Trail-Ready Tundra: Upgrades from Fox, Total Chaos & BFGoodrich

Nov. 26, 2013 By Josh Burns
With the installation of Fox shocks, Total Chaos upper control Arms, and new BFGoodrich All-Terrain tires on our Black Rhino wheels, our Tundra 4x4 now has the trail clearance and the proper hardware to truly hit the trails. Photo: Scott Rousseau

Recently I started brewing beer. If you enjoy beer, there are few things more rewarding than cracking open a cold one you made yourself, or being able to hand one to a buddy and say, “Here, try this.” But like anything in life, there is a multitude of opinions on how it should be made. Each recipe can be tweaked with a slight change to ingredients, whether it's unique specialty grains, yeast or hops, each imparting a different tweak to the flavor. There are different ideas on the best processes for brewing, for fermentation, whether secondary fermentation is necessary for your particular beer, and so on and so forth. Browse just for a few minutes on beer forums and you’ll see what I mean.

The same holds true when it’s time to upgrade your off-road rig. Whether it’s a Jeep, truck, SUV or a backyard mod, everyone has their two cents of what to do, what works and what doesn’t. We’re supposedly in the information age, so the idea is there’s a great deal of useful information out there. The problem is all of that info can get overwhelming – and determining what information is good information can be hard to decipher. I’ve spent more than a few hours looking at different setups and aftermarket parts for the 2012 Toyota Tundra. As my dirt bike hauler, trail truck for exploring, race chaser and daily driver around town, I originally bought the 4x4 minus the TRD (Toyota Racing Development) package with the idea I’d make the upgrades that I wanted – not pay for the dealer’s limited “off-road” package. The problem was, I couldn’t seem to find exactly what I wanted.

Many who’ve bought the Tundra have seen the 35/3 option – a three-inch leveling kit with 35-inch tires. This is definitely a popular option, and it’s a great idea for those looking for that added lift for larger tires without doing a full-blown suspension upgrade. Although this is a pretty straightforward option that will work for many, it is not ideal if you plan on really wheeling your truck in the dirt regularly. The next most common upgrade is to turn to 4-inch and 6-inch lift kits, which also can accommodate 35s and sometimes a little more, but some of these kits require extra cutting and welding underneath for proper installation but offer more durability for off-roading. A 6-inch kit would fit 35s, but ideally the idea was to find a setup with a low center of gravity to maintain stable handling characteristics both on-road and off.

Fitting larger tires to aid in added ground clearance and upgrading the suspension for improved off-road capability as the main goal, and it was becoming clear the ideal setup ended up somewhere in between the popular options of leveling kits and bigger suspension lifts.

BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO tires have a distinctive tread pattern that nearly every off-roader recognizes. Tested and proven in Baja, the All-Terrains are a great choice for on-road comfort and proven off-road performance and durability.

While 35s seemed like a good all-around tire size because they are not so large that they require re-gearing, the catch with the size is rubbing issues, which we heard from both owners and shop workers. So, I trimmed back my size and decided upon something just a little smaller in the off-road proven BFGoodrick All-Terrain T/A KO. The All-Terrain is available in a 35 x 12.5, which is a popular size for many, but I opted for the E-rated 305/65R18 (which is closer to a 34). This would fit on the 18-inch Black Rhino wheels great and should hopefully not have any rub issues.

Moving up from the stock size of 32 inches, the 305/65R18 BFGoodrich All-Terrains (left) would offer nearly two more inches of ground clearance compared to the stock tire size.

The BFG All-Terrains are constructed with a dual-compound tread that features ShoulderLock technology in its shoulder grooves to aid in traction. The three-ply polyester carcass delivers a stiffer tread area that BFGoodrich says provides more precise steering response, better cornering control, and excellent puncture and bruise resistance. The E-rated tire is designed to be stiffer and have a stronger sidewall. This is great for our heavy Tundra so we can air down and know our tires have the sidewall strength to handle the load. They also are able to handle added weight for towing, as BFG rates the tires at having a max load of 3,525 pounds at 65 psi.

