Boring stuff about the truck zzzzzzzzzzz

I don’t usually put stuff about the performance of Colonel K on the blog, but I spent ages typing out the following to post on the forum of http://www.theoverlander.org only to find that the site has been out of action for the last few days, and when it came back up it would let me post this on the trip report section, so you guys can be bored by it instead!!!! At least there no photo’s.

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“Hi guys, this is a quick update on the performance, reliability, and costs of the Leyland Daf, so far on our Africa trip

We have now been away 333 days, and are having an absolute ball out here. I won’t go into our actual trip as this is described in detail on our blog http://www.lorrywaydown.com and I know some of you are following us on the blog.

Anyway, we have now done 28,550km (about 17,850 miles) on this trip, with I guess about 30-40% on dirt, sand or gravel tracks. And although this is sometimes punishing for truck and occupants, the Leyland Daf has taken everything in its stride, with very few problems.

Ive broken down into various parts the performance of different elements of the truck and the living area, and I hope that you find it all of use and maybe just a little interesting.

The Cummins engine

This part of the truck never ceases to amaze me, its only 145hp, but with appropriate gearing (high and low range box), and a decent flat torque curve, it just pull up everything! We have been up some serious mountain passes, with very bad traction (gravel and sand), but as long as you have pre-selected low range in the transfer box, she will dig in and heave herself up. we have been down as low as 2nd gear in low range, up some extreme gradients, and though we are only doing 10km per hour, you know that it will get there. 

Also with daytime temperatures over 50c sometimes and regularly over 40c, the temperature gauge always stays in the safe zone, (though when on a very long slow climb in stupid temperatures we do usually stop for a rest and let it cool down).The engine has always started first time everytime.I serviced the truck before we left the UK, then again in Senegal, and it had a complete service in Namibia (the absolute works, gearbox oils, diffs oils, transfer box etc), and we are booked into the same garage in Swakopmund, Namibia for another oil and filter change in a few days time.Incredibly we have only used about 3.5 litres to top up the engine oil between changes, in the 28,550 km that we have done, it just doesn’t use oil. This I find amazing given the huge pistons and compression ratio and the initial smoking on startup from cold. The engine is definitely more efficient now than when we first picked it up, and as I’ve mentioned before I’m convinced that the fitting of the snorkel has allowed the engine to breath more easily.

The snorkel also has the huge advantage of picking up clean air, as its out of the way of the dust that is kicked up from the front wheel, and also from other vehicles (overtaking, and coming the other way). I remove and clean the air filter about every 1,000 km if we are on gravel or sand tracks (almost all the time here in Southern Africa). I carry a spare air filter but have not needed to change it yet.

Apart from the viscous coupling cooling fan that decided to self destruct in Portugal, we have had no issues mechanically with the truck.

Fuelling wise we have had a couple of troubles, we had a small fuel line weak when we were in Morocco, which was “sort of sorted” then, but was not sorted properly, so the garage in Namibia fixed it (a great place). And we picked up some dirty fuel somewhere, probably in Mali or Burkina Faso, and this was again sorted with a good blast through, changing the fuel filter, and cleaning out the separator (that was full of crap). The guy in the garage also suggested raising the ticker speed to about 750rpm, this has made a huge difference, as when the engine is hot it was always feeling like it would cut out, and was very lumpy on tickover/idle, afterwards it is so much smoother. I now have a supply of fuel filters (a friend brought out for me), and I change these at least as often as the engine filter (about every 6,000 miles).

Tyres

I know there is a huge debate on theoverlander.org about tyres on the Daf, but I honestly would not change our 12.00R20 Michelin XZL’s for anything else.

We have met so many people (some overlanders, some tourists with rental 4×4) that have suffered with their tyres, punctures, splits, etc, we have done some extensive off road and gravel tracks and have not had a puncture, yet!

Considering that we are 9.2 tonnes (we were forced to go to a weigh bridge by the Police in Namibia), and we are hitting some of these stones pretty hard, I have nothing but praise for these tyres. Yes they are bloody expensive to replace, and can be hard to source in the more remote areas, but they are very durable, and can withstand having the pressure dropped to less than half their recommended pressures.

The big draw back of these truck tyres is re-inflating the buggers! The on board air tanks will get them up (fairly quickly) to about 90psi (fine for the front), but inflating the rears from 90psi to 125psi with our trusty Viair compressor takes ages, and I hate doing it in the daytime heat of Africa! But that is the same with all truck tyres, and the fact that we can and have on many occasions deflated the XZL’s and run them safely in deep sand without damage to tyre and tube/valve and re inflated them is a testament to how good these tyres are on the Daf.

Brakes

These brakes have really lapped up some punishment! It really is one element that I was worried about before we left home. Engine braking in these trucks is non existent on steep slopes (really steep slopes), and of course there is no exhaust brake, so its all down to the service brakes. They have not let us down yet, but on one particularly steep down hill on very very loose and broken up gravel, (we dropped over a 1,000 feet in a very short distance) the brakes got so hot that it transferred to the wheels and believe it or not our plastic wheel nut indicators melted on the nuts! We actually lost 5 indicators where they just melted and fell off (these are a very tight fit normally requiring grips to remove them). But the brakes were still working perfectly, the trick is to keep releasing them momentarily, then reapplying. But in a perfect world these trucks would benefit from an exhaust brake.

Chassis, and Fitments

Apart from quite a few bolts working their way loose, and re-tightening with thread lock applied, the chassis of the truck has been faultless. Our speedo packed up in Senegal, (the sender unit I think) but we record our mileage on the GPS anyway, and watching your speed is not really high up on the priority list while driving the Daf over here. All other electrics on the truck are working as they should.

