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Light Overland Vehicle Tech Tech issues, tips and hints, prepping for travel
Under 3500kg vehicles, e.g. Land Cruiser, Land Rover, Subaru etc.
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  • 2 Post By eurasiaoverland

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  #1  
Old 17 May 2018
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Advice on choosing an older LC for touring camping / light overlanding.

Hello all and straight off let me apologise for being another newbie asking what might be dumb questions again, please bear with me.

I am shortly going to be in the market for a 4x4 for light overlanding and touring and could do with some advice and opinions to narrow down model/year/engine choice.

The legendary reliability and capability of Toyota Land Cruisers has led me towards them rather than Land Rovers (also because I hate the LR Defenders driving position, I’d need to remove either the drivers door or my arm to drive one!).

I’m looking to do this on a skinny budget so am looking for the most car for the least money without it being a rust bucket that eats money. It’ll be bought and built up a bit at a time while being a daily driver rather funded all in one big project in one go. I’d love a big 70-series Troopie camper or an 80-series world-crosser like others have done but they seem to be getting rare and/or expensive to find one that’s not rotted out or costing a fortune in the UK. So I’m wondering what folks think of building a rig based on one of the smaller engined Prado / Colorado models (either a pre-02 J90 or pre-96 J70) as my main criteria are:

• Minimum “bad-road capable” – as I’m not likely to be doing anything too extreme or going too far off the beaten track to require serious technical off-road capability.
• Minimal to no “mission critical” electronics – I’m getting sick of electronical gremlins in modern cars and am planning to learn how to diagnose and repair the vehicle myself beyond my current “I know what it does but I’ll be buggered if I can remember the technical name for it!” basic knowledge.
• Economical (as much as possible) on fuel – I don’t mind slow but I’d like it not to be a big drinker to minimise fill-up costs and maximise range which led me to wonder about the smaller Hilux based engines in the Prado / Colorado.

What does the collective mind here think about narrowing down year/engine choice for a suitable lighter duty LC? Does the J90 have too many electronics to make it reliable and bush-mechanic repairable? Is a J70 Prado / J70 Light going to be either too old and busted or (if in good nick) too much of a collectors car now to suit a low budget?

Cheers,

Craig
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  #2  
Old 17 May 2018
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Hi Craig, no need for a big LC. The smaller ones will do fine. However, Im not a huge fan of the 1KZ engine, it can have cooling issues. So check the model.

Given your description, I would also include a 4runner. Much more affordable and will go to the same places. Also known as Hilux surf. I had an LC and now a van. I would probably choose a 4runner over the LC because of price.

Frankly, if you just take a nice dirttrack once in a while and nothing to extreme you could also think about the Rav4. Yeah it is not a true offroader, but it will be economical and affordable. Easy to install a lift kit.
The 4wd system is very different but would actually work out for a lot of people.
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  #3  
Old 17 May 2018
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A 90 series Prado is likely far more capable than you think. They are fully capable of some pretty serious 4wd'ing should you ever feel so inclined. In the UK many examples are available that haven't spent a day offroad.

You could also look at the Mitsubishi Shogun (Pajero's). Models between 2000 and 2006 (preferably aim for the updated version around 2004, as some gremlins were eliminated and they got an awesome traction control system) are pretty cheap now. These are very reliable and capable offroad. Not as much ground clearance in standard form as the Prado, but plenty for your needs and cheap to add a 2" lift kit in future if you ever wish to.

One thing to be aware of with these vehicles with older style diesel injection pumps is that many of them are now in need of a pump overhaul. Once done you'll have a very reliable vehicle for a long while to come, but the cost to overhaul the older style mechanical pumps is very high.

One reason to consider a Prado or Pajero over a soft-roader is that you might have only set out on a light duty dirt road, but find yourself half way down at an obstacle (a rock slip or washed out stream) that a soft-roader can't manage but a real 4wd can. Also, many soft roaders were only designed to see occasional dirt. The chassis and drive trains in both the Prado and Shogun's are heavy duty and can contend with tough use day in day out.
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  #4  
Old 19 May 2018
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Great (easy) choice to go for a Toyota!

I like lighter expedition vehicles as I travel solo or with one partner, so the smaller, lighter 4x4s like the Prado (Land Cruiser Colorado in Europe), Hilux and Hilux Surf are perfect for me.

I have a 1993 N105 Hilux 2.4 diesel 4x4 and a 1996 N185 Hilux Surf 2.7 petrol 4x4. The N185 Hilux Surf has exactly the same chassis and running gear (save for the rear disk brakes) of the J90 Land Cruiser Colorado.

The trouble with these light Toyotas is that the range of engines is sadly not as good as it could be.

With diesels you have the L series which are bullet proof when naturally aspirated but have very little power; fine off-road but a bit tedious on the motorway and going up long mountain passes. When turbo-charged the L series are rather unreliable, though I think this is largely down to sloppy maintenance by cash-strapped owners. Curiously, the older, non OHC 2.4 turbo which you find in the LJ70 seems to be more reliable than the newer OHC 2.4 turbo found in the N130 Hilux Surf.

