2 Years on the road – Technical stuff

In the last months, we have been in garages quite often. Of course, before we started our long journey, we made sure our Mitsubishi was in good shape, but we did not go as far as to restore or overhaul our vehicle completely and exchange all wear parts for new ones before leaving. Instead, we decided to replace whenever it was really needed. How did this turn out for us?

Well, the first year we did not do really much. We had to replace the main v-belt pulley.
A month later I replaced a CV joint dust boot, and a upper ball joint.
And some months later one universal joint of the rear prop shaft was replaced in Bulgaria.
One thing I should have replaced at home, were the upper swingarms of the front suspension. I did not inspect them well enough before leaving, and now they were developing more play, the bushes were worn out pretty much. So, when we were in Albania, I decided to get some used replacement parts with the promise they were of a 4wd, but it turned out they were not. So we needed to reposition the brake hose bracket before fitting, and it wasn’t until Turkey that we found a garage that was willing to do the job. Half a year later we would discover that it was not so smart to use used replacements, although they were original Mitsubishi items.

But all in all not too bad for 20 year old van, running close to 280.000 kms (at that time) on the odometer, I guess.

But then we hit the Caucasus, and some seriously high and steep mountains had to be conquered. Before hitting the mountains we had to replace the front bushings of the rear leaf springs. Luckily I carried spares. On this day also the other steering rack boot was replaced.
So off we went, to drive the Abano pass. And for the first time we had a hot engine. our hot water reservoir for the kitchen was actually cooking, and this was more than the water tap could handle. After this event we decided to replace the cooling fan clutch, because the viscous oil was not functioning adequately any more, and when we were in Armenia, we replaced the thermostat just to be sure, because the problem was not yet solved. During this replacement work I discovered some oil traces in the coolant, so most of the coolant was replaced too. After gathering information on the L300 offroad facebook page, it was clear that a trace of oil does not necessarily mean that there is a big problem. It could just be that: a trace, because, for example, the turbo on this particular engine is oil AND water cooled. Unfortunately while replacing the thermostat, one connection pipe of the power steering oil reservoir had received too much stress and started leaking: rust had made this connection too weak. That can happen with an older car. So the power steering was disconnected.

Then, still in Armenia one of the wiper arms broke because Binkie used it to crawl over the front wind shield. It was impossible to find a genuine replacement in Armenia.
Armenia is not a country where you will find a lot of Mitsubishi parts, contrary to Georgia, where Mitsubishi is well represented. especially the Pajero and the L400 4wd are used extensively.

Back in Turkey we decided to take some time and do some major repair work. We needed to repair the roof: all corners of the pop up construction had developed cracks, so it had to be welded on all corners. It was clear now that not a very good job was done by FSL, the installer of the pop top. We planned a week, in which the welding would take place, and to do general maintenance: oil change, general check-up, and repair of the power steering reservoir. It was so nice to have power steering again!

During this week I was also finally able to replace the wiper arm, and also the frame of the headlight, which had broken off during a recovery in Bulgaria. Turkey has great automotive corners in every serious town , where just about anything can be found, and an extra plus: the L300 is still popular here. And finally -without asking- one upper swingarm of the front suspension was replaced, because it was worn. And of course this happened on the one day that I was not attending the repairs. Luckily it was quite cheap, although I don’t remember the exact price, but sadly, a cheap nock-off was used, so soon we would discover that this was a not-so-good repair.

A few weeks later when we were in Marmaris, I found a garage who was willing to improve the rear leaf spring by adding leaf spring rub pads to stop the creaking noises.
And the tyres were worn, so they had to be replaced since we would be crossing the alps in wintertime. And we don’t carry snow chains.

When driving back to Belgium for shipping, we encountered some winter weather. The low temperatures made it clear that the glow plugs were failing. Starting the diesel became more and more difficult, up to the point that we would first have to pre-heat the engine block using the parking heater. We drove through North Macedonia this way and in Albania I replaced the plugs. Although not for long because (no choice) they were made in China, and they failed already (even quicker than I expected) in Croatia, where I was able to find Bosch glow plugs. They still work.
Also, we discovered that the new swing arm was rubbing the subframe, when full travel was used. It made a horrible sound. It appeared that this swing arm was suitable for Hyundai or 2wd, because then there is a big opening but in the case of 4wd, there is an additional subframe assembly, limiting the travel of this particular swing arm. If one needles corner on the swing arm would have been removed, clearance would have been OK, but now the damage was done and the bushing had been pinched because of the high forces that occurred.

When we arrived in Mexico, one of the first things we did was replace both upper swing arms with new OEM ones. I selected a garage that looked OK to me, and asked if it was possible. He said yes, no problem, if you have the parts. And I did. But on the day of repair, his brother showed up, all drunk. He had to send his brother home, and now he had to do the job alone. Of course I told him that I would help, I actually prefer it, because then you see and know that the job is done right. Around lunchtime we were ready. Finally this item was solved for at least a few years to come. We also replaced some bushes of the stabilizing bar and the bushes of the rear leaf shackles.