Costs

When we first left Europe and crossed into North Africa, you may remember me saying we were doing about 12.5mpg, this was accurate and I honestly couldn’t see this improving much. Indeed I was expecting it to decline slightly as we got to more testing terrain and gradients. 

Well I’m pleased to tell you that we have used 5,111.13 litres exactly, in exactly 28,550 kilometres (both since we left home in Kent, UK). This equates to:

15.7793 Miles Per Gallon or

17.9 litres per 100kilometers or

5.586 kilometers per litre Phew!

Bearing in mind this is the average, including the time spent in Europe, this can only be down to one thing, these trucks do not like being driven at 55mph (top speed) everywhere!!!

Since being in Africa, we have simply slowed down! Even on tarmac (if we find some), we now rarely go above 40mph, theres just no need to here and quite often any faster simply becomes dangerous (animals, road surface, etc). This has had a massive impact on our overall fuel consumption. Diesel here is now about 43p a litre, (thank you Mr Zuma for helping us with our exchange rate here in Namibia, and SouthAfrica) but it still helps if you are getting better fuel “economy”, every little helps!

Living Cabin

Colonel K really is a great place to spend time in! See below…….

Things we love:

A super comfortable, thick heavy weight, full size mattress.

Massive amount of storage for clothes, kitchen stuff, and personal items.

Options for cooking, gas for cooking inside, diesel hob for cooking inside, gas for cooking outside, braii for cooking over wood or charcoal (most of the time here).

A decent full size shower with hot water (essential in North and West Africa), toilet (ditto), and wash hand basin (ditto)

With the hot water plumbed into the engine coolant we arrive with hot water that lasts for a couple of days

The 8no leisure batteries, solar panels and on-board generator mean that we never have to worry about electricity (and we can park in the shade of a tree during the days)

The extra insulation to the walls and roof make a huge difference in the African heat.Two fridges mean we can at least attempt to use fresh produce when available, and have cold drinks

The water filter, is truly invaluable, and means that we don’t have to buy bottled water at all.

The 300 litre water tank, its so nice not to worry about water here.

Things we would change:

The air conditioning unit is a waste of time and money here, as to use it we need to be plugged into a decent 240v or 220v hookup, and unlike Europe they don’t exist very often here, It works well but not out here!

I wouldn’t bring the Mountain bikes next time, they are a liability on the back and despite keeping them covered with a tarp, they are getting wrecked (plus we don’t use them very often and when we do, oh the punctures!).

I wouldn’t bring the jerry cans that are mounted on the roof (4no), they arnt needed and they rattle and make so much noise on the roof rack on the gravel roads, we can comfortably do 1,200km on a tank, and thats enough for most of Africa.

The floor covering! we still have carpet tiles fitted when we had a very old dog and spent several weeks in Scotland in the truck, and fitted these for warmth and comfort for the dog! The tiles are a nightmare with the sand, and was even worst in the mud in Mali, but we have persevered and will probably keep them until we get home.

The Seitz windows are rubbish! I know they are fitted to all caravans and motorhomes but I hate them! They scratch easily, the blinds are always needing to be dismantled and adjusted on their springs, and the insect mesh does not keep out mosquitos (they simply go over the top of the rollers). But they are light weight and replacement parts are plentiful.

We wouldn’t have so many LED lights in the ceiling (we have 22 fitted, inc the bathroom and over the kitchen work surface), and whilst these are switched on and off individually each one is cut into the bottom layer of insulation, so reducing (very slightly) thermal efficiency. We rarely have more that 3 on at a time.

I honestly believe these trucks work best when they are used each day or at least fairly often. When we first started using Colonel K (about 4 years ago) we had no end of small niggly issues, mostly minor electrical stuff, and I must admit I wondered if buying a two decade old military truck as the basis for an overland vehicle was a wise idea. Now I know it absolutely was.

I hope this info is of help to anyone thinking of, or are building a similar vehicle to Colonel K, and so far I would thoroughly recommend using the 4×4 Daf as a basis for any overland vehicle.

Cheers Vince and Jacqui”

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Sorry about that and if you’ve managed to read all the above and aren’t from theoverlander.org and haven’t fallen asleep then I thank you

Vince

5 Comments on “Boring stuff about the truck zzzzzzzzzzz

  1. Hi Vince, this is really great stuff. We have just bought a 1990 Merc 920AF which we hope to start converting in the next few weeks. We are avid followers of your blog and are itching to get going, hopefully we will get to meet up somewhere. All the very best to you both. Simon and Joan, Lympne, Kent.

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    • Hi Simon, Joan, great to hear from you both, good news that you’ve got your basis for the camper, and good luck with the build, stay in touch and maybe we can meet up when we get home
      Vince and Jac

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    • Hi Simon, Joan, great to hear from you both, good news that you’ve got your basis for the camper, and good luck with the build, stay in touch and maybe we can meet up when we get home
      Vince and Jac

      Like

  2. His Vince and Jackie. I don’t know if you remember me Jackie but it is rosemary from our nursing days! I met up with Julia last year. I see yonne regularly but not so often Julia. It was lovely to see her and she told me about what you are doing and also the blog. I signed up and am really enjoying it. Both me and my husband are hooked and I really love the posts. Vince, I haven’t met up but you write so well. Keep them coming and enjoy the rest of your amazing adventure. It would be great if we could all meet up when you get back. Lots of love rosemary xx

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