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So, what is a clinometer? Its a combination tilt, slope and altimeter
gauge pod that came factory installed on certain Toyota 4WD trucks, its
mostly found in the '84-'88/9 SR5 pickups and 4Runners. A similar meter
is found on the 4WD Tercel wagons, although it lacks the altimeter
Its normally installed on the dash, in a slight recess and is held in
place with a bracket and two screws. Its entirely mechanical in nature,
the only electrical connection is for a back light. I find its a fairly
See the following section for information on how to increase the range
on the tilt and slope meters.
One of the "cool" things I like about the 1st generation SR-5
4Runners is the dash-mounted clinometer. Its somewhat of a gadget, but
I find it to be somewhat useful on and off road. The altimeter is nice
to have and can also serve as a barometer. The gauges are lighted and
easy to see. One thing I did not like about mine, were that they seemed
to stop just a bit past 30° tilt or grade. When I first took the
truck off-road, I found 30° was more than enough lean to get the
old heart going, and heeding Toyota's warning:
But, I soon discovered my truck did not tip over past 30°, and I
wished the gauge would go farther to help indicate the degree of slope
I was on. I find that when I first start getting tippy, I can look at
the gauge and see that it is only at say 20°, then I can relax
knowing its nowhere near rolling. I've had numerous occasions where
extended lengths of trail were done with the tilt needle pegged at
~35°, with no idea how far over I really was.
Anyway, one afternoon, I decided to open up the clinometer and see how
it worked. Quite a mechanical marvel. In the image to the lower left,
the dial to the left is the up/down meter, the one to the right is the
left-right meter, viewed from the back side. In the center is the tilt
sensing gear. It uses a heavy brass weight attached to the bottom of
the big center gear. That big gear drives the smaller gear to the right
that turns the dial on the gauge. You'll note there is about a 4:3
ratio in terms of the gear diameters. So when the big gear turns
30°, the smaller gear moves the display about 40° (i.e. 30 x
4 / 3 = 40). This is what makes the 30° mark on the gauge look
like it is closer to 40° physical angle. Likewise the slope
indicator also has this increased sensitivty, just harder to see as the
gear train is front-back instead of side by side.
On the up-down gear, there is a plastic tab that stops the gear at the
+/-30° point, its easily removed. On the left-right gear, there
are stops cast into the clear plastic housing the are easily removed
with a small carbide bit in a Dremel tool. To the left, its hard to go
much past the stop, as part of the housing is in the way. To the right,
you can open it up farther, but internally, the brass weight on the
gear will hit the "lock" mechanism and stop.
Anyway, I made those modifications, put it back together and gave it a
test. In the above right picture, you can see the results, at least
45° of meter travel, can't wait to go out and try it out off-road!
Don't have one in your truck and want to have one. Two options are to
get one from a 4WD pickup or 4Runner (usually an SR5 option) and you'll
have altimeter and the tilt/slope meters. Other option is from a Tercel
4WD wagon, you'll get til/slope meter and the 4WD indicator in the 3rd
dial area (see below). Since you already have the 4WD light in the
dash, its not quite as nice. Clinometers show up on eBay from time to
time, or check the junkyards.
So you found a clinometer and want to install it.
What about wiring?
[Last updated: 24.September.2012]