WINNING LETTER: More rands than sense

Your article showing of all things, a Ford Falcon towing what appears to be a non off-road caravan along what can only be described as a water course amazes me, and the notion that 4x4s are somehow impervious to water defies all logic.

The sight of the Land Rover taking the dive and the Nissan cruising up river is just more than the grey matter can tolerate. I mean why not buy a rubber duck? If you have to cross a wet patch, so you have to, but why go swimming in your car valued not far from home if it can be avoided?

I recently took my Land Rover for its 80 000km service. The last major service in 2007 cost R3670. For precisely the same work and materials, this year it cost R5300. About a 50% increase – and that was with nothing wrong.

Some years ago, I was towing a motorboat to the lagoon at Ifafa beach, KwaZulu-Natal. Along the way the rim of one of the trailer wheels collapsed. It had rusted through from constant immersing in water at launches. The rust was hidden by the paint.

Brakes with all their associated components, diffs, universals, cables, and rubbers under a vehicle will perish quicker than they should and will require costly replacing. I guess if money is no object, why not go snorkelling, but if you have to earn your buck like most people, why not take care of your beast? And remember, at the end of the day, it’s the most expensive piece of steel, rubber, plastic and aluminium you will ever own.

Conor O’Hagan Ward

Congratulations! Your letter wins you a hand-operated FX winch from Safari Centre, value R2500! There are Safari Centres in Pretoria East 012 809-4410; Johannesburg 011 465-3817; Cape Town 021 595-3910; Pretoria 012 348-3253; and Durban 031 566-5200.

Stuck in a crossing
I have just received my August copy of Leisure Wheels and the first article I read was your article on “water crossings”. I had a unnerving experience in May on the Western Panhandle in Botswana and wish I had had the benefit of your article before then.

Another couple and my wife and I were trying to find accommodation down the Western Panhandle but most camps were flooded. We were told that Guma Island was still accessible and as it was getting late, we tried to get through, although we could not raise them on the phone. The locals told us that the water was only ankle deep but this was not the case. The first crossing went okay. My friend in his Land Cruiser (raised suspension) went first and we followed with my Jeep Commander CRD, with a fully loaded off-road trailer.

The second crossing was much longer and the water was thigh deep, with a sandy bottom. I just made it! Because of this and the fact that there was water as far as we could see, we decided to turn back. Being nervous, I selected low range thinking this would be the safer option as up to this point I was still in high range. Two-thirds of the way through I lost traction and came to a stop, although the motor was running fine. Rather than mess around with gear selections and risk sinking deeper, I opted to crawl out the window, hitch up to my friend’s Cruiser and with his help drove out. Easier said than done! Not easy to climb in and out of windows! By the time we got out we had a few inches of water covering the carpets.

My question to you is, would I have been better off in high range with full traction control operative rather than going to low range, which disengages traction control and locks up the central diff? It would be nice to know, although my next visit to the Okavango will only be after 10 years of drought?

Your comments about the effect of a short circuit on the seat mechanism of a Cherokee are concerning. What if you were to accidentally end up in deep water? The car would become a death trap for the driver and perhaps the passenger! Perhaps something to be taken up with Jeep! I had some ominous sounds coming from under my seat?

My Jeep suffered no damage whatsoever once the carpets were dried out. I will steer clear of water in future.

Worried Jeep owner
Via e-mail

The Commander is fitted with Jeep’s Selec-Trac II four-wheel drive system. This system employs a technology called Brake Traction Control, which effectively brakes spinning wheels to send the power to the wheel(s) with traction. So it can, theoretically, drag itself out of difficult conditions with only one wheel.

But, as we have found often in muddy or sandy conditions, a traction control system causes the vehicle to lose vital momentum, as wheelspin first has to occur before power goes to the wheel with grip. And in sand or mud momentum is one’s best friend.

These systems, used properly by keeping a constant pressure on the accelerator, work amazingly well when crawling over rocks and through dongas, though.

