Category Archives: Automotive

Repainting a 2004 Toyota Solara’s Spoiler Using AutomotiveTouchUp.Com Paint

My wife’s convertible Solara is her pride and joy in the summer time. We bought it back in 2017 and it has proven itself to be a reliable and fun car. One issue it had was related to an aftermarket spoiler the previous owner had installed.

In 2021 we waited to take the cover off and there had been a number of hot and humid days. When we removed it, the clear coat on the spoiler was popping off. The factory paint on the car was just fine – the spoiler on the other hand looked tough and by the end of the 2022 Summer driving season it really looked bad so I knew I needed to surprise her by refinishing it.

The clear coat was peeling all over the top of the spoiler but not the bottom.

I do own a full set of automotive paint sprayers but I didn’t feel like getting them out and set up just to do a spoiler. I decided to go with AutomotiveTouchUp.Com who I had bought touch up paint from in the past and had pretty good luck with. The only issue I have ever had with them is that you will wait around four weeks for them to make and ship your paint.

The paint code for a Toyota is one the door sticker and her Solara was “Absolutely Red – 3PO” which describes the bright red on the car very well. I knew I would need primer, that base color and clear coat. I always buy extra just in case so I bought two cans 12-oz cans of each and then I waited for it to show up.

Before you do anything – read their instructions. I went with spray cans so I focused on that section – click here.

Getting Ready to Paint

The first step was to remove the spoiler from the car. This was done by removing the body push pin rivets and moving the interior cover out of the way. Don’t be surprised to find out some of the rivets are missing or broken on an old car. You can easily get them on Amazon along with a tool that makes removal very easy.

Those little push pin rivets do the job and the tool you see makes it really easy to pull them out. If you don’t have a tool use a small blade screw driver or flat edge to get under the pin-part of the rivet and lift it up.
You don’t need to completely remove the cover – just remove as many as you want to get access to the onme screw and one stud on each side that holds the spoiler.
You will see something like this on each side. Remove the machine screws first and start to back off the nut on the stud. If the spoiler stays in place, then remove the nuts completely and the spoiler will lift straight off. In my case, my wife held the spoiler so it wouldn’t fall off when the nuts were removed.
I took one look at the old stuck on seals and left them alone. Trying to remove them would only tear them up. I decided to leave them alone, re-use them and if there was a leak then I would decide whether to replace them or just put a bit of black silicone RTV gasket glue around the two holes to seal it. I didn’t want to jump right to that because if I needed to remove the spoiler again, it would tear up the seals. You can buy black rubber seal material in sheets and you cutt out whatever shape you need but I wanted to avoid that path if I could.
I put the spoiler on two wood sawhorses to do the refinishing work. Note, I added blue painter’s tape to the sawhorses right after this was taken.
I have a 5″ Dewalt orbital sander that I used with 150 then 220 grit sandpaper to remove all of the bubbled/loose clear coat. I wasn’t worried about removing everything down to the bare bare material underneath but did want a solid surface on the top and edges for the primer to grab hold of.

Painting the Car

With the surface prepped, let’s get into the painting process.

This is red primer – not the base paint. I did three coats with wet sanding at 150 grit. No matter how hard and long I shook the rattle cans, the primer would spatter / blow larger drops into the paint vs. the fine mist you want. To be honest, I was regretting not just getting out my spray guns at this point.
I applied five coats of red paint. Light coats are the way to go and what you are looking for is a nice even rich color. I was still fighting the spattering even with the paint. So I did wet sand a few times. There instructions tell you not to do this but they also didn’t have their paint spattering everywhere.
This had six coats of clear coat. I did not wet sand between. The trick is to build up a relatively thick clear coat so you can wet sand it even and then later polish it.
Let it cure for an honest day so that it is hard enough to wet sand and then use rubbing compund to polish it. Water acts as a lubricant in the very fine 1500 grit sandpaper. If you don’t use it, the grit will fill with material and be useless. I keep a bucket of water next to me and keep dunking it in there. In this photo you see a sheet of 1500 grit sand paper that I wrap around the foam block to support it when I sand. I sand the clear coat using 1500, 2000 and 3000 grit sandpaper.
This is a random orbit 6″ bonnet washer. The terry cloth surface holds the rubbing compound and you keep moving around the clear coat removing all of the fine scratches.
The result turned out great. One important thing to remember – it looks and feels cured but it isn’t. There normal one part clear coat needs 30 days to cure the rest of the way. If you wax it, you will probably watch your finish peel right off so be sure to wait.
It wasn’t perfect but way, way better and my wife as thrilled.
The spoiler had rubber bumpers under the front part where it was close to the body. I bought these little 1/4″ tall rubber self-adehsive bumpers at Ace. They looked identical to the originals and will prevent the spoiler from hitting the body for whatever reason.


Because I had the sprayers, I regretted using the rattle can approach with the spattering that I could not get rid of for whatever reason. The time I thought I would save by not setting up my finishing automotive paint sprayer I lost doing extra sanding to get a relatively smooth finish.

In terms of color, they did a great job matching. I’m writing those blog almost two months after painting and it is nearly an exact match. Only at certain angles and lighting do I think I might see a difference – it’s that close. I’ve used them for other vehicles for bottles of touchup paint and their matching is always really good.

