Friday, January 30, 2009

Land Rover LR3 Extended Mode

I'm very happy these days. This is because I finally found a way to hack my truck's suspension. The LR3 has an air suspension that can put the truck into 5 different ride heights. On the surface, that sounds great. Unfortunately, the driver cannot control all of these options.

The normal ride height, used in everyday driving, provides a minimum ground clearance of 7.3 inches. You can lower the height to "Access Mode" making it easier for people to get into and out of the vehicle, and providing more roof clearance when driving into parking garages. You can also raise the height to "Off Road Mode" and get a minimum of 9.5 inches of ground clearance. The driver cannot directly raise the vehicle any further, even though there are two higher modes. This is annoying for me because I enjoy driving on some challenging roads where I'd sure like to have an inch or two of additional clearance. I've tapped several boulders already and have a small dent in my exhaust pipe from another boulder.

The next higher mode is called "Extended Mode" and is engaged automatically when the computer detects that the truck is high-centered. It does this by sensing the pressures in the 4 wheels' air canisters (I think). Then, once you're in extended mode, the driver can go into "Super Extended Mode" and get even more clearance by holding down a switch for 5 seconds while pressing the brake. Note: that's my name for it; the manual (page 176) does not name it.

I've been googling for many months to find a way to hack the computer that controls the suspension. I wanted a way that I could engage extended mode. But, I didn't want to void my warranty either. I discovered that I wasn't alone. Many other LR3 owners are seeking the same prize. One clever guy has found a way to swap out part of the mechanical sensors that read the height of each wheel. Others have successfully hacked the 5 data buses that are used by the various computers in the vehicle. There are definitely some very smart and determined people out there. Then finally, I stumbled upon an elegant solution that a few owners use. A trick, really.

My friend, John, gave me a block of 6x6 wood that's about 10 inches tall. I simply raise the truck to off-road mode, then place the block under a lateral frame member. Then I lower the truck to normal height. The LR3 lowers onto the wood block and that makes the computer think that it's high-centered. Then the computer raises the truck to "Extended Mode". Yay! Then I can, if I want, raise it up to the final (greatest) height.

So, the photos here document that simple trick. The first pic shows the truck in normal street height. The second pic shows the truck in "Off Road" height. The third pic shows the truck in the highest possible height (the one I called "Super Extended Mode" above). The last two pics show the block of wood underneath the truck, first while in off-road height, then while in super extended mode. It's clearly not a huge gain in height. But every bit helps. I plan to do this again and measure the heights with a tape measure - just to see what the actual difference is.

Anyway ... I'm happy because I now bring this block of wood with me on the trail. Then, if I think it's needed, I'll raise the truck a bit more before crossing the most challenging boulder patches.

Footnote: For the record, I'm not a fan of the LR3's suspension. I would much prefer 2 height settings: normal road height at about 8 or 8.5 inches minimum clearance (comparable to many SUVs and CUVs), and off-road height at about 12 inches clearance. And the driver should be able to control this.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Crossing the Mojave River

Yesterday I was out in the desert with some friends and we spent some time having fun crossing the Mojave River at Afton Canyon. Here's a Google map centered on that river crossing point. I recorded some video from the roof on my first crossing. It was much easier than I expected.

Later in the day I went through it a few more times and got video footage from the ground.

John crossed it many times in his new Jeep. You can see from the photo that the Jeep doesn't so much cross the river, as it simply pushes the water to the other side.

Mark even drove his VW Thing through it! That was amazing.

He was confident that we could easily pull him out if it got stuck. Earlier in the day we pulled out a stranger who drove his Dodge Durango in and promptly got stuck and the engine died right in the middle. I had a hitch receiver shackle and John used his tow straps and pulled the guy right out with his Jeep. A few minutes later, the Durango started up again.

I'll try to post a video later.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

2009 Adventures

With the new year begun, I thought I'd review my adventure plans for 2009.

