6 Problems with the Vehicle Since We Left Europe

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We had a number of issues with the vehicle since we left Budapest, some more serious than others.

We are now in Mongolia and just about to enter China, and the problems seem to keep piling up. But let’s go through each of them in detail:

toyota water pump

1. Loosing coolant

Signs: coolant level dropped down by 2-3 dl every day.

Cause: faulty water pump, probably due to the over 300,000 km (186,000 miles) on the clock.

Solution: the water pump was replaced at an official Toyota service in Tbilisi, Georgia.

toyota karaganda

2. Overheating engine

Signs: on long stretches of roads going uphill, the temperature gauge shot up.

Cause: the radiator was full of dust and sand due to our trip to Africa earlier this year, so the radiator couldn’t do its job properly. I thought the problem was connected to the faulty water pump but that wasn’t the case.

Solution: a complete radiator wash at an official Toyota service in Karaganda, Kazakhstan.

fixing roof rack

3. Broken roof rack

Signs: loud, rattling noise coming from the roof.

Cause: this wasn’t really an issue with the vehicle itself but since the Front Runner Slimline II roof rack is such an organic part of the rig, I thought I should include it. The roof rack cracked due to an incorrectly tied down alu-box which, due to its weight, tore apart one of the legs of the rack on bad roads.

Solution: the rack was welded in a workshop in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

faulty starter motor

4. Faulty starter motor

Signs: clicking noise from the starting motor while not turning the engine over.

Cause: I think this issue was caused by a combination of things. The engine had done 320,000 kms (199,000 miles) by this time, while there were a few incidents where we got bogged down very badly in mud. In addition, there were several deep water crossings. The starter motor was obviously dirty inside and couldn’t engage with the flywheel.

Solution: driving 420 kms (261 miles) in 19 hours through the worst of roads in order to eventually find a mechanic who was willing to take the starter motor apart, clean it and grease it in Bayankhongor, Mongolia.

transmission issue with toyota prado

5. Transmission issue

Signs: the automatic transmission doesn’t shift to overdrive, sometimes not even in to fourth gear.

Cause: I have no idea. Was something incorrectly done at the Toyota service in Karaganda when the transmission oil was changed? I don’t know and it’s a bit of a worrying situation.

Solution: I don’t know yet, and at this point  I can only hope the transmission will keep working until we get to a major car mechanic, preferably an official Toyota service in China.

Update: the transmission wasn’t receiving the correct signals due to a corroded connector in one of the cables. This was probably due to the several river crossings in Mongolia. The cable was replaced in Altai, Xinjiang, China and the automatic transmission worked seamlessly ever since.


6. Lost turbo

Signs: no power. The engine is struggling to accelerate and climb roads going uphill.

Cause: same as with the problem with the transmission, I have no idea. Again, it’s a very worrying situation in a place where the next mechanic is a thousand kilometres away.

Solution: No idea yet for this one either.

Update: replacing the cable for the transmission (see above) resolved the problem with the turbo too. I’m not sure how the two issues were connected, but I was glad both were resolved by a simple, but expensive, cable replacement.

prado offroading

There seems to be a lot of issues within two and a half months of being on the road. I think the water pump would’ve needed a replacement even if we’d never left Europe, while the other issues are possibly connected to the thousands of kilometres of off-road driving since the beginning of January.

I often feel that we don’t need to look after the vehicle by driving very slowly on horrendous roads just because it’s a Land Cruiser. It can take anything. But it’s still a machine that has tens of thousands of complicated parts, so we probably do need to slow down.

I really hope the turbo and transmission will be easy fixes but in reality, I’m worried that these are now serious issues.

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Ferenc Elekes has been a devout Overlanding enthusiast for many years. During that time, Ferenc has explored 75 countries on six continents, with overland travel involved in 40 countries on three continents. From his trusty 2006 Toyota Land Cruiser Prado with a roof-top tent, he’s blogged about experiences that can only be found in the remotest regions on Earth. Along the way, he's gained in-depth knowledge of the novel challenges overlanders encounter and practical ways to meet them. On his website, he shares informed opinions about everything from the best overland gear to how to get a vehicle unstuck. Ferenc has also written for Ih8mud, the Expedition Portal, the Overland Journal, and he is often invited as a guest to outdoors-related podcasts.
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4 thoughts on “6 Problems with the Vehicle Since We Left Europe”

  1. Hi. I’m not a Toyota expert but we drove one through Zambia and also lost turbo. The problem was a pipe-cleaner sized hose connecting the turbo to an intercooler sensor which had popped off one of its connections. It’s only a few centimetres long and easy to miss. Check all of the hose connections to the intercooler and if it’s not the small one to a sensor, it’s very likely a split in another of the hoses between the turbo and intercooler. Hope that helps!

    • Hi Richard,
      Thank you! It turned out to be an electronic issue which was connected to our transmission as well. So a connection in a cable got corroded due to our river crossings and several muddy sections. The cable was replaced and somehow it resolved both issues!

  2. (Sorry if this comment has appeared more than once). Your turbo issue may be due to a connecting pipe between the turbo and the intercooler which has either come off one connection or developed a split. We had the same thing happen to a Toyota in Zambia. The pipe was short and slim (about 10cm long and 4mm wide) and connects to a sensor near the top part of the engine on the right hand side as you look under the hood. Ours had popped off one end and once put back it solved the problem immediately. Very easy to miss. If it’s not that, check for any possible splits in any hoses connecting the intercooler to the turbo. Hope that helps, and congratulations on 100 days of Overlanding!


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