Here’s my advice – if you don’t have a good car air sprayer, these rattle cans (spray cans) from the company will do the job. Just be prepared to do extra wet sanding but not between the clear coats.

What is the ultimate gauge of success? My wife is really happy with the results.

If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.

LASFIT LED Headlights – An Example of Excellent Customer Service

I used LASFIT LED emitters to replace the rather lame high-beams bulbs on my 2021 Ram 2500 Tradesman and have been very happy with them. Our 2008 Highlander’s lights were starting to get dim so I ordered a replacement set of emitters for it – “LASFIT H4 HB2 9003 60W 6000LM LED Bulbs Conversion Kit, 6000K Xenon White, Super Bright” to be specific.

Installation was pretty straight forward: Disconnect the wiring harness, remove the rubber dust boot on the rear of the light housing, unclip the bulb retainer, put the LED in, clip the retaining wire back in, clock it so the thin edge of the emitter was straight up and down, pull the wire pigtail from the light out the end of the dustboot, reinstall the boot, put silicone grease on the fitting and test. Done, right? Not quite.

The old light was showing its age. Now sometimes when you see yellow it is because the plastic lens needs to be polished but in this case I had already done that. What you are seeing is an old halogen bulb.
Unplug the wiring and then remove the rubber dust boot.
A 2008 Highlander has one bulb for both low and high beam. To do this there are three wires – power for low, for high and the ground. The engine compartment fuse block has four 15 amp fuses – one for each power – left low and high and then right low and high. You can see the silver wire retaining clip/spring. You can see it is held in place by a small screw and the part you need to free is that farthest tab on the right. It is sitting under a little plastic protrusion. If you push the “U” shape piece of wire inwards and lift the end of the wire clip will clear that nub and swing free.
I don’t have a photo before this but you insert the LED so the metal tabs of the plate go into the slots and snap the wire clip back into place. Rotate the LED so it it straight up and down. Pull the wire pigtail from the LED unit through the dust boot, I then applied silicone grease to the connectors before I plugged the LED’s pigtail into the car’s wiring harness.
The LED itself can be rotated and I did it so it is standing with the thin part vertical. I tried to get a photo of it installed.

Maybe a week or so after the install the light pattern was really screwy on low and no high-beam. In a Highlander, there is one “bulb” and is designed to emit both low beam and then high beam – to do this it has three wires – low beam, high beam and ground. In looking at the fuses in the engine compartment, one of the 15 amp headlight fuses blew. The H-LP LH fuse to be exact – that letter code corresponds with “Left-hand headlight (high beam)”.

I was bumming and went to the LASFIT website. I’d read somewhere that they had good customer service and you know what? They really do. They have a page where you can enter a warranty request and I filled it out.

I imagine their customer service center is in Asia, China maybe, but I had a nice email from Claire offering to send me a replacement set and she asked was that I send her a photo of the originals with their wires cut. I told her no problem – I just needed to wait for Michigan to warm up a bit as the temperature was in the teens and I would do it in the driveway.

Just a few days later the package arrived via first class mail, I installed the new LEDs and everything works great now.

I emailed this photo to Claire at LASFIT per her request.
This is the low beam setting and the light is far whiter than the old halogens. The bushes are about The tree trunk that looks like it is straight in front of the driver’s side LED is 41 feet away. I measured it so you could get an idea.
This is the high beam setting. There is a fairly nice broad distribution of light going off to the sides as well.


I wanted to take a moment to share this. I always think it is worth recognizing a firm that stands behind their product – it was truly a zero hassle warranty exchange. I’m figuring that whatever bug was in the first LED isn’t in this new one as it is still working just fine.

I’m very happy how this worked out. Next time I need LED headlights, I’m buying LASFIT again. FYI – They make a ton of LED models so click here to go to their Amazon store if you want to see what else they have.

Note, I have to buy all of my parts – nothing here was paid for by sponsors, etc. I do make a small amount if you click on an ad and buy something but that is it. You’re getting my real opinion on stuff.

If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.

Upgrading Your Toyota From A Plastic Oil Filter Cap or Housing To a Far More Durable Aluminum Unit

A number of years back, Toyota decided to move from the old spin-on canister-type oil filters to the use of cartridges encloused in a housing. The cartridge is really just the filter element so that’s what get’s tossed, burned, recycled or whatever and the housing is re-used. The problem is that they made the cap of the housing out of some form of polymer and it can crack or chip over time.

In the case of my daughter’s 2013 RAV4 XLE, the polymer cap was chipped near the bottom (closest to the road) and was starting to crack. We bought it when it was returned to the dealer at the end of a lease so who knows who was doing the oil changes or how much they cared.

At any rate, it puzzles me why Toyota went with Polymer. Maybe they wanted to to be softer than the aluminum. Maybe it was cheaper …. not really sure. On one hand you could validly argue that the cap lasted almost 10 years. On the other … it’s polymer and can crack. After asking around, friends recommended I move to an aftermarket aluminum housing to avoid future problems.

I did some digging on Amazon and sure enough, there was a surprisingly affordable aluminum replacement unit that got very good reviews. It’s made in China and sold by “RJSPHH” with 4.9 stars and a relatively few 20 reviews. Normally I would want more reviews but gambled and it paid off. Here it is:

What Toyota Part Numbers Does It Replace?

