Pre-trip Servicing

Regardless if you are heading out for a day, the weekend or on a full blown overland expedition, pre-trip servicing should not be overlooked.

rmobile1We brought the 74 series to our good friend Roberto at R Mobile Mechanic in Kerikeri who over the course of two days worked his magic to get the truck ready to tackle the South Island.

So first up was the easy stuff, engine oil and filter. We usually do this ourselves but decided that while it was up on the hoist it’d be much easier to do with Roberto. We used a new Ryco filter and Mobile 15W40 engine oil to complete the job. I’ve heard of people reusing an old filter but this is not a practice we would encourage.

Then of course there is the transmission. If you don’t know when the last time was that robertothe transmission was flushed it never hurts to do it and make it all brand new. We had flushed out the transmission when we bought her but since we were going to be adding another 6,000km to her we opted to flush it again and put in Valvoline’s DX-3 ATF to keep her shifting smoothly.

Cooling System:
Next we checked out the cooling system and flushed the radiator and cooling gallery with Nylon’s Radiator Flush and Clean. Our old lady is pretty rusty throughout which is why we flushed the radiator. If you have a newer 4WD this is probably unnecessary. But take a look, if the fluid is still the right color and not a nice rusty brown like ours you’re probably good to leave it. We also replaced our thermostat as it had been in with the rusty looking fluid. Older cars like our Land Cruiser are quite prone to having a rust flakes throughout the cooling system so make sure it is as clean as you can get it to avoid blocking up your new thermostat and radiator. Having the flush done professionally with a pressurized system is probably the best option but you can also use running water and it through untill it comes out clean.

Fuel system:
A new fuel filter was a must for us but Roberto didn’t want to stop there. He disconnected rmobile2the fuel lines to and from the injector pump, and rigged up an injector pump purge apparatus. This is a small tank filled with a heavy duty solvent. This tank is connected directly to the injector pump inlet and return and also to an air compressor. The engine is then run on this solvent burning the grime as it cleans.This is a much better way to directly clean your injectors and pump than the fuel additives they sell you at automotive stores.

Fuel additives can remove dirt and grime from your fuel tank but then it sends all that loose grime down your fuel lines which can cause your fuel filter and injector pump to clog.

undercarriage2Finally it was time to tackle the under carriage, my first job was to water blast the underbody to remove 28 years of gunk. A quick squirt and a soak with a heavy duty degreaser made this task a little easier but elbow grease was the real solution at the end of the day.

Now that the Land Cruiser was looking like new it was time to figure out undercarriage1why the transfer case was leaking a little oil. After a thorough inspection I was relieved with Robert’s conclusion that the slight leak was between the gearbox and the transfer case and a torquing of the joining bolts solved the issue.

Another concern of ours was a leak in the rear differential. This leak meant the diff got a new oil seal. A job that could be completed at home but if you’ve got a mate with a lift use it. New oil in the front and rear diff’s finished up our work underneath.

Its important on any adventure involving water that the differentials and transfer case are well sealed. If water gets into these areas your truck can loose 4WD or stop moving.

A final check of nuts and bolts without getting dripped on meant the 74 series was at last ready for the 6,000km journey ahead.

Before considering any major modifications to your 4WD, suspension should be at the top of your to do list.

Without good suspension your articulation, road comfort and clearance on the tracks can be limited or non existent. This makes it difficult to complete even the simplest of tracks. Not to mention that adding additional weight such as a bull bar and winch, roof rack and or a rear bar can cause your original suspension to sag.

shocksWhen we bought our 70 series it’s suspension had been upgraded  but it was getting pretty tired, which limited us in some areas and it did not tolerate load well. Because the Landcruiser is so capable off-road we didn’t realize the extent of the sag until we put the new suspension on. To explain, we gained and extra 45mm in ride height without installing extended shackles.

We opted for the EFS suspension from Force4 owned by Phil Clark . We highly recommend going to see Phill if you are looking to upgrade your suspension, he seriously knows his stuff and he has some of the best customer service in the industry.rear-leaf

When installing our suspension we took out two leafs from the rear leaf pack. This was recommend by Phil as the pack was made for the 4 door 75Series which is larger and heavier than our Landcruiser. Removing the 2 leafs made the ride less stiff and more comfortable for road driving.

stuck-shakleInstalling the new suspension was pretty straight forward but having an extra set of hands is not a bad idea. We had trouble with one of the shackles as it was put in backwards. This made it hard to remove when installing the new bushings. But don’t worry we reinstalled it in the correct direction. We also stripped the front left shackle whilst removing the old shacklesuspension as it was seized! This was a problem when it is 10pm at night. But thank God for friends with Landcruisers, we were able to grab a spare from our friend with a 40Series and complete the job the following morning.



Figuring out how to accessorize your truck is challenging, not only do you have to decide what is the most important it also has to fit into your budget. A must have for all utility vehicles is a good set of drawers in the back. These allow you to keep your gear organized, accessible and safe, if you opt for locking latches as we did.

