"Plain Vanilla"

Wednesday, Jan 18, 2012 at 14:00

Life Member - Fred B (ex-NT)

Please note: This blog is still under construction...

Four weeks after making the decision to get rid of the Prado, we picked up our new LC79 GX Single cab V8 Landcruiser (18/1/12).
Problem already: only one key. The spares have been “misplaced”. New ones have to come from Toyota in Sydney.
If you are like me, you are rather reluctant to make changes to a brand new $75K vehicle, and that those changes could affect your warranty, welcome to the club. The second thing is, I am not very mechanical and do not have a great understanding of modern vehicle electronics, wiring, chips, vehicle computers etc. Take me back to the 1980 short wheel base FJ40 petrol driven Lancruiser, and I’d be more than happy to have a go (and I did – often). I learnt some things the hard way too. Fortunately, I do have an understanding of DC power and it’s principals, so I do have some skills – even if I got those when Noah was a boy doing “ARK Building 101”. Unfortunately I am now much older, and my body is a not so willing a partner to my ideas and plans.

So based on the above premise, and so long as you take things with a grain of salt, and that everything I say here will be in layman’s terms (and not necessarily correct – the terminology that is..), I will take you through my experience of preparing my “Tug” for off road travel. These will be my thoughts and struggles as to what do I include (fit to my vehicle, that is..), and what do I leave out. What are my priorities?

On the EO Forum, I stated that I had collected my “Plain Vanilla” V8. Well, in many ways it is. It doesn’t have a clock, door pockets, centre console, electric windows, cruise control, cloth seats, and many other things that we almost expect to come standard with the modern vehicle of today. I had to pay to have an air-conditioner fitted. Also the towbar and electrics was extra. So add an extra $3,200.00 to the base cost. And so it begins.

I read a number of forums about issues with modern common rail diesels. Water in fuel seemingly the biggest problem and the most expensive to repair. After much research, and discussion about fuel filters etc., my conclusion was that the cheapest method was to keep the water out in the first place. End result, buy a $70 Mr Funnel, and more importantly... USE IT. There are enough stories about large quantities of water in fuel, even in cities.

Again, after much thought, I have elected to go with the Scan-Gauge II (engine data from the onboard computer and trip information), Engine Watch Dog (thermal sensors for engine and transmission – {{ I do a lot of towing}}, and with Engine Saver (Low coolant alarm). These are all in the order of $200.00 each. I will include photos and notes of my success (or failure) as I proceed with the installation of these items.

One of the worst things so far, is the discovery that my patience hasn’t increased in proportion to the number of years I have aged. I have discovered that I can still get frustrated with delays with the weather and “on-demand” ordering systems that companies employ today. To be fair, it isn’t always their fault. I just want to get on and get things done. I want to go “4”wheel driving.
I had ordered a winch compatible bull bar even before I collected my new vehicle. It’s still not here. With the train derailment (100km south of Darwin), and along with bridge and road closures, many items have been lost or are still being held up. Road trains can only take a single trailer over the damaged bridge, instead of three. Add to that, a Christmas break, a manufacturing hold up, and well you have frustration.... lol.

No Bull bar means no winch. No winch means a delay in doing the electrical system (winch wiring will be connected to the auxiliary battery). Auto electrician wants to do all his work in one go, so he doesn’t have to alter things as he goes along.
No bull bar means no installation of spot lights, driving lights, phone antenna, and UHF radio antenna. And so the list goes on. Auxiliary power circuits, “hot wires” and charging system to the rear canopy (yet to be built) and camper trailer will be wired to the auxiliary battery as well. So, one thing hinges on another.
A lot of time has to be spent on planning and forethought as to when and how things will be done. Even the weather interferes. I don’t have a shed, so I have to work outside. It’s the wet season, it rains a lot. For the last three days I have been trying to work out (1). Where to install the gauges. (2) How to gain access to very tight spaces under the dash (without destroying anything). (3) How and where to pick up the relevant power supply. With no centre console and crowded dash, there are very few places to install things without conflict or screwing into something you shouldn’t.
None of the guages I purchased would fit naturally into the small (in size or number) of vacant areas. I eventually came up with the plan to glue some bolts onto the back of the scan-gauge, and then mount it where a clock is normally mounted on the dash. The glue didn’t hold. Plan “B”. Take the gauge apart (very great reluctance on my part – it’s electronics, and it’s under warranty), drill a couple of holes in the back cover, put a couple of bolts through and do the nuts up tight. Put a couple of more nuts on (3/4 of the way on, to use as spacing adjusters) then a couple of washers. Remove the dash trim, drill holes into the clock blank and insert the bolts through the holes. A couple of more washers and do up the last pair of nuts. Make adjustments of the spacing adjuster nuts by trial and error (for the odd and uneven distances between the clock blank and the curvature of the dash facia), and we are done. WOW..! That actually worked. Ok. Now to pull it all off again and make a hole through the clock blank for the OBI connector cable.