RJSPHH figured out that by having the same cap and different filter tubes internally, they could cover quite a few Toyota oil filter caps for Avalons, Camrys, RAV4s, Tacomas and more – you actually need to go to their Amazon listings to see all of them. The Toyota oil cap part numbers this particular model can replace are:

15620-0S010, 15620-31040, 15650-38050, 15620-31050, 15650-38010, 15620-31060, 15620-38010, 15620-36020, 15650-38020

I’d recommend you confirm the part number your vehicle uses by looking up the part number on the Toyota parts website or by using your favorite parts website. This way to can verify both by year and model as well as the OEM filter canister part number just to confirm. For example, I used the Toyota site and confirmed the housing or “cap assembly, oil filter” as they call it is part number 15620-36020. I could then confirm that number on the Amazon listing. That was good because they didn’t list the XLE trim level in the Amazon post. Sometimes those details matter and sometimes they don’t – in this case it didn’t.

How To Assemble It?

In the Amazon listing, they tell you which of the three lengths of tubes to use. You can also just set your original housing assembly next to the new RJSPHH unit and figure that out in a hurry too.

They do have a brief video and assembly in the video. I watched that and the only thing that threw me for a minute was the actor was holding an o-ring at one point when putting the base plate in that the spring sits in. I’m pretty sure that was a spare o-ring for the small cap that can be removed to drain the oil from the canister first if you want to. You don’t use it when installing the tube.

The cap is nicely wrapped and you can see the three tubs that come with it. All of the parts are well made and do not feel weak or cheap.
The drain plate on the left goes on the bottom with the flanged portion facing up to cup the spring in place. The tube of the correct length is then pushed down, rotated into position and released. The filter cap is then assembled.
When you push down the tube, rotate it so the tab goes between two holders on each side of the casting.
I like using Wix brand filters. Here is the 57047XP cartridge for the 2013 2.5L Rav4. It comes with new O-rings both for the the main canister of the cap as well as the small drain plug / drain cap on the end. Even though the Chinese cap came with new O-Rings, I saved them for later just in case and used the brand new O-Rings from Wix.
By the way, make sure the drain cap/plug is on. In case you didn’t know it, that cover with the 3/8″ socket square in it comes off and is used to drain the cap. It should have an O-ring behind it and that o-ring is something you replace when you change the oil. Make sure the O-ring is there and that plug is snugged down so the O-ring can seal.
If you don’t have one, get the correct oil filter wrench to engage the cap assembly correctly to remove it. This is a Motive 2320 that I have used for years and it works great. There are many other wrenches out there as well.


This is a solid part. It fit easily with no fitting required on my daughter’s RAV4 and we haven’t had any problems. If you are looking to replace a polymer unit on your Toyota vehicle and are considering this one, I have no hesitation recommending it.

Note, I have to buy all of my parts – nothing here was paid for by sponsors, etc. I do make a small amount if you click on an ad and buy something but that is it. You’re getting my real opinion on stuff.

If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.

Using a Vevor Air Bag Jack To Lift Vehicles To Work On Them

Hi folks – back in 2020, I wrote about buying a Mophorn 3 ton pneumatic/air- pillow jack to work on our vehicles. Actually, I bought it in 2019 and it’s still going strong. This past Fall, I decided to get a second air bag jack but decided to get one with a higher lift capacity to better jack up my 2021 Ram 2500.

To give some background, I wanted an air-pillow/air-bag lift for speed and to save my shoulders that could no longer handle pumping a hydraulic jack arm over and over to lift a vehicle. I have an air-over-hydraulic bottle jack but it is tall and slow. The air bag jacks use compressed air to inflate a rubber cylinder that then lifts the vehicle – like what you see in air-ride or air-lift suspensions on trucks. They are called by a variety of names as you can see in this post: pneumatic jacks, air bag jacks, air pllow jacks, pillow lift jacks. Air-over-hydraulic is a different creature – air is used to actuate the hydraulic pump vs. you hand pumping to move the hydraulic pump up.

Always Use Jack Stands

Once the vehicle is in the air, I always put jack stands all the way around to support it. This is always a good idea regardless of jack type you use and the air bag jacks are no different.

Vevor 11,023 Pound Jack

I did some of my usual digging on Amazon and tool sights and decided to get a Vevor 11,000 pound air jack. I bought it in September 2022 and started using it right away because it’s really speeds things up to be able to lift both ends of a vehicle without repositioning the jacks.

There was one thing in their product page on Amazon that confused me until I realized it was a metric term. They say it can lift 11,023 pounds / 5 tons. Well, being used to American measures, 5 tons if 10,000 pounds soI wondered if this was some kind of hype. The issue is that they mean 5 metric tons. A metric ton is 1,000 KG or 2,204.6 so 5 metric tons is 11,023 pounds.

Their stated operating air pressure range is 5-10 kg/cm^2. That comes out to 71.1 to 142.2 PSI. The airline for my driveway tools is at 100 PSI – most of my tools are 90 PSI. My guess is that given their operating range, the jack can’t lift its rated maximum capacity. I can tell you that it has no problem lifting the front or rear of either my 6.7L Hemi 2021 Ram 2500 or full size 2016 Ford Transit F150 van and that’s really what I wanted. The photo at the top of the blog is the Vevor with my Ram 2500 up in the air.