After researching the custom made drawers by several companies we decided this route was too expensive for our budget. Steel drawers by Ironman and ARB are ideal being tough and long lasting but for $1200-1500 this was not the route we could take. Instead we decided to build our own plywood drawers, which are just as sturdy if built right. So find a mate or utilize the tools in your garage and get going. With our Dewalt drill, Hitachi saw, and an unnamed table saw it was almost as easy as 123 to create our project.  

We opted for using sturdy plywood, 17mm for the frame and 12mm for the drawers. The projected started with building the frame. We measured the back of the truck and decided drawer size before starting. Originally the two drawers were going to be the same size but because the 70 series has different size rear doors we decide to make one drawer smaller. This allows us to access the drawer without having to open both doors and the tire carrier. We keep all our recovery gear in this smaller drawer making it accessible in even the tightest of places.   

We built the frame between the wheel wells but made the top plate the width of the truck. This gave us small cubbies on each side allowing for storage of our axe, saw, wheel brace and the bottle jack.  

Once the drawers and frame were completed we gave them a light spray with black spray paint and then carpeted the top plate and front of the drawers with marine carpet. You can also spray them with the truck bed armor if you prefer. We’ve used this in other areas of the tuck. 

You can use any type of utility handles but we chose locking T-latches, which are practical, and they give the drawers a nice finish.  

So far this is one of favorite modifications and not just because we built it ourselves, it gives the back of the truck a professional look and keeps us organized on even the most complex adventures.  

Message us for the template we used for $10 and follow our lead in building your own drawers for as little as $500.  

3rd-battery2For any serious touring, power consumption is always in the back of your mind, this is why we decided to add a 3rd battery for our South Island expedition.

The 74 Series runs a full 24V starting and electrical system, so for us to be able to charge a AA Champion 12V 71 A/h deep cycle gel battery we had to add a few additions to the conventional dual battery set up.

3rd-batteryThe first thing you will notice is the giant red box bolted to the top of the battery box. This red box is a 24-12V DC-DC smart battery charger made by PowerTech. It steps down the 24V input to a 12V charge from the start battery’s whilst regulating the charging cycle to prolong the lifespan of the 3rd battery.3rd-battery1

Mounted to the side of the battery box is a Aopec 24V smart battery isolator that automatically cuts in at 26.6V to allow the battery to charge and cuts out at 25.6V isolating the start batteries. This prevents us from draining the start batteries and not being able to make it home from the campsite after using our Waeco fridge, air compressor and 300W inverter.

3rd battery 3.jpg

Get the best

We want to give a big shout out to Regan Bates owner of Sinosaur in Kerikeri for our sign writing job. He recently branched out on his own last year and started Signosaur, and trust us, he knows what he is doing. Signosaur is a one stop shop and full service sign manufacturing facility which covers everything from  one off small signs,design and corporate branding in Bay of Islands and throughout Northland. Regan loves what he does and is just OCD enough that you know he’ll do the job right the first time. 

Regan does a little of everything  and in regards to design his company aims to create visual impact with purpose. Regan says “that while a stunning image and layout can be great to look at it should also always communicate with it meaning and a message.”

Signosaur does business cards, flyers, calendars… you name it they do it. They have the experience and knowledge to meet all of your needs. Their team is friendly, knowledgeable and eager to help your business grow with with their professional cards and marketing materials.

Well worth calling in or stopping by to get a quote for your marketing material or sign writing needs.

On the front of any good 4WD you’ll find a good winch, so there was no doubt that our 74Series needed one too.

There are plenty of winches out there, but there are several factors to consider before purchasing one. These include the weight of your vehicle, the cable material, its operating voltage, pulling power and wether or not you need a PTO, hydrolic or electric winch.

Our landcruiser is 24V so we needed to find a winch that was compatible. We opted for a Runva 11xp (11000Lb) electric winch as it bolted directly onto the IronMan winchbar and comes in either 12v or 24v.winch2

On a side note, before in stalling, always double check that the wiring harness is the correct voltage for your system. We received the correct one with our winch but have heard that other people have not. If you hook a 12v wiring harness to a 24v system you will start a fire.

The Runva comes standard with a steel cable but we had that swapped out with dyneema. Steel if not wound back in perfectly is quick to fray, it also needs to be cleaned more often to keep from breaking down. With the dyneema you have a little more flexibility and ease. It is a fraction of the weight, doesn’t throw kinks, you don’t have to wear gloves and it has the same breaking strength as steel. However, if you aren’t keeping it covered it needs to be inspected on occasion as it will eventually break down due to high UV especially in places like New Zealand. Also if it  happens to break while in use it will cause less damage to the vehicle or vehicles than a steel cable.

If switching to dyneema then you also need to swap the fair lead. Dyneema requires the use of a solid fair lead (the one without the rollers). The rollers can catch on the dyneema and cause the rope to fray. Dyneema doesn’t like friction so it needs to be kept off the ground and away from tight spaces. The rollers are only needed if your utilizing the steel cable which is much better if you know your 4wd expeditions will occur in tight spaces.

