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Driving lights: How naïve were we! We have had to drive at night and they have been worth every penny.

Air con: Started using it in Iran but it really came in useful for the dusty roads of Pakistan and was worth every penny in Malaysia with 40degree temp’s plus 90% humidity.

Rear working light: so far only used twice, for reversing.

GPS: Still not so impressed but starting to work on the Pakistan roads where the road signs are not always in English. Worth the money in India.

Tyres: Absolutely brilliant. They have been seriously tested on some of the roads and tracks this far and have done us proud. We had a puncture in Nepal that got patched but by Kerala it was slowly leaking again. The nail hole was right on the edge of the tread, a very difficult spot. We got it patched correctly in Malaysia and now use it as a spare.

Tent: Amazingly, the zip held up until India– one corner has now had to be stitched. Otherwise it has been excellent.

Horn: We carried our old horn just in case and it was needed in India. See diary entry 18th NOV. We ended up with a old landy horn on the bumper and a new one under the bonnet, but it still kept over heating. We ended up spending 50% of our driving time in India with no horn. Very, very dangerous and stressful. We eventually disconnected the internal horn and worked on the external one only. The horn never overheated again but we had to remember to reconnect our internal horn each evening or our alarm would be useless.

Water filter: well worth the money and we use it every day. Filter needed replaced in March 2007. A little earlier than expected but the water quality in India has been awful. Replaced the filter again in Lao- March 2008.

Oz puncture repair kit: had our first puncture in Nepal and discovered that the strips we bought as part of the plug kit were too short. We had bought car length strips and we needed HGV length strips. Had to get our tyre patched. Will purchase longer strips in Asia.

Master padlocks: we are really glad that we purchased the all weather type as the dust caps save the lock becoming completely clogged. Well worth the extra money.

Bull bars and bumper bar: worth the money for protection from the crazy Indian drivers.

Rear steps and bumper: Bad idea. When you slow down or stop people jump on them to get a free ride or just for fun.

Suspension: Good until re-entering India. We noticed that our lower link bushes were worn by the time we re entered India. Considering the roads we’ve driven, they have lasted well. Our family flew over for a holiday and brought some new ones over for us but we have decided to wait until Malaysia to replace them as our suspension has gone on 3 out of 4 of our shocks. We reckon the road from Khajuraho did the damage. See below for full details.

Compressor Unit: Have used it several times from topping up to filling a flat. No problems- we are happy with the low noise level plus time taken to fill up a tyre.

Water tank: Superb buy. Depends on the quality of your water but we find it’s best to clean out the tank every 2 months.

We use our Milton tablets and take the screw top off the tank so we can get our hands in to clean it well.

Battery: Our battery system has worked well but we experienced problems with the heat in India. See diary page entry 1st FEB 2007 and 7th MAR 2007 on India page. The battery had to be replaced in Thailand– see below.      

Inverter: Has worked well. No problems. But it does eventually mess up your battery and uses a lot of power.

Wedges: Used almost on a daily basis. Superb buy.

Shower: Well worth the money especially when you bush camp. You are given a pre pump filter with the shower system which we tied in with our water filter system, so the water flows through the pre pump filter before entering our water filter and saves our water filter from clogging sooner. We “loose” 3 litres of water during the “hot water run off” process but collect this and recycle it. For us both to shower, including Rose washing her hair, we use 9 litres of water– you could easily shower on far less if necessary.

Strange noises: Twice since re-entering India we have heard this strange sudden loud noise of “air releasing”. Both times we have pulled over immediately suspecting a puncture but after checking the tyres, the engine compartment, the under body for leaks and everything else, we have found no obvious cause. Our only thoughts are that maybe the shower piping has had some water left in it that has turned to steam and vented from the cap, as on both occasions we have been on a long drive in temperatures at over 36 degrees and the cap has been open.

Malaysia:

We arrived at the 4wd garage intending on having our suspension looked at, a service and our usual check over. The garage confirmed that our suspension had gone and explained that the reason for this was that our front springs and shocks were the wrong strength. Bloody typical!! How many times can the garage that we bought Nessie from get it wrong?? We paid over £2,000 for a pre expedition service and “expert” advice on what suspension we should have, yet here we are for a 3rd time having to get something changed with our set up. Mad doesn’t go half way to describing how we felt. Unfortunately today is Easter Monday in Australia so we had to wait until the following day to speak to Jessie at OME who confirmed that we had the wrong set up and that because our system had not been fitted correctly in the first place, it meant that our warranty was nil and void. GREAT! Dave was a star and managed to smooth talk OME into supplying us with new shocks all round on the agreement that we would advertise the company– so two rather large stickers were put onto Nessie. (There goes the subtle look we were aiming for.) A BIG thank you to Jessie and OME for all their help. We had to pay for the replacement front springs and promptly emailed our Uk garage to say we expected a cheque in the post for the £140 cost– after checking that they had, yet again, made a mistake, a cheque was sent out to us. Thanks guys.

To save anyone else getting into this mess, here are the details of the correct system: FRONT; coils 767  shocks N115   REAR; coils 754  shocks N44

While we were worrying about the suspension, the mechanics (all 3 of them) were under Nessie having a good look about to check for loose or rusted bolts and any leaks.

