Build progress update
Central Australian trip report
Item by item
How have the vehicle and each accessory performed so far, both up-to and during the trip?
Read the details below:
The Land Cruiser itself
Overall, I continue to rate the 200 very highly. There's no other vehicle that matches it for all-round performance and capability as an off-road touring vehicle. It cruises and tows effortlessly, it's comfortable and there's plenty of room. On the road it's quiet and off-road it's very capable.
Other than the already-mentioned complaints about the automatic transmission, there are a few areas where the 200 needs improvement:
Dust sealing: Dust sealing on the 200 is pretty poor. Dust leaks in at every door and the rear tailgate. Gaps in the door mouldings where the seals sit seem to be route of ingress. See photo for an example.
Cruise Control: There's only one word to describe the 200's cruise control system: Abysmal. It doesn't seem to have any predictive capability like most other systems I've used. It's particularly bad on undulating roads. For example, if you are going downhill, and the speed has crept above set speed by a few km/h, then you reach the bottom of the hill and begin to slow as you head up the other side, the 200 doesn't apply any throttle until you're 2-3km/h below set speed. By which time the ECU's reaction seems to be "Holy crap, we're going too slow, floor it". On my other vehicle, the system observes the slowdown and starts applying some throttle before underspeed occurs, making the transition from cruising to accellerating very smooth. It amazes me that a company as large and technologically advanced as Toyota has done such a terrible job programming the software for such a basic piece of equipment.
Rear shock absorber placement: Like the 100 series, Toyota have placed the rear shocks forward of the rear axle. This means they are on the receiving end of plenty of stones thrown up by the front tyres, which can cause damage to the shocks and the retaining bolts. Knowing this from previous experience, I made some very quick guards up before the trip, but I'll document a more permanent solution in the future.
Air On Board compressor
The AOB compressor and reservoir continue to operate flawlessly. The compressor is mainly used to inflate tyres (we generally deflate them on both dirt tracks and sand), and to operate the airbag suspension in the trailer and the helper airbags in the rear of the 'Cruiser.
Tough Dog suspension
One of the standout performers of the trip was the Toughdog suspension. It worked perfectly all the time, not suffering any fade even when dealing with endless corrugations and dips in the road.
The suspension now has around 50,000km on it (including the trip), and continues to work well.
No complaints about the ARB deluxe bar. It hasn't suffered any ill-effects from the corrugations, and I haven't had any animal strikes.
I have made up some matt-black adhesive light shields (see photo) to stop the headlights reflecting into my eyes, which is a side-effect of having a light-coloured bullbar. You can buy them on eBay.
Warn Tabor 10k winch
Since fitting the winch, it's only been used a few times in anger, but has always performed flawlessly. The bolts retaining the control box did work loose during the trip, even with the star washers fitted to the nuts, but applying some loctite solved the problem.
iPad mini with MudMap software
We tracked our entire trip with the MudMap2 software running on the iPad. It was a brilliant system, allowing us to see where we were going, where we'd been and mark points of interest swapping between a huge range of maps depending on the area. Mud Map 3 is now available.
The Safari snorkel continues to operate well. I've had no issues with it either before or during the trip. In addition to the standard ram head, I also took a Donaldson precleaner with me, which I fitted when we were in dusty conditions, particularly if not the lead car in our convoy. This captured a lot of dust, minimising the cleaning required for the standard air filter.
Outback Accessories rear bar and wheel carriers
The Outback bar was worth its weight in gold during the trip, carrying our two spare tyres, a dirty gear bag and also a set of Maxtrax via a bracket I fabricated before we left.
Despite all the weight, dust and corrugations, the bar and carriers suffered no ill-effects and continue to operate as-new.
ROH Octagon wheels
I've had no real issues with the Octagons since fitting them to both the 200 and the camper around 18 months and 36,000km ago. They balance well and have no problems with the load.
The only minor issue is that the wheels on the trailer have suffered some stone damage to the painted sections, presumably from rocks thrown up by the 'Cruiser's tyres. I imagine the same thing would happen to any wheels, however.
Mickey Thompson Baja ATZP3 tyres
The P3s have been one of the standout performers of the build. After decades running mostly BF Goodrich tyres on a variety of vehicles, this was my first set of Mickeys, and it's very hard to fault them.
I've found them excellent on-road in both wet and dry conditions. Similarly, they perform very well off-road whether it be in mud, dirt or on rocks. My only complaint is that they have become noisier as they've worn. They're still quieter than a typical mud-terrain tyre, but considerably louder than the factory rubber. I suppose this is to be expected given their more aggressive tread pattern. I've found that regular rotations from front to rear and left to right reduces the noise as it helps the tread blocks to wear evenly.
On the trip, despite the heavy loads, high temperatures and sometimes atrocious tracks littered with sharp rocks, the tyres performed flawlessly. I didn't suffer a single puncture or failure, which makes a pleasant change from previous outback trips running other tyres. There weren't even any major chunks of rubber missing when we returned. Another family travelling with us in a Nissan Patrol running P3s also suffered no punctures or failures. An outstanding result.
The tyres are wearing very well. It's been 18 months and 36,000km since they were fitted, and tread depth is still 9mm, down from the 14mm depth when new. This should give them a useful life of around 80,000km.
Richards torque converter lock-up kit
Another standout performer from the trip was the torque converter lockup system. I'd estimate that the lockup was active for at least 95% of our 8,500km trip, either because we were travelling above the 75km/h automatic-lock speed, or because I'd engaged it manually at lower speeds.
The ATF temperature sat on a comfortable ~70ºC most of the time, instead of heading upwards of 110ºC which is common on vehicles towing uphill or into headwinds without a lockup kit active. That alone has to be beneficial to the oil and transmission components.
Based on my estimated fuel economy improvement of 15%, the kit reduced fuel consumption by around 200 litres over the trip, saving about $350.
Fyrlyt Nemesis driving lights
The Nemesis lights got quite a lot of use during the trip and worked perfectly. They helped me avoid kangaroos across the Hay plains at night, illuminating far and wide along the road ahead. The casings, lenses and reflectors are all as-new. Despite extensive use over the last 6 months and the heavy corrugations on the trip, the original globes still survive. They are absolutely brilliant lights.
Osram Night Breaker Unlimited Low / High-beam upgrades
I previously noted that the low-beam Nightbreakers had a relatively short life, having to be replaced after about 6 months of daily use (I always drive with my headlights on). For this reason, I wouldn't recommend them if you also drive with your lights on all the time despite their improved light output.
The Nightbreakers in high beam have continued to operate well after a year of use, including quite a lot of hours (switched on) during the trip, often over corrugated roads. I continue to recommend them as the best option for a legal upgrade of the high beam output.
Long Ranger fuel tank
The Long Ranger tank continues to work perfectly.
Thanks to the massive fuel capacity, we could do some pre-planning using the Petrol Spy phone app to avoid the most expensive fuel locations completely. For example, we could fill up at Coober Pedy ($1.50), then skip Kulgera ($1.99), top up at Erldunda ($1.80), then skip Yulara ($2.20) and Kings Canyon ($2.30), making it all the way to Alice Springs ($1.50) before needing to refuel. On this trip alone, we saved hundreds of dollars in fuel thanks to the extra capacity.