra” strategy. So, I began the outside upgrades with a Lo-Professional roof rack from native Arizona truck components producer Westcott Designs. This affords expandability for a wide range of gear and equipment sooner or later — awnings, rooftop tents, rifle instances, mountain bikes, and so forth — however maintains a smooth look.

Lighting was subsequent on my wishlist. I reside in an space the place streetlights are few and much between, and I typically drive to distant areas the place it will get extraordinarily darkish after sundown. Gentle makes any nighttime exercise simpler, whether or not it is cleansing up gear after a night vary session or trying to navigate a slender path again to the principle street. My 2022 4Runner’s inventory Bi-LED headlight low beams are good, however the excessive beam solely strikes a shutter to regulate the sunshine sample; it barely makes a distinction in a very darkish setting. So, I reached out to Baja Designs for a couple of auxiliary LED lights that may massively improve the truck’s obtainable mild output.

These embody amber lights within the bumper and grille to chop by mud and fog, a 40-inch white mild bar on the roof rack to switch the puny manufacturing unit excessive beam, and a pair of rear-facing space lights that double as high-powered hazard/strobe lights.

Above: The sPOD BantamX Touchscreen package serves as an digital mind that simplifies the wiring and administration of digital equipment. I am utilizing it primarily for lights, however it may additionally management as much as 8 objects equivalent to fridges, air compressors, radios, backup energy stations, and every kind of different vehicle-mounted gear.

Wiring 4 units of auxiliary lights may simply result in a rat’s nest of wires beneath the hood; that is not solely ugly, it is an enormous headache to put in and troubleshoot. I made a decision to alleviate this downside by putting in an sPOD BantamX, which conveniently manages all of the lighting connections (and different digital equipment) in a single unit that mounts within the engine bay atop the fuse field. The BantamX unit is then merely related with a single wire to an sPOD touchscreen controller contained in the truck, permitting me to activate any or all the lights. It additionally provides dimming, strobe, computerized shut-off timer, and lots of different sensible capabilities (extra on that later).

Baja Designs Lights

I started this mission by planning out the lights I wanted utilizing Baja Designs’ lighting zones framework. The 4Runner’s inventory excessive beam might be supplemented by a long-distance mild (Zone 4); I selected a 40-inch OnX6+ mild bar that may be mounted on the roof rack. This excessive mounting place ensures it clears low brush and different obstructions close to floor degree. I went with a Driving/Combo beam sample since I nonetheless needed the flexibility of some spill, versus a tightly-focused highlight. This bar produces an insane 38,900 lumens with a mean rated lifespan of almost 50,000 hours — that is greater than 5 years of steady runtime.

Subsequent, I needed some driving lights for navigating tighter trails the place the immense energy of a 40-inch OnX6+ could be overkill. To take care of a stealthier look and cut back the chance of theft, I made a decision to mount a 20-inch Baja Designs S8 mild bar behind the grille. This covers Baja Designs’ Zone 3 with a “main driving mild” sample. I lately upgraded the 4Runner to a white TRD-Professional-style grille from Path Normal Offroad, which deletes the Toyota emblem and chrome strips that block the higher grille on TRD Offroad fashions like mine. That modification made it attainable to put the S8 contained in the higher grille utilizing mild bar brackets from SDHQ.

Above: The 20-inch mild bar is barely seen when it is turned off, however shines by the higher grille clearly as soon as it is powered on.

I supplemented the grille mild bar with a drop-in Toyota 4Runner Fog Pocket Gentle Equipment from Baja Designs. This features a pair of Squadron Sport lights with Extensive Driving sample lenses (overlaying Zone 2 / cornering mild) , plus brackets and wiring connectors to put in them instead of the manufacturing unit fog lights. I used the brackets, however opted to attach these lights to the sPOD system for impartial management, relatively than utilizing them with the truck’s manufacturing unit fog mild button (which is barely lively when the headlights are turned on). These Squadron fog lights add a good wider unfold of sunshine to light up either side of the street and any obstacles instantly in entrance of the truck.

Lastly, I chosen a pair of S2 Sport reverse lights with a large cornering beam sample. Whereas it is attainable to mount these beneath the rear bumper or flush-mount them within the bumper itself, I made a decision to put them larger up in the back of the roof rack.