The stabilizing bar bushings are a reoccurring item, because they wear out superfast. And at first I could not find new ones, so I made some out of a piece of reinforced rubber I found along the road. These actually lasted longer than I would have expected. And at first I preferred to use natural rubber, as the OEM stuff is almost always made of this material, but now we have PU bushing, quite beefy ones too. let’s see how long they last.

Next, because of the huge speed bumps (or topes) they have in Mexico, we had to re-weld the rear wheel/bicycle carrier. It had received a massive jolt while we ran over an unnoticed tope, so the welds just cracked. We got it solved in Merida, and, because we were in a nice secluded garden of a hostel, the tent fabric of the pop top was replaced too. It had suffered too much from the roof repair in Turkey, and compared to the new fabric, the original fabric -made by FSL- was not of such great quality. I made a new one myself while we were in The Netherlands (during the shipping of the van). So now it was a matter of replacing it. One person can do it, it took me most of the day. And I needed a tacker, Polyurethane sealant and a riveter and the rivets of course. I bought these tools in Mexico.

Also in Mexico, one of the locking mechanisms of the Fiamma awning failed. After taking it apart (not designed to take it apart) I found out that a spring, the size of a ballpoint spring, had rusted away. If only they had made this spring out of stainless steel! Typically, because all the visible parts are aluminium, stainless steel and plastic. And of course no replacement parts can be found anywhere in the Americas. And, I found out that there is no way to properly contact Fiamma, they hide themselves behind representatives, of which there are none in the Americas! But I found a way to repair: a ballpoint spring, some aluminium can sheet trimmed to size and some tape did the job. Meanwhile 3 out of 4 poles have received the same treatment.

During our travels in Mexico a mysterious rattling started to develop, and it turned out to be the steering rack, possibly because of water ingress back in Georgia.
It was temporarily “solved” by adjusting a friction plate inside the steering rack. This repair was done by a mechanic who clearly did not understand what the actual function of the friction plate was: now the steering would not centre after exiting a corner, so you had to physically steer back straight when exiting a corner. That was a new experience. But hey, the rattle was gone. temporarily.

In Guatamala we took a look at the cooling system, repaired the radiator (it had a small leak), but we still had occasionally overheating.
And in Antigua the steering rack was replaced, but meanwhile the rattle was back and louder than ever.

It took us to Nicaragua to find out that the rattle was produced by one of the front shocks that was broken. Most likely because of the massive speed bumps we encountered. Not only Mexico, but all Central America suffers from the absurdly-high-speed bump-syndrome. So now, instead of Koni shock absorbers we have Kensei shock absorbers, “japanese technology, european quality, american comfort” Yup. sometimes there is just one taste, no “keuzestress” (stress that can occur when there are too many options).

Also, we replaced the radiator for a bigger one, because we found out that the one we had was “small” and normally used for a 4D55 (non-turbo) engine. After searching for it in 3 different countries, we finally had one sent from the Netherlands. It proved to be futile and a waste of effort and money, because when we arrived in Costa Rica, clouds of white smoke came from the exhaust, which meant it was time for a mayor two-and-a-halve-week-repair.

All together I think we have been in garages too often for our liking, but then again, the van is now already 22 years old and has driven 322.000 kms. I guess at this point a lot of the major work has been done, so we are good to go for some time to come. On the plus side, most repairs were cheaper than they would have been back home, but counting against this is the fact that some of the jobs I could have done myself if I had a garage and some more tools.

One big issue is that, in our case, we are always on the move. It is sometimes difficult to find a good garage for the job. There are some criteria I use:

  • is it a bit clean? not needed to be spic and span, but if they never clean up…)
  • what and how many tools do they have (although this is no guarantee for professionalism)
  • first impression of the mechanic

And you really need to supervise, because usually there won’t be any coming back for warranty: you’d be in another country by then. Sometimes garagistes have this mentality that “if it breaks, come back, I will work on it again – No Problem!” But that is nearly impossible for us, for sure if you are in another country already. That, and the differences in language make it really hard at times, in my opinion.

Also, it usually helps to find parts yourself: you know you have the right parts then, and the garagistes are more likely to take on the job, if they don’t need to search for parts themselves. (actually this is a very common thing in the Balkan and Central America.)

4 thoughts on “2 Years on the road – Technical stuff”

  1. Very nice documented story!! Thanks for sharing! With all those kms on the odometer, one can expect some major repairs. Luckily the van has ‘old’ mechanicals, so repairs cán be done.. Modern cars are a bit more problematic when things go wrong, and not that easy (and fairly cheap) to repair. After the valve head replacement and the other recent repairs you should be good to go for at least another 322k kms now! 😃

  2. Hoi Kilian. Het hoort er waarschijnlijk allemaal bij maar leuk is anders. Je leert wel veel van al die reparaties en kunt ooit nog zelf een garage beginnen. Hopelijk blijft de komende tijd alles functioneren. Succes en goede reis.


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