New Shoes – 255/85 Pizza Cutters

The much alluded to new shoes are finally here and installed. I replaced my 265/75R16 Cooper Discoverer ST/MAXX with exactly the same tire in 255/85R16. I gained exactly one-half-inch of lift over my last measurements on the worn 265’s.

Initial impressions from the drive home…

  • Wow are these quieter and smoother. I hadn’t noticed the degradation in both areas on the 265s. And while slight, it’s definitely noticeable.
  • They don’t look that much bigger. I think the difference would be a lot more dramatic if they weren’t replacing a true 32-inch tire in the same make and model.
  • But they are. And the clearance in both wheel wells is very tight now. That said, there’s still no rubbing (even without the melt mod).
  • They look noticeably narrower. Not bad, just different. And I think that contributed to the improvements in smoothness and tracking on my short highway ride home.
  • Last but not least, one of the wonders of this 255 is that it’s actually one-pound lighter than the 265s they replaced.  So far I’ve noticed no difference in braking or acceleration (which is a different story from when I went from a 265 A/T to the Cooper 265s). That said, I think they might contribute to ever-so-slightly more body roll with the taller sidewall.


Hellwig 550 EZ Helper Springs

I installed Old Man Emu Dakar leaf packs a few years ago. Their initial two-inches of lift slowly settled into an inch. So when I put the OME coilovers up front last year, I added Nisstec shackles to get the inch back and resume the stock rake of one and half inches. And now with the maXTERRA bumper added — I’ve lost a quarter inch again (with the potential for more… those tire swing arms are hell on the rear suspension). But the Dakars are still in good shape overall. So rather than replace the entire leaf pack, I was looking for an alternate solution to beef the carrying capacity back-up without making the X ride like a dump truck.

My first idea was to add the heavy-duty leaf for my Dakar pack into the existing pack. They’re cheap (about $60), but labor intensive to install. The real downsides though are that reviews say they make the X ride terrible and that they too flatten out… leaving you right where you were before the whole mess.

Which led me to the Hellwigs. Reviews everywhere rave about these helper springs, they’re cheap ($60), and go on in about ten minutes. My biggest concern before ordering them was whether they would fit. So I’m happy to report that yes, Hellwig 550 EZ helper springs indeed fit the OME Dakar leaf pack for the second gen Xterra.

I did a quick shot of black spray paint to all the hardware before installing. That shiny zinc coat attracts too much attention. You also need to remove the top bolt of the military wrap on the Dakars to get the Hellwigs to fit. All you need there is a 9/16″ wrench and socket.

The part I really like about the Hellwigs so far is that they’re adjustable. Xterra’s are known to sag on the driver’s side because both the gas tank and driver are on that side adding additional weight. But Sebastian is special and he’s always sat about a half-inch lower on the passenger side. No idea why. But with the Hellwigs I was able to simply adjust the passenger side leafs to a higher tension — so now he sits level on all four corners.

Brakes, Hood Prop Mod and Battery Hold-down

When I did the 60,000 mile service I planned to do the brakes too. But at the time they looked fine, so I skipped it and saved a few bucks on an  expensive service interval. Here we are 5,000 miles later with a heavier truck and bigger tires in the near future; so it seems like good time to go ahead with these and hopefully get a little more stopping power in the process. But man alive — had I only known what was in store for me.

Before I started what would become the brake service from hell — I “warmed-up” by putting a few things on that had been sitting in the garage. First up was a gas strut kit to do away with the loathed hod prop rod. The kit is sold by Off-road Gorilla and installation is stupid easy.

Next was a Xterra themed battery hold-down and new hardware. About six months ago before our 5,000 mile trip I noticed that my not-quite-two-year-old Diehard Platinum was “crushed and cracked” at both edges of the battery hold-down. The result no doubt of maybe a little over-tightening and a lot of vibrations and hits off-road. The OEM hold-down places all of the stress on two inches of the very edge of the battery top. So why it looks awesome, the new hold-down is also quite functional and will hopefully keep this battery from cracking more and the next from cracking at all.

Feeling confident — I moved right in to the rear brakes. Part of the motivation for doing the brakes was the fact that I was out of adjustment on my e-brake and it still wasn’t working to spec. I thought it was time for new shoes — and to pull those all apart and not replace the pads while you’re in there seems like a waste. This is where our troubles begin.

The passenger rear shoes and pads with clean-up took all of seven minutes. The driver’s side? Two and a half hours. The rotor/drum was stuck. Only after hours of cursing, rubber-mallet-sledging, an entire can of brake cleaner, and copious amounts of PB Blaster did that son of a bitch finally come off. Replacing the shoes and pads and reinstalling? All of five more minutes.

The drum from hell that refused to come off.

The drum from hell that refused to come off.

