Mechanical Tips and Costs
Car Tips on the road
Always drive with the appropriate tyre PSI. Every car is different so our setup will be completely different from yours. When we are on road we use 50 PSI in all Tyres which is the max PSI Cold Rating. When we go off road the Front tyres go down to 28PSI and the rears around 32PSI. I leave more PSI in the rear as the majority of the cars weight is over the rear diff.
Always check your wheel nuts when going off road, I personally have had a wheel come off on the car and it’s not a good feeling. Since that incident I have never come close to losing one as I always check them.
Engine Fluids - Try to check as much as possible as anything can happen off and on road. If you find a leak then don't panic as normally a bolt has just come loose. If the bolt consistently comes loose then apply some Lock tight. When going remote I always carry engine oil, brake fluid, water for the radiator and grease.
If something doesn’t feel right with the car then chances are there’s something wrong, it doesn’t cost much in time to just pull over and check.
Every so often when the car has been driven about half an hour I pull over and put my hands over the rims of the tyres (including hubs and bearing caps) and check to make sure that they're not overheating. Usually if you can’t hold your hand on the rim for longer than 4 seconds then something is definitely wrong.
Whenever we go though some big accents and de-cents I always pull over when I can and just let the car have a breather. This helps the engine and brakes cool down and keeps the wear and tear to minimum.
Whenever you're going off road, never leave anything on the kitchen benches and tables as they will almost always find their way to the floor.
If you have a TV on a mount then its best to remove it before travelling and placing it on the bed, even better put it in a plastic bag so no dust can enter it.
Delicate items like laptops should always be put in a bag and left on the bed aswell. Computers don't like vibrations.
If water is scarce when going remote then we fill up a lot of 1L+ water bottles as every bit helps.
Remember if you're low on water and have a hot water system you can always turn the hot water tap and drain the system as well. Remember that when you refill you may have an air lock, so see your hot water manual to refill it properly
Your internal 3 way fridge will not perform well on 12V so make sure you have got plenty of stuff in the freezer as this is where the cold sits best.
Make sure you water pump is off while travelling as the pressurized pipes can burst and you will loose all your water.
Major expenses & helpful tips
from our 12 months of travelling on the road.
Our tow vehicle: 2003 Nissan Navara D22, 3.0L, ZD30 engine
Before we set off on our epic journey we did a lot of prep work, on the car and caravan to avoid unwanted mishaps. Some stuff we swapped out are the important items that must be done with any second hand car. We swapped the radiator + hoses, serpentine belt + idle pulley, an oil change on everything that required oil and replaced all ball joints on the front tyres etc.
Some mods that we installed to keep the Navara’s engine safe, was a secondary fuel filter + water separator and an oil catch can. These items are a god send for the Nav. The amount of oil that has been caught before being sent back into the turbo is unreal, as for the fuel we haven’t had water in it so far, so it hasn’t had to save us (yet).
I did upgrade the rear suspension before we left, to EFS 300+ constant load springs, which lasted us up to Cape York, before the leafs became inverted. Once we hit Cairns we solved the problem by installing Dobson 600kg+ constant load springs, and they have not let us down since. Air bags on our specific Navara will snap the chassis in half, so that’s not something we want to have.
When we hit Mt Isa our air-conditioning compressor seized while in town, which in a way was very lucky. You can’t drive the car that far because of this, as the main belt became seized as well. Thankfully we had a great mechanic in town who helped us out without any troubles and also picked up on our loose alternator bolt. So far this is the most expensive repair of the trip - topping $1600.
Once we hit the Oodnadatta track/ Cober Pedy, we encountered problems
with our driveshaft centre bearing, which we had only replaced before we
set off. Obviously the eBay branded bearing was not made of good
quality and let us down. We had to wait around in town for 4 days for a
new one. The new bearing is going great and signs of wear is zero at the
moment, however we haven’t gone as extreme off-roading as we had up
north. Unfortunately while I was replacing this bearing, I damaged the
uni-joint and a new one had to be purchased. Once we had the new one I
was extra careful installing it!
Another drama was when we where in Tasmania the gearbox kept getting stuck in 3rd gear and wouldn't release until the car came to a complete stop. This was annoying however it turns out that the cheapest Nissan wreckers in Aus are in Tassie. We went to the wreckers to install a second hand gearbox for the low price of $1500 which was fantastic. Diagnosis revealed that it had worn a groove in the box and it was only a matter of time before it would lock up in 3rd gear. While they replaced the gearbox the found that our throw-out bearing was on the verge of self destruction so they replaced that also. However it wasn't quite over with the gearbox dramas, as we tested the gearbox out on a drive we noticed a lot of oil coming out from underneath. The rear transfer case seal had been damaged when they swapped the gearbox. We took the car back expecting us to pay for the costs as it could've been a worn seal but to our surprise they fixed it up for free! Thanks guys.
Check out the Video of the gearbox drama
Our car costs on the road
“Expect the unexpected and always be prepared.”
Also a special mention, to date, I have had to ‘plug’ the car tyres with 6 repair plugs since leaving. One was caused by a massive screw while the others were caused by sharp rocks when going off the bitumen. We did a wheel balance while in Tasmania and one wheel had to have a 40g weight attached to it. This is a big weight, so it must have been pretty bad. We have still not had any issues with the caravan tyres, which has been a relief.
Items listed below are things that have come loose and was easy to fix;
rear diff seal bolts
starter motor positive cable
diesel pump fuel intake
1 x engine air hose, which was putting the car into limp mode when it came off
front wheel bearings
bullbar mounting bolts
These problems can happen to any car old or new so always keep an eye out. Overall we’re still quite happy with the performance of our Navara. Amz already owned it, so we don’t have any money owing on it, its 15 years old, so issues are bound to pop up. We like the fact we can still take it off-road and not worry about the paintjob to much. Plus it starts everytime and to be honest, I’m not really a fan of the newer cars – they have too many bloody sensors for my liking.
My advice if you’re planning a trip, is to get a car you’re comfortable with and that you know is reliable. The more familiar you are with the workings of your car, the better as you will understand how to fix things and notice when something isn’t right. We also save a lot of dollars by me servicing the car every 5000 kms.
Hope that helps and any other questions let me know.
Cheers – Kurt.