Part 3: Get the cable from the OBI ("Obi One Kanobi "... lol...) connector plug under the steering column, past all the clutch and brake moving parts, air-conditioner ducts and vents, as well of the multitude of cables etc all the way up to centre of the dash above the CD Player/Radio. Funnily enough, that was the easiest part of the job. A bit of juggling, but it worked. That was a relief. Now to start the motor, follow the handbook through the setup of another piece of computer gear... the Scan-gauge. Oh, what did we do before, and without our hundreds of different versions of a PC?

Centre Console and Laptop Mount
January 30th. Went up to a local welding shop here in Palmerston to discuss a laptop mount for the new truck. I had some ideas about making a wooden centre console to store “stuff” in. Just a box really, to sit just behind the gear sticks, and the single cup holder. I also wanted brackets for mounting a electric brake controller and the Engine Watch Dog gauges.

Well, Wayne the welder, came up with a much better idea... why not make the whole lot out of aluminium? Well... why not.! So after some discussion I went home to draw up the first draft of a set of plans. Made plans/ template of the storage box, and rough drawing of the laptop mount with measurements. Back to Wayne, and more discussion. A few modifications to the drawings and we have a plan. Now all I have to do is wait until Wayne can fit it in amongst the jobs he has already committed to.
The “roof” shelf arrived today from the “Department of the Interior”. Very impressive! I could never make mine that good. So that’s another install job for a good weather day. It will be a full day as the map lights and UHF will have to be installed at the same time; including all the wiring.
Jury Duty.
(1/2/12) Bummer... Just been hit with Jury Duty. One more thing to juggle amongst all the other jobs going on. What else is going to happen? Have to report to the court house 0830 Monday 6th February. Still no bulbar in sight; and no due date either. At least the canopy manufacturer rang from Brisbane today; he starts the job tomorrow, and rang to confirm some measurements.
(2/2/12). At least the new keys arrived today.... Finally... Had to leave the LC with dealer so that keys and onboard immobiliser could be matched allowing the car to be started. Wife noticed that the old Prado was now for sale in the dealers yard. Haven’t seen the price tag yet. Doesn’t bother me what is; I am just glad to be rid of it. It was starting to cost me money. No one was able to come up with a solution. Not even Alan from 4x4 Action, when he was up in Darwin late last year. Got to honest here; he only had 10 minutes to look at it, and do a test drive. Mind you, he had some great ideas and definitely pointed me in the right direction. Thanks Alan, much appreciated.

Decided to go with a Calcium 770 CCA (Cold Cranking Amps) 90Ah (Ampere hour) as the second battery under the bonnet. Now all I have to do is fork out another grand to buy the Redarc battery isolator (200amp constant) and 40AmpDC to DC Charger (includes facility for Solar panels - Thanks for the suggestion Mick O'). Then I can start the wiring.

(4/2/12). Just been advised that the bullbar has arrived at ARB. So now the 2” lift, Air Compressor wiring, and bullbar will be fitted on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week (while I report for Jury Duty). Only problem is, they sold my side rails/steps to someone else...... because they didn’t think they would get the bullbar until after the 13th..... What a pain... So the side rails have been reordered and won’t leave Melbourne till the 13th. I could scream.....
The good news is I fitted the shelf / roof-console today, along with the wiring and aerial for the UHF, as well as the map lights. At the moment the ends are just coiled and cable tied under the dash, ready to be wired in.

Fred B
VKS 737: Mobile/Selcall 1334
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