A Review of my Defender Modifications after 10 months on the road.
After 10 months of travelling around Australia solo, going to some pretty remote places, hitting the deserts, gravel tracks, mud and bitumen, I am very happy overall with my modifications. I spent 3 years preparing my Defender with hundreds of hours of online research, and nights and weekends doing most of the modifications myself. That has paid off with a well prepared touring vehicle that is suited for my style of simplistic minimalistic camping. At a guess I spent around $AU20000 on the build, bearing in mind that includes a new gearbox, transfer case and 6 new tyres.
- FUEL RANGE – Fully loaded at just under 3 tonnes my 185L of Diesel on board would average me around 8km/L, giving me a safe roaming distance of 1400 kilometres. I probably had at least another 150km of range left in the tanks. My 65L sill tank and Y filler worked very well without sustaining any damage. My rear 120L tank had an extra ding in the bottom. All fuel was filtered through a sedimenter, which I checked during the trip. At most was a few drops of water and some sandy grit.
- WATER SUPPLY – My water supply of 70 Litres at an average daily consumption of 5L/Day gave me two weeks supply, with my LifeSaver filtration bottle able to top up that supply from creeks if necessary.
- FOOD SUPPLY – The food storage system and fridge gave me about 2 weeks supply of food, so overall, I had a very decent set up for long range, remote area self sufficient travel for 2 weeks. The rear door kitchen table was also excellent and it could fit 2 stoves if necessary.
- COMMUNICATIONS – My communications setup worked well giving me multiple options in the event of an emergency as well as the ability to check in each night with my parents. It consisted of my:
– Codan HF Radio which I used occasionally to check in with one of several base stations of VKS-737 4wd network. From them I could get weather and road updates, or if it had of occurred arranged for a recovery or spare parts.
– My Icom UHF radio provided for short range car to car contact, though was rarely used except for monitoring for oncoming traffic while crossing the Googs Track and other desert parks.
– My Spot Messenger allowed me to “check in” each night with my parents who were monitoring my safety using one of the inbuilt buttons. A track of my progress was also recorded. The Spot includes a EPIRB function to set off in the event of a life threatening emergency.
– I also carried a separate GME Accusat MT410G GPS equipped Personal Locator Beacon for an emergency. This has its own internal battery unlike the spot which requires AAA batteries so there’s less chance of having flat batteries when I really need to use it.
- ELECTRICAL – The 120Ah deep cycle battery worked very well at powering my Engel 35L fridge when combined with the 130W solar panel. My only issues with the set up was when I had a few days plus of cloudy weather or rain where I got no solar charging. In these cases I would run the engine to charge the secondary battery. I also purchased a CTEK MXS10 charger which I used about once a month to top up both batteries to full charge when in caravan parks.
– The Blue Sea Systems Automatic Charging Relay worked very well without issues. I tended to keep it switched to disconnected, using the solar panel as the primary means of charging the secondary battery, and the alternator to charge my starter battery.
– The LED lights I installed inside and out all worked wonderfully drawing minimal current. Only the internal curtesy light was removed due to me hitting my back on it when getting in to bed.
- SUSPENSION – I’m pretty happy with the ride and handling of my Defender.
– The Koni Raid 90’s performed awesomely with the weight and corrugations. I could put my hand on them after many hours of rough driving and they would be luke warm at most. The only issue was 2 failed lower shock bushes on the rear shocks due to installer error using the wrong type of bush. Had a new set shipped express to me and fitted up myself with no problems afterwards.
– The front uprated Land Rover Heavy Duty springs worked very well at supporting the extra weight of the bullbar and winch. The original rear springs although performing ok, I feel should have been uprated. I hit my bumpers many times on rougher terrain. I still had a good 100mm clearance front and rear to the bumpers, but the rear still seemed to sag compared to the front. For another fully loaded trip I would replace these with something firmer that could reduce the bottoming out.
– All the SuperPro poly suspension bushes have survived the trip intact without issues. Very happy.
- TRANSMISSION – Survived the trip intact with only one issue as below.
– The Ashcroft rebuilt gearbox had the front main seal fail after 30000km. I was forced to spend another $2200 dollars on having all its seals replaced again along with the transfer case which had some minor weeping. Now the gearbox seals are fine but the transfer case leaks worse than it did before!! ARRRGGGHhhhh! Damn Land Rover seals! Other than the seals the reconditioned boxes performed well and were tight, able to handle everything I threw at them.
– The Detroit Trutrac differential in the rear performed flawlessly, and I believe may have contributed significantly to not getting myself bogged during the trip. I could feel it bind in several times when I lost traction, transferring drive to the opposite wheel. Combined with the Maxidrive uprated halfshafts and driveflanges, my rear end was tough and issue free.
- EXTERNAL ACCESSORIES – Happy with all the accessories I added. Especially loved the gullwing windows which made life so much easier with 2 more doors to access gear with.
– My 12000lb winch was never used as I never got bogged. This was a lot of dead weight on the front of my car, but if it had of been different probably a life saver. The winch solenoids failed within 6 months due to water getting into the housing corroding the contacts. Had to spend another $120 odd on a different solenoid and fitted externally to get working again.
- TYRES – The Goodyear Wrangler Duratrac’s I fitted in 235/85R16 worked incredibly well on all terrain I came across. I had no punctures during the 10 months on the road so my second spare was a lot of dead weight on the bonnet. I regularly lowered my tyre pressures to suit the terrain and never got bogged. Will happily reinvest in another set when due.
- DASH – Very happy with all the dash upgrades I did. Having all the gauges and switches in one central place made it easy to scan gauges while driving or flick on switches at night. Highly recommend the Engine Watchdog and Thermoguard pyrometer.
- SLEEPING SET UP – My two piece sleeping platform was awesome. Set up was within one minute and I’d be in the back ready for bed. No issues and very strong.