MORE PROBLEMS: We intend to spend several days at a time beach bush camping and know that our battery system is not up to short drive/long stays so, being the lucky sods that we are, our travel companions, who have built and designed their own car, help us to select a solar unit and fit it. Their system allows them to fully run all their lights, fridge, heating, watch a dvd every night, charge batteries, use their compressor and drill. Superb. It’s a pity we didn’t make this decision in Nepal as you can purchase a 85watt solar panel, control panel and battery for as little as £300. In Malaysia it cost us £530 including a gel sealed 100amp battery. The fridge and water pump run off the solar panel and we have the option to use it to power the lap top. We’ve never looked back. We always have power now, even after only driving 30km’s and then sitting for 5 days in temperatures of 40 degrees. It also means that our 110amp is being kept well charged with every drive so, if we hit more than 5 days of absolute no sun then we can revert back to the battery system.

Our next problem was being unable to source gas. Absolutely no-one will refill our 2.5kg bottles. You can only purchase 14kg bottles OR buy a single ring gas stove with tiny throw away canisters– not a workable option. The gas stove had to go. We purchased a coleman dual fuel 424 stove. Rose is not impressed. The old gas stove was very easy to operate whereas the new stove requires some manual dexterity and within one week rust has started to show-Asian humidity is not kind to metal.

The final change we have made was to replace the cupboard bolt and snib system with push button catches– much easier for arthritic hands.

When we first purchased Nessie we looked at getting her under-body treated to prevent rust. Kleen tech explained that they would not treat a 6 year old vehicle no matter how much we assured them that Nessie was in superb condition. Our next option was wax oil– but the thought of having a sticky layer then driving through the heat and sand of the Sahara didn’t appeal, so we resorted to the good old military option– paint. What little surface rust there was Dave removed before applying two coats of metal paint. In Malaysia we re-applied another coat just to keep Nessie protected especially with so much time spent by the sea.

One final problem– our 643 battery. Paul had told us you could expect a 3 year life span in normal conditions but as little as a year for overlanding in heat and using the inverter regularly. We have been unable to source the same size of battery in Malaysia so continued on into Thailand hoping to find one there but in the end we had to buy a 70 watt good quality battery. We have enough power to watch a DVD at night and charge batteries from this battery– so that’s enough for us.

TYRE PROBLEMS:

As you know we have been very happy with our cooper tyres– the only thing we would say is that they tend to pick up stones. So maybe AT rather than ATR would be better. Driving route 18 in Lao resulted in one tyre loosing a large chunk of tread– the rocks were very sharp at times! Then in China we picked up a large piece of metal on another wheel– so we purchased two new tyres in China. Hankook dynamic AT that cost approximately £60 each. We didn’t think they would be up to much but they are surprisingly good!

Nessie gave us a real scare in Lao– she suddenly started overheating. We automatically replaced the thermostat– with no result, then we drained, flushed and cleaned the radiator water– no luck. Finally we cleaned the radiator–  it was full of dust, dead flies and all sorts. Finally we stopped overheating. It was a lesson well learnt– we’d never thought to blow all the dust out before– silly really considering the dusty roads we’ve been on.

SO– here we are in Central Asia and on the ‘home-run’. What would we have changed or done differently???

The suspension– OME is NOT suitable. It’s not rated for the weight you carry on a fully loaded overland car and suggesting that you keep your weight within OME’s standards is just silly on a 110 Defender -unless you are going to stay in accommodation and carry just a suitcase!! Australian OME were honest with us and said that the British ‘experts’ should never have recommended it for a trip like ours. Get yourself some heavy duty Landrover springs– they’re cheap and can take the weight. As for which shocks are best– we can’t comment.

The only other thing we would change is carrying a 6th wheel– a complete waste of weight for the trip we’ve done. We have never been anywhere that is TOO far from a repair shed or a tyre selling shop to justify carrying our extra wheel. The high lift jack and our sand ladders were also excess weight for our route but we had bought them with a trip to Africa in mind.

Apart from that we would keep everything else– our tent has been fab, our fridge superb, the air-con worth every penny etc, etc.

WHAT WE’VE LEARNT ON THE WAY:

If you want an awning or protective covers for external equipment– wait until Turkey and get them made there for a quarter of the price.

Wait until Iran or Pakistan to get mechanical or repair work done– you’ll pay a 5th of the cost compared to British garages. The roads to these countries are good so even if you own a wreck– it should make it!

Wait until Nepal to purchase your solar panel– it’s half the price of Europe for the exact same product and you’ll love it for those long lazy days on Asia’s beaches. Eastern Poland has very cheap auto electrical garages.

You can purchase superb quality paint to protect your under body once out of Europe, Turkey and Malaysia are best but you can buy Combi-colour/ Rustoleum paint here in the UK– it’s expensive but very, very good.

        New door catches                                                                                      Our new solar panel getting used.

UPDATE ON EQUIPMENT

             SOLAR CONTROL PANEL                                                                                     SOLAR GEL BATTERY

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Nessie’s radiator getting a good check and clean in Lao.

That’s a BIG piece of metal!

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