How to keep your overland vehicle on the road – Part 1 – Which Spares to Bring

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This is part 1 of a 3-series story on how to keep your overland vehicle on the road.

In 2003, we acquired a well-used LWB (long wheel based) 45 series Land Cruiser, which had been one of the last to roll off the conveyor belt in Japan in 1984. It came with standard disk brakes in front, power steering, and a full-floating limited slip axle.

Together with the über-simple four cylinder, natural-aspired diesel plant sans CPU this Land Cruiser was a reliable choice for a long, still ongoing, overland journey.

If you don’t understand any of the above-mentioned terms, don’t worry, in 2003 I didn’t either.

Recommended Spare Parts to Bring

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Read More: The Land Cruiser Factory in Japan

The Land Cruiser BJ45 posing on a dune in Brazil.

What Spare Parts do we Need?

To get to know the ins and outs of our vehicle and to get an understanding of its basic maintenance I sought help from Rocco, a well- known figure in the Land Cruiser community of the Netherlands, where we lived (find Wheels Unlimited here). Here I rolled up my sleeves and quickly got covered in oil, sweat and grease.

With walls covered in postcards and printed blogs on the table from overlanders about far-flung destinations, his coffee corner breathes adventure.

Even though Rocco prefers staying home with his horses over traveling, he shares bewildering stories about bush mechanics all over the world, told him by clients who have returned from their roaming adventures.

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Mechanics isn’t rocket science…

Even today, when I am uncertain about a worrying sound or defect in the Land Cruiser, or an upcoming job, I may call him on Skype to pick his encyclopedic brain.

When my car friends heard we were going to set off in an old, battered Toyota, they gave lots of advice on which spare parts to bring. All suggestions made sense and I jotted them down on one of the many lists I kept at that time. Until Karin-Marijke took notice.

“What? An alternator, starter engine, half shafts, oil filter, water pump? Are you out of your mind. We are not going to take all those spares!”

Karin-Marijke clearly had different ideas about the issue; she vetoed bringing any of them.

“You told me that with a Toyota Land Cruiser we wouldn’t have to worry about availability of car parts and that these vehicles can be repaired on every street corner,” she reasoned.

She had a point.

Literally fixing your Land Cruiser on the street corner.

Back to the Basics

When I asked Rocco what was the most important thing to bring on a long-term trip, he handed me an empty jar.

“You see that bucket with left-over nuts and bolts? Fill the jar with as many as you like. It’s yours and you’ll do fine.”

So that is how we left on our overland journey, with a bunch of nuts and bolts from Rocco’s workshop. Apart from the physical space the parts on my initial list would have taken up, they would have cost a fair amount of money that would be better spent on traveling. We were on a budget.

Do we Bring Spare Parts?

Would I do it again this way?

Yes.

I found that in Asia and South America (totaling some 30 countries) we have indeed been able to find spare parts. They may not always be original, although if I wanted to I could have them shipped from anywhere in the world, but I discovered that in most cases generic pieces work fine as well.

Read More: Problem Solving on the Road

Bearings, and rudimentary drive train components are to be found almost everywhere.
Spare parts in Bolivia

But: This doesn’t mean this would work for your overland rig as well. Find out if spare parts for your vehicle are obtainable on the route you plan to travel.

Ask around on forums such as Expedition Portal or hook up with recent or current overlanders with similar wheels via the intergalactical highway (Facebook groups are perfect for this).

Tip: To avoid the debate on modern vs. old cars: If your vehicle has a CPU, know it is a vital part and it may be far from evident that you’ll find it in other countries.

Try to obtain a spare one that you can return after your trip if not used. It might be good to have a device that can read and interpret the codes from the ODB port as well.

Stay tuned for part 2! – Keeping your Overland Vehicle on the Road – Where to Find Local Parts

Originally published in Overland Journal 2016 Gear Issue

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