We drive a Land Cruiser BJ45. No, the Land Cruiser was not built in 1945 as some Surinamese assume(d), as in their country BJ stands for Bouwjaar (Year of Construction). The Land Cruiser dates from 1984.
- Diesel. Iranians had a hard time believing this, because in Iran all private vehicles run on petrol. At gas stations we often had the attendant smell the cap first so he could confirm that, indeed, the Land Cruiser drives on diesel.
- 3.5 liter.
- Non turbo.
- 24 volt. The LandCruiser has 2 start batteries + 2 batteries to provide electricity inside the Land Cruiser to run the fridge, lights, charging digital appliances and such.
- The Land Cruiser has its original washable wire mess filter, which sits in an oil bath. We never have to worry about where to buy paper filters. Plus we have a Donaldson pre cleaner as of September 2012 (Read about that here).
- We discuss details on the Land Cruiser’s equipment in this post: the Land Cruiser’s Ins & Outs.
Why this Land Cruiser?
Before we started our journey we had no clue what car to buy. We only knew it shouldn’t cost too much as we had no clue either if we were going to like traveling this way at all. Coen asked on forums what kind of car we should buy for long-term travel to Asia. The majority answered: “Buy a Toyota Land Cruiser as it can be fixed anywhere and make sure to buy one from before 1987, when it was still entirely mechanical.” We followed the experts and bought this Land Cruiser.
Has it been a good buy? Yes, it has. It’s our home, our comfort zone and we love traveling in it, despite the continuous maintenance (see below). It’s a relatively small car, so driving through narrow streets is never a problem (unlike to e.g. overlanding trucks). In Asia we hardly used the Land Cruiser as a house; we always lived outside and slept in the roof tent.
In South America this changed. Cold and rainy weather in Patagonia and the Andes forced us to spend many hours inside and we have come to acknowledge the advantages of more comfortable rigs. Among our favorite alternatives for the Land Cruiser are a Volkswagen Combi and the small Iveco 4×4. But no, let there be no misunderstanding: we don’t want another car. This one is and stays our home.
Here’s more on the subject:
- 4WD a Must? Part 1 – Driving in Europe to Southeast Asia
- 4WD a Must? Part 2 – Driving in South America
- 4WD a must? Part 3 – Do we consider a different vehicle?
Facts & Figures
Land Cruiser Maintenance & Breakdowns
The road conditions in South America demand more maintenance on the Land Cruiser (or any other car for that matter) than those in Asia. The latter has mostly asphalt roads whereas South America is still largely unpaved. We regularly visit workshops to fix / replace / adjust leaf springs, shock absorbers, batteries, tires and so on.
Problems the Land Cruiser caused:
- The water pump (replaced in Turkey 2003).
- In India (2004) we replaced the starter batteries that had come with the buy. In Paraguay (2007) the positive cable of the winch had worn away and caused a short. This ruined the batteries. Fortunately, Paraguay is a good and cheap country for car maintenance and we it was easy to replace the batteries.
- Household batteries replaced in Argentina 2008.
- The Land Cruiser’s biggest problem has been rust. In 2010, a part of the chassis broke off and we could no longer postpone what we dreaded so much: a total overhaul. We lived in La Paz (Bolivia) for 6 months to get the job done. To cut a horrific and long story short: don’t get an overhaul done in La Paz. It was not a good choice. Within months after the job was finished the Land Cruiser started showing numerous cracks and holes again + there’s been a set of problems as a result of the job poorly done in La Paz.
- Weld the aluminum part between the metal bodywork and the roof (a three-week job for which the roof had be taken off again), also a result of the badly done overhaul job (Brazil, 2011). Read about it here and here.
- Explosion of glow plugs, the result of an overhaul job badly done (Brazil, 2010).
- A four-week stay in Quito, Ecuador to, among other things, give the wheel rims an acid dip to remove rust and have them repainted; to reenforce the leaf springs; to work on problems with the gear box (2014).
- In 2016, just before we shipped the Land Cruiser to South Korea, we did another overhaul. This time the goal was 3-fold: lots of welding on the bodywork in Guyana (read about it here), installing a water system (Coen tells the story here), and remodeling the woodwork (Karin-Marijke shares it here).
Fortunately, we have met numerous workshops whose owners and mechanics have helped us out enormously and performed miracles on getting problems fixed. This varies from a simple repair of a flat tire at an inconspicuous car shop along the road to one of the best workshops in South America, which happened to be in Bolivia: Ernesto’s workshop. Other workshops we like to recommend are Firewheels in Lima and Pedro Villota’s workshop in Quito.
Before our departure, each time I had found myself in the presence of men talking to Coen about the Land Cruiser I had seen the list of spare parts grow.
“You’ll need to bring an extra alternator.”
“What if your generator breaks down, you’d better bring one.”
And Coen had added more to his list.
Until I had been fed up with it. “Before we bought our Land Cruiser we asked around to learn what kind of car we would need. We were told to buy a Toyota because it never breaks down. Second, we were told to buy one from before 1987 because those are entirely mechanical. In case it does break down – which according to rule number one it shouldn’t – it can be fixed anywhere because mechanics in other countries are familiar with the engine and spare parts are available worldwide. Now, that doesn’t tally with this ever-growing list of spare parts we apparently need. It’ll cost a fortune, not in the least because we’ll have to tow a trailer to carry it all. I veto bringing all these parts,” I had stated with conviction. Coen had looked at me in amazement while I held my soliloquy, and thought about it for a moment.
“You know what, you are right. We are not going to buy all this stuff. We will take it as it comes,” he had responded. Just the idea of not having to make the decision on what to bring or not had taken a load off his shoulders.
We did bring an oil filter because we thought we couldn’t buy one in India. However, we learned on the road that indeed, there’s always a place where you’ll find something that does fit the Land Cruiser.
For example, the regulator: An original 24-volt regulator was tough to find in India so we got it from Bhutan. A couple of years later, in Argentina, that regulator got busted and was replaced by a generic lorry regulator. It works fine, except for the head lights that appear to have found a Knight Rider rhythm of continuously growing stronger and weaker.
More about the Land Cruiser:
- Preparation and evaluations about work done on the outside, the inside, equipment and gadgets.
- There’s a category Car Talk & Workshops with stories, info and images on car trouble.
- Other travelers may like to read about our experiences on issues such as on gas stations & fuel prices, equipment & gear review, traffic & roadmaps, which are mostly categorized per country. Some of them include GPS waypoints.
Do you drive a Land Cruiser? Or would you like to? Please, tell us why a Land Cruiser is your favorite vehicle.