In our opinion you did the right thing to engage low range. But, although this cuts out the electronic stability program (ESP), the traction control remains engaged, and can’t be switched off. Although we can mostly just speculate on the actual conditions you encountered, just 2km/h could make a big difference in maintaining forward momentum in the water, or not. We suspect that a slight lack of momentum, possibly combined with the “braking” effect of the traction control, were the main reasons the Jeep bogged down. – Ed

Do you haf a Steyr-Puch?
I’m trying to locate a Steyr-Puch Haflinger (a classic all-terrain, all-purpose vehicle) and a pre-1975 Range Rover, to feature in my upcoming television show. As much as I have tried, I have come up empty handed.

Any assistance from readers will be highly appreciated. I have found a dozen Range Rovers from 1979, but the 1975 version has eluded me so far – and that’s the one I need for the show.

Please contact me on my e-mail at [email protected]

Andrew White
Cape Town

Great service from 4×4 Megaworld
On my last trip to Botswana, the suspension on my Land Cruiser started giving problems on the way to Keimoes. The hydraulic suspension was helped with airbags, but they sprung leaks and due to a little overloading, the hydraulic suspension could not cope with the load.

When I got to Upington on Easter Friday, I phoned the after-hours number on the door of 4×4 Megaworld and they came to help me. But because of my special requirements, they did not have the hardware to help me. I then phoned Johan Tyres, the owner of which was in the Richtersveld at the time. He was willing to source the parts and fly it to where I was going to be on the Tuesday (being Easter weekend).

I then decided to keep on going to Gaborone, but by the time we got there, the hydraulics had completely collapsed. To carry on would be crazy, because the back rubbers were lying on the diff. I was going to Khutse and all the way up to Xade, on one of the worst sand roads there is.

We then drove to 4×4 Megaworld in Gaborone and once more phoned the after-hours number. The owner, one Piet, came to see us within 30 minutes. The news was not good. My only option would be to replace the whole suspension and he did not have stock. Piet phoned that whole Saturday to get hold of the people that had the keys to the storeroom in Johannesburg to find out if they had stock. He eventually got hold of the right person late that afternoon – and they had the parts.

Piet then left immediately to go and fetch the suspension in Johannesburg. The next morning I was standing in front of his workshop when a very tired Piet rocked up with his workers to change my suspension. Remember, this was Easter Sunday.

There was only one front shock in stock, but Piet had the presence of mind to bring along a Mitsubishi shock with the same travel.

They modified it using a Coke tin and spacers, until it fitted perfectly. That night I slept in Khutse and I completed a three-week holiday without any further problems. When I arrived in Cape Town, I got a call from 4×4 Megaworld when my right shock arrived and they fitted it free of charge.

I just want to thank Piet and everybody at 4×4 Megaworld for handling everything so quickly and professionally. You guys turned a nightmare into a wonderful holiday for my family and me.

And lastly, thanks to Johan Tyres for always willing to help where you can. It is greatly appreciated.

Francois O’Kennedy

Myth Busting
Ek hou baie van die reeks Myth Busting-artikels. Dit is nie net interessant nie, maar ook van waarde. Nou wil ek ‘n voorstel maak: toets asseblief ‘n bakkie sonder en met ‘n kappie op.

Ek vermoed die brandstofverbruik sal ho?r wees met ‘n kappie, maar julle kan dit toets en my vermoede bevestig of verkeerd bewys! As ‘n bakkie wel ligter is op brandstof daarsonder, dan is dit mos die moeite werd om die kappie af te haal as jy dit nie nodig het nie.

Theuns Kriek
Via E-pos

Soos hulle sĂȘ: Watch this space! – Red.

The report-back
In our June edition we invited readers to give input on experiences with the vehicles they own. Here are some of the responses:

Mitsubishi Pajero GLX 3.2 Diesel
I drive a Mitsubishi Pajero GLX 3.2 Diesel that had just returned from the 40 000km service. I am not a serious 4×4 enthusiast and spend 90% of the time on tar and reasonable gravel roads, like I think most 4×4 enthusiasts do. I find the vehicle very comfortable for general travel.

