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By Grafton Pannell, OPP Ambassador

Over the years I’ve had a lot of 4WDs. I first got addicted to Toyotas via Land Cruisers and I’ve never really looked back. Right now I’ve got a 2000 Toyota Tacoma that I’m in the process of building alongside Offroad Power Products. A few of my favorite parts we thew on are a Warn VR Evo 10 S winch, KMC Roswell 720 wheels and Baja Designs Squadron Sport lights.

Oftentimes with a rig like mine it feels like progress comes with one step forward and two steps back. It seems like every time I install the next “cool” part, some part of the truck decides it’s maintenance time. Older vehicles tend to need a lot of time in the shed.

I bought my current truck in Montana this last year for 4k. If you know the Toyota market at all, that should sound like highway robbery.  It’s a 2000 V6 5 Spd TRD e-locker truck with a sunroof, a bit of a rare bird to buy for such a low price, but here's the catch… it had 325k when I bought it. The truck drove home with no issues and has since had very few real big problems. However, but there's always a short list of things I could rattle off that need some love. For me, I love the process. Whether it’s continuing to build the truck into what I want it to be or simply maintaining the rig to be more reliable, it’s all fun.

I often get asked why I don’t just buy a new car with a warranty. (usually I’m being asked when one of my cars is out for maintenance of course) For me, the answer is simple, I hate debt. Even though there are months where I might spend more money and definitely more time keeping my truck on the road that I would a new truck, I feel better about knowing that I’m not paying for the depreciation of a new car and instead hopefully I am upping the value of something by doing my own work. The hard part for me is staying focused. I’ve sold so many cars because I felt like I ran out of money or time because the “build process” wasn’t moving along quickly. That’s why they’re called project cars though, if you bought one already finished, you’d miss out on the learning process and most of the fun. 

Another question I’m often asked is “are you just teaching yourself how to do all of this?” I own and operate a mobile bike shop for work so turning wrenches is something that I’m already doing all day. That said, just about the only crossover is being willing to dive headfirst into something new and figure your way out with the resources available to you. So yes, I have taught myself most everything I know about working on cars. From something as simple as replacing CV axles, to replacing an engine, or even learning how to weld, I’ve leaned heavily on friends and family for help when they can or the internet when no one I know has the answers. Youtube is a wild place, you can learn just about anything on there these days haha.

In closing, my encouragement to anyone wanting to learn how to work on their own 4WD or any vehicle, would be to just go for it. Find the first thing you want to do on your own whether it’s an oil change, changing brake pads, or something like replacing injectors and send it. The first few times I fixed something on my own, the first drive back in the car was always a little nerve wracking, “Did I do it right? Did I tighten all the bolts enough? I put the oil drain plug back on right?” but that’ll pass with time. For me it has certainly been liberating finding new ways to understand my trucks and save a lot of money in the process. If this post inspired you at all to do something on your own, find me on instagram @grafton and share it with me! I’d love to see it. Cheers.


Want to learn more about Grafton's Tacoma build? Check out his OPP Ambassador page for a video, build details and more!