Problem Solving on the Road (part 3) – The Last Bolts


This is part 3 of a 3-series story about Problem Solving on the Road.

Here is Part 1

Here is Part 2

In my previous story about the workshop in Quito, we jacked up the gearbox under the Land Cruiser, got the shaft lined up and hammered her in. Quickly screwed in 4 bolts and put the bridge under the box for support.

Everybody left and it was up to me to tighten all the bolts, attach the gear levers and put back the covers. I was running late and Karin-Marijke rang the dinner bell.

The Nearby Wheel-Galvanizing Workshop in Quito

Next day, it is pick-up day for the rims and I am super excited. It takes a bit of figuring out the logistics. First we need to take the rims and tubes to the shop where the wheels are being galvanized, which is near Pedro’s shop. Then, for them to be balanced, we need to take them to a different shop, which is a bit out of the area.

This is not a problem per se, but Quito being a traffic-congested city, it will take quite a bit of time and the pica-placa clock is ticking. [pica-placa = the local system where on certain days during peak hours certain license plates are not allowed to drive. Penalties include fines, impounding of the vehicle and point devaluation of the driver’s license].

Arnand isn’t taking any risks. As a result we are using three different cars [with different license plates] and need almost the entire day to get the mounted tires back to the workshop.

While waiting to get the wheels balanced we manage to pick up some original Bosch wipers [the old ones were leaving too many markings on window]. To top it off, on our return Pedro has a little present for us: New, shiny wheel nuts to replace the rusted black old ones and to match the new rims.

Read More: Some Nut with a Loose Screw – Car Mechanics in Ecuador

I also decide to check the tension off the front axle wheel bearings and replace the lock nuts with my new tool, a 54mm spindle socket. I was sick and tired with all the hammering in all the workshops and it’s beyond me that people don’t want to invest in proper tools.

I found one on Amazon and our friend Adam brought it from the States for me. Working with the big socket is a breeze and over the course of our stay it doesn’t serve only our Land Cruiser!

Meanwhile I exchange the bolts of the Free Wheel Hub for tamper-proof security Torx ones after our little problem with the dark side of society in Bolivia. At the end of the day I have put the tires back under the Land Cruiser and Pedro and I are admiring it from afar, trying to judge the suspension.

I think the rear is still sitting too low in comparison with the front and Pedro proposes to take the number 3 leaf out of the front set-up. Yet more work but I’d like to tackle the suspension issue for once and for all.

Read More: A Photographic Journey Through the Cloud Forest in Ecuador

An hour later I have bled the new engine injector lines and fire up the old diesel. Pedro sits next to me when we slowly roll out of the workshop for a quick suspension test after we have taken out a leaf on each side. Again I am thrilled. Shifting gears feels smooth again as the diesel battles the Quito afternoon rush uphill, leaving a big black cloud behind us.

Test Driving

Pedro navigates me through endless weaving, narrow, rolling streets where the Land Cruiser constantly shifts its weight from left to right and vice versa. These roads are littered with speed bumps in different graduations and the Toyota feels very solid with the improved set-up in the rear. Having repaired the frame feels good as well and I have good hope that the clacking sounds and the pulling on the steering are a thing of the past.

We both feel that the front still feels a bit too stiff so we decide to take out yet another leaf at the front. Apart from all that I conclude that the overdrive shifts, but not to my liking. It needs to be firmer and Pedro has an idea.

Back to the workshop once more.

Prototype tamper-proof winch clutch

I’m also trying to find a solution to get the Warn winch more tamper-proof. It is an idea in progress. I’m not happy with the sealing yet.

The next day, while unbolting the front leaf spring packages once more, I notice a loose bolt on the steering center. I grumble, this is not the first time I see a loose bolt on that box and I know the problem. Originally there were spot-welded nuts on the inside of the frame, but during the hard years of the Land Cruiser, they had rusted away.

In various workshops around the world we have improvised with mixed success. It seems that faith has decided that Pedro’s workshop would do a good job and we set to it.

I’m draining the transfer case from its oil and I take off the PTO cover to find the little screw with a coil spring and ball hidden behind it. Pedro remembers seeing it and thinks it will tension the movement of the shifter lever of the overdrive. Bingo, when I tighten this combination, the lever doesn’t budge and when I loosen it, the lever moves too freely. We’ll have to look for either a longer spring or a longer screw.

