Expedition TrailBlazer Project


Rock Sliders / Door Guards

So as the trails got more difficult, I noticed the rocks and obstacles were getting closer to the rocker panels. I hadn't yet made the mistake of body damage, and only had a couple minor scratches in the plastic. However, I realized the signs and decided it was time for some protection, and it was time to take the next step in my vehicle's ability.

I contacted a local fabricator in Manassas, VA, Freaky Tree Fabrication and we got to work making a custom set. I set out looking for a simple set of sliders, but the fabricator had an interesting concept that would follow the vehicle lines and protect the rocker ends well. So I gave him the go ahead.

Here we are doing a test fitment, the tubing is 1-3/4" DOM, 1/8" walls (same stuff that most roll cages are made of):

I've seen some people tear the lower rocker panel off the vehicle in order to mount the sliders slightly higher. Eric and I looked into this as an option. The Trailblazer has a body seam that runs directly behind the panel, and is as low as the panel (except at the ends). So we worked around those ends by incorporating this fancy artistic (yet functional) end design:

The rocker panels also hold a piece of the door weather stripping. There is an outer strip that runs along the bottom of the door. Being that I drive through mud and creeks, I thought I could use all the sealing possible.

We went for weld on, as a bolt on option would just be too much trouble for it's worth. To aid in the strength, Eric added in the corner gussets. It was amazing the difference in rigidity before and after the gussets. They had a good amount of vibration without (as in, if you hit the slider, they visibly vibrated), however once the gussets were added, the slider didn't move a millimeter.

I went for powdercoat. I'd seen brush on bedliner that just scraped off sliders, and I'd seen professional bedliners get scuffed off too. I thought a durable and smooth finish would be best for something that would be used to 'slide' over stuff. Final product:

We decided to do a load test and verify their strength. Notice the very slight bend in the tube once the full weight of the driver side was on the bar. Also notice how they stick out 1/4" from the tires. This was done so that the rocker would also guard the side of the vehicle if I needed to pivot around a tree or other vertical object.

These suckers are strong.

Here's a decent picture of it not in a garage that shows the unique shape:


I've always liked these vehicles but this is the first TrailBlazer I've seen modded for offroad! Pretty awesome.

I didn't realize they were coil sprung in the back, or the Tahoe for that matter. Pretty awesome considering the Hummer H3 has leafs. Yes, I know the platforms aren't the same but I believe they are related.

Can you also use springs from the H3/Colorado/Canyon?

Edit: Is it just me or is there no other midsize SUV with a ladder frame, IFS, and coil sprung rear axle??
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Laptop Mount

I have found that navigation by a handheld GPS gets a tad silly at times. Handheld GPS units are great for hiking, don't get me wrong, but for vehicle travel, I wanted something better suited. So I mounted the laptop on a ram-mount:

I run Delorme Topo USA (after reading good reviews from this site):

Here's a panorama from the passenger seat during a recent trip (taken while I was spotting some guys through a slightly rough spot).

After running with the mount through a few trips, I realized there are two needed upgrades for the ram system:

Screen stabalizer:
(Otherwise the screen vibrates everywhere and eventually bends over)

Low profile laptop holders:
(With the stock ram-mount holders, the screen cannot close while the laptop is in the holder)


Update/Teaser from Today

Well, my fabricator and I put in another full day working on the most recent addition. I wasn't planning on showing this until it was fully completed... but aw, what the heck. :wings:

The naked truck, awaiting it's new brassiere:

A little plasma can really spice things up:

Not a bad fit for an initial test fitting eh?

Most of today was spent on fixing minor issues (interference with the grille, headlights, fender alignment, etc, etc.). More details to come whenever more progress is made.


:box: The brown truck man brought some goodies!

First of all, the fog lights came in for the bumper. After reading many reviews on fog lights, I found that the projector type lights had what I would consider the best 'fog' pattern. I was looking for wide spread, yet a nice cutoff that wouldn't throw light upward. I ran across the Hella Micro DE fogs when reading up an expedition motorcycle thread. After more research, they seemed perfect, so the bumper was designed around their specs.

The second goody was a newly tuned powertrain control module (PCM). This controls the engine and transmission as a unit and tunes the shift points and the engine power curve. This is actually the second try at the tune. Last round the 1-2 shift became overly harsh and I had them detune it. The power curve, however, is greatly improved!
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great work on this thing!
I can't wait to see what the front bumper looks like finished.. i would love to build a bumper soon for my explorer! Are you making provisions to mount a winch in the bumper?

Keep up the good work!



I decided not to mount the winch inside the bumper for a few reasons:
-It would have pushed the bumper out further.
-It would add a lot of unnecessary weight for my daily commutes.
-It would subject the winch to lots of unnecessary weather.

Instead, there are a few companies that make a receiver mount for winches:

I see a few benefits to this mounting method:
-I can take off the weight when I don't need it (for daily commuting).
-The winch sees less weather and may theoretically last longer.
-The winch can be mounted on the rear receiver to allow rearward extractions.
-Rated to 9000 lbs.


Well I've been out in Mexico for work these past couple weeks, but I finally got some work done today on the bumper.

Cutting out some brackets with the plasma:

Test fitment of the Hella Micro DEs:

Center section tacked in:

Light hoops being tacked in:

Figured I would take a couple pictures with everything in place:

Tomorrow the top end will be finish welded, the final internal structural brackets will be welded in, and the entire thing will be ground down to a nice finish.

Then its on to the powder coater! :wings:


Great job on your TB. It's interesting to see how an idea about your build begins, then grows legs after you do some trails. At first, I saw the brush guard and thought that was a mistake. As always, as you wheel it and see what works , here comes the fabbed front bumper.
Looks like you are heading in a good direction.


Looks better than I imagined. Great progress, looking forward to seeing it with a nice coat of black powder on it. :smiley_drive: