Firestone Helper Air Bag Installation

We towed our 5000 lb travel trailer with about 600 lbs of tongue weight for the first time with our 2013 Toyota Land Cruiser earlier this month, and with almost 4″ of sagging at the hitch I decided I needed to do something to level the vehicle.  While I considered stiffer springs, I didn’t want a jarring ride for the majority of the time we drive unloaded in the city.  After reading a number of posts, I decided to install a set of helper air bags in the rear.  For a non-lifted (standard height) 200-series Land Cruiser, I purchased the Firestone 4164 air bag kit and a standard duty Air Lift 25804 air compressor from Amazon.   For posterity, I thought I’d document the process here and on the iH8Mud forums.

Materials ($200-250):

Installation:

Installation was pretty straightforward, as I generally followed the instructions posted at http://www.australianimages.com.au/project200/airbags.php.   Installation of the air bags took about 2 hours, though admittedly I had access to a lift and a phenomenal mechanic to help me wrench.  We did find ourselves straining to get the shock absorbers reattached and ended up using a ~5′ steel bar for added leverage to compress the rear springs better.  About the only other modifications were that we didn’t bother to disconnect any breather hoses (there was plenty of slack), we didn’t tighten the KDSS valves back down until the vehicle was on the ground and had settled a bit, and I slathered the KDSS screws with marine grease before re-tightening them.

  1. Jack up the vehicle.  Support with jack stands or use a lift if you’re lucky enough to have access.
  2. Loosen the screws on the KDSS system (located under the rear door on the driver’s side bolted inside the frame rail) 3 turns (no more!)
  3. Remove the rear tires
  4. Mark the spring, bump stop, and frame with chalk or a marker (optional but helpful)
  5. Remove the nuts from the bottom of the shock absorbers and remove the shocks from the lower mounts
  6. Remove the two bolts from each sway bar mount (left and right)
  7. Apply leverage to the rear end and remove the springs
  8. Remove the bump stops from the top of the spring.  For stock suspension, cut off 4 stops with a sawzall (leaving just the base)
  9. Put the air bag inside the spring, connector facing upwards and put the remaining flat disc part of the bump stop back on top of the spring, aligned with your marking
  10. Fish the air line through the top of the bump stop and push it firmly into the air bag.  Don’t worry, the bag’s internal compression fitting will secure it
  11. Fish the air line up through the spring mount and re-install the spring/air-bag/bump stop assembly.
  12. Push the air bag up to the top of the spring and run the air lines along the frame into the trunk compartment, ziptie-ing every 1-2′.  You’ll need to poke a small hole in the rubber grommet in the right rear in order to fish the lines into the jack storage area.  I chose to run both lines individually into the compartment and T them together there because I felt it was more easily accessible in case they leak and require replacement in the future, but you could also T the lines together underneath the vehicle and run a single line up to the compartment.
  13. Reinstall the sway bar, shocks, and tires
  14. Lower vehicle to the ground, bounce on the running boards to settle the suspension, then re-tighten the KDSS screwsThe compressor took about twice as long, though 2/3 of that time was spent trying to figure out how to mount the compressor and easily get power to it.  I wanted the compressor hidden but also safe from the elements, so we ended up removing the jack and mounting the compressor at a 30-45 degree angle in the jack compartment.  (At the moment the jack is now sitting in my trunk, though I will likely mount it under the hood in the near future as there’s lots of extra unused space).
  15. Remove the jack and retaining bracket.
  16. Determine how you will mount the compressor.  We mounted it to 2″ wide x 10.5″ long steel bar, and we drilled and bolted that to the mounting holes for the jack retaining bracket.  If I had to do this in the future I might buy and cut a piece of sheet metal and mount the compressor to that ahead of time.
  17. Mount the gauge to the body.  We used the shortest self-tapping screws we could find, since the gas filler neck is on the other side of the metal.
  18. Following the air compressor installation instructions, and using the additional union T fitting you purchased, attach all the air lines
  19. Attach the negative (black) wire to a solid ground screw
  20. Run the positive (red) wire to the engine bay.  We ran the line underneath the vehicle, though at some point in the future I will probably re-run a bundle of wire from the front to the rear through the door sills.  Either way, make sure you put the 15 Amp inline fuse inline just before you tie the compressor into the battery!
  21. Flip the switch and pressure test.