The lifting height is about 15.75″ and the minimum height is 5.3″. The minimum matters a lot when you are trying to get it under some vehicles. One trick I have found is to stand on the air bag to get the air out and then close the exhaust valve to make it thin enough to slide under some cars.

The Mophorn is slightly taller and you can see the Vevor has a larger diameter air bag.

One of the nice perks is that the handle has three positions so you can slide it in flat under a vehicle or at an angle if so you choose. My Mophorn jack’s handle is in a fixed position so that limits how far it can slide under some vehicles but it’s also more sturdy since it can’t move.

You can see the difference between the fixed Mophorn handle vs the 3-position Vevor.

With the Mophorn jack, the screws securing the botton of the bag to the plate started to come loose and the unit was leaking air. With the Vevor, they are in solid and really did not want to back off – I was going to add medium Loc-Tite but since they were in so firmly, I decided to leave them alone. They may even have a thread locker applied already – I’m not sure. I think out of all of the screws there were only one or two I could torque down further.

The Vevor has no problem lifting my Ram 2500 with 100 PSI of air.


All in all, the Vevor air bag lift seems like a solid unit. I’ve not had any problems at all. I sometimes wish the handle wouldn’t move so easily but its ability to fold flat to the ground makes up for that.

I’d recommend the unit. The Mophorn is always an option also – I’m still happy with that as well.

If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.

You Can Use Spacers To Fit Tires That Are Just Barely Too Wide On A Car

My wife has a 2001 Camry with a V6 and stick shift that is her baby. It’s also 21 years old and a daily driver so on one hand we want to keep it running but on the other we have to be mindful of costs. When it needed new tires and rims, we had to think about what we could do. A few years ago we got a great deal on a Solara that was garage stored in the winters and put new tires and rims on it but we also kept the old set…. could we use those? The answer was that they almost fit.

The Camry’s Tires

The original tire size specified by Toyota was 205/65/R16.

The Camry came from the factory using 205/65R15 tires. What do those numbers mean? The first one is the section width. To explain, 205 is the tire’s width in milimeters. For those of us who grew up with inches, we divide that by 25.4 and it is about 9.25 inches. This is the overall left-to-right width of the tire (not just the tread).

The two digit “65” is the aspect ratio. It is the percentage of the tire’s width. Why they couldn’t just give us a measurement there, I don’t know. So you take the 205mm x .65 = 133.25mm. Divide that by 25.4 and you get about 5.25″. This tells you the distance from the rim to the top of the tread.

Just to show you how screwed up the automotive industry is, the “R15″ means the tire mounts on a 15” wheel. Yeah, that last bit is in inches.

The Solara’s Old Tires

I have a point – the Solara’s tires were slightly different. They were 215/55R17. I was more concerned about the height but what bit me was the width. Again, the original was 205 and the Solara was 215. That is a 10mm difference. 10mm/25.4=0.39″. That was just a tad too much.

These were the 215/55/R17 tires on the Camry.

Well, the tires seemed to fit on the Camry and I took it for a test drive. Other than a bit of rubbing if I turned hard around a corner it was fine. I thought I was done but I wasn’t.

The rear tires were rubbing on the struts

Turns out that the tires were rubbing slightly on the struts. This is where that extra 0.39″ thickness bit me. I noticed it a few weeks later when I checked under the car to make sure everything was ok.

Turns out the tire was far closer to the stut than I realized and would rub on the strut. Argh, I did not notice it when I spun the tire with the car int he air when I mounted them.

The solution – add 5mm spacers

I took a real careful look at the tire-strut gap with the car on the ground as well as in the air and I needed to make it wider. There are spacers made that can move a wheel out just a tad from the hub without causing a ton of problems. As you move the entire wheel assembly further away from the hub you are increasing the strain on the bearings and everything else for that matter.

I don’t have an absolute gospel answer about how far is too far but was told once to keep it as little as possible – certainly 10mm or less. I know there are thicker spacers out there for the people wanting the look of the tires pushed out past the fenders. I just wanted to add a bit of clearance without sacrificing reliability or handling so I ordered in a set of 5mm spacers. 5 mm is about 0.197 inches. Now that is less than the tire difference of 0.39″ but I felt I could get away with it given the extra space I needed so I decided to order a set off Amazon.

The HubCentric brand 5×114.3 60mm bore spacer units were very well made and also very affordable – they were $9.67/pair.
The spacers simply slide on between the hub and the wheel. Note the rust – you want to get rid of that and lightly grease the rims or else the aluminum is going to corrode fast. If you have time, paint the spacers. I didn’t have time to do that.
I used a surface conditioning disc and knockled the rust off the hub. I then applied a thin layer of wheel bearing grease before I reinstalled the spacer.

Before I put the tires back on, I did spray three coats of satin black Rustoleum to try and protect the exposed surfaces. In Michigan, rust is inevitable due to all of the salt put on the roads in the winter. The name of the game is to slow down the rust and that was all I was trying to do.

