Locust and fly remains, when licked directly from the windscreen, make a tasty mid-morning snack...!
- Take a picture book if you anticipate language differences / difficulties (we started to use ours in Germany!). We use "Point It" by Dieter Graf. Available from Amazon.
- Our international V5 from the AA has been useful at borders to give to non-english speakers (who have to interpret our V5 for their ledgers / databases). On this trip the cyrillic translation has been useful. UPDATE: Some border staff did not accept this form as the AA complete it by hand, making it look less than official. It would be better if the AA typed it out?
- Check ALL your V5 vehicle data at least 5 weeks before departure. We had ours changed to reflect our reduction in seats from 12 to 2 - it takes a month or so. But we didn't check the actual engine number against the V5 paperwork. We only found out an engine type mismatch error in Moldova and now have no opportunity to change it (so we've smeared the engine number with wax oil and will claim ignorance).
- Romanian customs wanted to see the VIN number stamped on the chassis. Ours was covered in layers of wax oil. The guard gave up but not before he got covered in the stuff. He knew exactly where to look too! At the next hotel I used a scraper and brake degreaser to reveal the VIN and hopefully reduce any further delays if we come across another vigilant border guard.
- Some fuel stations in Germany vary their fuel prices during the day. Can be a few Euro cents more during the morning rush hour. We found evening filling cheaper. Can't say if other countries adopt the same practice?
- Take Flyspray! We used in Morocco to spray, and then close, the tent a half hour before turning in. The night we didn't a resident mozzie had a feast. Also useful if going through fly swarms like we experienced in Southern Russia to spray the cab as you get out - at least then you come back into a buzz free space.
- Insulated and lidded cups. Keep hot drinks hot (which can be a pain if your morning tea stays hot 'till 11:00) but more importantly in hot areas it keeps cold drinks cold (in the absence of a fridge). A bottle of water soon heats up in the cab - but if poured cold into an insulated mug it remains cool and refreshing all day.
- Milton sterilising fluid is great for a general disinfectant. One bottle dilutes massively and lasts for months. We make up a solution into a sprayer and use it to wipe down surfaces, cooking equipment, tables, steering wheel, floor mats, clean hands etc etc etc.
- Vaseline! If your on dusty roads, get some on a finger and shove it up your nose! It protects the delicate nasal linings and helps trap the dust. Later that day you'll be blowing out greasy dust bogeys - but at least you wont have dry, sore and bleeding nostrils. I picked up this tip in Africa years ago and swear by it!
- Even if you don't smoke, a handy pack of cigarettes in the cab can be an ice breaker or minor bribe. We used ours once when we didn't have any roubles to buy fruit - and then realised we swapped a £4 pack of cigs for about 50 pence worth of apricots. UPDATE: L&M brand cigarettes have been treated with utter contempt by a bent Uzbek border guard - left us well alone after that and hurried off to his next victim!
- Buffs and / or arab style head scarves have multiple uses. Wetted they can provide instant relief from the heat in a hot cab, can cool sun burn, cover up the drivers "arm-out-the-window" from the sun, provide respectable shoulder and head wear for entering religious buildings, act as a towel, emergency hanky (ugh!), etc etc etc.
- Buy your ice breaking / bribe cigarettes outside Europe - £0.60 instead of £4 (doh!).
- If you see a photo opportunity, stop, U-turn if necessary - but take that snap! We have carried on waiting for the next one to come along....and it never did.
- Whenever you stop your vehicle in a hot climate, let the engine run on for 3 or 4 minutes. This continues to circulate cooling water whilst the engine initially cools down.
- When passing or overtaking on a dusty road, come off the gas and dip the clutch through the other vehicles dust trail. This lets the engine revs drop off and draws less of the dusty air into the filter.
- Feet can get hot in the cab. If you go barefoot remember to put shoes back on before jumping out onto hot tarmac. Cheryl saw some horrendous burns in Africa when someone forgot.
- Another foot cooling tip (as that Defender transmission tunnel and seat base become mini 48 degree radiators) is to pour some water onto the floor mats. It soon evaporates, but in so doing offers some welcome relief.
- Take glass cleaner and a big roll of garage wipes / paper towels. Windscreen washer and wipers are sometimes not up to effectively cleaning the remains of a locust swarm hitting your screen at 50mph. Used daily to clean screen, mirrors, lights and number plates it also gives the police checkpoints one less thing to pick you up on.
- In desert dust or sand, drive with the windows fully up, or fully down. If partially wound up / down the dust trapped in the rubber seal can grind away at the glass surface and etch a permanent scratch line halfway up the window (a top tip from Charles Morgan of Protrax).
