The Land Cruiser’s Ins & Outs

(Over the years we’ve edited this page with new information; last date: March 18, 2016)

When the Land Cruiser underwent its technical inspection in the Netherlands (2003) the attendant remarked, “It’s just as well those Land Cruisers rust, otherwise they would never have problems.” We have found this statement to be quite true.

We bought the Land Cruiser in Germany. One of the previous owners had rebuilt and used it as a camper and it came with a lot of extras, many of which we would never have thought of installing or buying ourselves but which in retrospect have proven to be very useful, or just handy. The last owner used the Land Cruiser as a workhorse to pull boats out of Hamburg’s port, which accounted for the rusty state the car was in when we bought it.

Land Cruiser Equipment on the Outside

1. On the front – winch

Warn Winch That Never Worked (©photocoen)

The Land Cruiser came with the legendary 8274 Warn winch on 12 volt (not installed). Since the Land Cruiser has a 24-volt system we exchanged the winch for a Ramsey Pro 9000. We used it once, when stuck in the mud somewhere in Turkey, and it broke down. We got the winch fixed in Pakistan but during a second rescue attempt it failed again. It has been a useless piece of equipment.

The Warn XD9000 (©photocoen)Edited to Add April 2013: 4×4 Service Valkenburg and Warn presented us with a brand new winch. So I guess we’re prepared for a new level of off-road challenges. We will keep you posted on the subject. Are you looking for a Warn winch yourself?

On a side note: the winch has proven very well to put the Coleman stove on!

On a side note: the winch has proven very well to put the Coleman stove on!

2. Around the hood – hi-lift 

Hi-lift on the Land Cruiser (©photocoen)We bought a Hi-Lift Jack, and it’s largely because of the hi–lift that we haven’t missed the winch. It has done an excellent job of getting us out of the mud in Cambodia, Laos and numerous places elsewhere. In retrospect it’s been one of our best investments and it’s on our essential recovery gear list.

In 2016 the hi-lift needed a new layer of paint. I (KM) experienced first-hand that indeed the story is true: Coca Cola works perfectly for de-rusting!

In 2016 the hi-lift needed a new layer of paint. I (KM) experienced first-hand that indeed the story is true: Coca Cola works perfectly for de-rusting!

3. Around the hood – horn

Coen installed an extra loud air horn on the outside, with the idea of having more of a might = right feeling in countries like India. It does help. Other than that it has been a fun conversation piece, especially with kids, “Honk horn, please.”

4. Around the hood – high beams

Hella High-Beams (©photocoen)Coen installed four second-hand high beams. These were a good investment for countries like India, which is ruled by one traffic rule: might = right: The driver with the most noise (daytime) or the most light (nighttime) is King of the Road. After the Land Cruiser’s overhaul in Bolivia (2010), Bastiaan – a big fan of ours and employee of Hella – presented us with four brand new high beams.

The HELLA Jumbo 320 Series are not something we use often and they aren’t a must. Having said that, they are one of those gadgets that occasionally prove extremely handy (like when rescuing a car stuck in the middle of the savanna at night).

5. Around the hood – snorkel (high-air intake)

Land Cruiser Equipment – buy a decent hi-air intake

Donaldson Pre-filter on the Land Cruiser (©photocoen)

The Land Cruiser was fitted with a ‘cyclone’ snorkel, which comes in handy when crossing a river, which is one of those things that don’t happen too often. The snorkel has proven more useful when driving at high altitudes where the pre-filter in combination with the oil–bath filter has helped the engine enormously in climbing up to 5,600 meters without hick–ups.

Rust killed the pre-filter, which Coen recently discovered by chance in Boa Vista. For various reasons the time and place were as inconvenient as they could be and we felt extremely lucky when Ricardo spontaneously gave us his still-new Donaldson pre-filter (read about that here).

6. On the hood – spade

Coen installed a spade on the hood. It attracts a lot of onlookers and is another great conversation piece. We use it for digging out stuck tires, or to dig a toilet when rough camping. On three occasions the handle bar broke when we were using the spade, because the wood had rotted away. In Manaus (Brazil), the workshop of Luis Platinado produced a custom-made spade with an aluminum handle bar, which should last forever.