I kept any extra tubing and fittings in a quart size ziplock bag in the storage compartment, just in case.

IMG_0744

Experience:

Firestone recommends keeping a minimum of 5 psi in the air bags at all times in order to avoid pinching and damaging the air bag.  They also state the maximum pressure of the bag is 35 psi, though I had to confirm with Firestone that you should load the vehicle first, then inflate to 35psi.

  • Driving around town and on the highway with ~5 psi in the bags the ride was smooth and there was no discernible difference from stock.
  • With 5 psi in the bags and a full 1400 lb payload (2nd row folded and 35 bags of mulch completely filling the 2nd row and trunk) the rear squatted a bit but the ride was unbelievably smooth.  Keep in mind with the air bags inflated you’re basically resting on the bump stops at all times.  The air bags are much more flexible than the bump stops, so it’s a smooth transition, but if you’re under load you really should have more than 5psi in the bags to avoid over-compressing the rear end and damaging the shocks or fenders.
    IMG_0734
  • With 8-9 psi in the bags the truck feels stiffer when unloaded.  When hitting bumps on the highway that cross the entire lane, I noticed a more pronounced hop from the rear (and actually a bit from the front too, which I’m thinking is due to the KDSS).  While I’ve not driven in a Land Cruiser with upgraded (heavy duty) rear springs, I imagine the feeling is similar to a 1/2 ton vs 3/4 ton pickup.
  • I ended up running 35psi in the bags when towing.
    • With 5psi in the bags and about 200lbs of gear (and dog) in the trunk, the top of the rear end wheel well sits 21.5″ above the center of the axle.
    • Adding about 600lbs of tongue weight on the trailer, the rear end sinks to about 19.5″.
    • Setting up the weight distribution bars on the 4th link bumped it up to 20″.
    • Increasing the bags to 35psi, the rear sits at just under 21″.

One other note is that the bags gave me about 1/2″ of lift in the rear.  Since there was already about 1″ of rake front-to-rear, I may end up adding a set of 1″ front coil spacers up front in the future to better level the vehicle.  Then again, when fully loaded the vehicle is pretty level now, so I may not mess with it.

With 35psi in the bags, the Land Cruiser towed like a friggin’ champ.  The ride was very smooth, and with the anti-sway bar installed I had no trouble running 70+mph on the highway.  All in all I’m very pleased with the setup.

LC with proper towing setup

Damn You Apple! Damn You Microsoft!

Yesterday my littlest one had a dance/recital/show at his preschool.  I took videos on my iPhone of the event, and then promptly spent the better part of last night trying to get my iPhone to act as a USB storage device so I could copy the two movies off.  My phone works fine in iTunes; I can sync music and movies to the phone just fine.  But when I tried to browse it in Windows the iPhone kept showing up as an “iPhone” but refused to load any drivers.

After quite a bit of searching and attempting a number of different technique (including, but not limited to, reinstalling the usbaapl64 driver, removing and reinstalling iTunes, and poking around at the registry), I came across this website: http://community.spiceworks.com/topic/236489-cannot-find-iphone-driver-windows-64-bit.

As it turns out, the MSDN licensed Windows 8.1 I have installed is actually “Windows 8.1 Enterprise N”.  The “N” evidently stands for “Not gonna work properly”.  Unlike the poster in the article (who was using Windows 7), Windows Media Player is already installed.  However the “Media Feature pack”, available at http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=260410, was not.  I don’t really know what the media feature pack is, why it’s not included in the default Windows install, why iTunes relies on it, or why iTunes doesn’t prompt you to download it, but I removed the existing driver, installed the media feature pack, and then Windows correctly configured my iPhone driver when I plugged the USB cable in.