These Extensive Cornering work lights can be utilized for backing up in extraordinarily darkish locations, tenting or working across the rear of the truck, and even as a technique to alert autos of a roadside emergency. The latter perform is particularly helpful with the sPOD’s strobe setting.

Above: The S2 Sport lights are angled down barely to mission mild over the sting of the spoiler on the high of the 4Runner’s hatch. Clearance could be very tight with the hatch open, however they do not make contact.

A Notice on Amber Lighting

Above: A colour temperature scale and LED instance diagram from Baja Designs.

Why are yellow or amber lights so common within the off-road and overland market? Properly, as a few of you might already know, amber lights assist with visibility in less-than-ideal circumstances — mud, rain, fog, and snow. Nevertheless, the rationale behind this is a bit more difficult. The human eye is customized to see greatest in daylight, which is equal to roughly 5,000 Kelvin on a colour temperature scale. As mild turns into extra blue (larger than 5,000K temperature values) it may trigger fatigue and eye pressure to step by step construct up. In a video on the Baja Designs YouTube channel, an engineer explains that yellow mild (decrease than 5,000K) leads to “much less optical workload to register and outline what’s in your setting.” Whereas amber lights do not bodily reduce by mud particles or raindrops higher, they do assist your mind course of visible knowledge extra simply regardless of haze or diminished distinction.

Technically, Baja Designs “amber” lights aren’t true amber. They’re selective yellow, or roughly 3,000K colour temperature. The time period amber is used as a result of that is the trade customary for off-road lights on this portion of the colour spectrum. Many amber lights in the marketplace are extra orange, however Baja Designs says that colour has a detrimental impact on lumen output. As mild enters the orange and pink portion of the colour spectrum, it may grow to be tougher to acknowledge objects we’re used to seeing in daylight, so that you would not wish to go too far into the “heat” finish of the spectrum. Selective yellow is analogous sufficient to sunlight with the added benefit of enhanced visibility in inclement circumstances.

Westcott Designs 4Runner Lo-Professional Roof Rack

I am an enormous believer in supporting native companies each time it is attainable — I would relatively assist those that are bringing jobs and income to the native economic system, versus those that outsource it abroad. So, once I realized that Westcott Designs was solely a brief journey from my dwelling in Arizona, I made a decision to move over and take a look at their store. They gave me a tour of their manufacturing facility in Phoenix, AZ, and confirmed me a few of the metalwork that goes into constructing rock sliders, roof racks, mattress racks, spare tire carriers, and different off-road automobile components. From uncooked sheet metallic to slicing and welding to the powder-coated remaining product, all the things is finished in-house.

Above: The workshop at Westcott Designs is stuffed with lovely metalwork, equivalent to these TIG-welded 2022 Tundra rock sliders that had been about to move off to the powdercoating sales space.

Westcott Designs affords two roof rack types for the fifth Gen 4Runner: the usual Modular Rack and the Lo-Professional Rack. Each are constructed from light-weight aluminum with sturdy metal mounting brackets. I chosen the latter design, and pulled my truck into one among Westcott’s store bays to have it put in. First, the rack was loosely assembled on the bottom with all slotted crossbars in place.

Varied wind deflector choices can be found to accommodate aftermarket mild bars from 40 to 44 inches or arrays of particular person lights (ten 4-inch lights or six 6-inch lights). I chosen the 40-inch cutout visor choice, and Westcott worker Jesus obtained began on assembling it with the OnX6+ mild bar. Tracks on the again facet of the wind deflector allowed him to safe the wiring harness out of sight.

After an acceptable quantity of 10-gauge wire was measured and reduce to succeed in from the sunshine bar into the engine bay, Jesus coated it in a mix of wire loom and heatshrink to guard it from the weather.

Transferring to the rear of the rack, the S2 Sport reverse lights had been mocked up on the rearmost bar. The {hardware} was left finger-tight, since these would have to be adjusted later.

Jesus eliminated the manufacturing unit Toyota roof rack, and utilized weather-resistant sealant across the bolt holes to organize for the Westcott Designs rack. This new rack is a no-drill design, so it reuses the unique mounting factors on the roof.