Mounting the wheels was a bit of a challenge because I needed to hold the wheel in position as I started the lug nuts. I like to start them by hand before I run the nuts down with my impact wrench. I set the final torque using a torque wrench.

It was rubbing the sidewall where the lettering was at. You can see there is no a decent gap. The top looks far closer in the photo than what it is due to the angle.


By using 5mm spacers, I could mount the larger Solara tires on the Camry. We have not felt any handling differences or had any problems so far – it’s been about two months now and a few hundred miles. The car is really just for local use – it’s days of long trips are over so I feel like we made a good choice all things considered.

I hope this helps you out in those cases where you need just a hair more clearance.

If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.

How you can buy the correct oil and filter for a Ram 2500 with a 6.4 Liter Hemi without going to the dealer

I bought my 2021 Ram 2500 in September 2021. It was my first brand new truck and when I saw what the dealer was charging for oil changes, I knew there was no way I was going to have them work on my truck – I’ve always done my own work but because this may well be my one and only new truck, I knew I better do some homework.

First off, I did not want to void my warranty. In talking with the dealership their recommendation was that I only use Dodge/Mopar brand oil filters and Pennzoil Platinum 0w40 engine oil plus I should keep a log of when I changed the oil, filter and with what. Okay I thought – I can do that.

This is a great example of where the Internet and the web can just drive you nuts. If you search about what oil and filter to use, you will get just a ton of search results with guys offering up their weird home brew concoctions, using different weights, brands, etc. That was all fine and dandy but I did not want to void my warranty or give a dealership some excuse to charge me because I didn’t use the approved oil.

Which filter does it use?

If you want to stick with factory parts to avoid warranty headaches, you need the Mopar MO-339 filter. I am using the 04892339AB but am told there is now an AC part number. Regardless of the letters, I would not be concerned if searching turned up an AA, AB or AC. The main thing is that the correct model is MO-339.

This is the correct model number – Mopar MO-339. Sure, there are other quality brands of filters out there such as Wix but my intent is to use Mopar filters until the warranty expires. Then I will move to Wix or whoever is best at that time.
FCA is Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. They are now owned by Stellantis – just FYI. The part number is 04892339AB. The last two letters reflect minor revisions to the base numeric part. For example, 04892339AA would have been a previous version of the part. Odds are it would work ok if you find it. I always go for the most current part number I can find because usually they are trying to improve/fix design issues. The AB series started in 2019. I saw an AA filter that was marked 2009-2011 and recently read there is an AC series but I have not seen it personally.

Where can you find the Pennzoil Ultra Platinum Full Synthetic 0W40 Oil?

You are going to need 7 quarts of oil if you change the filter and I always change the oil and the filter. I am used to walking into Autozone, O’Reilly’s or Walmart and buying oil. They do not carry this weird Pennzoil “Ultra Platinum Full Synthetic” 0W40 that Dodge was specifying. Apparently there were some office politics about switching to Pennzoil and to lock people into using Pennzoil plus being more likely to go to the dealership for oil changes they (I’m not entirely sure who “they” are but will blame both Dodge and Pennzoil) – they came up with this odd spec that really wasn’t required. Stuff like that irritates the hell out of me – they could have specified something else and made it easier for all of us.

At any rate, as mentioned, I am sticking with what Dodge specifies through the warranty period. The dealership will usually sell it but do you know where I found it and at a far better price? Amazon – yeah, Amazon. It’s the cheapest and most convenient source I have found and is also why you will find thousands of reviews. Again, remember you will need 7 quarts.

With the supply chain and economy having so many issues, I bought four cases (there are 6 quarts per case). They showed up at my door the next day – it was great!

Quick comment on my experience so far

My first oil change some time late last year was quite an experience. The oil filter had “factory installed” printed on it and boy, it did not want to come off. I wound up using a vise-grip type oil filter wrench to get a good enough hold to finally break the seal and spin it off.

I just did my second oil change getting ready for Winter and rotated the tires also [click here for a post about how to do that the easy way]. I figured I would take a minute and share with you where to buy the filter and oil from and hope this helps you out.

The filter is located just to the left of the bottom of the lower engine’s crank pully. An end cap filter wrench/socket makes changes really easy. For the first one, the factory installer went nuts either torquing it down or the seal stuck to the block – I’m not sure which it was but I had to really crank down with a locking oil filter wrench to get it off.
A 76/14 (76mm with 14 flutes) oil filter end cap socket is the size you need. Mine is made by Lisle and their stuff tends to be really good. Definitely get one for going forward. Mine could not break the filter lose the first time but it wasn’t the socket’s fault – the filter’s flutes rounded over it was on so hard.

By the way, the torque spec for the oil drain plug is 20 foot pounds. Now I know some guys just feel how tight to go by hand and I did that for over 30 years but now do to nerve and muscle damage, I can’t tell how tight I am pulling so I torque to spec – totally up to you.

Note, I have to buy all of my parts – nothing here was paid for by sponsors, etc. I do make a small amount if you click on an ad and buy something but that is it. You’re getting my real opinion on stuff.

If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.

How to rotate heavy truck, SUV or van tires the easy way and not hurt your back!

