Wednesday, 13 April 2016

X marks the spot. The development of the NX into an offroad tourer

Feb - April 2016:

A pictorial record of the NX Paj build up. I hope to keep it more up to date than my previous efforts in the My Pajero Mods post in regards to the NP.

Delivery Day:

Those that read my last entry, on the Fritz (Jan 2016), will have learnt that my most reliable vehicle I've ever owned, the NP Paj, let me down spectacularly. Stranded 700KM's from home, 100Km from my camper with a suspected fuel pump failure. I had to sleep in the car overnight in downtown Ravensthorpe and got the mrs and tin lid a ride back to the camper for the night. How lucky is it that she joined me 2 days later and had her car at base camp. Anyway, long story, short, I got the car towed 300KM's to the nearest mits dealer for confirmation of my diagnosis, the camper towed to the mechanics yard in Ravensthorpe, and what ever contents of the Paj we could squeeze into the lancer for the trip home. Holiday cut short, we arrived home late afternoon on the 26th.

The following day, Wednesday, I rang mits parts to enquire about pricing and availability of a new pump. There was no stock in either Aus or Japan and a retail price of $4600. Subsequent investigations led me to the one diesel pump specialist here in WA who is set up to do these pumps - apparently only used in this one vehicle. Whilst he had a refurbed unit on the shelf, to cover his investment cost, he charges the price of new. So I decided to wait to see what Mits had to say.

In the interim, I thought I would ring the local Mits dealer to see what they might have in regards to near new or new. I have been thinking for a while.....The NP is 12 years old now and the end of the Pajero run is imminent. It maybe time to think about an upgrade. Faced with a potential 12+ week wait for a new pump, the salesman mentioned he had 2 GLS 5 seaters left out of 12 that they got in. One a demo. That ticked my boxes - 17" wheels, no rear A/C and less electrical bling to pay for or worry about.

So I went for a look. 12 years later, and you can see that they have changed a little, but they are also very similar. I left a list of wants with the salesman, told him to sharpen his pencil and get back to me with a price on the demo I test drove. In all reality, if I was to buy a new car, I couldn't look at anything but Pajero. Such has been my experience with the NP in the last 7 years. And I didn't. More fool me you may say. At the end of model, they have all the bugs now sorted (one would hope) and it fulfils all my needs (no doubt once modded)

Now only coming in auto, if I was to make the change I had a learning curve in front of me. 30 years of driving history and I've never owned an auto. Although I acknowledge their superiority in sand. I also had to worry about torque converter lockup and the +15K I needed to spend to get it up to "caver" standard.

I got the call at 2030 that night and it was a deal too good to refuse. Thursday I went in and signed the papers for the deal. Exciting bank manager loves it.

The pencil was sharpened and it was a deal too good to refuse. Thursday 4th Feb, I took delivery of the NX. 4200Km's on the dial (just run in enough to execute  Mission Ultimate Rescue). I had towbar, tow pro controller fitted by the dealer along with a few bits of bling. Also on back order as part of the deal, a spare 17" steel rim for a 5th spare and the MM 2016 workshop and service manual.

Timing was ideal. I had a 4 day weekend coming up. I could therefore shoot of to Ravensthorpe to rescue the Ulti, overnight in Albany and see the Mits dealer the following day, where we could discuss options and I could empty the car - all the bits we couldn't fit into the lancer. Unfortunately on the Friday when I signed on to work, I had been rostered an overtime shift - 0330 finish....Grrrr.

So I decided I would go straight from work at 330 in the morning - yawn. The plan seemed to work well - for about an hour and a half - About 15 minutes on Brookton Hwy, I christened the NX with a furry hopper. Bloody thing came from nowhere. I took an evasive manoeuvre and as luck would have it, Skippy hit between the front wheel and the mud flap. Only damage received was a broken flap and fur on the sidestep. A lucky save there. I ended up back home on the Monday night about 1830. A 1500Km journey that showed me two things:

- I need to work out why the new brake controller doesn't do anything
- I really need some suspension work done with the ulti on the rear

After spending 3 hours at the dealer with no result, I came home and diagnosed the brake controller fault myself, good onya. The issue was voltage drop in the 7pin flat to 7 pin round adaptor. I changed the plug to a round socket and voila, a working controller. Whilts Mits was wasting my time trying to find a fault, I had a whinge about the position of the tow pro controller. I mean FFS, who in their right mind would think that placing the controller, where one has to plant his head into the horn button, whilst stretching with all his might to reach his little toe, was an acceptable situation. No wonder I do so much of my own work. You just cant trust these numbskull's anymore.

