Overlanding to Australia: Part 12
After 30,000 hard miles, some essential maintenance needs to be carried out before going on to Cambodia
The 30,000 miles that we have clocked up on this trip have been hard to say the least, especially as we have had to put the Defender on most off-road surfaces imaginable from washboard roads and sand tracks in Mongolia to muddy jungle tracks in Laos. And while the car is running well, the strain is starting to show; maintaining the Defender so that it is in tip top condition is now, more than ever, at the forefront of our minds.
In order to keep the Defender going as smoothly as possible for the rest of our around-the-world trip, we feel that it is important to use the best-quality products available to maintain the car or fix any issues that have arisen. As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure.
We carry some essential spares with us but there have been times when we have had to source some parts on the road. We suspected that the parts for a Defender would be harder to come by in some countries compared to more popular brands like Toyota. Sure enough, the reality of what we have encountered on the road is less than straight forward.
There are Land Rover dealers and garages in most countries we travelled through so they are the obvious go-to place for the most difficult to source parts. However, there will also be a nice big price tag as well as a long wait to go with this as sometimes the part will have to be ordered from overseas. The auxiliary belt pulley was showing signs of needing to be replaced and we visited both Land Rover and Ford (the Puma engine supplier) in Laos and they were unable to get the right part to us for three weeks. However, you always have the internet and thanks to Fedex you can receive most parts worldwide within 48 hours.
In a country like Mongolia where a 4x4 is an essential lifeline for the inhabitants, there are always parts dealers who will be able to source the equivalent component for your car. When the suspension bushes disintegrated 600 miles from the capital, for example, we were able to go to a makeshift garage in a local village to get bush-fix bushes. Back in Ulaanbataar, we managed to persuade a local Bilstein dealer to sell us some bushes out of his full suspension kits so that we could carry on with the rest of our journey.
We were pleasantly surprised in Cambodia by how easy it was to get a set of brake pads. This was due to the number of Defenders in the country which have been donated from the UN and other organisations around the world for humanitarian work.
To our surprise, some of the more common parts were a little harder to source in foreign countries. It took us a few trips to the shops in China and Thailand before we were able to get the correct engine oil and other fluids, for instance. We don't carry much spare oil due to weight and space and to be completely honest we didn’t think that it would be a problem to find a compatible oil. Suffice to say we will be researching the equivalent specification of oil you can get in each country before we set off again.
Thus far on the journey we have had no
“I approach the maintenance of the Defender in a very military way”
major issues with the Defender. This is down to several factors – the first being that it is a relatively new car and when we set off it had just 30,000 miles on the clock. We made sure to source a good car and pushed our budget on this as we felt it was important. Research was key as with everything and the Land Rover community has been a great help.
One of the most important things to a hassle-free journey in my opinion is keeping the weight to a minimum. This alleviates added strains on the engine, which we have kept standard, and of course helps with all the running gear and suspension. We uprated as many of the bushes as we thought we needed to. In hindsight, we should have swapped out every bush on the vehicle to Polybush due to the problems we had in Mongolia – we now own every Polybush available for the 110.
We have also shortened the service intervals in the hope to change the parts before they break or go wrong. A complete fluid change is relatively simple to do and doesn’t cost that much.
We did pay for full service at a Land Rover garage in Kazakhstan and they did a great job but I also think that it is important to do as much work myself on the Defender as possible. The reason for this is that I then know how everything all goes together. I can check the condition of old parts and just take the extra time to learn more about the car and potential future problem. It should help with diagnosing the dreaded rattles when driving overland as well. It will also save you quite a bit of cash.
So, when we go back to continue our trip in Cambodia, I will be working on the Land Rover in a professional garage where I can borrow ramps and tools for a small charge. I will be fitting the Polybush bushes and at the same time all the ball joints and track rod ends will also be replaced. I feel I might as well do the lot in one go when we find a decent area to do the work and hopefully with them all done, I won’t have to do any major work for another 30,000 miles.
I approach the maintenance of the Defender in very military way. This was taught to me and used when serving in the Paras. When on Mobility Operations in Afghanistan, there was a rolling maintenance schedule of daily and weekly checks and a service interval that the vehicle mechanics carried out. Your vehicle is your lifeline. It is your gun platform, ammunition, water, food storage, shelter and means of transport. If it breaks down due to poor driving or poor maintenance it’s just a hassle that isn't needed.
So, to that end there is system of checks that the driver must carry out, regardless of how tired he is. The rolling check is done as often as possible and consists of a general walk around and spot check of known potential problem components and should take two to three minutes. It must be done after a water crossing and or serious off-road obstacles.
Daily checks are completed when in a safe harbour location for the night or day and is where a more thorough series of checks are carried out that would take about an hour. A weekly check is done by the vehicle mechanic on the ground and the vehicle is taken out of active duty when it requires a full service
Most people will already do this without realising. Before we set off, I wrote a list of things that needed to be done at each point and it has now became second nature. I would strongly advise anyone who is considering a long overland trip to do the same.
One of the most difficult things about on-the-road mechanics is knowing what the problem is that needs fixing. As I get to know the car better, some of the more common problems are easier to diagnose. Otherwise, the Land Rover community is a great source of information. All the enthusiasts out there are great at sharing experiences and information which are very easy to access on the internet. Luckily there has not been many problems I have not been able to fix. Fingers crossed it carries on for the rest of the trip.
HAYDON BEND Haydon Bend and his wife Me-an are enjoying a honeymoon with a difference – driving overland to Australia in a Defender 110. Each month LRM is reporting on their progress. For their latest news see oplongdrive.com
This Page: When the couple go back to continue their trip in Cambodia, Haydon will be working on the Land Rover in a professional garage – despite ongoing maintenance, 30,000 miles across extreme terrains takes its toll even when it is a Defender