Aluminum Spade Made by Luis Platinado, Manaus (©photocoen)

7. Tires

I think books must have been written about which tires to buy, at least the subject fills endless threads on forums: 10 guys – 10 opinions. If you need help finding tires for your truck, Tire Rack’s Tire Decision Guide, will help you find the tire performance category that’s best for your vehicle and the roads you drive on. Coen wrote a blog post about it (find it here), but in short, these have been our experiences:

1. Before our journey we bought six Chinese tires with a heavily studded tread exactly because of those forums and our ignorance. “Gotta have heavy–duty tires!” Well, how many of those advisors had traveled to Asia? Few, I reckon. We drove mostly on asphalted roads, on which these tires caused a lot of noise and a caused an unfavorable diesel consumption. They lasted 2 years (some 40,000 kms). We were glad to be rid of them.

2. In India the tires were worn out and replacement couldn’t wait. Initially we thought this was a problem as the only available radial brands in our Land Cruiser’s size were of an Indian make. However they’ve been the best we’ve had. We drove a comfortable 47,000 kms (2 years).

3. Paraguay is one of the best options in South America to buy tires because of a favorable tax system. By then Coen had learned to buy tires with as many plies as possible as it reduces the chances of a flat tire (twice in South America, once because I drove into a thick nail and the second time remains a mystery). We bought Brazilian Pirelli tires with 12 plies. The mistake was that we had forgotten the big advantage of radial tires and so were back to noisy tires. They lasted 50,000 kms (2,5 years).

First Set of Tires, Chinese Brand (©photocoen)

Tires Bought in Manaus, Brazil (©photocoen)4. Iquique, Chile, has a favorable tax system too. So we changed tires once more. We now had all criteria down pat: cheap, radial, narrow tires with as many plies as possible. We found radial tires with 14 plies. Great choice. They lasted a comfortable 50,000 kilometers (2,5 years).

5. In Manaus, Brazil, we bought new ones. After more than 46,000 kilometers the tires were worn and we had a couple of thousand kilometers ahead of us on rough terrain. In retrospect we could (should) have hopped into Venezuela when coming from Guyana as car parts are much cheaper there. But with our brilliant planning we didn’t and were left with a fait accompli in Manaus: we needed new tires. There was one problem, Coen’s much wanted 7.50R16-size tires were unavailable in Manaus nor were there tires with the number of plies he liked. He settled for 235/85R16 radial tires with 10 plies.

6. Some 32,000 kilometers later these were worn completely. We were in Colombia, wanted to wait with buying new ones until we were in Venezuela, but ended up with so many punctures, simply because the outer layer was totally gone, we were forced to buy new ones. We did so in Bogotá, buying Roadshine RS604 with 14 plies. The first 16,000 kilometers on them have been great, without punctures, and let’s see if they like South Korea as well, where we’re heading as I’m updating this post (March 2016).

Any new size tire has consequences, especially with regard to air pressure and it took a bit of figuring out what was best for the tires / the Land Cruiser / our comfort. Thus far we’re happy with them.

If your looking for Special Offers: Save on quality tires with these manufacturer’s promotions available from Tire Rack.

8. Spare tires

Spare Tire That Hung Underneath the Bodywork (©photocoen)

Spare tire at the rear of the Land Cruiser.

Spare tire at the rear of the Land Cruiser.

We started out with 2 spare tires (“You must have at least 2 spare tires!” the forums told us). We attached one on the roof and one underneath the Land Cruiser. The one underneath fell off somewhere in India without our noticing it. We never missed it and concluded we could do without it. There are tire shops all over the place in Asia and South America, and I assume in Africa too. Really, having 2 spare tires is total nonsense, unless you have a tight schedule and can’t miss a day to search for a place to get your tire fixed.

In Bolivia (2009) we found a second-hand spare-tire carrier and had it installed on the rear of the Land Cruiser. We prefer this set up to having the spare tire underneath the carriage. In the case of the latter it gets quickly caked in mud and so it takes ages to get it when you need it.

9. On the roof – roof rack

Lots of Space on the Land Cruiser's Roof Rack (©photocoen)The Land Cruiser came with a stainless steel roof rack with aluminum plates, which has been perfect for securing our equipment. One but: the Land Cruiser is already higher because of the 25–cm additional (now dark-brown) aluminum edge. With the additional roof rack + equipment the height is 2.7 meters.

We can’t enter underground parking lots nor open-air parking lots of shopping malls and large supermarkets such as Carrefour. In forests we face challenges of cutting trees or low hanging branches. The height is, I would say, the major downside of the Land Cruiser as we have it today.

Note that when we take off all equipment and deflate the tires, the Land Cruiser does still fit in a regular, 20–foot container.