Off-road the vehicle is more than capable to go where I would normally like to go. What impresses me most is the power and fuel consumption. To date I have averaged 10,1 l/100 km and I must say that after being used to power my Jeep Cherokee Country, the old “box type” with a 4,0-litre petrol engine, the Pajero certainly is impressive when hauling a trailer through the mountain passes of the Cape.

My only disappointment is the poor backing from Mercedes-Benz South Africa! At around 30 000km a slight noise developed in the engine and this has become more noticeable over the 10 000km driven since.

When coasting, which is when the accelerator is being depressed very slightly, the engine has a sort of “whiny hum” to it, which I find somewhat annoying.

Mercedes-Benz had a technical expert investigate the problem. The turbo as well as the fuel injectors have been replaced, but to no avail. I have now been informed that the noise is “a normal characteristic of the vehicle” and that the vehicle has been tested and they find nothing wrong. I find this strange because up till 30 000km this “characteristic” was not there?

I would appreciate comment from other owners if they experience a similar noise in their Pajeros. A friend in Bronkhorstspruit has a similar vehicle that had done 10 000km and to date he has not experienced this.

Alan Saunders

Toyota Prado SWB
I retired from farming in 2000 and that November I purchased a short-wheelbase Toyota Prado. This vehicle suits my lifestyle and I use it every day. It has logged 184 000km and the engine never missed a beat. Pulling a

Bakkie-mate adapted to fit a trailer, my wife and I have travelled to many parts in southern Africa, too many to mention here. We have driven through thick, heavy, soft sand and also treacherous muddy conditions. I am a bass fisherman and this car is ideal for launching and retrieving boats in awkward farm dam sites. It is very comfortable and one enjoys a good upright seating position. The air-con system is excellent.

There are a few negatives.

The rear back door is too big and too heavy. Very poor jacking system is supplied. Toyota’s spares are too expensive. Take a look at cost of Dunlop fan belts, GUD filters and compare these with Toyota’s.

The 1ZKTE diesel engine has too high a compression ratio and it’s not suitable for idling along game tracks, requiring it revved to 1200 plus.

Fuel consumption at 100 km/h is 9,1 km/l, or 11 l/100km.

On a long journey with a load I would definitely stiffen the suspension. There aren’t many of these vehicles around. They are expensive to maintain, nevertheless an all-purpose vehicle and a joy to drive.

Bob Simpson
Port Elizabeth

Land Rover Defender 110 TD5
I purchased the Defender having had experience of 4x4s in Botswana, Swaziland and South Africa and having had extremely good (albeit noisy and spartan) service from two Lada Nivas and very disappointing service from a Mitsubishi Colt.

My experience with Land Rover Defenders had been extremely satisfactory and I based my choice of vehicle on that and on the impressive reputation this vehicle had built up.

What an initial let-down!

I acquired a used Defender from Land Rover in George in November 2007. The dealership and sales personnel could not have been more pleasant and accommodating. There were, as to be expected from a second-hand vehicle, initial teething problems but these were pleasantly attended to by the dealership – the new fuel pump and fuel block being replaced by Savoy Land Rover, Port Elizabeth and the cost borne by the dealership.

Three weeks following the repair, the vehicle continuously cut out while idling and was very difficult to start.

Savoy Land Rover, not having the necessary diagnostic equipment, suggested I take the vehicle to Land Rover Port Elizabeth.

To cut a long story short, my relationship with the latter soured to the extent that I took up the matter with Land Rover SA and even Land Rover UK – in both cases unsuccessfully and with a “there’s nothing we can do” attitude.

Finally, I took the vehicle back to Savoy Land Rover (a non-accredited service workshop) and they resolved the problem competently and courteously.

Since the rectification of the problem, I have used the vehicle hard but have religiously serviced it at the recommended intervals by Savoy Land Rover. It has done about 215 000km and is a real joy to own and drive.

The last set of BF Goodrich tyres lasted some 75 000km, fuel consumption is about 9,0 km/l (11,1 l/100km), service costs are less than a plastic Polo, oil usage is practically zero.