I bought a new 2021 Ram 2500 in September of 2021. It was my first heavy gasser with a 6.4L Hemi and a piece of advice a lot of guys gave me was to make sure I rotated the tires with every oil change. It sounded reasonable – it’s heavy truck and the tires need to be rotated so they will wear evenly. If you don’t do this your handling may suffer such as picking up a wobble or you may wear the tires such that they must be replaced prematurely. Ok, I was totally on board with concept but then started thinking about how heavy they probably were – I sure knew they weren’t going to be light.

Factoid: FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automotive – who owns Dodge now – and FCA is now part of Stellantis – for those keeping track of who owns who) reports the LT275/70R18E Firestone Transforce AT tires as weighing 50.7 pounds. The 16×8 steel chrome clad wheel comes in at 45.2 pounds. Add them together and you get 95.9 pounds not including any wheel weights, TPMS, etc. So you might as well say that each weighs 96 pounds. Yeah, that’s quite a bit for me.
Weighing in close to 96 pounds, these tires are too heavy for me easily lift and hold in place when it comes time to mount them on the lugs. For you younger guys who muscle them around all day, good for you. I can’t any longer.

From years of doing stupid stuff, my back and hands are nowhere near as strong at 55 as they were in my 20s and 30s. I’ve always done my own oil changes, tire rotations repairs in general and didn’t plan to stop and pay the ridiculous prices the dealer was quoting. I knew it would be a heck of a struggle for me to lift the tires up and hold them in place while getting the first couple of lug nuts on to hold it. I needed to figure out a way I could lift the 33″ 96 pound tires up into place using mechanical advantage.

So I started by searching on the web for tire/wheel lifts and most of what turned up had to do with moving truck tires across a shop on a dolly. I wasn’t finding anything that said “use this to lift your tires up and down at the vehicle.” My next stop was the local Harbor Freight store to look at various automotive tools and jacks to get ideas. It was there that I got an idea.

There are ratcheting vehicle dollies for garages where there is one dolly for each wheel. You pump a foot pedal and a pawl engages a notch and pushes two cylinders together under the tire. As it does this, the tire and vehicle are lifted up. You do this on all four corners. The dollies have caster wheels under them and if you have a clean concrete floor, you can then slide the vehicle all over the place to either store or work on it. One early trade name was “Gojak” and since then tons and tons of companies have made them.

Hmmm…. I could take one of those and use it to lift the tire into position and hold it as long as I could lift the tire high enough. These jacks are rated at over a 1,000 pounds and my truck’s tires were going to be far, far less than that. No, it was the height that concerned me because I needee to lift the truck high enough to remove the tires in the first place.

I didn’t particularly care for the looks of the Harbor Freight model so I did some digging and found a Sunex unit on Amazon that works in a purely mechanical manner – some hydraulic models from other brands are reported to leak.

It arrived and took just a few minutes to install the caster wheels. I did make one mistake, I was curious if it could lift one corner of the truck – the answer is a resounding “NO” and I did bend the outriggers that hold the casters slightly. I really didn’t expect it to bend but it also didn’t really hurt the unit from an intended use perspective.

This is a Sunex model 7708 1,500 pound car dolly. I’m not really sure it can handle 1,500 pounds but it works great for lifting tires into place.

Most importantly, it worked perfect. I would roll the tire over to my truck, slide the jack in by the edges of the tire and then pump the foot lever until it was the right height. I could then install the lug nuts in an amazingly easy manner. It worked so well I did it both on my Ram 2500 and on our Highlander.

I used my Vevor 11,000 pound pneumatic jack to lift up the truck a side at a time and put 6 ton jack stands under each side of the axle. Never trust any jack to hold up a vehicle while you are working on it – especially not a heavy truck. By the way, I really like the Vevor air jack.
Pulling the tires off is easy – gravity is working with you. I use an IR 232TGSL Thunder Gun impact wrench that has held up remarkably well over the years- I bought it after wearing out a couple of cheap ones. I also use a Chicago Pneumatic (CP) SS4211 lug nut socket set to avoid damaging the rims. The sockets have a plastic protective sheath around them and are thin walled for tight areas.
The 2500’s lugs are 14mm and the lug nuts need a 22mm socket. What I like about the CP set is that they are color coded. This copper colored socket is 22mm and I can find it fast due to the coloring. Note, CP stands behind their products. I bought the set in 2018 and shortly after, one plastic jacket started cracking. I called customer service and they mailed me a free replacement. I’ve not had any problems since. Again, let me plug the Thunder Gun. I want to say I wore out two or three cheap impact wrenches before this one. They claim 625 ft lbs max torque in reverse and 550 ft lbs in forward. I can tell you I have busted loose some really rusted nuts with this.
To mount the tires in their new location, I’d get the tire over in front of the hub and then slide the dolly into place to do the actual lifting. You put the silver cylinders on each side of the tire and pump the red lever (you can very easily do it by hand) to lift the tire up.
So the silver toggle on the left side of the red foot lever allows you to change whether the pawl under the lever is pushing the bar and drawing the silver cylinders together or if it moves the pawl out of the way so you can lower it.
So you use the foot pump to get the height right and then you can rotate the tire – the silver cylinders in the dolly turn so you can perfectly line up the wheel on the lugs and put on the lug nuts. Folks, it makes installing the 96 pound tires stunningly easy.

