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  • Writer's pictureJustin Turner

Best Exterior Mods for your 3rd Gen Tacoma

Once you become a Tacoma owner, it quickly becomes obvious that you have a lot of modification options available to you. I've outlined my interior mods in a previous post, but for this one I wanted to share all of the exterior modifications I've made to my rig.

Mod #1 - A-Pillar Lights

If you are going to be on the trail late into the evening, especially in a remote area with no lights, extra vehicle lighting becomes helpful. I've never had the desire to spend thousands on light bars, etc., but the A-pillar was in my price range and something I felt would be a nice add-on. I opted to go with the Baja Designs Squadron Sport mounted to the SDHQ A-Pillar Light Mount. The lights put off all of the brightness I require, and the mounts are well made and stylish.

Mod #2 - Rear Mud Guards

My Tacoma did not come with rear mud flaps, so I added the Husky Mud Guards. I've been running them now for 7 years with no issues. I do not, however, run mud guards in the front due to oversized tires and suspension lift.

Mod #3 - Rock Sliders

If you are going to be doing any kind of off-roading that might potentially damage your door sills/door bottoms, a set of sliders is a must. After discovering a video that my pal Kelly did on his Adventure Built YouTube channel, I ended up buying a set of White Knuckle Offroad sliders. They are well built and I got mine powder coated black, 15-degree angle, no top plate. Installation was pretty easy, and for the long bed required drilling four additional holes in the frame (2 each side). You can definitely do this install solo. They also double as a step for my wife and kids, and they can help prevent those stubborn door dings from people in suburban parking lots.

Mod #4 - Camper shell roof rack

When I originally started building out my rig I wanted to go for a light overlanding style. In order to give myself some good exterior space to transport gear, I bought and installed a Front Runner Slimline II roof rack. It has a ton of mounting options and a ton of accessories you can add. I use the Rotopax mounting plate so I can keep water cans up and out of my truck bed. The powder coated finish has held up nicely and I have not had any issues with it. There are definitely many more options available on the market now, but Front Runner products are high quality and built to last.

Mod #5 - Engine skid

I don't do any hardcore wheeling that requires a full skid setup. But I did want to protect one of the most important area of the undercarriage, the engine. I got a steel RCI engine skid plate, powder coated black. It was an easy self install and there are openings for both the oil pan and oil filter. There are certainly other options (like CBI Offroad), but RCI makes a good product at a competitive price.

Mod #6 - Bump Stops

If you've modified your suspension then it's probably a good idea to replace the flimsy stock bump stops that come with your rig, and change them out with the Durobumps. They can be self installed but do be ready for potential u-bolt removal issues. In my particular case, I had 1 seized bolt on each u-bolt, which I had to snap off. That left me scrambling to get a pair of new u-bolts the same afternoon so I could finish the install. Thankfully Erick at State 48 Overland came to the rescue and hooked me up with a pair of Icon u-bolts he had lying around.

(Front )

Mod #7 - Fumoto Valve

I recently started doing my own oil changes, and a tuning customer of mine mentioned that he'd been using a Fumoto valve for his Lexus GX and loved it. I looked into it and sure enough Fumoto make a high quality brass valve that replaces the drain bolt on your oil pan. I purchased the Fumoto F133N for my Taco, and it came with rubber caps, a safety clip, and a rubber tube for draining the oil. I have yet to use it but am excited for my next oil change!

*Important Note: The valve will come in the OPEN position when you receive it, so be sure to close it up before installing and adding oil.

Mod #8 - OEM Tailgate Lock

For some reason the 2017 model year did not come stock with an automatic tailgate lock. Any time I wanted to lock up my back end (I have a camper shell), I had to manually lock the shell and the tailgate. I had seen the Running 4 Tacos and Pop n Lock brands, but I really wanted to stick with OEM if possible. I ended up buying the PK3B6-35JL0 from the online parts store for a Toyota dealer. Installation was very straightforward and included all the necessary materials. I now have the ability to lock my tailgate when I lock the rest of the vehicle. Much more convenient!

Mod #9 - Tacoma Bedside Compressor Mount

A few years ago I purchased a Viair 400P portable air compressor that is powered by the battery via alligator clips. The setup worked fine and the compressor was great. But there was something nagging at me to install onboard air. I didn't want the compressor in the engine bay, so I opted for a bed location instead. I pulled the trigger on the All Pro Bedside Compressor Box Mount along with the ARB single compressor. I bought it all as a package from All Pro, and it even included a very handy 18' extended wiring harness that makes the install almost completely plug & play with the ARB factory wiring harness. The only additional work necessary was to use an add-a-fuse to tie in the power wire to the engine compartment fuse box. I did the install solo but the box mounting was a PAIN. I opted not to remove my rear driver side tire and instead installed up the wheel well (see pic #2). It is 100% doable, but it was very tricky adding the spacer washers and nuts. My setup retains the stock door and latches, but All Pro makes a steel door replacement (and one that locks).

Mod #10 - Rear Bumper Caps

This is a simple one but can change the look of your truck. My SR5 model came with chrome bumper caps, which I hated. I tried painting them with paint matched spray paint from Autozone, but the finish wasn't good and the slightest paint chip revealed the chrome underneath (I learned that the heard way via the front grille). I opted to buy OEM bumper caps in matte black off of a seller on Ebay.

Mod #11 - Engine Compartment Splash Guards

After having my power steering rack replaced recently, my mechanic recommended replacing my stock splash guards. After taking a look myself they were indeed looking pretty shabby, with several of the holes having ripped. I opted to buy a new set of ARK Splash Guards. Not only are they well made, but they give you more coverage than the stock guards. They come with instructions and all of the plastic push rivets needed to install.

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