Preparing our Landcruiser for 5 weeks away

In under 4 months we will be in the Kimberley; a world class tourist destination in the northern part of Western Australia. People literally travel from all over the world to see breathtaking waterfalls, gorges and beaches. We’ve got 5 weeks to explore it, and will be living out of the back of our trusty Land Cruiser whilst we do it.

EDIT: want to see the full trip report including costs, fuel economy, what we loved and didn’t, and more? Check it out – 5 weeks solo through the Kimberley 

This gives us just under 4 months to get our Land Cruiser ready to tackle roughly 9000km of driving, of which a large portion will be with the hubs locked. There are a number of water crossings, and should be plenty of sand driving too.

Gravel in the Pilbara
Gravel here we come!

In order to make sure that we aren’t stranded in the middle of no where, our Land Cruiser is going to have a fair bit of work done to it. A lot of the work is just general maintenance, but we are doing a few modifications to make the 4WD more functional too. The further away from civilisation that you go, the more prepared you need to be.

 The trip

We plan on heading from Perth to Broome, and then up to Cape Leveque, then along the Gibb River and back to Perth. We are still planning exact locations to visit and durations to stay, but may do a little bit of 4WDing around Karratha too. 5 weeks is a long time, but seeing as its more than a years annual leave, we want to be 100% confident in the cruiser, to ensure no delays occur!

80 series land cruiser
The 4WDing Australia 80 Series Land Cruiser

Maintenance and repairs

There are a number of jobs that need to be done on our 80, to keep it reliable. I will point out our Land Cruiser is 24 years old, and has done 360,000km. The engine was rebuilt nearly 100k ago, and everything is in fairly good condition. However, there are a few jobs that still need doing!

Preventive maintenance on a 4WD
Preventive maintenance is very important
  • Transfer case rebuild

The output bearing to the front tailshaft has a significant amount of play in it, and the only way you can replace it is to remove the transfer case and strip it down. If you are going to do this, you may as well replace everything that is worn!

  • Turbo inspection

Although the engine was rebuilt not so long ago, it is still the original turbo running. I want to make sure there is no wear (and if there is, potentially install a Gturbo!)

  • Check batteries

My main cranking battery is a yellow top optima that was rescued from another vehicle, but was left flat for a while. It has proven to work, but I want to get it load tested and decide on whether it is going to meet the cut. The other battery is an N70 lead acid which is old and gets flat pretty easily. I think it needs replacing!

  • Replace the water pump, thermostat and timing belt

Last time we were down at Waroona I noticed coolant coming from the water pump, and given its been nearly 100k since the rebuild, its time to get a new pump. Whilst we are in there, a new thermostat and timing belt will be installed.

  • Replace the big end bearings

The 1HDT engine has a design flaw that causes the big end bearings wearing. If you allow them to wear badly, they can cause catastrophic failure of the engine, and given the cost of a rebuild (or a replacement) I’d rather go with the recommended change of every 100k. It’s only about $600 to get them done.

  • Repair/replace the rear air bags

My rear left airbag has had a slow leak for a long time now, and I’m getting a bit tired of pumping it up pretty well every day that we go 4WDing! I will check the fittings, but most likely these will need replacing.

  • Check and adjust the valve clearances as required

I’ve never done this, and probably should have. Its good practise to do this on a regular basis.

  • Complete inspection

I’m fairly handy on the tools, but I’d never allow myself to be the only one to check the 4WD over. I will have a qualified mechanic make sure everything is ready to go before we head off!

Additional modifications

I’ve been meaning to finish a few more things on the ‘to do list’ for our 80 Series, and now we have a due date!

  • Front winch

Being a long 4WD trip with no backup vehicle, I want to fit a winch. It probably won’t get used, but it gives me peace of mind, knowing that if I do get badly bogged on the beach or on a muddy track I can self recover. Whilst it is unlikely to get used on the Gibb River road, it may come in handy for some of the tracks off the Gibb, or in the soft sands further north.

  • Water storage

Our standard water storage has been 65 litres in jerry cans for some time now, but we will likely need to carry more. I’ve been wanting to install a 4WD water tank underneath for some time, so we will see what the options are.

  • Permanently wired solar panel

My solar panel is currently held on with straps to the roof rack, and has two cables running down the A pillar, temporarily. I need to wire them up permanently, and bolt the solar panel down. If you are looking at solar panels for your 4WD, check this out – Fixed or portable 12V solar panels?

80 Series solar panel
Our 120W solar panel
  • Alarm

The 80 came with an Alarm, but it never worked. It was ripped out when we fixed the wiring up; I need to get one installed, for peace of mind!

  • Install rear work lights

I bought 2 LED work lights many months ago, and haven’t gotten around to installing them yet. Being able to turn an extra little spotlight on when you are camping is extremely useful!

Our old LED work light
The old work light on the 80
  • Install LED strip lighting in the rear interior

Even with the LED light upgrade, we could do with more in the rear of the vehicle. I plan on installing a few lengths of LED strip lighting in the rear, to make sure we can see better inside the car!

LED Strip lighting in our 80
This stuff is gold for lighting

Our Cruiser so far

Our 80 has proven to be very reliable, and I plan on keeping it that way. Preventive maintenance is much better than breaking down miles away from anywhere. I’ve done roughly 20k since purchasing it, and over half of those km’s were done on long, remote trips.

Nannup 4WD
Love this 4WD!

Hopefully this covers everything. We’ve got new mud terrain tyres, stacks of spares and tools and we’ve ticked off a lot of other maintenance already.

If you’ve been to the Kimberley, we’d love to hear from you! What do you recommend we take? Where are your favourite places to stop?

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  1. Sounds like a fantastic trip. Tasmania is supposed to be one of the best states for 4WDing; would love to head there one day.

  2. beachbum62 says:

    I would love to check it out before you leave, this trip is on my bucket list for sure, we just got back from a 10,000km Tassie, Victorian high plains trip and totally loved that in my Lux

  3. Hey LG,

    That’s a pretty good point. I guess I was hoping to lower the center of gravity and save a bit of space inside the vehicle. I will definitely consider just carrying a few more jerries, if we need them!

  4. If you use a single large tank and it springs a leak, you have no drinking water. For remote travel I like to have potable water in multiple containers… just in case. 😀