For the suspension, we were looking initially at Fox Shox’s new line of Performance Series coilovers, which are designed as direct replacements for the stock shocks. The Performance line is different from Fox’s traditional racing shocks found in the Factory Series, as they are designed for drivers who like to hit the trails on the weekend but spend a lot of time on-road as well. They provide up to two inches of lift to level the front end.

We opted for the Fox 2.5 Factory Series Coilover to replace our stock coilovers, which can provide up to three inches of lift to level out the front end of your truck.

Although the Performance Series shock was a great option on paper, we were concerned about clearance issues. The next best option from Fox is to bump up to the 2.5 Factory Series Coil-over Reservoir (part number 880-02-947), which can provide up to 3 inches of lift. Also a direct replacement for the Tundra suspension, the 2.5 remote-reservoir coilover is a heavier-duty shock and one which race teams – whether for chase trucks or race vehicles – are very familiar.

The 2.5 Fox coilovers are race-developed high-flow shocks that feature a smooth-bore, cleat-boated, zinc-plated, and honed seamless alloy bodies for the both the shock and reservoir. The components are a high-quality black-anodized 6061-T6 billet aluminum. A race-developed, high-flow piston design is featured in the 7/8-inch shaft, which features redundant sealing throughout (pack system main seal, wiper seal, scraper seal). The external reservoir is designed to separate the shock oil from the high-pressure nitrogen, and adjustments for the shock include spring preload ring, nitrogen pressure, compression valving and rebound valving.

Fox piggyback smooth-body shocks were our choice to replace the stock Tokico units from Toyota.

For the rear, we decided to replace the stock Tokico shocks with Fox piggyback shocks (part # 980-02-368). These piggybacks also feature clear-coated, zinc-plated seamless alloy bodies with black-anodized 6061-T6 aluminum billet components. The have specially formulated oil for performance at variable temperatures and are equipped with a high-flow piston design developed for off-road performance. The external piggyback reservoir separates the shock oil from the high-pressure nitrogen. The direct factory replacement offers adjustment of the nitrogen pressure, compression valving and rebound valving. 

One key point for the 2.5 Factory Series Coilovers we’d be using up front is that you need to replace the stock upper control arms with an aftermarket unit that offers more travel.  We turned to Total Chaos Fabrication for new UCAs, which is pretty much a no-brainer since they are Toyota experts that have more than 16 years of experience as racers, chasers and all-around off-road enthusiasts themselves – oh yeah, and they literally have a massive section on their website dedicated just to upper control arms. 

Total Chaos Upper Control Arms would help to accommodate our 2.5 Fox Coilovers up front and also provide up an additional 2 inches of wheel travel. 

The Total Chaos upper control arms are designed to provide up to an additional 2 inches of wheel travel over stock. Constructed of 4130 chromoly steel, the UCAs are bolt-on pieces designed with added caster to aid in retaining the factory alignment specs to provide predictable handling on and off-road. They feature CNC-machined tapered spindle adapters that convert the factory ball joint to a 1-inch uniball for improved strength and wheel travel. The uniball is constructed of a heat-treated stainless-steel design for corrosion resistance and longevity. The uniball also features a military-grade PTFE woven fabric liner to prevent noise. The custom upper and lower hi-misalignment spacers are designed to maximize droop wheel travel and are machined from heat-treated 17-4 stainless steel. To finish off the beautiful pieces, Total Chaos puts its UCAs through a two-stage powder-coating process that includes a clear-coat to protect the parts from the abuse on the trail. The arms feature zerk fittings for simple greasing, come with urethane bushings (not rubber), complete grade 8 hardware and are made in the U.S.A.

After removing the front wheels and disconnecting the sway bar from both spindles, it was time to disconnect bottom arm to remove the stock coilover.

Installation at Off-Road Warehouse
The time finally came to install the parts. We loaded up our BFGs, Fox shocks and Total Chaos UCAs and ventured to Off-Road Warehouse in Escondido, California. Off-Road Warehouse has been in the off-road industry for decades, and we’ve worked with Store Manager Wally Palmer a number of times in the past because they know their stuff and have knowledgeable workers behind the counter and spinning wrenches in the back. With four shops in the San Diego area, including San Diego, Temecula, Escondido and El Cajon, OWR can tackle just about any job imaginable – not just suspension works and fabrication, but also brakes, alignment, oil changes and performance upgrades.

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