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13,735 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Updated 3/11/17

I've owned this truck since May 2009 and have turned into the trail rig I used to dream about.

Specs: 2009 SE King Cab 4x4 6 speed

Gears and Axles:
M205 and 4.56 gears
ARB lockers, front and rear

Suspension and Tires:
PRG Titan UCA's
Radflo 2.0's with 650# Eibach springs and 1" spacers
Raybestos OE Replacement Titan LCA's
Deaver 10 leaf race springs
Nisstec adjustable lift shackles (set to 2")
Bilstein 5125's (rear)
U bolt flip kit from Fat Bob's Garage
Sway bar removed
BFGoodrich KO2s 285/75/16
Motorsport Tech 1.75" wheel spacers (rear)

Custom winch bumper
Calmini rear bumper with custom quarter panel protection
Custom sliders
Hefty Fabworks engine skid plate
Hefty Fabworks transfer case skid plate
Hefty Fabworks gas tank skid plate
Custom transmission skid plate
ARB rear differential cover
Custom lower shock mounts

Engo E9000S winch
Hella 500FF driving lights
Undercover Flex tonneau cover
Core Uni Trax truck bed rail system
Lund 74448FM toolbox
Artec Industries fluid crate
Firestik Firefly
Heated Side Mirrors
Mud guards removed
Front valence removed

JVC KW-V220BT stereo
Pioneer ND-BC8 backup camera
Bell car thermometer
Cobra 19 CB radio
OTRATTW switches
Heated seat cover

ARB twin air compressor

Action Pics:


· Re-Moderator
13,735 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 · (Edited)
Past Trail Runs:
Death Valley 3-29 & 30, 2018
*Pics* Hunter Lake Trail 10/15/17
*Pics* Pah Rah Dry Lakes Trail and wildfire damage
*Pics* Eastern Sierras July 2017 (Laurel Lakes, Wheeler Ridge, Copper Mtn)
*Pics* Cabin Under A Rock Trail
goneMOAB 2017 Photos/Videos
Death Valley pictures and video's March 2017
*Pics* Pine Nut Mountains Snow Wheeling
Winter Fun Fest 2017 - Jan. 13~15, 2017
Nisscon '16: Nissans on the Rubicon Trail!
*Pics* Gold Valley and Sierra Buttes - Nor Cal trail run August 2016
Bald Mtn trip 7/8-7/10 2016 pic's and video's
*Pics* Nevada Ghost Towns - June 2016
*Pics and vids* goneMOAB 2016
Hollister camping trip 4/28-5/1 pic's and video's
*PICS* Seven Lakes and Dogskin Mountains April 2016
*Pics* Reese River Canyon, Nevada 3/20/16
*Pics* Gibson and Winnemucca Lake area 2/13/16
*Pics* Reno Snow Run 1/30 and 1/31
*Pics* Winter Fun Fest 2016
*PICS* Lagomarsino Petroglyphs to Virginia City 1/2/16
*Pics* Henness Pass snow run 12/12/15
Bald Mountain 8/8 and 8/9
goneMOAB 2015 - Pictures!!
Eldorado Canyon *PICS* 4/18/15
Dolores March 2015
Vegas Wheeling Trip Oct 25-26, Trail Report and Pix
*Pics* Hunter Lake Trail & Schoolbus Cyn Sep 2014
*Pics* Slickrock Trail (CA) and Corral Hollow 8/23 & 8/24
Buttermilk Road August 2014
Hollister Hills Nor Cal Camping Trip July 2014
Pine Grove Hills, NV July 2014
Pictures - Rand Mountain and Last Chance Canyon 4/2014
*Pics* Prozac Canyon, NV 2/8/14
*Pics* Northern NV CF Meet (Pyramid Lake to Fernley, Virginia City area) 12/21-22
Picture's from BCBrian and JeniorNV excellent adventure at Hollister Hills 12/10/13
Virginia City, NV Area Wheeling Pics 11/30/13
Poker Flat/North Bloomfield/Alleghany, CA 10/13
Bald Mountain 7/13
Bald Mountain 6/13
Eldorado Canyon and Peavine Mountain, NV 5/17-5/19
Peavine Mountain Wheeling Apr 2013
Nor Cal meet at Frank Raines 4/7/13
Bald Mountain OHV Alternate Route B *Pics*
Hunter Lake Trail 11/24/12
Shuteye Peak 11/12
Reno Meet/Trails 11/9-11/11/12 (Pics)
Hollister Hills SVRA Sunday Oct 28
PICS Eldorado Canyon and Schoolbus/Prozac Canyons 9/1 & 9/2/12
PICS Big Bear 8/18 & 8/19/12
PICS Hunter Lake Trail 8/5/12
Cow Mountain - june 2012 -
Hollister Hills May 04-05 2012
Lagomarsino Petroglyphs near Reno, NV 4/28/12
Reno Area Trails 3/23-3/25 (Pic Heavy)
Wind Caves Ridge Road 2/25/12
PIC"S and VID"S Hollister 1/29/12
PICS Prairie City 1/22/12
PICS Frank Raines 1/21/12
Picture's and video from Hollister 12/18/11
Eldorado Canyon, NV 10/23/11
Schoolbus Canyon 9/4/11
Oct 10th.... Meet, Greet, and Wheeling