10. On the roof – the beauty case

Please Open the Green Box (©photocoen)The beauty case, as Coen likes to call it, is the green, former US army box. It attracts lots of attention, especially from officials.
“What’s in that box?” they will ask.
“Explosives,” Coen answers (yes, also on the Pakistani and Indian border).
It makes people laugh and never led to problems until, at one time in Laos, I pushed Coen to be honest, so he responded to the police officers that the box contained camping gear.
“Please open it,” was the response.
 So much for honesty.

The box is it indeed filled with camping (trekking) gear, snorkel gear, winter or summer clothes (depending on where we travel).

11. On the roof – the roof top tent

Eezi Awn Roof Top Tent (©photocoen)Our Eezi Awn roof top tent was good investment as we slept in it often, especially during our first 3 years to Asia. However, considering the price of these rooftop tents we were not impressed with the durability of the mattress (we replaced it in Vietnam after 3 years), with the mosquito netting that doesn’t properly close in corners (which we stuffed with old T–shirts) and serious leakage problems after 4 years. In this blog I wrote more about the pluses and minuses of roof top tents.

In Venezuela Carpas Anacondas gave us a new tent, for which we’ve been grateful. The pluses and minus will be discussed in a later blog post, when we can provide a better picture about what we like and dislike it. What did impress us already is how waterproof it is, withstanding serious rainstorms in Suriname days on end.

Carpas Anaconda Tent, Venezuela (©photocoen)

We have concluded that it has been worth to have constructed 2 places to sleep: inside the car as well as in the tent.

12. On the roof – solar panels

Solar Panels on the Land Cruiser (©photocoen)In India we bought solar panels because at the time they were much cheaper than in Europe. and then went on to drive around for another two years before we got to installing them. They provided extra energy for our digital appliances and the old, energy–guzzling fridge. But the panels were relatively large (+ we need 2 because of the 24–volt system) and not all that efficient.

So, in Suriname (2015) we decided to replace it with a new, much bigger one (we ordered it in the Netherlands and had it shipped with a bunch of other stuff). As we did this as part of the overhaul jus before we shipped our car to South Korea, we can’t anything yet about if it works adequately yet. Stay tuned.

Even Coen fell silent when he saw the size of the solar panel he had ordered...

Even Coen fell silent when he saw the size of the solar panel he had ordered…

13. On the roof – jerry cans with diesel

The Jerrycans Are Now Only for Show (©photocoen)With our regular, 85–liter tank we can drive some 600–750 kilometers. The only time we needed our spare diesel jerry cans was along the coast of the Persian Gulf (Iran). Ironically on our Asian trip this was the country where diesel was cheapest, however, finding a petrol station there with an ample supply of diesel turned out to be not so self–evident.

In South America we used our jerrycans more often:

  • In Patagonia (south Chile and Argentina) since this region is known for having petrol stations which are not necessarily stocked up on diesel (or petrol).
  • In southwest Bolivia as petrol stations are few and far between and fuel consumption is high due to the rough terrain + high altitude.
The spare diesel tank was not properly attached when installed in Bolivia, however in northeast Brazil it was re-attached with much more force and has held until today without any problems.

The spare diesel tank was not properly attached when installed in Bolivia, however in northeast Brazil it was re-attached with much more force and has held until today without any problems.

The disadvantage of these jerrycans is their weight on the roof. Roof bars, but also window bars, have broken and been welded on numerous occasions. During the overhaul in Bolivia we had a spare tank fitted underneath the Land Cruiser and the jerrycans now only remain for show. It would be cool to get the yellow Scepter polyethylene ones, that even match our colour scheme.

14. The bodywork – decals

Getting Our Name on the Land Cruiser (©photocoen)The bodywork of the Land Cruiser was cleaned and waxed thoroughly so we could apply the logos of those who had helped us during the preparations, plus a world map. We didn’t give the matter much thought, and simply did it because we liked doing it and Coen is a graphic designer.

On the road we learned that other travelers considered this a major decision: driving around conspicuously (as we do) or as inconspicuously as possible. During discussions on the topic we learned both ways have their advantages and disadvantages, but we feel that the plus points of driving around conspicuously win.

We get a lot of smiles, thumbs up and people approaching the car for a chat which has led to various invitations. We are still happy with this choice, although we acknowledged the downside when we were trying to pass the checkpoints in Bhutan without getting noticed (we were there illegally!)

The Land Cruiser’s Interior

1. Insulation

The white side panels have 1cm insulation on the inside and are screwed to 4cm beams that are glued to the body work.

The white side panels have 1cm insulation on the inside and are screwed to 4cm beams that are glued to the body work.

