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How to prepare a 3rd Gen Surf for African travel, on a budget. PART 2

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  • How to prepare a 3rd Gen Surf for African travel, on a budget. PART 2

    On a long African journey your suspension will see more wear and tear in a couple of months than it has seen in 18 years of pottering around England and Japan (if you think of your average 1996 Surf). The potholes, corrugation and badly maintained tarmac will put your suspension and steering components under huge stress.
    Get a pre-alignment inspection done so that any issues with the suspension and steering can be highlighted.
    Rack ends, tie rod ends, ball joints, steering rack bushes, ARB bushes and link...the lot. Replace anything that looks slightly worn. Nowadays you can get quality suspension parts from Milners, Roughtrax or ebay without having to break the bank. For bushes, when possible choose rubber over polyurethane for a softer, more 'cushiony' ride. Make sure that everything is 100%.
    Buy quality shocks to replace the existing ones , if they are leaky or worn out. Stick to the same size and spec as the original ones. Replace the rear springs with RT uprated springs (same length, not the extra 2" ones, more on this later) to cure any symptoms of saggy arse syndrome. A 3rd Gen on its puny original thin black springs, once loaded for your trip will be sitting on the rubber stoppers!
    Decent suspension parts for the 3rd Gen can be found around Southern Africa form independent dealers in the main cities and obviously from main Toyota garages , should anything go wrong.
    Again, if money was no object I would go for Old Man Emu shocks and springs all round, but they will probably cost you as much as the surf itself!

    I would avoid all of the above, for a number of reasons.
    If you fit +2" shocks and springs and something goes wrong, like one of the shocks fails, then you are stuffed. You will have to pack some spares because those longer shocks are not widely available here.
    Won't longer shocks and springs somewhat change the geometry of the whole suspension set up? Couldn't that possibly affect the alignment? I am not a fan as you can see.
    I wouldn't bother doing a body lift, the Surf's clearance is more than adequate for the terrain you'll find here. Also I would not fit bigger wheels/tyres on an overlanding vehicle that will be laden and will travel fast on long distances. The last thing that engine needs is the extra strain of wearing 33"!
    Don't get me wrong, I love the 'monster truck' type surfs with huge wheels and crazy lifts but they are meant for doing other stuff, not overlanding.

    I would suggest to check and possibly replace all oils, such as the transfer case and the two diffs. If you have a rear LSD diff get the oil replaced with the appropriate LSD diff oil before departure. Take spare LSD diff oil (3 litres) with you, should you need to replace it for some reason, like in case of a leaky rear hub. This oil with friction enhancers is not commonly available in Africa, I have only seen in shops in South Africa.

    I would not mess around with them. The Surf's original alloys are perfectly adequate and the standard 275/70 R16 tyres are just fine, and very common here on other SUVs, pick-ups etc. Go for an A/T tyre with a not too aggressive tread. You'll mostly be on tar and noisy tyres could be a pain.
    An air compressor of sort is useful (for when you want to re-inflate your tyres after driving in deep sand) but not indispensable. I would not bother with tyre repair kits and tools. I am an optimist...

    I love the looks of a properly equipped LC or Surf, with all the goodies. However you do not necessarily need too many of those to enjoy your trip.
    I have only ever been in a situation where a winch would have been handy a couple of times. I got some of the local folks to push me out, beers all round and it was cheaper than any winch, and more fun. Most overlanders I talk to admit they have never used it in their travels. The winches on many of these trucks are actually disconnected. A lot of folks wouldn't even know how to use it safely, anyway.
    I am also concerned by the weight of a winch and a steel winch bumper on an already fully loaded Surf.
    Sliders look nice but again, no need for them. Leave the standard sidesteps at home.

    Another one of those fancy bits you see stuck somewhere on the roof, usually bright red...and seldom used. It's a clever bit of kit that can also be used as a winch but I think that there are cheaper options. My preferred one is keeping a couple of cans of tyre repair foam. I use them if I get a puncture somewhere where the terrain doesn't allow for the normal jack to be used. As you move to firmer ground you can change the tyre and later get the other one repaired. Again, I am thinking of keeping weight and costs down.

    The snorkel is handy for the odd time when you have to do a deep water crossing. Mine is a Chinese replica of the Safari, bought on OLX,a South African ebay-type site. For UK based members, plenty available on ebay itself. If you are not sure get someone else to fit it for you.
    Not too sure about Safari's claims that snorkels provide the engine with cleaner air since they suck it in higher up, while the standard air intake is in the wheel arch. The air filter will clean it anyway.

