Equipment Review - big trip - the landy - equipment review

Now the trip has reached its conclusion its time for a look at how the equipment has stood up to the punishment we've dished out.


Mud wears the brakes out fast!

Despite the seemingly long list of broken bits and maintenance done on the landy, it has been very reliable under heavy use on the worst of roads. Only the timing belt snapping in Guyana left us stranded. The snapping of the front driveshafts can be partly put down to driver error but these things happen in the jungle. The other people we've met with Japanese 4x4s have had driveshafts break, gearbox mainshafts snap and lots of other faults. After a few days hard use in the jungle any 4x4 needs a lot of attention, the mud wears the brakes down super fast, water may get into the oils and some bits are bound to have been bashed in or ripped off.

2.5 litre diesel, no turbo, no power, no worries!

Engine - the 2.5 normally aspirated motor has a paltry 70 hp but starts first time every time and gives us around 25 mpg which isn't bad considering the extra weight of the landy and aerodynamics of the roofrack and tent. We cruise at 80-90kmh which is fine for seeing the views and keeping along with other traffic, not that there is much usually. The only times where we wish we had a Tdi is the odd super steep hill when low 1st just makes it, driving in deep sand and chugging up long hills, especially at altitude. Oh yeah, and when a Tdi landy blasts past!

Grease leaks into the drums...often!

Brakes - On long descents (talking about 20kms or more) with lots of curves, the brakes will start to overheat. Trundling down in second or third gear is the only alternative to falling off a big drop. The rear drum brakes are a real curse, they need to be adjusted often and heavy mud reduces them down to nothing in no time. When the rear wheel bearing inevitably leaks, the grease goes into the drum and ruins the shoes. Next time the landy will have discs all round with the vented ones on the front.

Welding a plate on the end of the broken halfshaft

Drivetrain - when the front halfshafts snapped they broke at the diff end and somehow twisted themselves so they wouldn't come out. Had to weld a piece of steel on the end and hammer them out from the other side. The rear salisbury diff, while undoubtedly ultra strong, is physically too big and reduces the ground clearance under the landy significantly. A locking rear diff would make a useful difference too during jungle forays. The LT77 gearbox has been fine with the exception of reverse gear which is now almost useless, popping out after a few metres, hopefully an easy fix when the landy gets back on home soil (eventually turned out to need a rebuilt 'box fitting). Universal joints, parts which we expected to be replacing, proved perfectly reliable thanks to very regular greasing. The clutch finished on the same one and did over 100,000kms before being replaced with the reconditioned gearbox.

Six lights, like

Lights - One of the most annoying things about the landy are the headlights which are terrible. The original army bulbs were a feeble 45W and when we changed them to 90/100W ones in Honduras the circuit went mad, melting the headlight connections. We put relays in but still things weren't good with bad earths and loose connections making our occasional night driving worse than before. 55/65W bulbs were a lot better but dip always seemed far too dim. New headlights are high on the landy shopping list.
Rooftop spots, as anybody who has them knows, look great on the car but aren't very wicked to use as they light up the whole windscreen and bonnet. Smaller lights, set much further back are the solution.

Whipping off the tyre Latino style

Tyres - the Michelin XZL 750x16 tyres were great and never had a puncture but only lasted 40,000kms before they became dangerous on wet roads. The BFGoodrich Mud Terrains 285/85 we have now lasted better (50,000 kms and still plenty of tread) but have had a whopping 18 punctures. Two punctures where pieces of metal penetrated, one a stone went straight through, and the rest from dirt getting inside and wearing through the inner tube. Tubeless rims next time! Only carrying one spare was never a problem, we were lucky not to have two punctures close together. We carried a punture kit and tyre levers (very useful for adjusting fan belt tension and hitting things with!) but never used it.

Winching with a rare smile!

Hand winch - next time there'll be an electric or mechanical winch fitted to the landy. A hand winch is just not efficient enough for heavy use. The time taken to set it up (pulling an incredibly stiff lever to free the cable jaws), unwind the cable, pull it through the winch etc. is around 20 minutes if you're fast - then you have to put it away! After five or six times tiredness sets in and its just a total pain. An electric winch would have us through an obstacle in 5 minutes with minimal effort instead of 45 minutes hard slog.