Then came the 1KZ-T but sadly this engine is still indirect-injection and 8 valve which means it doesn't really have that much power (the intercooled version is better but very rare) and poor fuel economy. They also have a reputation for cracking heads; again, I think this is down to sloppy maintenance of the cooling system (thermostat, radiator, fan coupling).

On a ~20 year old diesel engine I would change the head gasket as preventative maintenance; otherwise they seem to blow and crack the head when they do so; expensive repair!

About needing to overhaul older, mechanical injection pumps, I would not say this is routinely necessary. If the engine runs rough then overhauling the injectors should be done before touching the pump. I overhauled the injection pump in my Hilux myself; I replaced the housing and cold-start advance then had it calibrated by a local diesel laboratory, so overall it was not too expensive. Even if the pump is a little worn it will still run for a long time, you just lose smoothness (not a quality of 4 cylinder diesels anyway) and some power.

It really pisses me off that Toyota never made a 2.5 to 3.0 litre 4 cylinder, 16 valve, direct injection, pre-common rail turbo diesel; a 4 cylinder version of the 1HD engine would have been the perfect light overland engine. Sadly they went straight to common rail in the KD series which are not good engines for an overlander.

Then we have petrol engines.

The 22R-E which can be found on the continent in the RJ70 Land Cruisers is legendary for it's reliability, but it's still an 8 valve engine and maybe a touch underpowered.

This was replaced by the RZ series which gets my vote for Toyota's best 4-cylinder overlander engines. The 2RZ is a 2.4 which can be found in the RZN173 Hilux in Europe but only in the HiAce in the UK market.

My pick is the 3RZ however, a torquey, 2.7 litre 4 cylinder with 150HP. It is common in US market 4Runners (North American name for the Hilux Surf) and in Australian-market J90 Prados. I have one in my Hilux Surf (I spent years looking for one with a manual transmission) and I absolutely love it. It has plenty of power and torque (as it's a big 4 cylinder), gets 10l / 100km economy on the highway and about 12-13 in the city (comparable, if not better than the 1KZ), it's quiet, smooth and does not use a drop of oil between oil changes. It has no timing belt, no turbo and no high-pressure fuel injection system, all weak points of modern diesel engines. The trouble is, this engine is very, very rare in the UK! I saw an Australian import RZJ90 Landcruiser on eBay last year; that would be an awesome overlander.

Then there are the V6s; the 3.0, 12 valve 3VZ engine in the N130 Hilux / 4Runner is a bit of a dog; thirsty and with head-gasket issues. The Americans nick-name it the 3.slow. The one to go for would be the 3.4 litre, 24 valve 5VZ found in the J90 Prado (LC Colorado) and the N185 Hilux Surf. The problem here is that they are invariable attached to an automatic transmission (which I personally cannot stand) except in some European J90 Land Cruiser Colorados and some US market N185 4Runners.

Add to this the problems of a V6; they are considerable thirstier than a 4 cylinder; they are difficult to work on (changing the oil filter on a 5VZ is apparently an onerous task) and they have two cylinder heads of course; so two head gaskets, twice as many camshafts etc; added complexity which is not ideal in an overlander engine.

So, to conclude....

If you can find one, get a 2.7 petrol 90 series. But you could wait for years.

So, my second choice would be a well-looked after 1KZ engine in a J70 or J90 Land Cruiser Colorado or an N130 or N185 Hilux Surf. You just might want to do some preventative maintenance before you leave. That said, the internet is of course full of scare stories, and many people travel with this engine with zero issues.

Regards the trucks themselves; anything with independent front suspension (J90, N130, N185) is a bit less rugged than a solid front axle (J70, J90, J105) so would not be ideal for full-time use on corrugated tracks (I am changing all my front ball joints right now after taking a pounding on corrugated ice roads), but for a trip across Eurasia they are more than good enough. Chassis rust is an issue so make sure you have a look underneath before buying.

Regards electrics; it's difficult to find something with no ECU (old diesels like my Hilux LN105) but rest assured thet Toyota electrics, of this era at least, are excellent. I replaced a few engine sensors (coolant, air temperature sensors, O2 sensor) in my Hilux Surf and in 43,000 kilometres I've never had a check-engine light come on, or any electrical issues. These are not Volkswagens which will throw a CEL that even the dealer can't explain to you. Of course, if some previous owner has made a mess of the wiring then it might be better to look for another example.

Good luck,

EO

Here's my RZN185 on the frozen Pacific Ocean in Magadan, January 2018

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EurasiaOverland a memoir of one quarter of a million kilometres by road through all of the Former USSR, Western and Southern Asia.