You sir, are a nincompoop. They moved it, still in a position I wouldn't call acceptable, but at least I can get to it on the move now. Grrrrr......

From there, it was time to move onto the mods. First up was to fit an additional fuel filter. I had picked up the Donaldson kit and a 20L drum of penrite HPR D10 in the days before I took delivery. The Donaldson kit I got came with the 11 micron filter. They also do a 3 micron. At this stage I'm undecided as to what filter I am going to use full time. The kit came with 2 x 11 micron filters, so I have some time to think more about that. The mod itself was pretty straight forward. I have placed this filter as the primary filter, leaving the all but useless water sensor in the oem as the final stage, on the thought process that this shouldn't affect warranty, should I ever need to go down that path.

The day I took delivery, I went home via ARB and booked in for Bull bar, snorkel and Rhino track mount. The following week the boys at ARB Wangara took a couple of days to complete the job, and a  great job they did too. If you are NOR, and are looking for some ARB work to be performed, I recommend you go see Matt and the team at Wangara.

I then had the enjoyable task of laying cable from the engine bay into the interior. Through the main rubber boot I fed 1 x uhf coax, 1 x 6B+S for dual battery charging, 1 x 6mm for a temporary feed to an auxiliary fuse box from the starter battery(will eventually power this from the aux battery and leave this wire for a spare), 2 x 4mm spot light output trigger wires and 1 x 3mm for.high beam capture.This should take care of any feeds I need into the vehicle now and into the future....or so I hope. Its a bit of a pig of a job, but once done, a job well done.

I purchased a basic, remote speaker mic,  a Uniden UH5060 and a GME AE4702 aerial. I had an all bells and whistle job and I found I never really used those additional features. So this time round it was a bare basics unit. I have an AE4703 aerial, but the spring is far too heavy. The 4702 has a much nicer weighted spring, that will actually spring if it needs to. The head unit was installed directly under the steering wheel, inside of the panel that resides there. At the same time, I purchased a dual band UHF/Marine VHF handheld.The main reason for that unit is to allow communication with aircraft  on Marine Ch16 should I ever need to set of my PLB.

I fitted an ultra gauge to monitor the OBD of what is happening under the bonnet. Some fellow forum members cracked the code to be able to read auto tranny temps - another reason why I wanted an OBD reader. It should also allow me to clear non persistent CEL codes, something that could prove vital if remote. To my mind, the ultra gauge has a much better readout than the scan gauge. I originally had it as a windscreen mount, but later changed the mounting position up near the grab rail. This unclutter's the dash. It will be interesting to see if its supplied bracket holds the gauge in place once I get into the rough.

I noticed on a stroll through Super cheap Auto, they are selling blank multi gang sockets, very cheap. I picked up a 5 gang unit, added 4 locking cig sockets and an on/off toggle to the 5th spot. Mounted to the passenger side console, this will provide my sat nav power with additional spots for a usb charger and something else. I had purchased a nutsert kit when I bought the vehicle. Whilst this was not a cheap option, it has become very versatile for mounting stuff. The 5 gang socket for a start.

Then it was onto my dual battery installation. I always had to be careful in the NP due to the size battery one can fit under the bonnet. So I had a rethink and decided to go a 105ah D/C AGM, mounted in the rear seat well. The NX has an ecu controlled alternator, so I had to do some research on this. For my charging needs, my initial thinking was to go with a Redarc LV or IGN 25 amp model. However I decided to go the Projecta IDC25. This is an Ignition or standard VSR activated unit. It also has simultaneous solar input, and unlike the redarc, doesn't need additional change over relay bullshit if you want to trigger it into MPPT mode. The Projecta just seemed to fit the bill better. There is a flying lead in the rear seat well that I can pull out for when I want solar panel input. Just too easy.