· Re-Moderator
13,735 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
I bought this truck in May 2009 and went "wheeling" the first day I had it home.

Over the next year, I took the truck out a handful of times.

As I began to challenge myself more, it became apparent that the truck needed more ground clearance, better traction, and some armor. So in July 2010, I bought some 265/75/16 Hankook RF10 tires and added a basic 2.5" spacer/2" AAL lift.

In early October, I had some custom sliders welded on.

The timing on the sliders was great because I had plans to go to a Club Frontier meet and greet at Prairie City (the location later got changed to Carnegie) in mid-October. My sliders got broken in on the Frame Twister obstacle at Carnegie.

Earlier this month, I decided to replace my spacer lift with OME 607 coils and Bilstein 5100 leveling struts. I gained about another 1/2 inch of lift in the front, but the ride got too stiff for my liking. So last week, I pulled the sway bar off. MUCH better!

· Re-Moderator
13,735 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 · (Edited)
I have consolidated my review of the Spartan in this post and the next, rather than have it scattered throughout the build thread.

The Spartan locker is installed. Here are my impressions of it so far.
On the was a little quirky at first. I made the truck buck a couple of times, and I got one little tire chirp. Once I adjusted my driving habits, it was fine. Ideally, you don't want to adjust your speed too much going through a curve when you have an automatic locker. If I have to slow down to enter a curve, I've had the best luck with having the clutch pedal depressed as I enter the curve. Then I can let the clutch out and smoothly accelerate through the rest of the curve. 99 percent of the time I can corner normally and get no bucking or chirping. Just a slight clicking sound around tight curves and an occasional soft "bang" (both of which are normal sounds for an auto locker). I was told that the noises may decrease slightly once the locker is broken in. (Previously I had indicated that putting the transmission one gear higher than normal would make the locker behave better. After putting about 3K miles on the locker, I am retracting that statement.)

If your truck is a daily driver and you like to drive in a "spirited manner," or if odd noises and sensations bother you when you're driving, I wouldn't recommend this locker. For my personality and the type of driving that I do, I think I'm going to be just fine with it. It sure was a hell of a lot cheaper than an ARB.

Off road, this thing rocks. From the limited testing that I did, I tackled hills and rocks in 2WD that were previously undoable without 4WD. I found a hill that the truck couldn't do in 2WD even with a locker (I previously had trouble with this hill even in 4LO), but it was awesome feeling the back end of the truck try to work its way up the hill without any tire spin. I also didn't feel as much of a need to use the throttle to try to get my truck up a hill or over an obstacle, so in that sense I think the locker will make it less likely that I'll break something.

I'm happy with my decision so far, and I think I'll adjust to driving with the locker quickly.

Day 2 with the Spartan. Last night, I took the truck for another drive. I accidentally made the truck buck once, but quickly recovered by pressing the clutch pedal and gently accelerating through the rest of the curve. Speeding up slightly through a curve seems to make the locker less temperamental than slowing down slightly while in gear.

Roundabouts are...interesting. If I'm going more than halfway around, I can only get the truck to behave by feathering the clutch.

This morning I drove the truck clear to the other end of town (about 50/50 city/highway) and maneuvered through a tight parking lot. ZERO issues with bucking/lurching/tire chirping so far today. It hasn't taken long to get the hang of driving with this thing.

Plenty street friendly if you don't mind spending a couple days learning to adjust your driving habits.

