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Expedition Guide: Vehicle Preparation

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RESEARCH YOUR ROUTE! Your vehicle preparations are dictated by what you and the vehicle will be subjected to.

Most expeditions to remote areas will utilise 4x4 vehicles, however, having crossed the sahara in a front-wheel-drive Morris 1100 in the days before tarmac was an option, I can sympathise with those who may wish to extend their challenge further. A rear-wheel-drive saloon car, with a limited slip differential fitted, could also achieve more than some people would think. BUT a 4x4 is the sensible choice of course these days.

I am not favourably disposed towards automatic vehicles. Fine when they work but excessively troublesome when they don't. Generally speaking the less sophisticated the vehicle is, the more likely it is to survive the trials of a tough expedition. Simple technology is simple to repair and parts can be fabricated and improvised more readily.

Whatever your chosen vehicle is, the more you learn about how it works, how to repair it and what cannot be repaired without parts specific to your vehicle, the better off you will be.

Driven with care, the engine, gearbox and suspension are unlikely to give trouble. Electrical items and moving parts which are subject to the environment (e.g. brakes, belts, tyres) can be expected to require service and/or replacement. A suggested Expedition Kit is given elsewhere in this section.

There is no substitute for researching your trip. Somebody has already been where you wish to go. Find out what you can before you leave.

If you are not skilled at auto mechanics it would be a good idea to have your vehicle throughly checked by one of the Automobile Associations before departure.

Plan to be able to carry more fuel than your longest anticipated section will require. An auxiliary tank is preferable to jerrycans if practicable. Don't carry fuel inside the vehicle.
The vehicle suspension will need to be upgraded if you plan to run fully loaded over rough terrain.

Thieves are everywhere and you're driving mobile store - but don't display the goods more than necessary. Think how you could try to get at the merchandise and take what preventative measures you can. A locked, immoveable security box is useful for small valuables and a means of immobilising the vehicle is worthwhile.

A dual battery system is useful (and gives peace of mind.if you're running an automatic).

The type of terrain you are likely to encounter should determine how much underbody protection should be used. At least a sump protection plate is advisable.

Items which are fragile or have sharp corners/edges should be securely stowed.Use tie-downs or cargo nets. Plan the stowage so that most frequently used items are easiest to reach. Ideally, don't use a roofrack for storage except for a rooftop tent, but if you must have one, keep the weight on it to a minimum.

The most important item to have in a remote area is WATER. Plan how much to need to carry in order to survive a worst case scenario break-down given your chosen route. Avoid the need for producing emergency water.

If fine sand is likely to be encountered then a snorkel is advised (it beats changing the handkerchief over the air intake every 20 minutes!).

If there are two vehicles in your expedition then a winch may be surplus to requirements. Vehicles should have towing points front and back.


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