Wiring up the winch was a breeze thanks to the coloured coded cables and connectors. It took less than 1/2 hour to bolt it on and connect it. A little longer if your finicky about how you run your wiring.

We bought our winch from Spy Performance, and they sent us the steel cable instead of the dyneema which we ordered. Although they did fix the problem and sent us the dyneema they were slow in doing so and we had to follow up several times to make sure that it got shipped. We would give them 5 stars for friendliness but 1 star for efficiency.

Although we may not use the winch on every trip we go on it has definitely lended a hand to the 74Series and is a must for any serious four wheel driving.


First Aid Kit

In preparation for any 4WD trip a first aid kit is essential. Being prepared for an accident can mean the difference between saving a limb or life or losing it. But the question is which one do you buy?  There are a million different types from personal home use kits by AA taa-first-aid-kit_grandeo ARB 4×4 Accessories family first aid for 4WD  kits familykit2_editv2and these range from $25 into the hundreds.

After researching and reviewing all the first aid kits out there ( I literally spent 2 hours looking at all the different kits) we settled on a simple kit from from Sell Wood Medical Supplies sold on Trade me  for $45 ($5 more for shipping) and simply added to it the extras we have found to be important when out on tracks in NZ.

But honestly most of what is in the kit is over kill as the goal on any trip to to not to maim yourself or your truck while out adventuring. Listed below is the contents of the kit we purchased. I have bolded the items that come in the most handy and in italics is the items we’ve found we’ve needed over the course of our shorter trips. You can always pack your own first aid kit into a 7L plastic container. But when researching all the pricing it actually works out cheaper to buy a base kit and just add to it.

This kit containedkit


Alcohol Prep Pads 12
Sting Relief Pads 4
Adhesive Bandages 30
Fingertip Bandages 4
Sterile Gauze 5
First Aid Tape 1
Metal Tweezers 1
Safety Pins 10
PVC Gloves 1
Saline 2

We added
Steri strips (skin closure strips)
Burn cream
Aloe vera or after sun cream ( I have bought Soov to try on this trip)
Bug spray (mozzies are lethal in NZ if your prone to being bitten or of foreign blood)
Anti itch cream

Allergy Medicine

HANDY (Specialized)
Antiseptic Cleansing wipes 6
Cotton Tips 10
Knuckle Bandages 4
Trauma Pads 2
Elastic Bandage Large 1
Elastic Bandage Medium 1
Elastic Bandage Small 1
CPR Mask 1
Tourniquet 1
Triangular Bandages/Slings 2
Scissors 1
Instant Ice Pack 1

Raincoat 1
Emergency Whistle 1
Emergency Blanket 1
Dynamo Rechargeable Flashlight 1
First Aid Instruction Card 1
EVA First Aid kit Case 1



Tires, probably one of the biggest discussion topics in the off-road world.

There are so many factors to consider when it comes to selecting the perfect bit of rubber for 4 wheel driving. These include what kind of rims they are on, the tread, side wall strength, the internal design, road noise and how they will wear.

The boys from ATJ Auto Parts in Waipapa recommend we try out the new Maxxis Bighorn M/T’s over the BF Goodrich KM2 for a competitive cost effective alternative.

Don’t get me wrong, BF Goodrich makes an excellent tire standing true to the name and providing strong, reliable tires with good tire wear, but the problem is they are upwards of $400’s.

img_2038The Maxxis Bighorn seems to be the next up and coming off road tire and has been building a good reputation within the NZ 4WD market. They have been delivering a long lasting and tough product, and at $390ea they are very attractive.

Maxxis M/T offers a radial construction tire, with a wide foot print which allows for good traction and shock absorption. They have extra wide shoulder luges which are supposed to be great for mud and add protection for the sidewalls and rims. Maxxis’s touts that these tires are good in the desert, dirt, rock , snow and mud giving it the all terrain label. Which is why we decided to give them a try.

fullsizerenderWe have had them for 6 months now, about 20,0000kms, and we still have 15mm of tread left so we honestly can’t complain. They’ve held their own in mud, gravel, dirt and tar seal. The road noise is minimal and the sidewalls have held up in the tightest of situations.

Double thumbs up for Maxxis being a more affordable durable tire for 4 WD.

Keep an eye out for a future post on the importance of having good rims for your new tires.


The first addition to the 74 Series project was some serious frontal protection!
truckAfter considering durability, practicality and Styling we found that the IronMan Commercial winch bar ticked all the boxes. Ironman 4×4 NZ  webpage was very user friendly in selecting the correct bar for the 74series. The bar is sold as (Toyota LC75/78/79 1984-2007 BBC018).

It was super easy to fit as IronMan makes their bars specifically for your vehicle. Slide right into place and attached at 4 spots. Please note that this truck does not have airbags, for vehicles with airbags the bar has to be compliant.


All up it took about 2hours to remove the standard bumper bolt on the winch bar and to wire up the indicator, running lights and light bar. I’ll talk about those in future posts. Lucky for us the 74Series had already had a suspension upgrade and can therefore support the extra weight of the bar and winch, otherwise you should seriously consider a suspension upgrade before installing a bar.fullsizerender-5