The shenanigans started in Montréal.  We arrived in Québec’s largest city and immediately heard a weird banging noise coming from the truck’s rear axle. Great. Did it begin right after a full throttle pull in 2nd gear through a tunnel just to hear the exhaust echo? Maybe. Should those 116hp have caused any problems? No.

It sounded like a failure in the rear axle, but it was tough to tell since the noise was intermittent. The banging and slight whining indicated something serious, and we doubted the issue would resolve itself before next major city of Toronto. Some good news though, we serendipitously had a couple sets of G2 Axle and Gear 4.88 ring and pinions (complete with installation kits) and a pair of Longfield axles that we’d been hauling around in the back of the truck since Florida. This seemed like as good a time as any to install everything. The bad news came when we called every single differential or off-road shop in town and they were all fully booked for the next 6+ weeks. That wouldn’t do, so we made the decision to limp the truck 400km to Toronto and try our luck there instead.

Our “plan” was to get as close as possible to our our friend’s house in Oakville, Ontario. Our Canadian Automobile Association plan covers tows up to 320km so all we had to do was make it 80km to get our free tow. Genius. I played nice with the clutch and gas and did my best to keep the parts together. We limped 78km before the engine revved suddenly, signifying that something in the rear axle came apart. We pulled over to the side of the road and called a flatbed tow truck to chauffeur us to our destination.  Within 45 minutes we were back on the road, this time as passengers.

Since our plan of selecting Toronto as our next destination was now well underway, it was time to work on the next step. From the flatbed’s bench seat we updated Instagram, asking for recommendations of off-road shops in the area that could help us install our new differential parts and axles.

As usual we had plenty of positive responses on Instagram. Offers to ship complete diffs to us (thanks Ryan!), recommendations for shops… but one private message stood out.  It seemed like a too-good-to-be-true elaborate scam. A contact from “Toyota Canada” offered up one of the service bays in their shop and a couple of techs to help us out. Right. Just like that Saudi prince who always emails me wanting to give away his fortune.

After a quick chat with our contact at Toyota Canada, we realized that the offer was for real. The next morning we called yet another flatbed to come pick up the truck from our friend’s house (our $150 BCAA membership came in handy that week!) and meandered through Toronto traffic to 1 Toyota Place. Turns out it wasn’t an elaborate scam, just a pile of really great people who happened to follow our travels and were stoked to help out.  Within 20 minutes the truck was on the lift, the rear axle disassembled, and the culprit found. Check out how clean this shop is!

We think a failed wheel bearing overheated, causing the driver-side rear axle to shear off.  We felt very fortunate to have been limping along at very slow speeds when this failed. There was a real possibility that the wheel, including the axle, could have come off, potentially causing an accident on the highway.

I had to bring the differential center-sections to a local differential shop, but didn’t have a vehicle to do so since… you know… our truck was disassembled. My plan was to catch a bus to our friends’ house, borrow a car, drive back to Toyota Canada to pick up the parts and run around town, but the guys and girls at Toyota had a different plan. They handed me the keys to a 2016 Tacoma 4×4 Off-Road and told me to get it dirty. Is this real life?

The diffs wouldn’t be ready for a few days, so we hopped in the new Tacoma and explored the local area in air-conditioned, satellite radio playing, 278 horsepower comfort.

First stop: Niagara Falls. After spending a couple of weeks in the slow-paced Maritimes and vast Trans Labrador Highway, arriving in the gong show of Niagara was a little overwhelming. It was like a mini Las Vegas surrounding a giant (no seriously, it’s huge) waterfall. We cropped tourists out of the frame, snapped a few photos, and continued on our tour of Ontario.

We filled the backseat of the truck with our trekking packs, tent, sleeping bags, and a couple of paper bags full of food and zipped off to cottage country. One of the benefits of driving a truck with only 800km on the odometer, as opposed to 380,000km (especially one that’s not yours), is that you can actually meet the speed limit and you’ve got air conditioning. Luxury! We’re easy to please. We bombed down every dirt road we could find to explore the area in and around Algonquin Provincial Park just to see where they went.

We were reminded, once again, that a stock truck with a couple packs full of trekking gear is all you really need to explore.

Once camp was set up in Algonquin, we rented the requisite canoe and took to the water for a few hours like a couple of loons.

This gem of a spot was somewhere in the Haliburton Highlands. Sunsets and campfires get all the glory.

We didn’t want to skip leg-day (just kidding, we don’t go to the gym) so we motored up to Killarney Provincial Park to hike The Crack!

This was when things got really mind-blowing. We teamed up with Toyota Canada, inviting our friends Aaron and Lindsay from Koyo Productions to film the final moments of our truck’s repair. Our friends flew out from Vancouver on extremely short notice and spent a full day in the shop filming while Dorian and Graham did the heavy lifting on the truck. We really couldn’t have asked for a better experience and can’t thank everyone  at Toyota Canada enough.

Check out the final product by Koyo Productions! A busted axle and a dream come true!