We Visit the Nitto King of the Hammers Powered by Optima Batteries! Or, the Idiot’s Guide on How Not To Go Off-roading!


While trying to keep up with Project 4-Runner, Project Tundra almost buried itself up to its axles on this sandy trail up a steep hill. We thought all four wheels were spinning, but the truck could not get any dig.


Again, we were being cautious…probably too cautious. Jeff went up this hill first and hit it with some good speed and got up and over with no issues. Martin was behind the controls of Project Tundra and I had told him not to do that and to go up the hill slowly in 4WD low mode. After failing to make any upward progress, he decided not to listen to me and floored up the hill. We barely made it with no momentum to spare. Right after this we realized that 4WD low does not always engage on the fly and you have to back up slightly to bump it into engagement. So we were trying to slowly crawl up the hill 4WD high, oops!


About this time, we had had enough of getting passes by stock cars and almost getting stuck. We had been hearing experienced guys yelling, “Air Down Bro” all weekend and we had been wondering what they were talking about. Turns out we were bigger newbs than we thought!


“Maybe we should air down,” said Jeff. We then realized none of us had an air pressure gauge! Project Tundra had been driving around with 40 PSI in its Nitto Ridge Grappler tires for fuel economy and load capacity when towing and handling. This was not too good for off-roading at all.

So we took a guess at how much air to take out. I started at 20 seconds of pushing the valve stem down, hahaha what a bunch of newbs. At this time, I softened Project Tundra’s King shocks compression damping by 6 clicks in the rear and 4 in the front to help absorb bumps and help the truck find traction.

These changes made a pretty big difference, but the Tundra was still not doing as well as most other vehicles out in the desert.


Jeff tried 15 seconds of air bleeding in Project 4 Runner. He said that he could definitely feel a difference.


During one of our trail pit stops Jeff found this little gauge pump thing that came out of Project Golf in the back of Project 4-Runner. It had a little air pressure gauge!


We hooked it up and found that we had only bled out about 5 PSI out of our tires! Using the little gauge thing, we both aired down to 20 PSI. Later we found out that we could probably safely go as low as 15 PSI before worrying about debeading a tire.

Wow! The lower pressure made a huge difference in traction in everything from sand to gravel and dirt. Our ride over harsh bumps was suddenly a lot better. We instantly could now keep up with most of the other vehicles and felt really stupid we had not initially thought about our tire pressures. It’s amazing what tire pressure does in rough terrain. Our previous off-roading experience was just graded dirt roads to do rally support, going on shooting trips and getting to trailheads. Oh well, we also learned to listen to people who know what they are doing.

On Project Tundra we were now in love with our Nitto Ridge Grapplers and they were living up to their namesake at last. Remember kids, air down!


The next thing we managed to do was almost get lost. With no cell signal, we could not use any navigation and although the Hammers organizers provided up with excellent maps, we had a hard time orienting ourselves with no GPS or a compass.


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