    The front diff breather is apparently already extended in the 3rd Gen. So I have only extended the rear diff breather by replacing the existing breather with an original (and very cheap) Toyota union, Part n. 90404-51319. Then I have connected the union to a length of fuel line-type pipe, which goes from the diff, over the cross member and winds its way up into the engine bay, near the fuel filter. I have then attached this end of the pipe to a cheap fuel filter to prevent dust and dirt getting in. Some very good threads on the topic can be found in the Forum.
    I have not extended the transfer case, autobox and fuel tank breathers since I've very rarely needed to go into water deep enough to reach them.

    I know that an expedition vehicle doesn't look right without one, but do you really need it?
    I guess it depends on the numbers of people travelling and how long you will be away. Also on whether you will have a second spare wheel or not. However if you have the under-slung spare in your surf, you could always make a rear spare wheel carrier (some write-ups on this forum). If you already have the rear wheel carrier you could look into making a holder for an under-slung spare.
    A roof rack will cause a lot of air drag and affect fuel consumption. Also stuff packed on the roof can be more easily stolen.
    Roof tents are nice but expensive.
    I personally much prefer lockable roof boxes. More secure and streamlined, less noisy.

    Again, they look good and if you have the cash, why not...However they are not indispensable.
    In Africa you won't be driving much at night, apart from city driving. There are good reasons to avoid the highways after dark. You will struggle to see the pot holes for once. Also there are plenty lorries with no rear lighting on the road. Cattle and wild animals like to lie down on the warm tarmac on cold nights: hitting a buffalo full on at 100 km/h might delay your trip somewhat...
    For wildlife watching at night you will be better off with a hand held spotlight plugged into the cigar lighter. Many national parks do not allow self drive at night anyway.

    These use to be very popular a few years ago, when filling stations in certain areas were few and far between, and often poorly stocked. As a rule diesel is generally more widely available than petrol since it is used by buses, lorries, tractors, pumps, generators etc. The 3rd Gen tank capacity however is quite low. The long range tank install for the 3rd Gen is straight forward, same tanks as he Prado, and possibly a worthwhile mod. Main 4x4 outfitters in UK will order for you. They won't be cheap, maybe 500? The extra fuel will however add weight to an already pretty loaded vehicle...
    Alternatively you could carry metal jerry cans and a funnel, as I do.

    I carry a box with the most commonly used tools: spanners, sockets, allen keys...basically all the ones I use at home to do minor bits on the car. Take them with you even if you are not very handy yourself: it's often the case that you need a quick fix and the 'bush mechanic' you find has the skills but not the right tools! Cheapish socket sets are available. Also a good quality towing rope and plenty gaffer tape.
    As for spares, again , it depends on the length of the trip and on how much space you have got left once you fridge, gas cooker, luggage, tent, sleeping bags, dried foods, camping chairs and table etc have gone in.
    In theory you could bring tonnes of spares and cover every possibility. Anything could go wrong on a journey like that, and where do you stop in terms of packing parts? In reality as I mentioned you will find most parts are available here once you get to a city.
    Thinking of some common faults on the 3rd Gen surf, I would pack a bare minimum of: 2 rear hub seal kits from RT (including the ABS rings), spare belts, a starter motor repair kit (also from RT), 5m of 8mm rubber pipe (in case the rear extended breather gets caught on something when you are off road, it happened!), some araldite type epoxy glue for 'on the go' repairs, especially the 'liquid rubber types'. They can provisionally repair cracked hoses and pipes. Maybe a water pump, I see RT do one for the KZN185...
    Consumables wise, as I mentioned, you will find everything along the way. Brake fluid, ATF fluid, engine oil, gear oil etc will all be available, with the exception of LSD diff oil, as mentioned earlier.

    Service the Surf often while on a long trip, every 5000 Km. Do the fuel filter at every service too, as diesel can be dirty here. NEVER buy unofficial diesel from containers at the side of the road. This is usually 'enriched' with paraffin, water etc, to make it go further. Your car won't go any further though, it will bugger your engine for good and it will end your journey.

    I realise that in the end your surf will not look much different from what it did before the preparations...
    I have however seen so many fantastically looking expedition vehicles, with all the stickers in the right places , parked at the side of the road with steam coming out of the rad, or with a wheel about to come off...
    Do the basics to make sure everything is working, here is where the money should be spent. Yours won't be the coolest truck around the campfire! But hopefully it will be up to the job.
    I am sure I have forgotten some very important bit of advice or overlooked some totally essential piece of kit. I know I have been very conservative in the 'tools and spares' section. Please comment and amend as appropriate.
    Apologies for the long post, any excuse not to work!