Another Test Drive

It is just after lunch when we set out for another test drive and I am confident the suspension set-up has had its final adjustment. The Land Cruiser feels strong when I push it into the corners. I feel its tilting movement being limited by the stabilizer bar and dare to give the steering wheel another nudge.

Wow, this feels really solid!

We are flying over speed bumps in third gear and not a kick from the rear. I am impressed. Also, the overdrive feels much stiffer, maybe a tad too much, but I will leave it as it is.

Pedro and I both have a big smile on our face when we finally turn in the workshop’s driveway. I shift back to first gear and take the corner. When we hear a loud clack from the bottom of the Land Cruiser my heart sinks into my stomach.

I can’t believe this is happening. We let the car roll back to take on the hill a second time, just to make sure it wasn’t a small rock on the driveway. We end up driving up and down about six times. Again and again we are hearing the same noise. Pedro gets out and listens while I drive.

“Okay, it’s the rear diff, no question about it. We will have to take it apart and see what we’ll encounter. Drive her in and we’ll get to it.”

“So, I guess we aren’t leaving today are we?” Karin-Marijke asks me when she sees my face when I park the Cruiser.

“Nope, one more little hurdle to tackle.”

She isn’t bothered by it as the workshop has good WiFi and she’s getting a lot of writing done while I tinker with the Land Cruiser.

Read More: The Best Workshop in South America – Ernesto Hug in La Paz, Bolivia

Luckily the rear has full-floating axles so in order to take out the rear differential I only need to shift out the half shafts a little. No need to unlock the shafts from within the differential housing. But taking out those damn cone washers will take some time.

Something I learn today is that it is way easier if you take off the wheels as to have a broad piece of the axle hub free to hammer away on. Otherwise you will be limited by the wheel and only hit the axle cap and damage it. Another thing I learn is that you should be careful noticing where those conical little washers end up. Two went missing in action after flying away too far!

Removing the Rear Differential

I take off the propeller shaft and then have a hard time with a few rusted nuts from the differential carrier. I spend over an hour getting them out and decide to replace them with new bolts and nuts together with a new gasket because the old one gets damaged when I eventually detach the carrier from the housing.

After having marked the bearing caps and separated the differential case from the carrier, Pedro smiles when he picks up the broken pieces of one of the bearings.

“These are the cheapest parts to replace,” he concludes.

“So, it is actually good that these breaks?”

“Yes. See it as some sort of fuse. The weakest link brakes before other—more expensive—parts will give out.”

We set out to disassemble the differential case even further to see what we may find inside. First we put match-marks on the case before separating the parts.

“What are those?” the mechanic asks me. We are looking at a bunch of discs.

“This is the famous limited-slip differential.”

“Wow, I have worked on Toyota differentials for some time and this is the first time I see this.”

“We just make sure not to mess up the order of the discs, that’s it,” I respond.

I am washing all the clutch plates and washers with gasoline and inspect them for wear and damage.

“What are you doing?” Pedro asks when he sees me measuring up the big funky springs.

“I noticed the specs of the springs in my repair manual, I thought it wise to check it.”

“No use. Those are probably the only springs in Ecuador right now and you won’t get them anywhere else if you wanted to.”

“That’s good because I see that they are right on the mark.”

“Now… Assemble, and we’ll check the tooth contact.” Pedro says.

We get all the parts back in place in the order they came out. After we mess a bit to get a perfect tooth contact mark between the ring gear and the drive pinion we lock the adjusting nuts. Time to get it back under the Land Cruiser.

Meanwhile we meet Stefan from Shipwreck Rally in his Volvo S40. His idea was to set up a kind of Mongol Rally with participants driving from New York to Ushuaia. But he started his marketing campaign too late so he ended up driving the stretch alone. We have been in contact through Twitter and he needs to get a few things done on his Volvo.

He lost his plastic bash plate and Pedro gets him a nice steel protection plate instead. And to get a stiffer suspension he installs some kind of polyurethane cushions between the coils of the Volvo.

Taking the Brain Out for a Spin

Stefan is a fun and enthusiast guy and it is good to take my brain off the Land Cruiser for a moment. One evening Pedro takes us to his friend who has an outdoor carting racing circuit. We let those little engines rip!

