Who Needs 4WD? Update #1: Toyota RAV4 (Gen1) “TRD” – What I Should Have Gotten For My Off-Road Trip, But I’ve Already Started On the xB

If I was smart and practical, I’d have looked for a cheap old RAV4 like this for my upcoming off-road adventure in Nevada in June. This one is all set to go, with a lift kit and big wheels, and requisite TRD Off Road stickers. It’s all set to go. But that’s too easy; I need to take the hard way.

Meanwhile, I’m one-quarter of the way through lifting my xB. I’ve ordered bigger tires. But I think I’ll pass on the TRD stickers.

I wasn’t meaning to, but here’s a bit of an update so far.

I ordered a 40mm (1.5″) lift kit from an outfit in Ukraine that seems to have cornered the market. Given the low price ($102 including air freight), it’s easy to see why. Actually, they’re currently the only ones offering a kit for the xB/Yaris. They’re just blocks of dense polyurethane rubber/plastic that extend the front struts/coils and rear coils.

The guy with the lifted xB I showed you said the fronts were a bitch to install, and the rears easy. So I started on the front. And yes, it was a bit of a bitch. Getting the spring/shock strut out was easy enough; it’s putting in a 1.5″ taller one that’s the bitch. I had to buy a cheap coil compressor, but even that didn’t quite do it. I finally realized that my lower control arm wasn’t dropping down as far as possible because it was still attached to the anti-sway bar. Doh! When I figured that out, I assumed I was home free. Not so.

The original three bolts on top had pointed ends to make pushing them through from below easy. Not the ones from my Ukrainian friends. Stephanie had to help guide them, and even then it was difficult, as the alignment had to be just right or they would bind. But I finally got it, and the other side will be a lot easier (I’m going drill the holes slightly larger).

I’ve spent quite a bit of time mulling over tires sizes. Stock is 185/60R15; I’ve been running 3% larger 185/65R15s for years (above). But I wanted bigger tires, for a bit more lift and of course the requisite looks. Lots of mulling; a bit too much so. The problem is that the smallest AT (All Terrain) tires I could find were 205/70R15s, and they were just too big to fit and would have a 10% change in gearing. That’s an issue, since I obviously won’t have a really low gear. Fortunately, the xB does have a pretty low 4.3:1 final drive (Yaris/Echo: 3.53;1). So it was a question of the best compromise between losing some low gearing vs. a somewhat bigger tire, which would almost certainly have to be a winter tire to get the more aggressive tread I need.

I had pretty much settled on a 195/65R15 Firestone Winterforce tire. But I kept Googling, and one day I put in a 205/65R15 size and came up with a very unexpected result:

Walmart has this “Duro DP3000” that is actually a Cooper Discoverer AT3 4S AT tire, but oddly in a smaller size that even Cooper doesn’t list as available in the US. This is an all-season AT tire with a “Three Peak Snow rating”, meaning no more tire changes in the winter. And only $51! It gets very good ratings. Would it fit? It is an inch taller and 7% more circumference, meaning a 7% reduction in overall gearing. My effective final drive ratio will be 4.0:1 instead of 4.3;1; great for the highway, hopefully not too tall in difficult situations.

I bought a cheap junkyard tire in that size, to do a trial fit, and it just barely works (sorry, no picture). It clears everything except a bit of a bulge in the rear inner front fender liner. A bit of work with a mallet took care of that. It fits just fine in back. They’re coming in about a week. I’ll show you the complete lift and tires then.

A box arrived in the mail the same day as my lift kit from Jim Klein; it was small but a bit heavy. Hmm. Opened it up to find a recovery bolt made for my car. He said he found it in an ’05 xB in the junkyard. This may well be the single most important item I bring on the trip!

There’s a little plastic cover on the rear bumper that covers the place where it screws in the back.

And a spot in the front, now fully exposed after removing the lower bumper cover/air dam. Now I just need to order a recovery “snatch strap”, and a few other items.

Ideally, I’d get a Kaaz LSD (Limited Slip Differential), but that might make it too easy. Can’t have that. And you know how cheap I am…

The easy way out would be to find a Toyota bB 1.5 AWD with LHD steering from the Philippines, like this one. With bench seats and column shift, no less. Mighty rare. The AWD version is significantly different under the skin, in lots of places. It has a solid rear axle and different suspension, borrowed from some RWD Toyota van. And it loses even more of its very limited rear cargo area.

If My FWD xB does poorly, I might have to consider this. We shall see…