    Enjoy your adventures!
    Attached Files

  • #2
    Blimey! Those are pretty comprehensive write-ups.
    I agree with your philosophy on preparation but it does take some of the fun out of having a butch looking vehicle.
    My own travels around southern Africa were done in a 15 year old Merc 190E modified with nothing more than uprated shocks and a 100L fuel tank.


    • #3
      Ha ha....the Merc 190 is an Africa classic, probably as good as the surf!
      I have gone for the bare minimum to keep costs down, but you are right, we all love the butch bits...


      • #4
        Some pics from last week

        I have just returned from an 8 days trip down to the Indian Ocean, on the northern Mozambican coast.

        A very interesting variety of terrains. Nice tarmac from Blantyre to the Moz border at Mulanje. Then 100 km of the worst possible red earth track, like a long cattle grid, with added potholes and sticky out rocks. Then a brand new tarred road through Mocuba, Alto Molocue' and Nampula. Leaving the sealed road at Mossuril, more corrugation and sandy coastal tracks. These are tidal and there were long flooded stretches at the time of crossing. They are not that deep, the water doesn't get much higher than the sideboards, but the silty ground can get really sticky. Luckily we never got stuck. The auto selector does all the work and seems to always get you out of trouble.

        Got some cheap AT tyres before leaving (nothing too exciting, Maxtrek SU 800, Chinese company) which proved very 'grippy' in the deep sand, never needed to deflate them.

        I was so impressed with the vehicle again, considering it is basically a standard Surf without any big mods. Nothing went wrong despite temperatures of 35 C and above, dust that penetrates everything, aircon on full blast for hours on end and the type of terrain that would make the trim (or worse) come off on any other car.

        Anyway, a very interesting trip with a final reward: the white beaches, turquoise sea and cold beers of Mozambique Island.

        Now to the...ehm...technical challenge of uploading some pics...

        Attached Files
        Last edited by tashtego; 19 December 2014, 13:00.


        • #5
          J40, 1 million km....

          For those of you who are into expedition vehicles...

          I saw this J40 Land Cruiser the other day parked outside my local supermarket here in Blantyre. Driven by a Namibian family, they use it regularly for long trips to the east coast, as far up as Kenya. Originally a police vehicle,it was bought by a family member and handed on through the generations. It's a forty year old sample which has covered over one million Km. The engine has never been opened. All they do is maintain it regularly and put fuel in it.
          Lovely. Not an exhibition truck but a real working truck that does school runs and shopping trips. And in the holidays it crosses continents...

          Merry Christmas everyone!
          Attached Files


          • #6
            Plans for a trip in a couple of weeks had to be shelved due to heavy rains.
            Several bridges have collapsed around the country and in Mozambique too.
            Take a look at what happened to this lorry, in the Mangochi area, by Lake Malawi.



            • #7
              Hi Fabrizio

              I'm also a big believer in the Surf. Mines a 1994 3.0TD based in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.

              Blew the head a couple of seasons ago however I've just had it repaired and it's back on the road however I'll have to wait to test it as I'm in the UK at the moment.

              Definitely going to pester you when we get back!

              Here's a couple of old pics
              Attached Files
              Last edited by bundubasher; 19 January 2015, 17:31.


              • #8
                Plus here's a bridge crossing in Malawi:
                Attached Files


                • #9
                  Hi Enzo,

                  feel free to pester me when you get back lol! Will be back in Europe in the school hols though, July and August.

                  The floods have put a stop to travelling at the moment, so a good time to do some bits and pieces, namely gear-shifter bushes, rear heater pipes, front shock bushes etc etc (long list).

                  I was in Bulawayo last July, we had a great trip in the Matopos. Unfortunately we got a lot of nonsense from ZRP...for not carrying an 'approved fire extinguisher', also several speeding fines. The speed guns looked pretty dodgy to me, probably never been calibrated...plus we were zungus travelling on Malawi plates, easy target...

                  I have seen the 'zebra' on your website before, pretty mean machine!

                  Take care for now.

                  Last edited by tashtego; 20 January 2015, 10:17.


                  • #10
                    If you are interested in expeditions, check out this great site (with plenty pics) by a member who recently took his 3rd Gen across Africa.


                    Last edited by tashtego; 1 March 2015, 21:58.


                    • #11
                      Some damage...and some questions!

                      I have done some damage over Christmas, travelling around northern Mozambique for a couple of weeks, some awful corrugation and hundreds of Km of really poor dirt roads. Great fun though and, all in all, not bad for a 20 year old car!