We are having such a blast that when they call us in after a few rounds, we simply ignore the flags for a few rounds. Just being naughty boys for a bit brings an ever wider grin on our faces. In the pits they tell us that we were racing without helmets. The adrenaline probably made us forget everything around us for an hour.

Read More: Accommodation & Overland Camping in Ecuador

The differential is back in its housing and the propeller shaft is in place. I pour in some fresh oil and add some Target additive as I can’t get proper Limited Slip Oil. I coat the clutch plates with Target additive as well. Hopefully that will do the trick. Time will tell.

After a month in the workshop it is time to say goodbye Pedro and his brother Arnand. We are ready to leave Quito. Stefan will set sail for Ushuaia and we will drive to Cuenca to meet up with fellow Land Cruiser fanatic Lenny.

Time to Leave the Workshop and Quito?

Not an hour has passed when the rain starts hammering down on us. A good time to test the new wipers, which are doing a great job. But something is not right. I don’t know what is wrong, but was I hearing a strange noise?

My mind is working overtime and I try to recall all the important events of the last weeks. Without doubt I overlooked or forgot something. I am sure of it but I can’t recall what. I did leave a mental note, but I seem to have trouble retrieving it [see the beginning of this story].

I park the Land Cruiser in a small parking lot next to a gas station and disappear under the car just to check something. Things start to clear up in my mind and I remember three long bolts on the top of the gearbox that hold the overdrive lever. If I remember correctly I had turned them in just a few revolutions before I left them sitting there and had dinner. I forgot all about them.

Bingo! The three bolts sit there, just as I had left them. Not tightened.

The rest of the journey to Cuenca is uneventful in terms of car-related issues. Well, I think it is. When we arrive at our friend’s house, Lenny points out that we have creatively painted rear rims!

It turns out I had forgotten to seal the rear half shafts. Lenny goes in search for some shoeboxes. He uses his Xacto knife to precision cut two gaskets from the shoeboxes for the Land Cruiser. Lenny, you are the best!

As you know maintaining and keeping a classic Land Cruiser on the off-roads is an ongoing issue. No doubt you will be reading with more of these kinds of stories in the future.

Do you like them? Please show your love by sharing and commenting.

Read More: The Overhaul in Guyana

Check it out: the Landcruising Adventure Notebook Collection

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10 thoughts on “Problem Solving on the Road (part 3) – The Last Bolts”

  1. As usual I love reading the stories and you can keep writing these kind of stories. I guess you’ve become a expert Land Cruiser mechanic by now!

  2. hi !
    definetly you have become an expert on mechanics and i congratulate you !
    on the other hand , every time I read stories like the one you describe , i become very nervous thinking of what will happen to our camping-car on the south-american roads……; of course we will not drive like you ( 4×4 or off road ) but nevertheless , it makes me very nervous not being sure that , in case we have a serious problem , we won’t be able to either find FIAT or alternativey , a good mechanic to solve our problem??’
    guess we just have to pray a lot…..
    good post again !
    stay well

  3. I have very much enjoyed your website and your adventures. Having owned 3 Land Cruisers, two FJ 40 series and one FJ 75, I am more than familiar with these gladiatorial vehicles. I am currently planning a long trip though southern Africa and need to consult with someone about the more recent iterations of the Troop Carrier. Can you do, or can you refer me to someone else who is in the know.

  4. Hola Amigos me alegro que existan buenos recuerdos de su estadia en ECUADOR y en my work shop, espero disfruten mucho mas de su viaje con su TOYOTA funcionando en buenas condiciones, nunca dejaran de hacer algunas cosas mas para continuar su viaje.
    Gracias por acordarse siempre de este amigo que quedo en ecuador muchas feleicidades y buena suerte un abrazo desde quito ecuador Pedro Villota

  5. So tell me have you had much experience with split rings and tubes? I have and its all bad. Just curious why you went that route. You cant ” or should not” run any type of radial tire on those wheels

    • Heya Rene, what changed your mind? We bought the vehicle like this with the split rims on it and never giving it any thought. I now have two tire pliers and did two roadside repairs with it. Yes it takes some time, but that is what we have and I like the idea of being independent. For us it works out fine, but you should asses if it works for you as well.


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