The vehicle is robust, in my opinion well made and the components are durable. In short, the type of vehicle that can last for years with proper maintenance and servicing.

My next vehicle? A second-hand Defender refurbished by Savoy Land Rover, Port Elizabeth, who will be entrusted with maintenance and servicing.

Bruce Difford
Port Elizabeth

Mazda Drifter 2500 TD 4×4
I’m the owner of a newly bought 2007 model Mazda Drifter 2500 TD 4×4 double cab that I use for daily transport, some weekends towing a two-quad trailer to certain quad destinations normally not more than 200km away from Pretoria and once a year take it on a long trip towing a off-road trailer.

Positives: Good ground clearance, although it is never used as we don’t go bundu bashing and at worst travel on the gravel roads of Namibia. It’s still comforting to know the undercarriage will not get damaged that easily.

It has a spacious and comfortable interior and enough loading space. Very nice towing capabilities too.

Negatives: I would like to have speed control, especially when used on the long Namibian routes; 12V plugs in the centre console to be used in the rear of the cab and a computer system measuring average fuel consumption, inside and outside temperatures etc.

This vehicle has only 32 000km on the clock, but has already given problems like a faulty wiper relay – not fixable by the dealer, and poor fuel consumption.

Likewise it seems that the dealer is not able to fix differential, brake and clutch problems. It seems the mechanics have limited knowledge servicing these vehicles.

Hendri Fourie

Pajero 3.2 DiD SWB
After a long and patient search, my wife and I travelled to Bloemfontein recently to collect a latest specification, low-mileage demo Pajero SWB 3.2 DiD from John Williams Motors.

Dirk Lourens, the sales executive, provided an excellent service, always professional and keeping us informed at all times.

Prior to purchasing the vehicle, I was trying to find a test but to no avail. I eventually found a test in Leisure Wheels June/July 2007 edition.

Please allow me to point out some oversights in this test in order of importance.
1. Service intervals are every 10 000km, not 7500km as mentioned in the test.
2. CD player is a six-disc front loader.
3. No mention is made of the sonar reverse assist function.
4. The vehicle is fitted with a luggage cover.

I do agree about the poor radio reception. The RDS function is over sensitive and continually hunt for better signals. It’s very frustrating. The sound quality, though, is not bad for the size of the interior.

It is worth mentioning that at the time of your test, the vehicle was priced at R389 900 and the price has since increased to R495 900.

I have done some travelling on gravel roads and I was impressed by the stability of the vehicle. I will soon go for off-road training to understand the capability of the vehicle.

Well done with a great magazine.

Dave Biddulph

VW Tiguan 2.0TDi
I have a 2008 VW Tiguan 2.0TDi Track & Field, owned for one year and two months, with 26 000km on the clock.

It’s used for everyday transport in the city, as well as longer trips for weekends away or photographic assignments.


Plenty, including very comfortable with good support seats, spacious enough for gear and three adult passengers, enough power to tow a horse-box, enough speed to change lanes quickly, small enough to park in limited areas, higher than a normal sedan vehicle for better visibility, good ground clearance for dirt roads and the odd kerbstone, good fuel economy even in the city at 7-9 l/100km, very solid and stable road holding.

The 4MOTION system saved my life on a tight corner on a dirt road, and the high front bumper with engine protector plate prevents damage at high kerbstones when being parked.

Additional features include the Xenon headlights with their curve and turning functions, remote open/close of windows, electronic handbrake, various compartments, the wipers and lights come on automatically, two-point 220V plug for charging of cellphone or camera, and even a pen holder in the glove compartment. The list goes on. In all this time I’ve had no flat tyres or other mechanical problems.


Maybe a bit pricey, especially if you add plenty of extras. And another one I can think of is that I do not know what its “off-road” capabilities are. I would love to test this under the supervision of an expert with maybe a trip up Sani Pass, or something. Yes, it is a pity it wasn’t part of your recent soft-roader shootout, as I think it would have done very well.

All in all, an awesome vehicle.

Andre Moller
Via e-mail