                      The list goes:
                      - Front shock bushes finally disintegrated
                      - Broken off one of the spot lights that are embedded in the front bumper. The other one was hanging by a thread
                      - A lot of play in lower ball joints
                      - Alternator has packed up. Drove for a couple of days on coastal tracks and got quite a lot of salty water in the engine bay. Panicked about the salty water and the next day I went overboard with the hose! Luckily I was only a few kilometers from home when the dash lights randomly came on like some kind of Christmas decoration..
                      - Possibly related, a number of random bulbs packed up (indicators etc)
                      - Auto gear stick thingy very wobbly, hanging on by dear life
                      - Homemade extended rear breather pipe perished,rubber hose cracked

                      So a few days after being back I got going with some repairs, replaced front shocks altogether (they were still the original ones) with some new Prado gas shocks (Gabriel 'gasryder'), new lower and upper ball joints (very expensive!). The RT video on replacing the 3rd Gen shocks is great! Now waiting to open up the alternator and looking for some grommets or similar to stabilize the gear shifter.

                      Other jobs are in the pipeline, I am trying to get the car ready for the summer hols,a big tour involving Zambia,Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and then back home to Malawi. Around 30000 Km trip, according to Google maps.

                      I am going to either replace the rad , or to fit a separate ATF cooler, to avoid the risk of a 'pink milkshake' in the middle of nowhere.
                      The rad is spot on but it's still the original one (unless it was replaced i japan, how would you fin out?) . Also possibly replenish the viscous fan clutch or get a new one altogether. Plus various bushes and other small bits and pieces

                      So here are the questions:

                      1) Does anyone know if the 1996 Auto Surf rad (16400-67120) is the same as the 1996 Auto Prado/Colorado rad(16400-67140)? Roughtrax lists them both as CS023...I am asking as the Prado is very common here and I might be able to find a good quality Prado rad (have posted the same question on the Prado forum) more easily than a surf one.

                      2) Can anyone recommend an ATF cooler, maybe from ebay UK? I might be able to get some relative to post it down to me if not too bulky.I am after something quite thin and small, easy to fit in front of the main rad, so that i can bypass the in-rad cooler altogether. I have checked the many relevant threads on here but the links to the coolers are out of date.

                      3) Does anyone know if the viscous fan clutch for the 2nd gen kz-te is the same as the one for the 3rd gen kz-te? Some companies like Aisin (the RT viscous fan) have a different part number but other Japanese companies, such as Shimahide, have only one type of viscous fan for all kz-te applications (Pick-up, 2nd gen Surf, 3rd gen Surf, Colorado and Prado).

                      Any help greatly appreciated!

                      Thank you all and have a great 2016!
                      Attached Files


                      • #12

                        The Prado rad, 16400-67140, is a straight swap with the 3rd Gen one, so I fitted a new Toyota one. As you can see from the pic it's the same width and mountings but thicker core. I will fit an external ATF cooler in SA: they do one down there with all singing all dancing rubber bushing on the mountings/brackets, Africa spec!

                        I have also fitted a new Toyota viscous coupling. I will open up up the old one at the weekend, refill it and sell it on.

                        Now waiting for the auto-box solenoid number 1, which I have ordered, so that I get first gear again!

                        Removed the big ugly spotlights at the front for better airflow, will also relocate the front number plate, for the same airflow reasons.

                        Will try and get some bars made so I can fit the roof box. Also hoping to stop in Windhoek and have a steel sub-fuel tank fitted, if finances allow.

                        Namib desert here I come...

                        Happy travelling everyone.
                        Attached Files


                        • #13
                          Hey Fabrizio, that would be my choice of country in Africa.
                          Please make some pics and post them here.

                          Safe trip!


                          • #14

                            Sure I will put some pics up as I travel. I am still doing preparations for a few months as the trip will be in July and August. I wish I had more time, work is getting in the way!



                            • #15
                              I have finally got the solenoid from Japland!

                              It is Part n. 85420-21090, which replaces the discontinued 85420-30200.

                              Hopefully once replaced it will rectify OD fault code 62, 'Solenoid n.1 fault', which manifests itself as a loss of first gear when cold (in the 3rd Gen Surf, at least) and the occasional OD light flashing intermittently.

                              Also in partnership with a friend I bought a 1980, J60 Land Cruiser with the 4.0L diesel, 2H engine. It has done over a million Km!
                              Rescued from under a mango tree, it still runs, will need some TLC and hopefully will be turned into a classic overland vehicle.

                              Pictures attached.
                              Attached Files