Tandem Hauler Got Into Some Steroids…

As it nears 100,000 miles on the odometer, our faithful 2006 Toyota Tundra DoubleCab pick-up truck and tandem hauler made it know that she’s in need of some new tires and struts.  The Tundra had gone through two sets of Michelin tires in that time and was still riding on the stock struts.

All-in-all, it was a really nice “sport truck” that handled very well with its low profile-ish and very wide tires; however, it never quite looked right in profile… nor do most non-4WD trucks running modest-sized highway tires inside a rather large wheelwell.

Add-in the goofy Toyota wheel well “blisters” that come on the SR5 and Limited models and it really makes normal-size  wheels & tires look undersized.  In fact, one of the first things I did was to change out the 17″ Toyota alloy wheels & Dunlop tires for 18″ BBS wheels & Michelin tires and lower the rear suspension to eliminate the “stink bug” look that the raised rear-end gave the truck.  That all helped, but I quickly realized that I should have probably gone “the other way” by raising the front end and upsizing the tires.

Just as a baseline comparison, here’s how our ’06 Tundra first looked when we brought it home back in October 2006:


So, up and until Monday, here’s how our trusty tandem-hauler looked after it’s initial make-over, i.e., debadging, wheel/tire change, blacking-out bright work, tinting windows, adding the cap shell, step-rails and lowering the rear suspension to level the truck.

DSCN0357As of yesterday afternoon, this is how it now looks after Phase I of its second make-over:  The rear suspension is back to its original stock height (really, all I did was put back the stock shackles), the front suspension was raised 2″to level it with the rear suspension and new Bilstein struts were installed on all four corners.  The Michelin Latitude HP tires were replaced with a set of Nitto Terra Grapplers, initially installed on the same BBS 18″ rims.


Phase II will see new rims fitted to the truck.  Before changing out the rims I wanted to see how everything else looked and then “Photoshop” some different rims onto the truck with the larger tires and raised suspension to make sure they’d look right.  The #1 contenders were the set of Pro Comp Series 31’s you see Photoshopped over the BBS wheels in the photo below. So, in a week or two this is how the truck will look once the wheels get shipped-in and installed.


At least for me, this will be like getting an entirely new truck!  Or, will satisfy the part of my brain that drives my perceived “need” for something new.  Moreover, this is the perfect solution, as there haven’t been any trucks that have come on the market since they made our 2006 Toyota Tundra 7/8th size truck that I like as much as our truck.  It’s got a 6′ bed that lets us stuff our tandem in catty-corner with just the front wheel removed, the triplet fits on the roof, the rear passenger area is very generous and comfy for long trips and, well, it’s been paid for since about 6 months after I took it home!  Yup, we should definitely be good-to-go for another 100,000 miles!!

Front End Transformation: Stock, 1st Make-Over, Phase 1 Make-Over:

modified2_2 modified2 DSCN0370

I should note, this is actually a return to the types of trucks that we owned back in the 90’s, where I put some 250,000 miles on my trusty Toyota 4WD Xtra Cab and Debbie put a good 190,000 on a 1995 4Runner Limited. She’s never really liked the way our Tundra looked, even after the first make-over: that’s my little country girl!

09toy 4runner

Oh yeah, and do those step-rails ever come in handy now!  Debbie’s always used hers to get in but I’ve been able to pretty much step in without them.  Not any more!  It’s nice to have a truck that finally feels like a truck again!



About TG

I've been around a bit and done a few things, have a couple kids and a few grandkids. I tend to be curmudgeonly, matter-of-fact and not predisposed to self-serving chit-chat. Thankfully, my wife's as nice as can be otherwise we'd have no friends. My interests are somewhat eclectic, but whose aren't?
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8 Responses to Tandem Hauler Got Into Some Steroids…

  1. Ashton says:

    How is the height going to affect putting the triple on the roof?

    • TG says:

      I’m not exactly sure if I’ll have to change my “technique” or not. Heretofore I’ve been able to get it up there by myself using a non-OSHA approved process. That may no longer be feasible so I’ll have to resort to some alternative strategies, i.e., getting my wife to help, moving the fork mount to the rear of the truck and “roll” the rear wheel forward standing on the tailgate or hitting up my friend Charlie Buchalter at ATOC for a Tandem Topper with the triplet extension.

      Of course, we only take the triplet out a couple times a year so it’s not going to be a major issue for us. In fact, this may be a make-or-break year for keeping the triplet in the stable or letting it go off to a new home.

    • Todd says:

      Hello I stumbled on your post because I have the same truck and am considering doing the same type of changes. I like the Nitto Terra Grapplers and was wondering what size you went with. I have the 20″ XSP rims on my truck for now so I will have to match them. And I also was curious about the leveling. How much did you notice the difference?

      • TG says:

        The size I ordered and expected were the 265x70R-18’s. However, there was a problem and I agreed to go with the 270x65R-18’s. It was a little taller and a bit more narrow than what I’d wanted to install but once the sidewalls relaxed I was pleased with the height and profile.

        As for the leveling, I’d originally lowered the rear end to level the truck when it was new, so when I had the front end lifted and the rear end returned to stock height with the OEM shackles the entire truck seemed like it had been lifted, dramatically. We now had no option but to use the step rail to get in and out, but that was fine. We previously had Toyota 4WD trucks and the Tundra finally “felt” more like what my wife preferred. The front end lift was purportedly 1.5″ but it sure feels and looks closer to 2″ and the truck now has a Toyota 4WD look to it. The tires do a nice job of filling up the wheel wells.