I wanted to nutsert the rear seat well and use 6mm booker rod for a battery clamp. However, I also planned to fit an aux tank and until that arrived, I was unsure how much clearance I would have between the nutsert and the tank. I also didnt have enough m6 booker rod on hand and bunnings only sell 8mm and above in metric. So it was just easier to make the tiedown with a battery strap. I added some nutserts to some plate underneath and bolted a plate to the top. Underneath this top strap is sandwitched the battery strap. From monitoring the ultra gauge, I find if I have the fan running at even the first notch, the voltage does not drop below the turn on threshold for the Projecta. This is a double bonus. I will not need to supply an ignition trigger to the IDC25 to fire it into action. It also eliminates an expensive replacement of the bcdc40 I have in the ulti. Silly really that the redarc can not be reprogrammed to an LV threshold. That was always one concern I had moving over to the NX. Without field testing to prove the case, I believe at this stage it is job solvered :)

A cheap lightbar was on the list and this was done. However I'm not really impressed with it. I have some 7" led spot lights on the way, hopefully they will work in unison with the light bar.

Until such time as I can get the NP back and remove the rear storage and cargo barrier, all the aux battery will be feeding is the aux fuse box under the glove box. I ran the feed cable and disconnected the 6mm from the engine bay, leaving it in place as a spare should I ever need more wire into the cab.

Next job on the list is to design the breaker board. I purchased some "make a bracket" panel and secured this next to the start battery. I fitted a manual resettable breaker to the dc/dc charger supply line. This allows me to kill the power to the rear mounted dc/dc charger should I ever need to, also providing automatic circuit protection on this line should a short ever arise. To this panel I will also need to fit a mini ANL fuseholder and battery isolator for when I get around to wiring up the rear anderson plug for ulti charging needs.

In the meantime, I get a call from Albany Mits.The NP is ready for the measly sum of $5500, thanks for coming. Again opportunistic, as I have a 3 day weekend coming up. So I book on the bus for Albany. leaving home at 0730, I make the dealership at 0300, pay my dues and hit the road. Eventually getting home at 2230. A long day, the bank account broken, but the old girl is now finally home. I can get onto the duites of removing the items I want to transfer. A couple of days pass and I get around to opening the bonnet to check their handywork. WTF....first thing I notice is the air filter box is unlatched and sitting to the side. Very unprofessional Mr Mits. I was not a happy chappy. Whilst I know it was the mechanic in Ravensthorpe that opened it originally, how bloody hard - and unprofessional I might add - was it to put it back in place? Add to that, my isolator to the rear anderson was left unsecured - yep, they removed that - and they didn't do as I asked and charge my flat aux. It went to mits at about 10V and desperately needed a charge to save it. That they didn't do and in the 7 weeks whilst I waited for the repair, the battery had dropped at least two cells. Thanks again, another couple of hundered added to the bill that shouldnt have been needed. All in all, whilst the did the job and got me back on the road, I dont think they looked after me at all, even though they supposedly didn't charge me for all their labour......

Another nincompoop. But at least I have a Mitsy stable at home now:

My 81L LRA auxiliary fuel tank arrived and not long after, my full suite of buskskinz: intercooler, sump, tranny and transfer case plates and of course the sliders.

Its approaching 3 months now since the NP failure and I've been land locked into the world of vehicle mods. I have my first trip coming up at the end of April. It will be good to get away again. But I really needed an operational fridge. dual bats now sorted, I could jury rig a supply line if required. Also high on the agenda was to remove the weak as side steps and get the sliders on. that and the IC/sump guard would make me bush ready to some degree. So I wasted no time getting those fitted.

I saw and forgot, but was reminded by Trev of TE fame, that BCF had a special going on awnings. So I went down for a look. The 2.5 x 2.0 I had on the NP I found to be just marginally too short. I really needed 2.5 out. Unfortunately BCF only did a 2.0 and a 2.0 in 2.5 long. So I bit the bullet on the 3.0. Its bloody enormous. I dont know how it will go long term in wind. Only time will tell I guess. I'm thinking of making up two poles I can add to the horizontals with a c-clip attached to help stop ploe flex. I have noted the 2.0 would flex quite a bit in strong wind. the 3.0 will be worse. So, the jury is out until I can put it through its paces. Watch this space.