Zion Off Trail Hike There's this hill on the north side of highway 9, just east of the big tunnel. I've tried to reach the top 5 times now. I'll keep trying until I either reach the top, or exhaust all possible routes. Gene bet me that I wouldn't make it.

Eureka Dunes & Steel Pass The challenging 4wd route through Dedeckera Canyon and over Steel Pass beckons me and my new truck. This site has some very helpful photos and maps. The remoteness requires at least 1 night of camping, so this is tougher to schedule. I've ordered a jerrycan for the extra fuel I'll need, and next I need to get a hitch cargo carrier.

Yosemite I haven't yet hiked the Clouds Rest trail and I want to do that. I still hope to find the time to hike up Mt. Dana. And I may try hiking off trail to reach the top of Polly Dome; that looks like a nice half-day adventure. I'll continue my efforts to hike up Mariuolumne Dome. I got kinda lost on my first attempt.

Mojave Desert I'd like to hike up Kokoweef Peak, as well as Cowhole Mountain.

South Park There's a place high in the moutains east of Ballarat called South Park. It's a meadow-like area with terrific views across Butte Valley and is only accessible via 4wd trails from the west.

Toroweap I want to return to camp at Toroweap. I've been there several times before and it's a stunningly beautiful place.

Sierra Trails I didn't make it up north in 2008 to drive some of the Sierra 4wd trails with friends. I hope to get up there to drive some of the great trails in the Tahoe area and I'm sure to find more if I look hard enough.

On review, the list isn't very challenging. I must subconsciously be wanting to slack off for 2009. I need to find some real challenges to throw into the mix. I welcome any suggestions you may offer.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Red Canyon Trail v2.0

I returned to Red Canyon Trail yesterday. This time I was joined by John and his wife and kids in their new Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon. Continuing the testing of my GoPro camera, I mounted it on top of my sunroof looking forward. Here's a screen cap from the video.

It turned out pretty good, except I'm getting very little audio. I need to read that part of the manual again and try the other audio setting.

The trail was more crowded this time. Twice we had to pull off the road to let a line of ATVs, motocross bikes and rhinos pass by.

We passed 3 trucks loaded with young people. They were sitting on top and standing of the rear bumpers of the trucks, having a blast as they drove over the undulating hills. They waved at my video camera when they saw it attached to the top of my truck.

The trail drive was fun and the weather was great, with a light breeze and temps around 69F. I'm starting to agree with John that the trail does not rate the 4 difficulty rating that Massey gives it. He stayed in 2wd the entire time. That Jeep's quite a capable little off-roader.

We returned to the pile of practice bombs that I saw on the Bradshaw Trail. It's a popular site to visit, based on how many posts and photos I've found on the internet about it.

The bomb casings were stamped: "BOMB BODY BDU-45 500 POUNDS". According to this site, the BDU-45 is a Navy practice bomb. Here's a diagram I found on the web:

After climbing over the pile-o-bombs, the kids found a tarantula. He was alive and walked around a bit. I don't know any games to play with a tarantula. Maybe "where's the cricket?" But I didn't have a cricket, so we couldn't have played that game anyway.

Since there was a little wind, we decided to try flying the kites. Mine got aloft easily but didn't last long because the light wind would die down often. John finally got his small parafoil kite up and taught me how to control it.

Again, the light and sporadic winds were our biggest enemy. While we were there flying kites, a group of motocross bikers rode up and stopped to look at the bomb casings. Here's a shot of the colorful side of the parafoil kite.

Before getting back on the highway, we drove about a mile north to get a look at one of the open concrete-lined canals of the Colorado River Aqueduct. I got some nice photos before the sun set. The canal was practically full and the water was moving swiftly. I read that this aqueduct carries 1.3 million acre-feet of water per year. That averages down to 2.47 acre-feet per minute (805,000 gallons/minute).

All in all it was a fun time. Now, I must find a more challenging trail so John can actually try out the Jeep's 4wd capability.