Tuesday, April 28, 2009
GETTING THE CAR READY FOR THE TRIP
1. The car to buy really depends on what on what you want the car to do. At this stage, what I need is a "touring" vehicle, one that would travel on good and not so good roads to get me to the destinations. In addition, it must have the ability to get me out of trouble if the problem is one that cannot be avoided, especially when we travel to less developed countries. Unlike Rally cars, objective is not to go look for "troubles". My objective is touring, not getting the joy out of overcoming ground challenges.
2. After discussion with friends and some research, it was down to Mitsubishi Pajero and Land Rover Defender for the "touring" vehicle that I was looking forward to buying. In the end, I bought the Pajero in February this year. What tipped it was when I saw the 3 door Pajero at Hin Loong showroom, a dealer in used cars. A shorter wheelbase it is more sturdy than the longer 5 doors version. Also, for use in Singapore, it is easier for parking. At about $85k, it was still good saving from the $110k quoted for the new 5 door Pajero. Though one year old, the first owner hardly used the vehicle and clocked only 1800 km. He even forgot to send the car in for 1000 km servicing. On the other hand, the Defender has great track record, used by security forces in many countries for many years, but it costs $130K new, and about $80K+ if registered as a good vehicle. Its a permanent 4 wheel drive and I found gear changing rather cumbersome (though a Defender die-hard said that its just getting use to it). Speed limit for a goods vehicle is 70 km in Singapore. Was also told that there may be problem getting a good vehicles in and out of visiting countries, including Malaysia. Also, a good vehicle have to be registered under a company. Another friend of mine recently said that I should have seriously considered Volkswagen Touareg, but by then it was water under the bridge.
3. Next comes the task of preparing the Pajero for the trip by late April. For this, William Lyou, Leslie Chang, Larry Lim and David Wong were particularly helpful, spending their valuable time giving me advices and going around getting parts and services. I got to know William and Leslie during the March ASEAN Car Rally in Hatyai and Larry and David through CE of AA, Lee Wai Mun, a former colleague of mine. William, Leslie, Larry and David are all veterans of car rallies.
4. Given the time in the year and the quality of roads, the Pajero should do well in Malaysia, most part of Thailand and Vietnam, and less certain in Laos and Cambodia. Was told that many roads in Laos and Cambodia are still unpaved, some with pot holes. Mitsubishi service networks are good in Malaysia, Vietnam and possibly Thailand (website is in Thai though); but certainly weak in Laos and Cambodia. Laos has a local service agent but not sure about its capabilities.
5. With the time available, the following measures were taken:
(1) Replaced the light metal under-guard with a stronger fibreglass version at cost of S$100, undertaken by a workshop in Ang Mo Kio Industrial Park II. William's contact, boss is Ah Choon, very friendly and excellent service.
(2) Installed a Thule roof rack at the cost of about S$900, increasing the storage capacity of the car, and potentially carrying another spare tyre.
(3) Bought a 3m flexible tube for the exhaust in case the Pajero needs to go through water.
(4) Bought and carried the following items: air filter, external belt, spare bulbs, fuses, tyre repair kits, compressor (to pump to inflate tyre), 20 litre petrol container, engine oil, brake fluid, and etc.
6. Had wanted to change tyre to all terrain tyres (current ones is H/T, highway tyres) but could not do this in time. Was exploring with one potential sponsor but time was too short to effect this. Also, all terrain A/T tyres are not readily available in Singapore. A/T tyres have thicker walls to take the rough and tumble of unpaved roads. Will get this done before the next trip.
7. Just one week before departure, we had a scare. William and I detected a stain on the under carriage that looked like a oil leak. Immediately I sent the car to Mitsubishi workshop to have it checked. Benjamin Khoo, the centre Manager, and his staff, Jalani, were particularly helpful. It took a day to dismantle the parts to check for the leak. As it turned out, it was established that there was no leak, and the stain was there due to some other reason. It then took another day and a half to assemble the parts back and had the vehicle tested; all very efficiently carried, great customer service. Prior to this, Benjamin also helped arrange a half day Pajero orientation training at the Mitsubishi service centre for Sunny and I. We are grateful to Ben and Jalani for their help and support in preparing the car for the trip.