A weekend spare and I got around to removing the rear storage and cargo barrier from the NP and transfer this over to the NX. As I had hoped, the rear storage was a direct drop in relpacement into the NX - a nice bonus. The cargo barrier a different story though. I knew the top mounts would require some modifications, but the bottom mounts surprised me. the mounting holes are not there. As luck would have it, I could mount these through the rear storage bolts. All in all, not to bad a task at all (once I worked out how to get the barrier into the cabin that is).

From there I hooked up the power distribution and have everything operational again. Fridge power and slide, and compressor bolted in and running. Its all starting to come together eventually.

Then as luck would have it, I scored a 4 day break and did the LRA tank install.

Starting off with cutting the original filler and adding the twin tube filler to the NX. Then I moved onto fittings and hoses for the tank. It seems the overfill vent hose supplied was 50mm too short. I found this out late in the day. Disappointing as I know I am not the only one who has suffered this fate. Now I have to try to source a replacement on a Sunday. Not a promising idea.

But find a replacement I did. It does come with a warning though - not for full time fuel usage. So I will have to see how this goes over time. I suffered quite a few little niggly issues that slowed me down, but managed to get around them in time. trying to line up the front mounting holes was a bit of a pig, but persistance prevailed and I managed to make it inside for my birthday around 2000 hours :( Nice way to spend a birthday, stuck under a car fitting a long range tank)

4 days later and I was done. Not that it took me 4 days, I never started till midday any day and was just plodding along. I spent a couple of days painting the tank before hand. that way have been worthless cause I took quite a bit of that off during the install.....But that 170L fuel capacity will be very versatile.

Its now 2.5 months since I took delivery and its slowly starting to get there. I really need to get onto some suspension as I have lost about 20mm up front and a whopping 40mm at the rear over oem ride height (and that is with an empty aux tank). As such I'm not planning on fitting the tranny or transfer case plates until I get this suspension sorted. With full fuel, I estimate I have added at least 300Kg's to the NX, not including the bull bar, so I'm not surprised I've sagged. The plates will add another 30 odd KG's.

Shortly I will follow up with a suspension supplier. I had made contact a couple of months ago to promote their product and give it a good field trial in exchange for some discounted product. They seemed very keen. I hope their interest hasn't waned. Suspension and tinting the front windows will see me nearly done I think. Other mods will come if and when field testing shows a need. but once those two are done, I think I am good to go.

For now this is where the entry ends. Next post I hope to be of our week long prospecting expedition. In that I hope my gained experiences of the mods performed above prove to be reliable. Only field testing will show if there are any faults there.

April 20:
Had some LED spots arrive from ebay so I fitted them to the bar, but ran out of time to wire them up as I had an appointment to have the front windows tinted, before I got them covered in Goldfields dust:

22 May:

Well I have done a deal with Dobinsons. Adam at head office and Tom at Malaga Suspensions have been great to deal with. We came to an arrangement whereby I will fir Dobinsons HD springs, Firestone airbags and more importantly, Dobinson's remote reservoir shocks in exchange for a long term review of the product. Believe me, if you are local and looking for suspension products, give Tom a call and mention I sent you there. You wont be disappointed.

I will do a seperate long term review of this product, but for this post, I'll just add the pictures of the install here:

The box of goodies, ready for fitting:

Note the Dobinson rear coil compared to the Lovells HD. Same wire diameter and inside/outside diameters, but the free length is 30mm longer:

With a late start I got the rears done on the first day. I was pretty happy to see the rears came with piggy back clamps, makes fitment of the res so much easier:

The following day, in atrocious weather conditions, I somehow managed to get the fronts fitted:

Keen as mustard I must have been, cause the wind and intermittent rain showers made the task all that much harder.

But that's where the journey went sour :( Having to remove both battery and airbox for strut top access, I found on the road test I had some electrical issues. First up, in drive, the neutral light was also flashing. The ultragauge also wasn't working. It was gear changing funny and I returned to home in case I went into limp mode. Unplugging the ultra gauge and reconnecting solved that issue. But the flashing neutral persisted, followed by a check engine light and a dashboard full of warning lights. I returned home again.