So, in hindsight after actually using the dolly, it really doesn’t take much actual lifting distance to get the tire into place. When I jack up any vehicle, I typically only lift until the tire is 2-4″ off the ground after I put the jack stands in place – so the gap between the floor and the bottom of the tire is not huge. I also realized you can go with just about any of these jacks – you don’t need super heavy duty because the weight of the tire is relatively small. Just read the review for whatever before you buy it.

Additional Details For Fifth Gen Ram 2500 Owners

By the way, in case you are trying to find the rotation pattern, it is a reverse cross meaning the front driver’s side goes to the back passenger side. The front passenger side goes to the back driver. The two former rear tires move straight up – rear driver to front driver and rear passenger to front passenger.

Tires on the 2021 Ram 2500 move in a reverse cross pattern. Rotating them with each oil change is recommended. (Source: Photo of page 496 of the 2021 Dodge Ram 2500 Owner’s Manual)

If you are looking for the lug not torque spec, it is 130 foot pounds for cone lug nuts – mine had cone lug nuts. If you have flanged lug nots, it is 140 foot pounds.

On the topic of torquing the nuts down, I start mine by hand to avoid cross-threading the nuts and then I run them in quickly with my impact wrench using a torque limiting “torque extensions” – these extensions work with impact wrenches and twist at a predetermined torque but get weaker with time so they are great for bringing the nut down to the rim but not for setting the torque. I do the final torquing down with a 1/2″ torque wrench. Do NOT keep tightening with the impact wrench or bad things may happen such as cracking your rim.

Lastly, the Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) will learn where the tires are automatically. Note, you can’t change the minimum tire pressures for the front and rear without going to the dealer or knowing how to re-program the appropriate computer settings. At least, I can’t in my Tradesman. If you can in another model, that is something I don’t know about but count yourself lucky – I wish I could.

In Summary

The car dolly idea to do the lifting and positioning really paid off and now I can do the tire rotations safely and easily. I hope this helps you out.

2/19/23 Update: It’s still working great. This is one purchase I am very happy with.

Note, I have to buy all of my parts – nothing here was paid for by sponsors, etc. I do make a small amount if you click on an ad and buy something but that is it. You’re getting my real opinion on stuff.

If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.

Why Does A Plow Truck Need Ballast And How Can You Easily Build A Ballast Box?

Ok, quick post today. I’m getting ready for Winter here in Michigan and that includes getting my 2021 Ram 2500 Tradesman and 8′ Western Pro Plow 2 ready. Which, by the way, is why you are seeing a bunch of truck posts vs. firearm posts right now. At any rate, last year was my first year plowing with the truck and plow and knew I needed a better solution for holding the ballast weight. That’s the topic for today’s blog post.

What is ballast for a snow plow and why does it need it?

Simply put, ballast is weight that you add at the far back of your truck to balance the weight of the plow in the front and improve traction. Now I like Western plows but if you want a really good explanation of what ballast is and how to use with graphics, click on this link to Boss Plows. Western has one but it’s not as good in my honest opinion.

The important thing that the Boss page explains very well with the diagram is that ballast goes all the way to the rear behind the rear axle and not in front of it or on top of it. Just imagine a long lever arm – by adding weight to the far back, you are levering up the front and offsetting the weight of the entire plow bolted on to the front of your truck.

It does help to understand how much ballast you need and it’s not necessarily the same weight as the plow. A lot of factors go into the calculation. Again, I use a Western plow so I use their Quick Match web page to calculate how much ballast I need and it’s 240 pounds. I do add a bit for more weight to improve traction as well but that is the minimum I need.

What material to use for ballast? I like sand

When I bought my RAM, I looked in the bed and there are very shallow pressed indents on the left and right side to secure the ballast. Ideally they would be deeper so you could drop a 2×6 or 2×8 in there to hold your ballast. I like to use the 60 pound tubes of sand that you can buy. First off they are a great source of dense weight – meaning you get a lot of weight for the volume they take up and second, if I get stuck on ice or need more traction on ice pulling something, I can cut open a tube and use the sand for traction. This is why I don’t use something like steel or lead back there. Back in the day, my dad used clay cat litter bags for the weight and in case traction was needed. He’d use the bags over the summer for our cats’ litter boxes and then buy any new bags he needed in the fall. He pulled my sister’s Tercel out of a lake after spreading the cat litter all over the icy road behind the tires of his 81 Bronco — it definitely works but we don’t have cats so I just use sand.

By the way, a Quickrete 60 pound tube of sand is $5.37 as of my writing this. It’s definitely affordable. By the way, I like Quikrete because they know guys are using this for weight and put it in a durable woven bag that holds up.

Why build a box?

Simply put ballast is in the way and can be a pain in the butt to work around. Last year, I put the four tubes of sand and 100 pounds of old weight lifting plates in a way too tall plastic tote. That turned out to be a mistake. First off, the tote was way too tall and made getting things into and out of the bed a headache. Second, even though I strapped it to the tie downs using a ratchet strap and a board on top, there are limits to how tight you can strap down the load. I had a couple of times last Winter where I stopped fast and the very heavy ballast tote slid forward – that is not good. You certainly do not want a ballast to come flying at the cab during an accident. Bottom like, the plastic tote box was a bad idea.

