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Land Rover Freelander Off Road Trips

As the Land Rover Freelander becomes more common place on and off our roads, you will start to find owners fully exploiting its potential. The Freelander is unique to Land Rover in that it has a body construction, drive train and suspension which deviates from the tried and tested systems used in all its predecessors. Pessimists will say that the changes destroying the mark, optimists will say that the changes are progress. Either way many of the changes signify the future for off road vehicles, especially Land Rovers.

With Land Rovers, some things don't change. You can be guaranteed of finding owners who want to experiment and push their vehicles too its limits both in terms of driving as well as modifications. Riaan Moolman is such an owner of a 1999 3 door diesel Freelander. In the year that he has owned the vehicle he has done a several trips in the vehicle and started to experiment with a few modifications to suit his off road and expedition needs. Having done some pretty challenging off road routes, Riaan has had to get the most off road ability out of the vehicle as possible. One of the kicks I get out of the Freelander is managing to get it to most places where the bigger guys go. It is much more of a challenge, maybe I struggle more than they do, but the kicks I get out of successfully accomplishing it is tremendously satisfying.... He has done so admirably and shares some of his experiences and driving tips.

The Freelander makes use of traction control and hill decent controls to cope off road. With the lack of a traditional low range gear selection the off road driving techniques are different to those of most other off-road vehicles. 



Riaan's first hand experience and comments are quite interesting:  Off road there is one golden rule... momentum.  If you stall on a steepish uphill, forget about getting away.  It is not so much lack of power, I have found in some cases that the car just spins (if all four wheels spin, traction control doesn't help a lot...) because there is a lack of downward force on the wheels.  Remember, it is MUCH lighter than a Disco or a Defender.  If you have momentum, and a reasonable build up tackling a steep uphill, you have every chance of getting over it.  Driving with traction control does require a change in drive style; with a diff-locker, you ease back on the accelerator until you regain grip, and carry on.  With traction control, you either do the opposite, or (preferably, which I found works almost better) apply the same amount of throttle.  I agree, this does make a bit of a joke of the concept of treading lightly, but I found that the traction control kicks in fast enough to minimise wheel spin.  I never had a case where I had severe wheel spin (except when pulling away on a rocky, steep incline)  Once again, momentum is everything, and planning your way over an obstacle.  My gut feel is that most people's criticism on traction control follows from them being used to ease back on the accelerator - and THAT'S when you lose momentum when the traction control starts applying brakes.

The traction control on the Freelander impressed me in Lesotho, it impressed me on the sand in Southern Mozambique and Kozi Bay, especially with the added burden of towing a trailer.

Hill Descent Control - some people might describe it as gimmicky, but on a vehicle without low range it is almost an essential safety tool.  Especially when you DO stall, and have to roll back.  Engage HDC, let it control your speed on the way back down, especially for a novice off road driver it could help a lot.  Even if you press the clutch (yeah, some people will do it!!) on the way down, HDC still keeps you at a slow enough speed, and prevents wheels locking.

 

Riaan has made a few modifications to his vehicle to improve off road ability and carrying capacity. 

Only real mods I made were fitting bigger tires - 215R15 Conti Trac AT's. The profile on these tyres are 80%, so you could say it is 215x80x15.  I found the ground clearance on the car lacking a bit,  fitting these tyres increased ground clearance by about 30mm or so (rough guess, I still have to measure it). It also helps tremendously with traction in the sand (broader tyre) and really improves traction on rocky roads. Other mods included a replacement of the ECU - a lot of earlier diesel Freelanders used too rich a mixture, resulting in a build-up of sulphur around the valve stems etc... leading to a degrading in performance, and engine damage in some extreme cases.  (As we all know, SA diesel is high in sulphur)  I had some niggly problems before the ECU replacement, loosing power, black smoke coming from the exhaust, high fuel consumption above manufacturers specs.  The ECU was replaced at around 15,000 km's - no problems since then.  The engine is as smooth as any diesel I have heard, and performance (in terms of power and torque) seems to have increased, and fuel consumption dropped by around 10% or so.

Otherwise the car is pretty much full-house, with tow-bar, roof rack, useless plastic nudge bar in front   :-)   and two spotlights.  I did some work on the roof rack, modified it to include two jerry-can holders and a few brackets for fishing rods, spade and high-lift jack.  Had some problems with the shaking of the roof rack in Lesotho, some of the brackets came loose, but fixed it for the recent trip to Kosi, Bhanga neck and Southern
Mozambique.

Proof that you CAN kit out a Freelander!  All in all, she was quite heavily loaded, with jerry cans on the roof filled with diesel, and those on the trailer filled with petrol (for a boat) Further weight was added to the
roof by carrying food, etc in containers on the roof rack.  The trailer was also packed with about 10 other people's food, camping equipment etc.  After
having been to Bhanga Neck, we went to Ponta do Ouro, and did the full Ponta do Ouro scenic 4x4 route (although I only towed the trailer to Ponta do Ouro) She coped without any problems! 

Riaan has undertaken quite a few trips so far: 
Pretty much the whole of Northern Kwa-Zulu Natal in three trips in total now, right from Mapelane to Kosi Bay, around lake Sibaya, Mabibi, etc up to Bhanga Neck and Kosi Bay.
Lesotho with the LROC.
Southern Mozambique, Including the full Ponta do Ouro 4x4 scenic route.
(and a couple of places off this route!)
Southern tip of Africa around Agulhas, Arniston/Waenhuiskrans.  Some
beautifull scenery there!
Lots of 4x4 trails in Kwa-Zulu Natal, Gauteng, North West, and Mapumalanga

 

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