        Now for the bad news, the larger and much heavier off-road tires & wheels have reduced my MPG by a good 5% – 10%, even on the highway where I thought the taller tire would actually increase the MPG with a slightly lower rev count for the same given speed. Yes, your speedo will also be about 10% off with larger tires and there’s no practical way to reprogram a 2006 Tundra’s speedo; it’s a black hole model year that after market devices designed to re-calibrate the speedo won’t work on. Just a couple things to be thinking about before making a change like this.

        At the end of the day, I liked the truck the way I had it but the more aggressive-looking tire/wheel package has been a nice change that will probably delay a replacement vehicle for a couple more years. It was my wife that never liked the lower-riding “sport truck” look of my first round of tire/wheel/suspension changes: she’s a country girl and country girls like their trucks to look like trucks.

  2. Kevin Vinson says:

    Phase I of the change to your 2006 Toyota Tundra makeover looks great! You can definitely tell the difference. The projected look of Phase II is even better yet. That is a beautiful truck and you have taken very good care of it which I wouldn’t expect anything less. Last summer Linda bought a new Toyota FJ Cruiser and she knew exactly what she wanted which was black with oversized tires and the black wheels. It looks great and she loves it! I was going to post a picture with my post but I don’t think I can. Keep us posted on Phase II. You take care and give our regards to Debbie.

    Kevin & Linda

    • TG says:

      Thanks Kevin. Interesting that Linda went with the FJ. Debbie was also thinking about going that way a year or so ago, but ultimately decided to stick with her little sportscar. We have a friend who owns our favorite place for lunch / burgers called the Red Eyed Mule — Sabra — who has a black FJ that she just had lifted as well. She had the grey wheels, but I can’t for the life of me remember what she did for wheels. Neat vehicles, to be sure! I did, in fact, go ahead and put the rims on order. Should have them next week and will hopefully have them installed shortly thereafter.

      Best…. 🙂

  3. Dan says:

    Definitely like phase II. But I have a bias for a larger tire on a lifted (if not just leveled) truck!

  4. TG says:

    I should probably note this hasn’t been an instance of “flawless execution” on the part of my store of choice; I’m happy with the changes so far but not as happy as I’d hoped to be.

    It all started off quite nicely when I spoke to “Kevin” who clearly knew his stuff. I told him what I’d like to accomplish and what I was looking for: Bilstein 5100 front adjustable ride height struts with the matching 5100 rear struts and Nitto Terra Grapplers that were about as wide as the tires I had, but about 2′ taller. I was considering rims, but would hold off on that. I placed the order and was told it would be about a week before the parts all came in, at which point they’d call and set up an appointment for the installation. The timing was such we’d probably be able to leave the truck before we left for Daytona.

    Well, Daytona came and went and no call. When we got back I called Kevin to check the status. Turns out, the Bilstein 5100 adjustables were on back order with no estimated ship date. The company has 63 sets on back order, but interestingly enough… the only way Kevin learned of this was when I made the inquiry. The distributor had not provided a status and apparently the company didn’t have a process to follow-up on late deliveries. Well, that sucked as the alternative was to install regular Bilsteins with a lift kit. Not what I originally had in mind, but with no near term shipment from Bilstein that was my only other option other than putting the project on hold until the struts became available.

    So, with Plan B in place for the struts we were set to send the truck in on 25 March. I decided to drop it off the night before and imagine my surprise, Kevin was no longer with my local store. Hmmm. Oh well, the gentleman who stepped in seemed like a nice, knowledgable guy and was helpful. So, he went to check the truck in and discovered that even though the inventory system said the tires were in the store, reality said… no they’re not. And, there’s not a set within 3,500 miles. “Not to worry, we can get the same tire in a slightly different size that will look and perform about the same by tomorrow afternoon so we’re still good. If you want the other tires, we’ll have to order them and it will be a week to 10 days.” Uh huh. You OK with the other size? If you say I won’t be able to tell the difference, then yes.

    So, when I go to pick up the truck the tires don’t look the same. Turns out, they’re only 10.6″ wide instead of being 11.2″ wide. And, they’re also a bit taller. So, the net effect is I now have a taller and skinnier tire than I originally ordered and envisioned. And, since I OK’d the order and they’ve been installed they’re mine! Now, to his credit, Kevin’s replacement player tells me that the tires will “relax” and become a bit wider in the sidewall and not as tall-looking and that has turned out to be true. The tread is still 1/2″ too narrow, but it is what it is. Debbie thought it looked great; me, I’m already wondering how fast I can wear these suckers out so I can put the size I originally ordered on. But hey, it’s a massive improvement over what I had, it looks good, rides well… but now I’m sure I’ll need new rims to close the deal.

    So, I order the rims and am told 10 days to get them shipped out via train from California; really? “Well, unless you want to pay $75 to expedite, in which case it will be 4 days”. Expedite, if you would. The sooner the better. “OK.” So, expecting I’ll get them put on this past Monday, the 31st, I call to confirm they’re in route. “Yup, they shipped out 26 March, same day we ordered them. They should be here by the middle of next week.” Next week? I thought we agreed to have them expedited? “Well, they shipped them on the 26th.” Right, but they were supposed to put them on a plane not a train. Oh, screw it. Call me when they’re in and you have a installation date for me.

    So, I didn’t get the struts or the tires I originally ordered and the rims I had expedited weren’t. Other than that, a perfect transaction! Good grief, screwed up inventory systems, supply chain and and warehouse/shipping operations. Sounds a lot like where I work! Good Lord, we’ve really lost it across the board. Average performance is really below average but that’s OK: they meant to do well but simply no longer have the tools or leadership needed to excel so everything’s just OK. Isn’t OK good enough? Grrrrrr.

    I’m so fed up I may start to proofread my own writing because, well…. OK has been good enough, right? You reap what you sew.

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