Saturday, June 11, 2016

Land Rover LR4 Ground Clearance

I decided to measure the ground clearance of my 2015 LR4.  I've always wondered what the real clearance was under some specific locations.  This was the best way to find out.

Suspension Heights Measured:
Measurements were made at 4 different suspension height settings: normal, off-road, extended, and super-extended.  OK, it's not officially named "super-extended."   I just call it that.  That highest setting doesn't have a name in the manual.  It's described on page 99 of the 2015 LR4 Owners Handbook as providing "additional lifting."

Normal Height:
Everybody knows what this is.

Off-Road Height:
Each time I raised the suspension, I drove the car a couple feet, then backed up to where I started.  I hoped this would allow the suspension to settle and provide better measurements.

Extended Mode:
I forced the car into Extended Mode by lowering it from Off-Road Height onto a 10 inch tall block of wood at the lateral frame member.  This makes the car think it's high-centered and it raises it to Extended Mode.  Here's that wood block under the car in Off-Road height.

After raising to Extended Mode...

In Extended Mode the dash instructs you how to raise it a bit further.

Super-Extended Mode: (not the official name)
As the handbook explains, after you are in Extended Mode, then you can gain "additional lifting" by pressing the UP ARROW and holding it for more than 3 seconds, while pressing on the brake pedal.  The control indicators for this highest of suspension settings remain unchanged from Extended Mode.  Unlike Extended Mode, it no longer tells you how to raise it a bit more.

Locations Where Clearance Was Measured:
Measurements were taken at several locations on the undercarriage.  I picked these locations because they appeared to hang down the lowest.
  • front skid plate
  • second skid plate (I think it covers the oil pan, but i'm guessing)
  • front lower control arms
  • frame cross member
  • fuel tank skid plate (lowest point near front edge)
  • front edge of muffler (it looks like a muffler, maybe it's the cat)
  • exhaust pipe in front of spare tire (hangs a bit lower than the plastic guard around the spare)
  • rear lower control arms

I made the measurements in my garage.  The concrete floor is reasonably level.  I used a string of LED lights to illuminate the underside of the car.  The car was dirty, so I apologize for the grime.  The car was empty of gear and had a half-tank of gas.  My tires are Cooper Zeon LTZ 255/55R19 with about 10k miles of wear on them.  At the time of the measurements, the tires were inflated to 36/43 psi (F/R).

Here are some photos I took during the measurements.  I won't include every photo, but I will include at least 1 photo per measurement location.  My tape measure is 3 inches tall and so 3 inches is added to each visible measurement for the total height.

Front Skid Plate:

Second Skid Plate:

Front Lower Control Arm:

Frame Cross-Member:

Fuel Tank Skid Plate:

Front Edge of Muffler:

Exhaust Pipe in Front of Spare Tire:

Rear Lower Control Arm:

Ground Clearance Values:
Here is a table of the measurements I made.  All measurements are in inches.  

I learned a lot from this exercise.  I was unable to take decent photos of the entire undercarriage.  I wanted that so I could annotate a photo showing the measurement locations and the clearance at a given suspension height.  The LED lights didn't help much.  I could have strung them directly below the car, but then they'd mess up the camera's aperture settings.

Sorry for the sloppy procedures and methods.  The measurements weren't super precise, due to several factors, but they still give me some idea of what hangs the lowest and will likely hit a boulder first.  Knowing where the low points are can also help me to pick the best line when ground clearance is most limited.

I hope this is somewhat useful to other LR4 owners.  I'm curious to know how reproducible the measurements are.  Maybe there's variability between cars due to slight differences in suspension height sensor calibration, etc.  

Maybe next I'll try measuring the approach and departure angles at each suspension height setting.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Wilco Off-Road Gear at Overland Expo

I saw a nice piece of kit at the Overland Expo.  Wilco Off-Road was displaying a new slimmed-down spare tire carrier.  I apologize for my photos.  They didn't turn out as well as I hoped.  

This one is called the Hitchgate Solo.  Like the old Hitchgate carrier, this one mounts to your standard hitch receiver.  Here's the web page for it on their online store.  The new product is smaller and lighter, but can still carry a full sized spare with adjustable mounting lugs.  A mounting plate on the back side looks like it can support extra gear such as a Rotopax can or a Hi-Lift jack.  If this position blocks your rear license plate then they sell a relocation kit that lets you stay legal.