A number of additional helpers stepped in to elevate the Lo-Professional roof rack onto my 4Runner. It is not heavy — solely 44 kilos — however we did not need it unintentionally scratching the roof as we maneuvered it over the truck.

Lastly, Jesus lifted the visor and light-weight bar into place, and tightened the remaining {hardware} to safe the rack and visor. The angle of the sunshine bar was additionally set at this level by tightening the bolts on both finish.

The ultimate step was to route the wires from the three lights (OnX6+ and twin S2 Sports activities) down into the engine bay. A protecting rubber channel was adhered alongside the sting of the A-pillar, and the wiring harnesses had been routed by the channel and beneath the hood.

sPOD BantamX Set up

The flat high of the 4Runner’s fuse field gives an ideal mounting location for the sPOD BantamX. The optimistic and floor wires from the lights might be related to 4 of the eight swap terminals on the BantamX unit, leaving 4 terminals open for future upgrades. Jesus began through the use of the included template and a punch to mark the drilling areas onto the fuse field lid.

Subsequent, the lid was eliminated and drilled within the acceptable areas. The BantamX was connected utilizing the included screws.

Because the BantamX is related to the sPOD Touchscreen controller contained in the cab by a single Ethernet cable, we solely wanted to run one wire into the truck’s inside. That actually beats operating eight wires to 4 conventional switches. There is a second Ethernet cable port on the BantamX so it may be daisy-chained to a different unit, increasing as much as 4 daisy-chained BantamX items with 32 switches.

The facility wire from the BantamX was related to the battery, with an in-line fuse connected to the engine bay wall close to the fuse field. The bottom wire was additionally connected to a close-by floor level. To attach the person optimistic and floor wires from the sunshine bars, Jesus crimped the included spade connectors onto the tip of every wire and secured them to every + and – screw terminal.

Contained in the 4Runner, the opposite finish of the Ethernet cable was routed by the firewall and as much as the left facet of the sprint. We determined to mount the sPOD Touchscreen on a detachable trim panel to the left of the gauge cluster for simple entry. The place was marked onto masking tape, then the panel was eliminated and drilled out.

As soon as the controller was mounted and plugged in, we began the engine in addition up the sPOD system (it will not begin beneath ignition energy alone on the primary boot-up). The complete-color display turned on, and we confirmed that urgent every swap activated the suitable lights.

There are numerous choices for personalization, together with renaming the switches, altering icons, and even linking a number of switches collectively. Some options will be accessed by the built-in menu, however for the reason that sPOD has Bluetooth, it is simpler to configure it by the sPOD cell app. The app additionally permits for firmware updates and entry to “Professional-Sequence” capabilities for a one-time $30 payment — these embody superior capabilities equivalent to circuit timers, variable strobe settings, and programmable ignition management. The Professional app is not necessary, nevertheless it was well worth the improve for our wants.

I configured my sPOD with customized names and icons for the 4 Baja Designs lights. Every swap exhibits the sunshine’s amp draw within the backside nook, and turning on “Off Highway” mode permits flash or strobe capabilities. A slider on the correct facet of the display permits every mild to be dimmed from 100% to 1%. The controller additionally shows battery voltage and the temperature of the BantamX unit beneath the hood.

If I ever neglect to show off a light-weight, the unit will mechanically shut off as soon as voltage drops under a set threshold; this prevents the battery from draining utterly and rendering the truck unable to begin. And if there is a brief or present spike, the self-healing fault safety system will kick in to show off the offending swap with out blowing a fuse.

The Highway Forward

These upgrades really feel like a considerable step ahead for our OFFGRID 4Runner mission. The Baja Designs lights have already confirmed themselves helpful by slicing by rainstorms and mud like a scorching knife by butter. The sPOD controller makes it attainable to dim the output and remodel any of the LEDs into space lights at a campsite, or to ship them into full strobe mode for signaling. Past this, I’ve barely scratched the floor of the unimaginable quantity of customization provided by the sPOD touchscreen and cell app. As for the Westcott Designs roof rack, it is a strong platform for these lights in addition to future upgrades — I plan so as to add an awning, locking cargo case, and a few primary restoration instruments onto the rack within the close to future.

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