This was a very bad idea. The plastic wasn’t strong enough and a few times it still slid forward last year. Also, it was way too high and in the way. I was in a rush and bought this tote at Home Depot. It’s a fine tote but don’t try to use it or something like it told hold ballast. It will move on you.

Solution: Make a box out of 3/4″ plywood

I did some digging and there really weren’t any ballast solutions out there that I cared for because I wanted something very strong, with minimal height that could also be walked on, stacked on, etc.

I decided to make a very stout box and it all started with understanding the dimensions I had to work with.

This is about 19.5×60 – I only went back as far as my floor mat plus didn’t want any box latches to hit the tailgate. I decided to only do 19″ deep and about 57-59″ wide. The box would be held down by a ratchet strap.
240 pounds is four 60# tubes of sand. Laying them out on the ground and doing some measurements that worked out to 18″ deep, 52″ wide and right around 4″ tall. Now this was some guesswork because the tubes are somewhat malleable – you can push the sand around some and make them shorter, longer, thinner, or fatter.

Given the above dimensions, I knew a box with an internal dimension of 18x52x5 would work. The question then became what wood to use. I have had very good luck with 3/4″ plywood. That stuff is remarkably strong. I then considered whether to do framing around it or not with 2x4s or make the walls out of 2x6s but finally just decided to do it all with 3/4″ lumber. The good news is that you can make the entire box from one 4×8 sheet – the top, bottom and four walls.

To hold it together would use #8 1-5/8″ treated deck screws – the new ones with some serious coating and Torx heads. Given they would be in the bed of the truck, I wanted to reduce the odds of rusting plus wanted their strength – both in terms of shear strength and how well the threads would bite into the plywood. I thought about gluing things together as well but changed my mind. If I ever needed to replace a damaged board, then I could with just screws but not so if I glue was used as well.

I wanted the top to have a strong hinge so I could access the sand inside if I needed to cut open a bag and use the sand for traction. I also wanted a strong hinge that wouldn’t bend easy so I went with 4″ gate hinges from Ace and used #10 wood screws. To hold the front down, I used draw clasps from Home Depot. I used the screws in the package and they looked to be about a #6.

To further reinforce the plywood I would use eight 4″ inside angle braces. The intent was to spread out the support and fastening duties without taking up a ton of space. Three braces on each long wall and one on each short wall. I used #10 wood screws.

Lastly, I wanted the wood to be protected so I went with a deck stain. We’ve had very good luck with Home Depot’s Behr deck stain so I just grabbed a can of Russet. It’s a decent medium brown but in hindsight I wish I had gone darker.

Here’s the frame. The long pieces are 57.5″ long x 5″ wide. The short sides are 17.5″ long x 5″ tall. That gives an outside diameter of 57.5″ wide x 9″ long for the frame. I could have made it maybe 0.5-1″ shorter but wanted to make sure I had enough room.
I test fit it around the sand tubes and I was good to go. I was a bit higher than needed but decided to slip a couple of 25 pound steel barbell waits in the top.
The top and bottom pieces of 3/4″ plywood are 57.5″x19″. I repeatedly did test fittings to make sure I didn’t mess up a cut.
Installed the Ace Hardware brand 4″ gate hinges with #10×3/4″ wood screws. Self-centering drill bits are worth their weight in gold when you are installing hinges and brackets. I’m using a Bosch set now – the cheap import models fall apart too easy.
Installed eight of the 4″ inside angle braces with #10×3/4″ wood screws.

One recommendation I would tell you is to use a sander and round over all of the edges so reduce splintering in the future. It also reduces the “ow!” factor if you run into it while moving things around.

I bought pre-tinted Behr deck stain. I like it because it does have an opaque pigment and ran over the steel parts to as I was in a rush. I’m not a huge “it’s gotta look perfect” kind of guy. I’m more of a “If it’s sealed it is good enough” guy.
I did have some spare 1-1/4×1/8″ thick” angle iron that I cut, drilled and painted to protect the sides of the lid from the ratchet strap and to also distribute the downward pressure of the strap more evenly.
The box fit the back and I did have some room as I flattened the tubes out. By the way, I let the deck finish cure for a day before I put in the truck and part of the second before I installed the tubes. I didn’t want the deck stain to glue itself to the rubber floor mat if I pushed it down too early.
Added in two 1″ 25 pound plates that date back to my early days of weight lifting – late 80s if I were to guess. I had four but there wasn’t room towards the sides. Now that the box was at 290 pounds that was good enough for me.
The box is secured by the 1.25″ ratchet strap to the tie down eyelets of the truck. I really didn’t want to drill holes in the bed and invite rust plus the box will only be installed during the winter. The box can’t slide forward because of the wheel tubs plus the rubber floor mat really has a healthy grip on it and the bed floor thanks to the strap.


The box feels very sturdy and can’t move at all now that it is strapped in place. I think the truck has the weight it needs and I don’t have to worry about it shifting around.

I hope this helps you out!

Note, I have to buy all of my parts – nothing here was paid for by sponsors, etc. I do make a small amount if you click on an ad and buy something but that is it. You’re getting my real opinion on stuff.

If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.