I bring two spare tires when I go off-roading in remote places, such as Toroweap, the Arizona Stip, Death Valley, and some areas of southern California.  I've designed my own hitch-mounted spare tire carrier for the LR4 that positions the tire on the right side, taking advantage of the asymmetric design of the LR4 rear end.  This avoids needing to relocate the license plate and lamp.  If I buy a Land Cruiser then I'll want one that's centered like the Wilco design, so I may buy one of these.

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Ariel Atom at Overland Expo

This is the last car I expected to see at the Overland Expo.  An Ariel Atom.  

This appears to be an old one.  Near as I can figure out, it's one of those made by Brammo.  Brammo had the license for US production from 2005 to 2008.  They put those extra headlights on the rails to meet US regulations.  This one appears to have the GM Ecotec engine.  Brammo built just 10 units with a Honda engine, the rest had the Ecotec.

Atoms are now produced in the US by TMIAutoTech in Virgina.  Full disclosure: I'm no Atom expert, I simply read Wikipedia.  Although I really really want an Ariel Nomad.

Friday, June 03, 2016

Land Cruiser Inclinometer

I've been shopping for a used G-Wagen for months.  Several factors have conspired to yield very few attractive choices.  As a result, I've expanded my search to include used Land Cruisers.  While researching the Land Cruiser online, I came across something interesting.

The 2016 Land Cruiser has a very cool feature.  A 2-axis inclinometer can appear on the LCD displays.  The image below shows it in the "Multi-Terrain Monitor" on the large center display.  The manual describes a way to also display it on the Multi-Information Display in the dash behind the steering wheel.  This big display shown below is great.  

I've used mechanical inclinometers meant for RVs as well as iPhone apps.  When using those, I have always been too busy on the steepest hills to look at them.  I like the way Toyota combined the inclinometer with off-road camera views.  This display is quickly summoned by pressing a hard button on the dash, just to the right of the steering wheel.  The manual says it shows the above display when in L4 and the speed is less than 7 mph.  That seems reasonable.  The display is different if in H4 or driving faster than 7 mph.  Some day, maybe Land Rover will return to their off-road roots and include such a handy feature.

While I commend the wonks at Toyota for adding this, I want to punish them for another "feature."

The same 2016 Land Cruiser also includes something called "Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection."  You probably already know where I'm going with this.  Yes, the car will automatically apply the brakes if it thinks you're getting too close to a pedestrian.  The key words in that sentence are: "thinks", "too close" and "pedestrian" because the car is never going to be very good at any of those, and the Toyota lawyers will surely make it err on the side of "safety."

I am positive that the car will think all the creosote and small trees along the trails I drive, are people.  Even Toyota thinks this because the manual says this feature should be disabled when driving off road.  It also says to disable it when: driving "in a sporty manner", driving on a spare tire, loaded with heavy luggage, being towed, and 11 more situations.  The manual also says the system might activate: "When passing a vehicle or pedestrian" and "When changing lanes while overtaking a preceding vehicle" and "When overtaking a preceding vehicle that is changing lanes" and "When overtaking a vehicle that is making a left/right turn" and 19 more situations.  Most of those situtations happen in normal city driving.  Sounds like they haven't worked out the bugs yet.

You can turn it off by pressing and holding a button for > 3 seconds.  It restarts each time you start the engine.

It takes a lot of effort to not launch into a Lewis Black-esque tirade: "Are you sh**ing me?"

Thursday, June 02, 2016


I watched a very interesting documentary titled Brexit The Movie.  I recommend it to anybody interested in the subject.  Be warned, like all material on the topic, it is biased.  I have my own biases and they can't get past the idea of surrendered sovereignty.  Regardless, I learned a lot about the EU and how it works.  And more ominously, how unaccountable it is.  All legislative powers reside in the hands of unelected commissioners.  Wow.

This thing, called the EU, would never be tolerated in the USA.  At least we hide our industrial protectionism with a thin veneer of democratic participation.  The EU seems like a European version of China's central planning system.

Switzerland is showcased as an example of prosperity without EU membership.  They are one of the least regulated economies in the world, and one of the riches countries in the world.  And if they implement the UBI, they may become one of the most popular countries in the world.

Even if you're against the Brexit, I encourage you to watch the video.  You're bound to learn something.  You can watch it on their official web page or here's the link to watch Brexit The Movie on Youtube.