With the rears done and lunch in my belly — I moved to the front. This would go even faster I told myself. We’re just changing pads… it will be easy!

Oh how I was wrong.

The driver’s side was easy… it took all of five minutes. The passenger’s side was one slide bolt away from being complete when… the slide bolt sheared off in the slide. That started a wild goose chase around town at too many auto part stores and dealers to list.

I hate you.

I hate you.

After paying $8 for a 20mm long bolt, I was headed home and finished up with a brake flush using OEM fluid. Praise baby Jesus nothing else went sideways.

As far as parts — I went with EBC Green Stuff 6000 series pads. The reviews online all seem to note good life, low dust, and increased stopping power (EBC says a 15% reduction in stopping distance). EBC recommends 200 miles of urban driving before performing their bed-in procedure. So we’re a ways out from a review at this point. But oh so glad to have this completed and behind us now.


19,504 feet of decent

30.19 miles

41.6 MPH max speed

Design by committee never fails to fail.

–Peep Laja

The outdoor industry creates three times the amount of jobs than the fossil fuels industry, yet the Governor has spent most of his time in office trying to rip taxpayer-owned lands out from under us and hand them over to drilling and mining companies. And just a few days ago, the state announced plans to sue the federal government to reverse the recent protection of Bears Ears, a site containing thousands of years of Native American archeological treasures and craggy red rocks beloved by climbers from all over the world. Politicians in the state don’t seem to get that the outdoor industry—and their own state economy—depend on access to public lands for recreation.I say enough is enough. If Governor Herbert doesn’t need us, we can find a more welcoming home. Governor Herbert should direct his Attorney General to halt their plans to sue and support the historic Bears Ears National Monument. He should stop his efforts to transfer public lands to the state, which would spell disaster for Utah’s economy. He should show the outdoor industry he wants our business—and that he supports thousands of his constituents of all political persuasions who work in jobs supported by recreation on public lands.

Source: The Outdoor Industry Loves Utah; Does Utah Love the Outdoor Industry? – The Cleanest Line

An Overland Expedition Celebrating Oregon’s Public Lands – Sign the Petition

You can learn more about the film here. If enjoy the film as much as me — but are equally as sadden by it — you can help and sign the petition to protect our pubic lands here.

Rogue Key Mod

Wow, what a pain this little mod was.

A few years ago my lovely wife thought the Pacific Ocean might an enjoy a set of my keys. So I replaced that set with the euro key mod. And honestly, I really grew to hate the flip key. It was wobbly and stuck out way too far from the ignition tumbler… putting your entire key ring right over your right leg. Fed up, I went searching for another alternative that combines the OEM key and OEM remote into one unit.


The best thing I found (and really like so far) is a Nissan Rogue key. I bought this one off eBay after trying a Rogue replacement off of Amazon with a remote that wouldn’t program. Actually, I bought two of them off eBay because ACE Hardware botched cutting the first one and it wouldn’t even open my doors. So almost two months after starting this 10 minute mod — it’s finally finished.


We still teach a lot of myths in the intro to economics course, myths that spill over to conventional wisdom.

Human beings make rational decisions in our considered long-term best interest.

Actually, behavioral economics shows us that people almost never do this. Our decision-making systems are unpredictable, buggy and often wrong. We are easily distracted, and even more easily conned.

Every time we assume that people are profit-seeking, independent, rational actors, we’ve made a mistake.

The free market is free.

The free market only works because it has boundaries, rules and methods of enforcement. Value is created by increasing information flow and working to have as many contributing citizens as possible.

Profit is a good way to demonstrate the creation of value.

In fact, it’s a pretty lousy method. The local water company clearly creates more value (in the sense that we can’t live without it) than the handbag store down the street, and yet the handbag store has a much higher profit margin. That’s not because of value, but because of mismatches in supply and demand, or less relevant inputs like brand, market power and corporate structure.

Profit is often a measure of short-term imbalances or pricing power, not value.

I hope we can agree that a caring nurse in the pediatric oncology ward adds more value than a well-paid cosmetic plastic surgeon doing augmentations. People with more money might pay more, but that doesn’t equate to value.

The best way to measure value created is to measure value, not profit.

The purpose of society is to maximize profit

Well, since profit isn’t a good measure of value created, this isn’t at all consistent. More important, things like a living wage, sustainability, fairness and the creation of meaning matter even more. When we consider how to advance our culture, “will it hurt profits?” ought not to be the first (or even the fifth) question we ask.

The price of a stock represents the value of the company.

It turns out that the price of a stock merely reflects what a few people decided to trade it for today. Tomorrow, it will certainly be different, even if nothing about the company itself changes.

There’s very little correlation with how the traders come to value a company in the market and how much value a company actually creates.

The only purpose of a company is to maximize long-term shareholder value.