This time, I checked the error code - U1100 - an ecu connection problem. So I reset the code with the ultra gauge and all has been well since. Some research shows me this is a common error when the battery is disconnected. I'm thinking its due to the ultra gauge being connected as the ecu powers down. Next battery removal, I'll disconnect the ultrag auge first. I also found I had a knock in the left hand rear - something to investigate the next day.

As the next day dawned rather nice, I got stuck into it. I suspected the knock was the lower control arm hitting the res. There was some evidence of striking on the control arm, so I measured the bump stop distance, added 25mm and moved the res higher up. I think this time I have got it.

I wasn't keen on just using the one clamp on the res for the fronts, so I went in again. This time I modded an additional clamp and now have two points holding the front res in place. Piece of mind I guess:

 So, with 1/2 tank of fuel, auxiliary empty and 30PSI in the airbags I have gained a lift over showroom of +55mm at the front and in the rear I gained +60.

With the airbags at minimum that value changes to +50 in the rear. Noting, with 80L of fuel in the aux, the main full and a wheel alignment yet to be performed, these values I expect to drop a little.

So apart from tyres, my necessary mods are complete. Still to come will be winch and now suspension is done, I need to get the rear anderson plug sorted, along with getting the hitch height right.

May 27:

Finding a decent 265 65 17 LT AT tyre is not all that much fun. Due to garage door height, I cant go up a profile to get into some more serious tyres. So I have chosen the Toyo Open Country ATII. I have some reservations on the sidewall strength of these, but all reports I hear are nothing but positive. So its a see how she goes scenario:

Interestingly, whilst the heavy duty suspension didn't affect ride quality, the stiffer sidewall of an LT AT verses HT tyre made a noticeable difference. Time to put these tyres to the test as well:

In the mean time, I have got a couple of trips out the way, testing both the suspension and all the other mods for functionality before I hit the Western deserts. A nice little 3 dayer down in the SouthWest, checking out lunch and amber at some of the local breweries:

I couldn't believe the dew on my awning on the last night. It was just as wet underneath as it was on top. I woke early, listening to the awning rain on the swag:

But a nice little trip away and all worked as planned:

But I still haven't put her into 4wd as yet. So a play day out at Wilbinga was organised. A magical day out with not a puff of wind. Very unusual. Apart from working out what Pressures I need to run in these new tyres, all went well. The Dobinson MRR's did the trick too:

June 6:

Thought it best I get that winch installed. A Dominator 12000Lb with dynema rope. Not too hard a job, however to get the winch into the bar without removing it, I found the clutch lever has to be at 90 degrees from where it needs to finally sit. This is due to the fact the winch is not symetrical and it has to be placed in the gap 90 degrees out. Once in the hole, rotate the body back for mounting. Unfortunately, the width is just a bit too big and the clutch handle fouls. So once bolted up, I have to rotate the clutch housing insitu. A bit of a pain, but much easier than having to remove the bar:

At the moment, its wired with a manual isolator at the battery. After I get the Canning Stock Route out the way in July/August, I will be wiring it up to a 500A relay with switching from inside the cab. A much safer way to go about things, should the control box solenoids ever weld closed.

July 26:

Ok, so with a 3 week vehicle only trip coming up, I need to talk rubbish (as if that's anything new :) )

I'm not happy with the Bali saddle bags or their Michelin man variants that other Paj owners have come up with, an example shown below:

So My thought was to see what's involved in removing the spare cover.

As luck would have it, less than 10 minutes work and a few screws/bolts. So, with that sorted, I can mount a rear wheel bag and not have to worry about a scratched wheel cover.. Nice. But I do have a number plate issue. Step in the Auxiliary plate I purchased just for this particular problem. Mounted the plate to the bag. Nutserts in some flat bar inside the bag allow the plate to be screwed to the bag:

Only other legality I can think of is plate lighting. So a bit of engineering and a visit to Jaycar had that issue sorted too:

 Whilst its not that pretty, and I have lost use of the reverse camera, I have somewhere to store rubbish that's not inside or on the roof. So to me, that's a win :) On my return, 10 minutes of work brings it back to its original bling. Lets see what plod now has to say.