X88 expeditions - Documenting and sharing overland travels, adventures, and expeditions

May 15, 2007

Goodbye Ol’ Blue - The Aftermath

Well the call came yesterday from the insurance company and its not being repaired.

Their justification was that the cost of the repair (over CAN$ 12K) + a "buffer" they calculate for "unforseen" items during the repair, was too close to the appraised value of CAN$ 14K.

This appraised value included a (low) book value for a 2002 TB with 225,000+ kms plus their valuation for ALL my add-on receipts (depreciated of course) over the past 5+ years.

It did not include the items I said I would be taking off:

  • wheels and tires
  • MileMarker extreme winch mount
  • T-Maxx winch
  • KC lights
  • PIAA lights
  • custom rock sliders
  • hitch step
  • aftermarket stereo equipment

Everything else stays on because its too expensive to remove or I don't have the original parts.

Their amount (minus my $500 deductable) goes to the leasing company to settle what I still am obligated to pay.

Which leaves me with a grand total of just under CAN$ 6K, and no vehicle.

In my opinion, not the best solution for me, but not an absolute tragedy either. I now must admit that all-in-all, I was treated very well by Dominion of Canada and particularly by the adjuster who handled my case. He is the one who suggested to put together all my modification receipts (lucky I kept them) and he is the one who significantly increased the book value of the Trailblazer. Without him I would be in dire straits.

The big decision will have to be made in the next few weeks as to what direction I want to go, in terms of my next vehicle.

What this does is throw a major wrench into my plans for the summer. I not only had some more interesting mods planned, but a couple of 4-wheelin trips in there. One to northern Ontario mining country. And the other to the 4WD paradise of Colorado.

Right now I'm kinda feelin I have left a job unfinished ... but that may change ...

May 12, 2007

Going For The 4•5•6 - Housing Research

Also during research I decided to take a chance and buy a rock guard spider for a GM 10 Bolt rear end from Purple Cranium. I had it shipped to The Roadie for test fitting as I was without Trailblazer at the time. What this did was confirm that our axle housings were completely different from the standard 10 bolt housings used by GM for years.

Here are some comparison pictures. Even though the sizing is close, the blots completely do not match up.

OK, even though that little exercise did not work out, I decided to march on by doing some research with a GM parts person, which led me to the part numbers of 2 different differential covers - one for the 8" and one for the 8.6". As their costs were quite small, I bought one of each to do a comparison.

On one side, I was still toying with the idea that it would be feasible to put 8.6" gears into my 8" housing. On the other side, this could also help in determining if the 2 axles units are interchangeable.

First off, here's a close up of the 8.6 cover:
As you can see, there should be no more questions of which rear end anybody has as there is an "8.6" stamped right into the cover. I would think this is not a new thing and that any Trailvoy, all the way back to when they started using the 8.6 rear ends, would have this.
Second, here are some side by side comparison pictures:
The 8" is on the bottom and on the left. My observations:
  • The covers are the same in terms of shape, hole placement, shape and size of extrusion, pretty much everything
  • The one big difference is the depth of the extrusion, its plain to see that the 8.6 is deeper
  • The inside extrusion measurements (not depth) are the same for both - 8" vertical at the longest point, 7.5" horizontal at the longest point
Here is a picture of the 8.6 covering the 8 inch. The holes line up perfectly:
So what does all this mean?

It means that I need one more piece of critical information before I can declare that an 8.6" R/P can work in an I6 Trailvoy. And that is wether the 8.6" differential housing is longer/deeper in the front.

Common sense dictates that it is, to match the deeper cover and therefore provide more room for the larger ring gear.

However, one thing confuses me - if that's the case, then why are the cover's measurements the same in height? When you think about it, if you increase the diameter of the ring gear, would it not need more space, particularly at the very top and bottom of the cover extrusions, and not just in the middle? In other words, why is the vertical space not increased for an 8.6" ring gear?

The only answer would be that the cover is deeper to allow for more differential oil for better lubrication and not for ring gear size requirements.