Sand ladders

Sand ladders - the fibreglass ladders are essential for getting unstuck. However, they get ripped and worn down as the tyre spins on them, also wearing the tyre too. They weigh a ton when all the square holes are full of mud, sometimes taking two people to retrieve them from being squashed into the mud by the landy. If the mud is clay-like then you have to poke each hole with a stick to clean it out, otherwise whacking them on the ground gets a lot of it out.

Using the jack for a recovery

High Lift - the best and fastest way to jack up the landy to change a wheel or to get unstuck. Problems with this tool are that it gets worn and dirty then doesn't work so well - it hasn't descended properly since the first few uses. It is also a bit dangerous but so is crossing the road. We made extra sure never to have our heads in the arc of the handle when operating it. Sometimes a bit of a battle to use (usually when stuck knee deep in a mud hole in the middle of the night) but always did the job.

Cubby box

Cubby box - locking steel box is great for keeping the stereo safe and whatever else is in there. It saw off a screwdriver attack in Bariloche but wouldn't unlock afterwards. Had to open it another way which a determined thief could also do with the right tools but lets not go into that.

GPS - our hand held GPS proved useful when we were lost in Mexico and a couple of other times but its lack of map facility and terrible ability to find the satellites leaves it consigned to the cubby box 99% of the time.

Take off the cover...

...pull down the ladder...

...and miraculously appear somewhere else!

Roof tent - the tent takes one minute to open or close and is a great piece of kit. When open it provides rain or sun shelter over the cooker on the back door too. With a roof tent it doesn't matter what the ground is like which is a massive advantage over normal tents. Disadvantages are the weight (50kgs or so on the roof) and the need to be aligned facing into the wind (if its windy!) to reduce the rocking about. Its not really designed for very cold and wet weather, the flysheet only covers part of the tent and the wind makes it flap very noisily. Fortunately this type of weather was only found in Patagonia.

Coleman cooker

Cooker - the Coleman petrol cooker was great for the first 18 months then the pump seal got ruined by having petrol accidentally tipped into it. It was replaced with a seal from a car parts shop which was too stiff but worked. Later it became gummed up inside with the ming from bad fuel and never really worked again, despite (or maybe because of) being dismantled and cleaned various times. Fortunately we had a MSR camping cooker which did the job, uses less fuel and works faster but is fiddly and time consuming to set up and light.

Inside the back

Storage - the Rako boxes in the back were fine and turned out to be dustproof too. Getting them out is a bit fiddly and needs strength when loads of other stuff is piled on top of them. A drawer system near the rear door would be better for cooking utensils and regularly used stuff. We carried quite a few things around that we never or hardly ever used, like climbing kit, surfing kit, sand mats, ground stakes (and a big box of condoms!). There was room for improvement but the setup did the job. Storage nets in the roof would have been useful, as well as cloth bags instead of plastic ones.

600 watts plus...

...480 watts = power!

Music - We took a load of mini discs as that was what we used before. Now, at the end of the trip we've learned expensive musical lessons. We should have brought along a CD changer so we could listen to new CDs on the trip for a start. Also, the reliability of the Sony MD players is appalling, we've gone through three head units now, none of them play and only one still ejects! The speakers all still work as do the two amps behind the seats. The subwoofer should have been fixed in somewhere instead of just sliding about and the bass tube got badly squashed too. Next time an MD changer and a CD changer will be kept in a special dust proof box and the speakers will be mounted more strategically.

MOT - Returning to so-called civilisation means that paperwork such as the MOT (yearly UK Ministry of Transport roadworthiness test) needs to be sorted out. Due to the landy not having any road tax sticker it was parked in a local workshop where the guys that worked there were sure that it would fail the MOT and cost hundreds to fix.
Despite the battered appearence, the landy is in remarkably good condition, failing the MOT test on the following:-

Track rod ends (steering balljoints) have too much play
Handbrake doesn't work
Windscreen washers don't work
Front numberplate broken

Total cost of all these parts was around 40 quid and easy to do myself. The worst bit was getting the steering drop arm off. Before the MOT I'd replaced the electrical connectors for the headlights (ones out of a Transit van fit) and replaced the military light switch for one that Dunsfold gave me.

The gearbox still doesn't have much left in reverse but that doesn't seem to matter for the MOT so it can wait until funds permit a rebuild.