It is easy to say “we should have got it done before we left.” However, at the time it “seemed like a good idea.” What could I possibly be talking about? Our 4 tires!
We were debating whether we should change all 4 tires prior to starting the journey. Yes, they were getting a bit worn out, but still had lots of kilometers left on them. So we made the “reasonable” decision to keep them for the time being and see how fast they wear out during the trip. What we didn’t know at the time was how difficult it would be to have them replaced on the go. First of all, these tires (BF Goodrich A/T KO2), which apparently are the gold standard for 4×4 vehicles like ours, are not easily available in some other countries like Scandinavia. When we realized that the tough Icelandic tracks were eating the rubber faster than expected, and decided it was now time to replace them, the nightmare began!
Actually, it would not have been such a nightmare on its own if we did not have another issue to deal with in parallel……we lost our 4th gear! What I mean is that it became really difficult to get Tommy into 4th gear, with lots of grinding and several attempts each time. The double clutch and acceleration technique only worked to a limited extent (about 50% of the time) and with each painful grinding sound we imagined the gear slowly getting scraped away and disfigured. The technique consists of clutching, shifting into neutral, accelerating, then clutching again and shifting into the desired gear. A bit labor intensive with inconsistent results. We are now just skipping 4th gear entirely (“better to lose the 4th than the second”….I agree with you Michael)!
So on top of the tire issue which had us calling garages in Reykjavik, Aalborg (Denmark), and Oslo, we had to find a garage able to fix the gear problem within a reasonable period of time. This meant accepting the job, ordering the parts, and getting an appointment within a timeframe that would fit our travel plans and ferry bookings. Ordinarily this might not have been such a difficult feat. However, just to make it a real challenge, we were right in the middle of the Nordic holiday season….the sacred summer vacation period when businesses close down entirely and no one is around anymore. Toyota in Reykjavik could not offer an appointment until after we would have left the country. We had a potential appointment in Aalborg beginning of August, but when it was time to confirm whether the parts would be coming from them or us and how long it would take to order them, we got their out of office message (garage closed for 1 month). Then we concentrated on Oslo, since Norway would be our next destination after heading back to the mainland. We felt we could make it until then….anyways we do not really have a choice! So then began many many hours of research and phone calls, promising leads that ended in failure, and again the holiday period problem. Thanks to Bernard, we contacted the Land Rover Club of Norway (even though we have a Land Cruiser) and spoke to the president, Endre. He gave us the name of a garage who had done some good work for his dad (the garage of course could not help us) and the contact details for the Norwegian Land Cruiser Club. Kjell, the president was extremely helpful and called several garages on our behalf. All but one said no, but the last one would be willing to change the whole gear box, swapping ours for one from a Toyota Hilux. This was not really the solution we had in mind….especially since in the meantime we decided to order our own parts for the gear synchronization from our garage, EquipRaid, back home in France. The package would be delivered to the garage that we finally managed to find in Oslo that will be changing our tires on August 2nd (thanks Robert)! We will have to compromise on the tires as we were told there were only 2 of our reliable BF Goodrich tires in the entire country and that they are destined to be discontinued and replaced with a new model which was not yet available. We could not find any other alternative solution in Iceland, Denmark, or Norway. Well actually we thought we had a solution with a garage in Aalborg, but the guy we were in contact with did not order the tires before leaving on holidays (again the holiday thing) and within a few days, the delay for getting them delivered had increased considerably, making it no longer an option.
So what about the 4th gear? After days of desperation and frustration we finally managed to convince a Toyota garage in Oslo to do the job with the non-Toyota parts that we had ordered from home. We had already contacted many Toyota dealerships but either nobody picked up the phone (very frequent problem) or they said they could not do it for X or Y reason. So thanks to Petter and his management at Toyota (Oppsal, Oslo) for going out of their way and bending their rules to help a couple of desperate travelers! We have an appointment on August 9th and are keeping our fingers crossed that this will resolve our problem.
Oh….one more piece of information. If you remember from the last article, the European vehicle insurance certificate that was to be sent to us in Reykjavik either never arrived or got lost in the system. Therefore we are making a second attempt to get it delivered to a post-office in Norway. There again, many hours of research and phone calls and visits to post-offices in Reykjavik for nothing!
So, although the gear synchronization problem was not predictable (we did learn from Toyota during our investigations that this particular problem is known with some models of Land Cruisers), the tire issue could have been avoided entirely had we been able to anticipate better before the start of the trip. That is our lesson learned…..don’t put off until later, what you can do at the present. Spend the bucks to get things done properly before setting out for the big adventure! These mechanical problems (or other ones) are totally to be expected during a long overland trip. We had similar experiences in South America. This is why Laurent and I always tell people “we are not on vacation, we are on a journey”. So true. And this journey has already allowed us to meet many good people even before setting foot in their country.
In case you have not noticed, all the photos in this article are appropriately in honor of Tommy, who we still consider our faithful and reliable friend!