Thank you Bryan Amundson at Spiceworks, I’m fairly certain I never would have figured this one out on my own.

Acura/Honda Navigation Downgrade Procedure

I ran into an issue with the navigation system on our MDX.  Long story short, the DVD got scratched, and while Navteq was kind enough to replace it, I knew we would be without any maps for a couple weeks.  Fortunately I still had our old map update disc.  Unfortunately, while the navigation system will automatically load the new firmware from a new disc, the system won’t let you re-insert an older disc.

Unless you know how.

I didn’t take screenshots, but this procedure worked and was quite easy to do on our 2008 Acura MDX.  Having read a number of Honda and Acura forums, I suspect it will work on other years and models as well.  I’m posting this because I’ve read a number of people who say you need to take the vehicle to your dealer so that they can reload the firmware, and I’m here to say that, at least in my case, you can do this yourself.

1) Turn the vehicle on.  Remove the new disc and insert the older version

2) Once you receive an “incompatible” error, press Map/Guide + Menu + Cancel for 3-4 seconds to bring up the diagnostic menu

3) Scroll down to Version and click “OK”

4) Scroll down to Download and click “OK”

5) The system will take 3-5 minutes to load the old firmware.  Once complete, your older map disc should load normally.

If you insert a newer disc later, the system will update the firmware with the newer disc again and then you can use the newer maps.

10 Reasons I Hate Server Name Changes

There’s been a, um, heated discussion at my work about our current server naming standards. Personally I hate our naming scheme. However, a lot of people have become accustomed to it, and a lot of applications use the standards in their configurations, often to automate management. So when the idea of changing it came up again this week, the O.C.D. part of me was anxious to “fix” our naming. Then I realized just what that meant.

For those that can’t read my handwriting (with explanations):

#10. Time consuming to “fix” existing servers (must update files, DNS, monitoring, reboot, etc)
#9. Nobody is every happy (or rather, for every person you please you probably tick someone else off)
#8. This would be irrelevant if everyone used CNAMEs (’nuff said)
#7. Breaks bcfg setup (our config management system bases some configs on the hostname)
#6. Adds time to RH6 upgrade process (rather than an OS upgrade being transparent, now the owners need to update all their configs)
#5. Invariably will end up repeating this again later (this is the 3rd or 4th naming “standard”)
#4. Angers end-users (they need to update their configs, and notify everyone that depends on their apps – would be irrelevant if #8 didn’t apply)
#3. DCops must relabel everything (datacenter guys must label every server)
#2. Value? Makes us $0. Saves us $0.
*DRUMROLL*
#1. Must open 700 WOs for Windows to update DNS (my team does not have DNS rights, so we must open a request and coordinate each change).

If this doesn’t sound like a “make work” project, I don’t know what does.

Finding ECC memory errors on HP servers

A little perl utility to help you find failing memory in HP servers.. This utility parses hpdiags output to report the value of the ECC memory error counters in the spd registers since the last boot. This utility will report errors even when memory prefailure notification (which would otherwise log these errors to the IML) is disabled in the BIOS. Note that a small number of corrected errors does not necessarily indicate a problem.

At a minimum it requires perl and the XML::Simple module. It will run hpdiags and parse the output, though you can pass it an existing hpdiags XML filename instead with the ‘-f’ option. The output or any errors looks like this:

[root@hpserver ~]# /tmp/hpdiags_ramcheck 
hpserver.domain.com:
    Product Number : 555555-001      
    Serial Number  : USE1234567
    Model          : HP ProLiant DL385 G6
    ROM            : A22 02/09/2010
        (1) Corrected single bit error(s) on DIMM 1
            SPS-DIMM 4GB PC2-6400 SDRAM DDR2 RDIMM  (P/N 501111-001)
        (7) Uncorrectable multibit error(s) on DIMM 2
            SPS-DIMM 4GB PC2-6400 SDRAM DDR2 RDIMM  (P/N 501111-001)