I've managed to put over 700 miles on the Spartan this week. I've driven it through the city, in pouring rain and light snow, and off road. Roundabouts and U-turns are tricky (sometimes the truck will buck), and I made the tires chirp once when it was pouring down rain. I have no trouble with city driving or navigating parking lots. I just need to depress the clutch pedal before steering into a parking spot, and I'm golden. My initial impression still is mostly street-friendly with a few caveats, but it might drive some people crazy.

I'm THRILLED with my truck's off road performance now. I went wheeling today with a few people, including some moderately built Jeeps. There's an epic hill climb near Fernley, Nevada that I decided to attempt today. The hill gains 1000 feet in elevation in a relatively short distance. It's covered in shale as well as rocks (some of which are the size of small melons) and there are some whoop-de-whoops near the top. My truck made me proud today...I almost made it as far up the hill as a Rubicon on 35's that was locked front and rear. I received a couple of compliments from the Jeep guys, and one even posted on the local forums that my truck "did a surprisingly good job of getting most of the way up the hill." I hate that I sound like I'm bragging. I know it wouldn't have been possible without the locker.

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13,735 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
I have been using this truck as my daily driver twice a week.

The shop that initially installed the locker had used conventional 75w90 oil. After I reinstalled my locker in late September (I had removed it for a couple months), I put in Mobil 1 75w140. The locker is SIGNIFICANTLY smoother and quieter than it was before (and it wasn't even all that bad before). I drive my truck normally now, and that includes cornering at normal speeds. Most of the time, I don't even realize the locker is there. U-turns with the steering wheel cranked are still a little iffy, and I occasionally get a soft clunk in parking lots. Other than that, the locker is smooth and quiet 99 percent of the time.

I haven't had the chance to test out the locker in deep powder or ice yet. I'll add one final review of the locker here after I've had the chance to drive my truck in a couple of storms. At that point, I'll know whether I'm really going to be content to run this locker for a long time - or whether I'll move the ARB locker up on my wish list.

This has been the driest winter we've had in the 10 years that I've lived here - but we FINALLY got enough snow to test out the Spartan. I didn't die like some of my friends told me I would. We got close to 2 inches at my house and in the other outlying areas of town. I took the truck out for a while and drove it in a variety of conditions: 1) quiet back roads with an inch or two of fresh snow, 2) city streets with stop lights where the snow had been compressed into half an inch of ice, 3) twisty roads through the foothills, 4) the freeway in 2WD, which had very little snow in the travel lanes but mounds of snow in between lanes.

I found the Spartan to be very smooth and predictable in all of these conditions. Most of the time, there was no noticeable difference between driving with a Spartan and an open diff. There were a couple intersections where the vehicle in front of me lost traction and got some tire spin. My locked rear diff would keep the truck traveling in a straight line, with no wheel spin, through these same spots. I made a couple of 90 degree turns on the ice that caused the axle to stay locked - but the locker was very smooth and predictable. The diff would stay locked and I could feel one tire slipping through the curve. The axle stayed locked throughout the entire curve (never unlocking and locking at random). Because everything felt so predictable and controlled, it was very easy to drive through these curves.

I played in 2WD a little bit, on ice and in 2 inches of powder, on flat ground and hills. I intentionally got the truck to fishtail to see what would happen and practice pulling the truck out of a skid. If the truck started to fishtail while I was giving it gas, the Spartan would lock up. If I then depressed the clutch pedal and steered into the skid, it would unlock immediately. Coming down a hill, I would also lightly apply the brakes when I depressed the clutch. (Having ABS makes me feel a little more comfortable applying the brakes on ice.) I was going pretty slow while doing all of this, but I never felt like I was in danger of losing control of the truck and I had no difficulty regaining control either. I've had plenty of practice driving a vehicle in snow and plenty of practice driving with a locker now, so combining the two was easy.

I try to drive sensibly in the snow. I don't drive 10 mph with white knuckles, but I also don't drive too fast or tailgate. I was going about 35 mph on most of the surface streets and 55 mph on the freeway. I tried my best to drive "normally" today to give the Spartan a fair test - but admittedly I was probably cornering a little bit slower than I typically would, and I was little bit quicker to put the truck into 4WD and slower to take it back out.

Does my locked 4WD truck perform better in the snow than my FWD car? Tons. Do I still feel safer driving the truck than my car on an ice-covered road? Absolutely.