Says who? Is the only purpose of your career to maximize lifetime income? If a company is the collective work of humans, we ought to measure the value that those humans seek to create.

Just because there’s a number (a number that’s easy to read, easy to game, easy to keep track of) doesn’t mean it’s relevant.

Source: Seth’s Blog: Economics is messy

maXTERRA Bumper Installed!

A bit of background. maXTERRA is the screen name of Dave who builds the best Xterra bumpers around. I only wish I would have found him sooner so he could have done my sliders too :)  His attention to detail (welds, cable routing, accents, etc.) and customer service are both unmatched.

Now, on to the install!

The first step with the maXTERRA was to get the old off. Drop the spare. Now you can see that there are three bolts (19mm) on either side of the frame that hold the bumper (and hitch if equipped) on. There’s also a fourth bolt (17mm) if you have a factory hitch — so four bolts per side. I’d seen on the forums that these bolts come incredibly tight from the factory. I don’t know if it’s because I hit them with PB Blaster a few times a month for a few months before, but that wasn’t my experience. #winning


Remove the two 19mm bolts from each side holding on the hitch first. Before removing the 17mm bolt (last one) on each side, you need to use a 10mm wrench to remove the 7-pin plug. With the bolts out, it slides down off the open-ended mount (not through the hole like most aftermarket plugs).


Now remove the 17mm bolt and drop the hitch. The bumper is still attached with one 19mm bolt on each side. Look at your tag lights — follow the wires from the lights back to a connector on the driver’s side. Disconnect the plug and disconnect it from the bumper. You can remove the last 19mm bolts and drop the bumper (tag lights and wire loom still attached… you won’t need any of that to install).

Installing the maXTERRA is largely the reverse of all those steps plus the tire carrier, tire mount, and tag and back-up lights wiring. Dave has installation instructions that make me writing out the step-by-step pretty pointless. The one thing I’d add is torque settings on the bumper bolts. Dave says 80 ft-lbs+. I looked up the installation instructions for an aftermarket hitch and this is what they list: 19mm bolts (136 ft-lbs) and 17mm (86 ft-lbs). If you don’t have a factory hitch, Dave provides the 17mm bolts to utilize all four mounting points on each side.


A few tricks I picked-up during the install…

  • Doing this alone, one night after work, in the dark, right before a thunderstorm rolls in is not ideal.
  • Dave points out that when pulling the 7-pin trailer harness apart that the little tabs break easily. And that they do, incredibly easily.
  • I had no luck holding the bumper parallel to the ground and pushing it into place between the frame rails. For a minute I thought the frame was too narrow and/or the bumper too wide. Instead, walk the bumper in as far under the truck as you can, and then come up between the frame rails. Then you can push or use a rubber mallet to slide it back even further into place.
  • All of the lights on the bumper are LEDs, so the polarity matters. I found it helpful to simply twist the connections together by hand and leave everything loose (i.e. taillight uninstalled) until I tested it. Once I knew which wires went with which, I made the permanent connections.
  • The license plate comes with four holes and screws. I put the bottom bolts in first, thinking it would hold the plate in place why I did the top bolts (which are actually the tag lights also). Turns out California’s license plate holes are in a different spot than Utah’s. Instead, do the tops first and if the bottom bolts line up after — great. If not, no worries.
  • The bolt that the swing-arm pivots on has a 1-1/2″ bolt head. I have quite a few tools, but nothing I had even came close to being big enough for this bolt (my water pump pliers barely fit around it). Make sure before you start that you have a crecent (adjustable wrench) or similar that’ll handle a bolt head of that size.
Note the clean cable routing and the re-use of the factory tag light plug to make removing the bumper possible without cutting your wiring (again).

Note the clean cable routing and the re-use of the factory tag light plug to make removing the bumper possible without cutting your wiring (again).

Once installed — it was time to add a couple more things to leverage the new bumper.

First up was mounting a table. While not popular on Xterras, they can be see being sported by about every Jeep, Toyota and Land Rover. I asked Dave about fabbing one up for me and sent him a link to the Front Runner Jeep drop-down table as an example. He basically told me for the price, there’s no way he could compete. So that’s what have here — after some measuring, drilling, and sealing — a Front Runner table installed to the hatch side of the tire swing arm.

The final touch was to finally get the Blue Ridge Overland Gear tire system straps, Max Trax bag and tire bag off my Gobi ladder and onto a proper tire. While the Gobi works ok, the added weight — especially when the bags are full — stresses the hatch struts quite a bit. It also made opening the hatch and using the ladder a giant PITA. So I’m very glad to get that very nice piece of gear relocated onto the newly rear mounted spare.

And did I mention how nice this thing is? Some closer detail shots of my new and dirty bumper that hopefully show that Dave’s bumper stands alone.

Ain’t it just beautiful? I’d say it added at least 100 horsepower.