- Take frequent breaks in hot climates. Let yourself and your vehicle cool down - not just the engine (which has an efficient cooling system), but also consider the gearbox and transmission components too. We try to find a shady spot every couple of hours, let the engine run on (as in 14 above) before switching off, then have a cold drink in a cafe when available, and buying another cold one for the insulated mugs.
- Unscented wet wipes - can be almost as good as a shower, when you don't have a shower.
- Extra vehicle door key on a necklace cord. On every trip we manage at some point (so paranoid are we about locking up for security) to lock ourselves out of the cab. At least saves some embarrassment....
- "Poundland" adhesive carpet tiles. Took some as spares, great for sticking in place and stopping annoying rattles (if you can find them)
- In desert and dusty areas a roll of decent masking tape is ideal for covering up the key holes on locks and padlocks before you set off each day. Stops sand and dust ingress and keeps the locks working longer. Tried and tested in the Sahara! The stronger blue stuff from DIY stores is better than the standard stuff.
- For the rear door lock we velcro a patch of canvas across the entire lock area for the same reason. Didn't expect it to stay on long but the same patch has done Morocco and back and made it across Kazakhstan.
- Keep your lights on all the time from Eastern Europe, through Ukraine, Russia and into Central Asia. We even wrote "LIGHTS ON!" across the windscreen in permanent marker as a reminder. When we forgot the Kazakh police pounced, and the Ukrainian police...!
- We printed a small map of our route on the back of our "business cards". This has been great at borders to help explain what we are doing - without the hassle of having to get the maps out every time.
- We forgot our diesel funnel - and glad we did to as they are difficult to store and it smells. We just cut the base off a water bottle, give the inside a good wipe with tissue and a bit of diesel, use once and then get rid.
Dave Mckillens top tips
Dave, from South Africa, was good enough to message us with these tips, and shamefully it has taken me a year to post them up. Eternal apologies Dave, and a big "Thank You" for these great tips!
- DO fit an EGT gauge, in the exhaust manifold. Priceless! measures exhaust gas temps [as in trucks]. Learn so much from what then shows up as stressing the engine...(Our garage in the UK discouraged this, but we agree with Dave, it would have been useful and we intend to fit one for our next adventure)
- Use one gear lower than you think you need. Everywhere except flat road cruising. Revs don't actually equate to consumption.
- Air horn switch [you got carlings? Yes we do Dave] somewhere on the passenger side, also one pair of extra lights switched ditto. Invaluable with dense people/cattle/donkeys for the better half to do the flash/hoot sequence. Rally tip!
- Turn high level breather [snorkel] head backwards in heavy dust or following. Doesn't sig reduce air intake.
- Carry spare air filters. Change often and even clean and replace over again. It is amazing what gets down there and partially blocks the flow. Especially large greasy moths! [By often I mean weekly on an overland trip!]
- Reduce oil change intervals by 1/2. 7,000 max in overland conditions.
- Use synthetic oil. Not cheap, but saves on engine wear.
- Put 1/2 litre of two stroke into a full tank of diesel every 7,000 also. Reduces clatter markedly.
- If you loaded up [!!] and running on Emu's carry spare shock mount bushes. They are the weakest link and will say 'Good bye' at some point. At which point the shock will rattle itself to death. They are a ten minute fitment on the bottom, shock doesn't need to be removed to refit new ones!
- Good quality laminated copies of EVERY doc, and certified on the back before laminating. Priceless! I have never actually shown genuine vehicle docs ever in the above mileage.
- Tender ALL docs upside down. especially at road checks. Good to know if the guy is literate!
- Sunstrip on windscreen, and sunvisors as low as can see under. Always. Glare is 500% higher top to bottom on screen. Eye strain is hugely reduced.
- Fit a small 'belt bag' on the handbrake. It us useful for putting stuff in, you can lean your left calf against, and one less heat source is removed!!
- Coast everywhere. box of neutrals is magic on the consumption and transfer/gearbox temps. Weight is an advantage - amazing how far a Defender coasts [not on sand!!! LOL]
- Fit a torch - maglite - on brackets on the dash. So it doesn't need looking for, and can double as map light. And weapon for prying fingers.
- Have a toy snake [wooden or plastic] on the dash. Scares away even very large men. Who know it is fake. But still. [May have greater relevance in Africa?]
- Put hand washing powder into windscreen washer bottle. [granules not squeezy] Your bug issues will disappear like magic.