Last edited by eurasiaoverland; 19 May 2018 at 12:15.
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  #5  
Old 20 May 2018
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What's the recommendations regarding vehicles with common rail diesel engines? I know that they need clean quality diesel, free from water contamination and are more sensitive than older engines to dirty fuel. But, if potentially dodgy diesel is filtered into the vehicle with something like a 'Mr Funnel' and in addition a secondary fuel filter with water trap is fitted, will it be ok to take a common rail diesel vehicle across Central Asia and Siberia. Thoughts?
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  #6  
Old 20 May 2018
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kiwi1973 View Post
What's the recommendations regarding vehicles with common rail diesel engines? I know that they need clean quality diesel, free from water contamination and are more sensitive than older engines to dirty fuel. But, if potentially dodgy diesel is filtered into the vehicle with something like a 'Mr Funnel' and in addition a secondary fuel filter with water trap is fitted, will it be ok to take a common rail diesel vehicle across Central Asia and Siberia. Thoughts?
Hi Kiwi

There are three things here I would point out

- Yes, common rail diesels are very sensitive to bad fuel. I think you could alleviate some of the risk with a second filter, but there's only so much water they can trap, only so much crap they can filter out. Plus they can do nothing against poor quality fuel or kerosene which (I am no expert on this as I've never owned a common rail diesel, and likely never will) might also damage the pump / injectors.

- I referred to the Toyota KD engine specifically; as well as being common rail, certain examples of this engine suffer from poor piston design and there are many, many examples of this engine cracking pistons. Also there is an issue with injector seals letting unregulated fuel into the cylinders and holing pistons.

- To meet swingeing smog-emissions targets, modern diesels have been castrated by having their compression ratios slashed from ~ 22:1 to ~ 16:1. They therefore lost some of their efficiency (which comes largely from the higher compression ratios which allowed more complete combustion of the molecularly large, energy-rich fuel). Add to this all the extra electronics (of the injection system), the turbos which are sensitive to poor oil quality, and the increasing pressure on keeping diesels out of cities in Europe and personally I wonder what the point of owning one is now. I'd much rather a petrol engine which has slightly higher fuel consumption but far, far less to go wrong; not to mention being quieter, smoother and nicer to drive.

EO
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  #7  
Old 21 May 2018
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I bought a 1999 Prado/Colorado with e 1KZTE in 2011 for overlanding. 50 000miles later its still going strong. Only troubles I've had are normal wear and tear items, clutch, brake pads, bushes etc.

Chassis rust can be an issue on these and a regular problem is the rear upper link bar supports on the axle rusting through. The axle is an easy fix for a competent welder.

I've travelled with people driving all sorts of vehicles some with £20 000+ in 'overland' modifications and mine goes everywhere they do.

Great choice for a light overlander imho
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  #8  
Old 21 May 2018
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Do you know what they add to diesel in Siberia to make it flow at low temperatures? If it's just kerosene this could reduce the lubricity of the diesel. And yet I have seen a video of a LC200 being used in Siberia (I don't know but assume it had the common rail diesel engine).

EO - I see you have driven the Kolyma highway to Magadan a couple of times. What was your experience of the quality of the diesel you could buy along the Kolyma highway and in Magadan? Also, can you comment on whether it is possible to ship a 4wd one way between Magadan and Vladivostok.
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  #9  
Old 21 May 2018
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Originally Posted by kiwi1973 View Post
Do you know what they add to diesel in Siberia to make it flow at low temperatures? If it's just kerosene this could reduce the lubricity of the diesel. And yet I have seen a video of a LC200 being used in Siberia (I don't know but assume it had the common rail diesel engine).

EO - I see you have driven the Kolyma highway to Magadan a couple of times. What was your experience of the quality of the diesel you could buy along the Kolyma highway and in Magadan? Also, can you comment on whether it is possible to ship a 4wd one way between Magadan and Vladivostok.
I think we're getting a bit off topic here, and I replied to another post of yours on the same subject, but I would add that yes, locals do have common rail diesels (though prefer petrols) but they will know where to get good fuel. Plus it's Russia: one day you put bad fuel in your car and your engine is wrecked... that's life. Happened twice to a friend of mine who lives there, though he only had to replace injectors but it was a petrol engine.

I would assume they add paraffin to diesel to depress the pour point, but that's only a guess.
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  #10  
Old 1 Jun 2018
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YOu can add a preheater to get around the winter waxing problems. I believe some people also add petrol to their diesel but I don't know what percentage.
If you can run to about 10k this would be a great choice
As tough as a 70 but more comfortable. A good olf fashioned non turbo diesel engine that would run on your piss if you drunk enough vodka!!
Andrew St Pierre white spoke highly of his

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/323279187...828&rmvSB=true
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  #11  
Old 1 Jun 2018
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It depends how cold you want to go, EO has gone seriously cold and that does take preparation!
My 60 has gone to -22 on standard diesel (bought in Belarus) and oil with no problems except being a bit lazy to turn over first thing in the morning (make sure your batteries are good!) and a bit stiff on the gearchange for the first 5-10 minutes.

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  #12  
Old 23 Jun 2022
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Hey Craig, I have to say that sounds like a very cool plan indeed! I'm also a huge fan of good old 4x4 Toyotas, so you definitely made the right choice. Man, I wish I had the time and the right car for an off-road trip with touring camping. I remember taking similar trips with my parents when I was a kid. These are definitely some of the best memories of my life! Now I own a small Nissan, so I have no chance to make it too far, lol. At least I have recently installed a cool smart strip light https://www.vont.com/product/vont-ca...t-strip-light/ in my car, so that will do for now. Cheers!

Last edited by AnsellMarett; 26 Jun 2022 at 11:00.
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