I went wheeling in the mud all day Saturday and most of Sunday. I have mixed feeling about the Spartan in the mud. It seemed to help maybe 75% percent of the time and hinder the rest of the time. It made it easier to go from a dead stop and KEEP the truck in a straight line if it was already going straight. But if the truck fishtailed (or slid sideways down a hill - eek), there were times that the locker seemed to make the truck a bit more squirrely.

After leaving the park each day, I noticed that pavement + mud covered all terrains made the Spartan chirp on the first couple of turns until the mud had fallen out of the tread.

I drove over Donner Pass last night during a small snowstorm and to work this morning in some slushy snow. I still don't notice any difference in handling from when I had an open rear diff. I even got braver this time and had the truck in 2WD a little bit more. No issues.

I drove the truck last night on some nasty ice for about 10 miles. There were snow showers all day long, but the snow melted as it hit the pavement from the heat of cars driving on it. Late last night, after the sun went down and the traffic was gone, that melted snow had turned into a solid sheet of glassy ice. It's the type of ice that I fear the most - it doesn't matter whether you have a 4WD or 2WD, or what type of tires you have, there simply isn't any traction. It's almost impossible to walk on too.

The truck was in 2WD because there wasn't any snow on the roads. I didn't feel that 4WD was justified or that it would even help much.

My truck started to fishtail a little bit on two occasions while coming around a curve. I've had the same thing happen in 2WD on ice when I still had an open rear diff, so I believe the truck would have fishtailed even without the Spartan. Each time it happened, I just took my foot off the gas pedal and was able to regain control immediately.

Am I finally willing to admit that an auto locker might be dangerous in some conditions? Nope, not yet.

After having this locker for almost 9 months, this is the best piece of advice I have to offer: Keep your foot on the gas pedal going through a curve. Contrary to popular belief, the locker behaves better on a curve if you are accelerating rather than decelerating. If you will be slowing down while turning, depress the clutch pedal BEFORE you start to turn. (If you let up on the gas in the middle of a curve WHILE IN GEAR, the truck will buck.) Then, release the clutch pedal as you start to accelerate through the curve. You can even time your shifts around this so that you aren't putting extra wear on the clutch. It sounds complicated, but I promise it's not. After some practice, the process is quick and smooth, and it has become second nature to me. I catch myself driving my other car the same way simply out of habit.

This should be my final update. I've used the locker in damn near every condition now.

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13,735 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 · (Edited)
Here are a few old pics just for the hell of it.

Lookout tower somewhere near Dog Valley, California:

Prison Hill, Carson City, Nevada:

Also near Dog Valley:

Pulling out a stuck Jeep (my Nissan has recovered two vehicles...a Jeep and a Toyota):

Camping at Antelope Lake, California (Taco hunting pic. There are two Tacos...can you spot them both?):

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What kind of tent is that and where did you get it?? Love those pics by the way....

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13,735 Posts
Discussion Starter · #12 · (Edited)
My skid plates are ordered. They were supposed to have shipped last week so I am expecting them soon.

I stated in a recent post that bumpers would be my next upgrade. I'm definitely sticking with that plan. My cheesy stock plastic bumper damaged the sheet metal on my truck yesterday when it kissed a rock. I attempted a waterfall obstacle that I could have easily muscled my way up if I had better protection (and approach/departure angles) on the front and rear of the truck. I swallowed my pride and bypassed the obstacle after the front bumper hit. It was apparent that even if I got the front bumper over the rock, the rear bumper then would have been forced down. It likely would have been damaged too. If anything good came out of this, my front valence got ripped and I removed it on the trail. It was something I'd been planning to do anyway.

Enough yakking, on with the pictures. This trail is called Schoolbus Canyon. It's up near Pyramid Lake.

We took a slight detour to see the ruins of some old mill. I forget the name.

This is why it's called Schoolbus Canyon. This is near the entrance to the canyon.

Here's the waterfall. The first pic is a close-up of said waterfall. In the second pic, you can see the rock where my front bumper just didn't have the clearance on the driver's side to make it up and over. In the third pic, you can see where the rear bumper would have tried to bury itself into the ground if I'd kept pushing it.

Here's the damage to the front bumper. The air dam got ripped partway off. The bottom part of the bumper is dented where it curves. The top corner of the bumper pushed itself up into my sheet metal, causing a small dent.

This is the repair. We removed the front valence and did the best we could to reattach the plastic to the chrome part of the bumper. That's as good as it's going to get until I get the front bumper replaced.

Just a few random pics of what the drive through most of the canyon looked like, plus a couple scenery shots.