The previous owner installed insulation on either side (from behind the front seats to the back), the ceiling and floor (the latter has a thick wooden floor panel). This has provided great comfort in cold climates. Neither of the heaters (standard Land Cruiser heater + by the Webasto heater installed by the previous owner) ever functioned properly, yet in cold weather we can do without heating; an extra blanket suffices.

2. Storage compartments and table

Lots of Storage Space in the Land Cruiser (©photocoen)Karin-Marijke's Office (©photocoen)Perfect Bed in the Land Cruiser (©photocoen)We constructed bunks on both sides behind the front seats. They are used as seats and function as storage space. In the middle section we store the bigger things such as a 20-liter water can, Ortlieb showerbag, camping chairs [read about them here] and camping table. Over this section lie two planks, one of which can easily be put together as a small table to eat or work at. All boards are on the same level and at night function as a bed (cushions = mattress).

In December 2015, however, we did an overhaul with regard to the woodwork. Read the full story here. In short: the middle section is now free of stuff, we have a watertank underneath the carriage, and the lower parts of the storage compartments have drawers.

In the front and back we constructed cupboards underneath the ceiling to store lightweight stuff and, in the front, a radio.

3. Water

We started out with:

  • 1x 5 liter water can with drinking water.
  • 1x 20 liter jerrycan. In South America we filled it with drinking water; in Asia it was filled with dirty water from which we filtered into the 5 liter water can.
  • 1x 5 Gallon water can with drinking water. This is a spare supply which we hardly ever need.
  • 1×10 liter Ortlieb showerbag.

December 2015 we did an overhaul, including the watersystem with a water tank, water pump, water filters and a sink! Read the full story here.

4. Fridge

New and old

New and old

We bought a second-hand refrigerator which lasted until Pakistan. We didn’t repair it and didn’t miss it as in Asia we ate outdoors most of the time. When going to South America we got a 30-year-old Engel fridge from our friends Pierre and Irene. It was noisy, used a lot of energy so we couldn’t use it much when not driving (e.g. rough camping), but it sufficed for a long time.

Part of the overhaul in Dec. 2015, as I spoke about above, was investing, for the first time, in a new fridge (ordered in the Netherlands and shipped to Suriname).

5. Batteries

Exactly Enough Space for Two Batteries (©photocoen)The electronic equipment and lights work on 24 volt. We have 2 deep-cycle-dry batteries to feed them. The previous owner constructed a compartment for them on the outside of the Land Cruiser, underneath the bodywork behind the driver’s seat.

Apart from that we have two starter batteries for the engine.

Both sets have been replaced a couple of times, like in northeast Brazil, when one of them exploded.

6. Convertors

We have a 300 watt 24/220 DC/AC inverter and a Mastervolt 24/12 DC/DC step down converter, which means that we have 12, 24 and 220 volt at our disposal.

7. GPS

Garmin GPSmap 60CSx (©photocoen)We chucked Coen’s old Garmin yellow eTrex deep inside the bowels of the Land Cruiser when we started our journey, not really seeing how we could use it. Somewhere in Southeast Asia we discovered that is could be a nifty and handy device, if used correctly.

After Coen’s friend Edwin had given Coen an upgrade: the GPSmap 60CSx (here’s the story about that gift), we have been using free OSM maps in South America, which in major cities has been working quite well. Having said that, there is some debate in our team whether the gps is a necessity or not, but we’ll save that topic for a blog post some day.

8. Ventilators

Ventilator on 12 Volt (©photocoen)We have no aircon, and don’t miss it. In Pakistan we bought two small ventilator fans which we fitted above our front seats. Good for driving in fume-spewing traffic because you can close your windows for a moment without suffocating, or when waiting for traffic lights in the scorching sun. Good for sleeping too. One fan can be extended with a cord into the roof tent (yep, very fancy).

Hella 2 speed turbo fan [©photocoen]

[update may 2014] Hella has been so nice to send us three of their 2-Speed Turbo Fans and we have been using them for some time now. I must say, we do like the two speed option and how silent they are. What we don’t like is the fact that they are not covered on the back side, so you really have to be careful where you put your fingers! The best part I like is the way they are screwed on and off the fitting piece. No more screwdriver at the ready, just a big knob to screw on there. Love it.

With all this equipment we were more than ready for our Journey. Oh, and why we drive this Land Cruiser? You can find our explanation + some facts and figures on Meet the Land Cruiser.

I think that pretty much covers it. Is there anything you miss on the list, something you’d like to know about? Send us an email or leave a comment below and we’ll answer you directly or add the information to this page.

And, as the story shows, quite a few companies have helped us out with equipment. We dedicated a separate page to our corporate contributors (read about it here).

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