What did we get wrong on the Dmax build?

Our Isuzu Dmax build took a lot of time and effort to do, and far more than that in researching what to get, and how to set it up. Overall, we are seriously happy with how its turned out, and we’ve loved using it over the last 5 years.

However, there were a few things that we’ve gotten wrong, and regretted over that time, and this post dives into them. Before we get going, here’s the Isuzu Dmax build post, which covers every single modification we did. 

If you wanted to know how much it all cost, we have a post covering that too – Dmax build cost.

Please know this is my experience, and my opinions, and if you own any of these products and think they are great, that’s perfectly fine. They have not done what I’ve expected of them, and have either been replaced, or will be in the future. I’m happy to admit that I make mistakes, and whilst I did my best to pick what would suit us, I didn’t get everything right:

Dmax water crossing
What do we regret doing on our Isuzu Dmax build?

HPD Catch Can

If you are going to go to the effort of fitting a catch can, you want one that collects as much oil as possible. Originally I installed a HPD catch can because everyone raved about them, and it turns out they (and also I) were very wrong.

The HPD catch can performs along with some of the worst out there, as confirmed by my own real life testing, and by a study done at Curtin University.

I replaced my HPD catch can with a dual bracket that houses a Provent 200 Catch Can and a Diesel Pre Filter, and I’ve been happy with them since.

A good lesson for me to do my own research, rather than follow what everyone else is doing. If you want independent results of how the HPD vs Provent 200 go, we’ve covered that too.

HPD Catch can inside
The HPD catch can doesn’t catch nearly as much oil as a Provent 200

Projecta DCDC

I bought the Projecta DCDC to save a bit of coin (over a Redarc, or Victron, or Enerdrive). Turns out I should have bought a better unit, as its broken 3 times now, and has been replaced with a Renogy 50 amp DCDC. I’ve lost alternator charge, then solar charge, and then it wouldn’t isolate properly, and was emptying my new cranking battery.

I’ve had a few issues with Projecta gear over the year, as have a few of my close mates, so I probably won’t be returning to their customer base. 

Projecta DCDC
The Projecta DCDC installed in our Electrical Box, which is now gone

First fridge setup

Our first fridge setup was a 55L Evakool, on a giant fridge slide. It worked, but it wasn’t perfet. This was one of the first knock off Danfoss compressor units, and we did eventually have issues with the fridge.

However, it was also far too tall for Sarah to see into and I’d used some left over 1 metre fridge slides, which meant the slide assembly took up far more canopy space (and weight) than it should have.

This has been replaced with an 85L Bushman Upright fridge which you’ll also hear about below, but it certainly has a huge number of benefits.

Evakool Fridge review
Our GFM55 Evakool Fridge, which is now gone
Evakool Fridge Review
The fridge worked OK, but it was too tall for Sarah (and the average person) to comfortably use

Davies Craig Automatic Transmission Cooler

This is a point that will clearly explain why its important to buy something that suits your application. The actual Davies Craig Automatic Transmission cooler is a great generic kit, and can be mounted on any sort of vehicle. As a kit, its fine, but I really don’t like the way it mounts up, and the hose connections for a 4WDing application.

It is held in place by 4 pins that go through my intercooler, and I can see its gotten slop in it already, and will eventually do damage to the intercooler or the transmission cooler itself.

I’ve had issues with the hoses leaking as they rely on a single hose clamp and barb, and when you are circulating 100 degree oil through it for months on end it eventually ends up weeping.

The better 4WD transmission coolers have brackets that support the whole cooler (and don’t hang the cooler off the mounts), and they use hydraulic fittings that cannot leak like a hose and barb can.

If you were running a normal vehicle, these would be a great option, but I just feel they aren’t heavy duty enough for our vehicle, and given what’s at stake if it breaks, its hardly worth keeping.

I want to swap this out, and the original choice came from me being too time poor to install it myself, and probably not doing enough research.

Auto cooler
The Davies Craig transmission cooler is OK, but not for serious off-road use

Bushman Upright Fridge

I really love our Bushman Upright Fridge. However, it goes on the list purely because of the frosting issues that we’ve had, which in my mind are just unacceptable. 

For those of you who don’t know, we’ve been finding our Upright Fridge frosts up to the point where it needs to be manually defrosted every 7 – 9 days when up north where its warm or humid. When your food lives in one fridge and you are travelling, its pretty annoying to have to remove it and defrost the freezer section that often.

I’m still playing with the seals, and seeing what else can be done to improve it, but as an item off the factory floor it should work, and it really annoys me.

Upright Fridge
The Bushman Upright fridge is so good, and also so frustrating

Auto resetting circuit breakers

When our Dmax was built, we had a heap of auto resetting circuit breakers used in the electrical box. These were in place of fuses, and trip out when any of our circuits have too much power being drawn, or there’s a problem. 

I’ve had the nuts come loose a number of times, and that’s stopped our fridge from running, given issues with one of our inverters and even burnt the tip of my finger when I touched it fault finding one afternoon.

These are mandatory for your electric brake controller, but for general use, I reckon you are better off with a fuse or manual reset circuit breaker in place, as the auto reset ones just get hot, trip, and when they cool come back on again. This isn’t an issue if your electrical system is set up properly and you have a bigger fuse that would go if you had a real problem, but I reckon they could still start a fire. The plastic covers certainly got hot enough to melt on my setup!

Auto resetting breaker
These nuts have a bad habit of coming loose

Overall review

Overall, we’ve done pretty well. I should have bitten the bullet and bought some more expensive and better quality gear in the above instances, but in terms of everything else (which is extensive), we are really happy. I’ve not had to change suspension, canopies, camper trailers or anything else; it just works and we are super happy with it!

We’re super happy with the UltraGauge, Icom UHF, Old Man Emu suspension, Stedi Light Bar, Safari Snorkel, 200W solar panel, Bull Motor Bodies Canopy and the Long Range Tank, and then the other modifications have done well, but we won’t rave about them. 

What have you gotten wrong on your 4WD build? Would you do things differently next time?

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  1. Hey Mike.

    Interesting about Projecta. I don’t have anything against them but I don’t feel confident in many of their products now.

    I’ve just defrosted our Bushman upright fridge for the first time after 4 weeks of our lap and we weren’t in any humid conditions or overly warm. It’s such a shame as we love the upright otherwise.

    All the best

  2. Agree with the Projecta comment, I went to.so far as to speak to the head of technical R+D and they admitted they got a few things wrong. I now use Renogy gear and have for some time now. Also re the upright fridge, humidity plays a massive part in that as does fridge temperature as the freezer regulates the fridge temp.