Knowing we would be camping in remote areas much of the time, we needed to be fairly self sufficient in terms of power. The standard TD5 alternator is quite powerful at 120 amps so I didn’t go for an additional alternator or upgrade.
The standard battery was replaced with twin system red top and yellow top Optima batteries; the red for starting and running standard equipment and the yellow a deep cycle one for running auxiliary equipment. Neither is particularly cheap but have spiral plates in gel making them vibration resistant and able to work at any angle. The yellow one was struggling towards the end and was replaced back in the UK.
Split Charging System
A split charging system, Piranha, was fitted next to the batteries in the front passenger seat box, which charges the main battery first and then the aux one. This worked well until half way through the trip when it occasionally hiccupped and failed to charge the aux battery. The box of tricks was declared ‘US’ on return to the UK, although when I removed it I found it to be full of dried mud and dust; when cleaned it seemed to work a little better although the original supplier no longer stocks this system due to continued problems. My view is the box should have been fitted in a position where water ingress couldn’t get to it. There are many systems and ways of achieving a double charging system and further research should prove useful.
The disadvantage of the TD5 engine over the earlier Land Rover engines is the Engine Management Unit (ECU) that puts that area of mechanics beyond the capabilities of most African mechanics away from the bigger garages. I was advised to get hold of a second-hand unit and have it programmed for the engine as a spare. I didn’t do this and didn’t need it, but I’m not sure what I would have done had it gone down: maybe I would next time. Prior to the trip the fuel injector loom was replaced to cure the oil leak back down the loom, a common fault, but even so it took quite some time to stop working down to the plug. Having had, in the UK, water over the pedals and not far off entering into the driver’s seat box where the ECU is stored, I decided a sensible modification would be to extend the ECU loom to allow it to be fitted higher up in the vehicle. The ECU was fitted on the dog guard to the front where it wouldn’t be damaged by storage boxes in the rear and was encased in a padded box that also worked very nicely as a head rest for the rear offside passenger. I would now consider taking a diagnostic computer to interrogate the vehicle system as these have come down in price considerably for single vehicle systems.
Engine Power Upgrade
As we were going to be carrying a lot of weight around we decided to upgrade the engine by fitting a Dastek Powerplug. This remaps the ECU and claims to give improved engine efficiency, power and fuel consumption. The unit is supposed to boost the engine power from the standard 122 bhp to something like 155+ bhp. I’m not convinced the expense was worth it but at least it could be easily removed had it played up – it didn’t.
We fitted a 1000 Watt inverter in the rear passenger compartment that stored on the back of the cubby box by velcro straps but could be moved onto the floor for use. This served us well, except when the split charger didn’t charge the aux battery. We also used it on a daily basis to run either the slow cooker, kettle or to charge up various pieces of equipment.
Additional 12 volt sockets
We had numerous additional 12 volts sockets, a mix of cigarette lighter sockets and DIN plugs, fitted around the vehicle to run a host of ancillary equipment such as the fridge etc. We did blow up a couple of African phone chargers in one cigarette socket, as they were positive sensitive – re-wiring the socket solved this.
Auxiliary power was provided by a solar panel. We went for a free-standing fold-up briefcase panel (open = 60 cm x 45 cm) that came with various connectors. When stationary for a few days we could open this up and plug into the aux battery system to top it up – it was 28 watts output and very reasonably priced; some of the bigger ones are very expensive but may be worth considering. We went for a storable system rather than a fixed system that we thought may be vulnerable to damage.
240 Volt System
Quite a few campsites in South Africa, and a few elsewhere, had 240 Volt power available. We didn’t bother taking our ‘proper’ hook-up cable but instead relied upon an extension lead plugged into a hook-up site plug; one with round pin plug and one with square pin plug (Round pin in much of the region but more ‘squares’ the further north we went). If we had 240 volts we ran the lead in through the rear passenger window to get it out the damp and always plugged the fridge in. What I should have done was to fit a 240 volt inlet socket on the outside at the rear to plug into with an interior socket front and back