We had big plans for our ’17 Tacoma from the start. With our sights set on some of the deeper ruts and taller boulders found across the country, we knew the stock tires—or even 33-inch tires, for that matter—wouldn’t quite suffice. The Tacoma Off-Road package affords drivers just over 32 degrees in approach angle, a 21-degree breakover angle, and a 23.5-degree departure angle. Though respectable, it would still be difficult to keep the truck’s undercarriage from hanging up on the trail.
The solution? Bigger shoes. To bridge the gap between capability in the dirt and highway manners for the daily commute, 35-inch Nitto Ridge Grapplers mounted on Mamba Offroad M19 wheels fit the bill. That decision was simple, however, when compared to the question of how we should go about stuffing these meats beneath our Tacoma. We wanted enough lift to let the tires flex over rough terrain without rubbing, but did not want a towering truck requiring a stepladder to enter. We also needed to address clearance issues with the 35-inch tires in the stock wheelwells.
To make sure the Tacoma was outfitted for higher-speed desert trails while still being able to stretch and flex across muddy ditches and rocks, we chose the Fox 2.5 Factory coilover springs and upper control arms from Total Chaos Fabrication for the front of the truck. Considering the Tacoma routinely carries considerable loads of travel gear in the bed, we chose Fox 2.0 Performance Series shocks, Deaver Spring heavy-duty leaf springs, and Fox hydraulic bumpstops for the Tacoma’s rear. We visited Rebel Off Road in Laguna Hills, California, for the installation. Read on to see how we fit 35-inch tires beneath the Tacoma.
We didn’t waste any time getting the Nitto Ridge Grapplers into the mud.
Stock Tacoma with 265/70R16 tires.
Lifted height with 35-inch Nitto Ridge Grapplers.
With the stock wheels and tires tossed into the “sell-at-the-yard-sale” bin, we went to work removing the stock suspension components. This kit did not require extending brake lines, so we hung them safely out of the way after disconnecting the sway bars and removing the halfshafts.
The first challenge was removing the stock upper control arm. The bolt was roughly a foot long and extended through both ends of the arm. Removing it required us to pry apart the pinch seam to its right and access the bolt from under the Tacoma’s hood.
We chose to retain the factory spindles and reinforce them with the weld-on gussets from Total Chaos Fabrication. The 1/8-inch laser-cut mild steel brackets are said to make the spindles more than ready for the abuse dished out by 35-inch tires.
Following the included instructions, we used a grinder to clean the contact surface on the spindles; we marked our welds in paint marker, then proceeded to weld on the gussets.
The upper control arms from Total Chaos Fabrication are crafted from 4130 chromoly and feature 1-inch uniballs to maintain factory alignment specs after lifting the Tacoma. Also included was a set of urethane bushings. We made sure to grease the bushings liberally before pressing them into the control arms.
Installing the Total Chaos Fabrication upper control arms required once again going through the engine bay to thread the bolt into the top of the arm and re-pinching the pinch seams together after the arms were installed. After painting the spindles and gussets with black enamel to ward off rust, we reattached the unit bearings, halfshafts, and connected the upper control arms to the spindles via the 1-inch uniballs.
Before installing the Fox 2.5 Factory coilovers, we compressed the springs and adjusted them to 3 inches of lift in the front. Working the coilovers into the shock towers was a job made easier by a second pair of hands.
After making sure to route the remote-reservoir hose for each shock under each upper control arm, we fastened each reservoir to the Tacoma’s frame using the included brackets.
One challenge of fitting the 35-inch tires under our Tacoma was tire clearance at full lock of the steering wheel. We knew that the tires would rub the frame and body in the wheelwell closest to the cab. To accommodate this, Rebel Off Road carefully marked and trimmed a small section of frame from the Tacoma, welded on a patch, and painted the area to prevent any rust from taking hold.
A small section of the body seam was cut in a hatched fashion, reshaped with a shop hammer, and (cue the Rolling Stones) painted black.
The rear suspension components included Deaver Spring heavy-duty leaf packs, Fox 2.0 Performance Series adjustable shocks and hydraulic bumpstops, and Total Chaos Fabrication’s bumpstop mounts.
With all the stock components removed, we used a grinder to help remove the stock bumpstop mounts. In their place, we bolted mounts from Total Chaos Fabrication, which were designed to specifically accept the Fox hydraulic bumpstops.
The Fox 2.0 Performance Series adjustable shocks with compression damping adjusters bolted easily into the factory shock towers, alongside the hydraulic bumpstops.
After properly greasing the bushings and navigating the tight clearance around the factory spare tire, we bolted the Deaver heavy-duty leaf springs into place.
With all hardware tightened and accounted for, we were left to bolt on our tires and wheels. The 35×12.50R17 Nitto Ridge Grapplers look sharp mounted on the Mamba Offroad M19 wheels.
About the Numbers…
After the suspension, wheels, and tires were installed, the Tacoma improved its score on the ramp travel index (RTI) ramp from 413 to 436 points. We measured an improved approach angle of roughly 45 degrees, an improved departure angle of about 31 degrees, and estimated the new breakover angle to be just under 40 degrees. What does this mean? We can drive over larger obstacles before we risk dragging the undercarriage of our Tacoma.