Well, its not something I want to guess at so I am going to try to figure out the best points for measuring the front of the differential housing in order to compare with an 8.6". Ultimately this should lead to a final determination and direction I will be going in for the upgrade.

May 8, 2007


This exploration started out great in that I arrived to the regular place I stay in Perth on the Sunday with enough time to do some preliminary exploring based on research I did using Google maps, SoftMaps 5 (now discontinued), and my newly acquired Garmin 276C loaded up with the awesome 1:10,000 TrakMaps for Ontario.

I was interested in the area around Pakenham, namely the powerlines that make their way up into the high country and are close to the ski area there.

The first picture is looking north-east across the Ottawa valley with the Gatineau hills on the other side. The other pictures are looking south-west where a trail continues for several kms.

The only problem is that just down the hill behind the Trailblazer is a make-shift gate (unlocked) with no fence but a "no traspassing" sign. The whole thing looked a bit suspicious to me in that this trail was clearly labeled as a "road" on my SoftMaps 5 topo map. In fact, you can follow it on Google all the way down to Bellamy Rd.

However, I didn't want to tread on any potential private property so I did not continue. I will be contacting the club I joined: OF4WD and the local club in the area: EOTB to get the full scoop on this.

The rest of the pictures are from heading home on Monday, before the tree incident. It started off as such a nice day, but then promptly turned to crap.

The first three pictures are next to a small lake with a gorgeous cottage property directly across. I stopped next to a small waterfall and got a good shot off the Garmin sitting on its "bean bag" mount. I'm really happy with the GPS unit, I just hope I will be getting more use out of it in the near future.

There is no GPS track though. Due to the circumstances, I ended up losing it. I either cleared the unit before copying it to the computer, or had it on my computer and deleted it by mistake. In any case, I do plan to go back there one day (the scene of the crime) and try to put together a proper route.

May 5, 2007

Beer Run

Right off the top, I'm not talking DWI here, its just a name of a route I have been exploring out here in southern Ontario.

There is a big lack of official 4WD trails here in the east, and particularly in the Great White North east. What I have come to realize however is that although this is true, one can make their own very interesting trails by doing some extensive exploring, particularly with the help of a good GPS unit and a set of very detailed topographic maps. Where it will differ however is that somewhere along the route, you will end up driving on pavement just to get to the next section. But that's just the realities of southern Ontario living. What you tend to look for are lines or sideroads marked "no maintenance beyond this point, use at your own risk", snowmobile trails, etc.

In any case, I had a fun outing that is not too far north of Toronto before mother nature decided to incapacitate my Trailblazer. The route is from Hockley to Creemore and I'm calling it The Beer Run because of the two microbreweries.

Note: Hockley Valley brewing has since moved to Orangeville, and Creemore Springs has been bought by one of the big two, but is keeping its microbrewery-style production. Oh well ...

The time of year I went (early Spring) I would say its still a little too wet. A vehicle without good M+S tires and locker would have definitely got stuck in 2 or 3 places. I made it through. These weren't too bad, there were definitely worse places.
Even though there are no "mountains" around, Southern Ontario has its share of river valleys, plus the Niagara Escarpment. My route traverses both in an area called "The Hills of Headwaters".
Spring runoff in one of the valleys and the last remnants of winter.
I'm not going up that hill without 4.56 gears! Luckily there is a bypass. The deer come out at dusk.
Nice view at dusk from the top of a hill. And this is what you get when you hit the trails too early in the Spring.
And finally at the destination (a little later than planned). The Creemore Springs Brewery. My muddy Trailblazer on a lonely street.
My GPS told me that the route is about 80 km. There are some really interesting areas, very easy sections, and some places I didn't even attempt by myself. The best time for this run would definitely be during the fall colour season, very spectacular.

Map References - Beer Run

View map in larger window.
This is the map of the start and ending points plus the paved route.

The offroad route is obviously more interesting but not finalized yet.