The car is a Toyota HDJ80 Land Cruiser (1997) equipped with a roof tent (OverCamp), a 250 liter water tank, an extra 20 liter diesel tank, an inverter (12V to 220V) and a GPS.
The following is a brief non-technical summary of our experiences with car and equipment after 25000 km on the road.
Mechanically, the car has so far performed excellently in spite of the heavy load (we are 6 adults with minimum personal equipment for a long tour on the road). I estimate that we carry a load of about 1600 kg resulting in the need for using the low-shift in sharp inclined situations and otherwise when the car´s normal shift simply does not have sufficient power. The suspension (which we renewed before take-off) has worked very well and the car has handled the varied road conditions in Central America excellently. We have rigorously changed the oil and oil filter every 5000 km and the diesel filter approximately every 10000 km. Beyond normal maintenance, the only larger replacements have been new tires (this we knew would become necessary) and a new battery.
The failing battery, due to a loose contact on one of the poles, caused a surge in voltage blowing the three internal fuses of the Waeco inverter. This has now been repaired, but supposedly could have been avoided by installing external fuses on the supply cable from the battery (located at an accessible location in the engine room).
The only additional mechanical adaptation we have done has been to install a padlock on the extra diesel tank (an externally mounted Jerry tank). This was done when discovering that someone stole our extra diesel during the night.
The roof tent has functioned well, while it is important to frequently check all accessible bolts and nuts which have a tendency to loosen due to vibration. Also, we have experienced some noise from the roof rack due to “tensions” in the roof rack frame. If we now had the option, I would also if possible have chosen a different color of the tent simply because the European camping style of bright colors are not very appropriate in situations where you prefer to tone down your presence rather than advertising it. We have also had to strengthen the cover for the tents in the four corners as the corners simply wore out after taking on and off the cover two times almost daily.
Also, we have had some thoughts on the apparent lack of safety of our ladder-accessible roof-tent compared to the hard-cover over a normal camper.
However, our conclusion so far is that we much prefer the reach and dirt-road capability of the sturdy and much smaller 4×4 Land cruiser, than the bigger RVs in spite of their attractive hard-cover shell.
The only other repair that has been necessary has been sewing some of the seats of the car to prevent further tear. This was temporarily done on the road, but has since been professional repaired in Bogota.
Finally, the Garmin GPS has been very useful as long as maps have been available.
For much of Central America, however, this was not the case and here we mainly relied on regular road-maps. In Mexico we came across a French family on a similar adventure as ours and they gave us copies of maps for all Central- and South America. However, we have not managed to install these maps with any degree of detail on our GPS and so far these files have been of limited use. We now have maps for Colombia and will investigate our options for Ecuador and the other countries further south.
The overall conclusion is that a working GPS combined with a road-map is a great tool when traveling.
Oyvin – 02.01.2012