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13,735 Posts
Discussion Starter · #14 ·
That looks like a pretty cool place. Bumpers will definitely allow you to take those lines you couldn't previously - which ones are you going with?
I'm going to get them custom made. There are a couple good off-road fab shops in this area that do great work and are reasonably priced. For the front, I'll probably do a Shrock-style bumper. For the rear, I plan on doing something similar to the bumper on your 2nd gen (minus the tire carrier). The bumpers won't be happening right away. I'm waiting for my money tree to bloom again.

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13,735 Posts
Discussion Starter · #16 · (Edited)
Calmini rear bumper

Calmini rear bumper is installed!

NOTHING I do with my truck ever goes smoothly. Today was no exception. But 5 hours, 4 people, 2 trips to Home Depot (and $50 in drill bits), 13 beers and 2 pizzas later, my bumper is on! I left the receiver hitch in place until the bumper was installed and removed it at the very end. I wanted to make sure the bumper would work with the hitch, just in case I ever need to tow anything.

Before pic:

First step was to remove the license plate and light harnesses.

The bumper is held on by 3 bolts on each side.

Bumper is off.

We should have just been able to slide the bumper on and bolt it in place. Piece of cake, right?

The Calmini bumper has 4 holes on each side. 3 of those holes are supposed to line up with the holes in the frame. Only 2 on each side lined up. The 4th hole should presumably line up with a tab that protrudes from the frame (you can see the tab in one of the holes). But it didn't line up at all.

Our first idea was to drill new holes on each side for the tabs on the frame.

It was a good idea...but it didn't work. In the end, the only way we could get the bumper to fit was to enlarge one hole on each side to get all the bolts in, and to pound the tabs on the frame flat with a hammer. Here it is installed with the trailer hitch still in place.

The receiver hitch came off easily.

The final step was to add all the little things. The lamp for the license plate just popped right in. The license plate itself required drilling into the bumper (the bumper comes with self-tapping screws for the plate). Lastly, I put my new shackles on the shackle mounts.

Check out my sexy new asss! My truck looks SO much better. These pictures don't do it justice at all. The bumper looks great, and the truck looks much taller from the rear. Most importantly, my departure angle is MUCH better now.


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13,735 Posts
Discussion Starter · #17 · (Edited)
I took the truck out today to test out my new departure angle. These first five pictures were taken at a dip in the road where my truck used to almost always scrape (hitch or corner of bumper). No scraping today - plenty of clearance! This area is on the ridge road on the way out to the Wind Caves.

The first three pics are going toward the Wind Caves. I would frequently hit the corner on the passenger side bumper. Plenty of room now. (I picked a bad line coming through the dip the first time and lifted a rear tire. It made for some good pictures though!)

These next two pics are coming back in the other direction. I used to ALWAYS hit something coming through here - most likely the hitch. My new low spot appears to be the tailpipe (but it wasn't as close to hitting as it appears in the pictures).

A few more pictures just for the hell of it...because everybody likes truck pictures! :thumbsup:

As a side note, here are a couple pictures to compare the amount of wheel travel between a spacer lift and the OME/Bilstein set-up. Look at the amount of space between the front tire and the fender in the first picture (spacer lift) compared to the way the front tire is tucked into the wheel well in the second picture (OME/Bilstein). The difference is very noticeable in person, and keep in mind the truck has almost 1/2" more lift in the front now than it did with the spacers.


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90 Posts
I like your build thread because its very real world, daily driver weekend warrior mods. I think im going to go with PGR UCA's with the OME springs and bilstein adjustable 5100 shocks, and OME rear springs.

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13,735 Posts
Discussion Starter · #19 ·
I like your build thread because its very real world, daily driver weekend warrior mods. I think im going to go with PGR UCA's with the OME springs and bilstein adjustable 5100 shocks, and OME rear springs.
Have you read the giant OME/Bilstein thread? I'm happy with my set-up for now but it will be changing in the future. Are you planning on removing your sway bar? I didn't care for the way the suspension felt until I removed mine - it was pretty harsh. It's still pretty stiff off road unless I air down.

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Ya i've read the OME/Bilstein thread. Ill be removing my swaybar for sure. I had a tacoma with OME HD front springs and it rode pretty stiff, after i removed the swaybar it felt a lot better. I'm sure my frontier will feel similar. Coilovers would be nice, but dang they are pricey, and i have a lot to buy and install before the goneMoab event.
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