WE’VE BEEN preparing the Cruiser for its next sojourn, which will be a longish one of a few months up to Alice Springs and across to WA via the Gary Junction Road to Marble Bar and then up to the Kimberley for a month or so.
We’ll then head south to Central Australia and the Eastern Macs before arriving back in Birdsville. Not sure what we’ll do after that, but I doubt we’ll be coming home … maybe a run through the Gulf before heading to the tip of Cape York?
The crew at Outback 4WD in Bayswater, Victoria, where I get all my service and maintenance work done, has been busy giving the Cruiser a service and a pre-trip inspection (always a good idea, no matter where you are going), as well as fitting a set of airbags to the rear suspension.
Airbags as a suspension aid have been around for ages and I’ve got a set on our Dodge Ram in the States to help carry the load of the slide-on camper. My stretched Patrol has never needed them as the rig is so well sprung and balanced, even when towing a camper. But the 79 Cruiser is a different ballgame and, with its long rear overhang, we’ve had trouble keeping the truck level, even with a set of Old Man Emu springs in the back.
I could stretch the chassis like I did with my Patrol, but the turning circle of the Cruiser isn’t great and that would make it even worse. I could go heavier in the spring set or add another leaf, but that would affect the ride all the time, making it bloody uncomfortable when it’s lightly loaded. So I went for a set of airbags.
2019 Gear Guide: 4x4 touring suspension
Polyair make a range of airbags for vehicles, and its Dominator Bellows are the toughest, biggest airbags in the Polyair line-up, designed with rigs like the 70 Series Cruiser range in mind and that have suspensions varying from standard to a three-inch lift. There are two kits available: one for standard to 30mm lift and the second from 30mm to 75mm lift. Both are made from heavy duty, four-ply material with steel end caps and are adjustable from 5 to 100psi. They come supplied with all fittings, hoses and brackets, and come with a two-year unlimited-kilometre warranty.
A good handyman could fit these, but I let the experts at Outback 4WD do their thing. No drilling is required as the kit is a complete bolt-on affair, taking about two hours to fit. Take care when running the airlines as they must be kept out of the way and protected as much as possible.
I also opted for the optional airbag cradle kit, which allows more movement in the suspension as the airbags aren’t connected to the axle (or chassis) at one end. The cradle allows the suspension to go to full droop without any hindrance; it’s something I should fit to my Dodge.
While airbags don’t change the GVM of the vehicle they help carry the load and are rated to carry 2200kg. The minimum air pressure in the bag is 5psi, but that comes with the caveat of only being suitable for an unladen vehicle on a smooth road.
For loaded situations a minimum of 20psi is called for, and we found 20 to 25psi was more than suitable for the Cruiser when it was lightly loaded and didn’t have a camper on the back. With a camper hung on the rear it requires about 40 to 50psi to keep the rig level and the shackle plates to be near upright, with just the slightest angle backwards.
With all the electronic controls and sensors of modern vehicles, some form of code-scanning device makes a lot of sense; so I got myself a ScanGauge II for the Cruiser. These are simple to fit – the hardest thing is finding the OBD11 connector, which, in the 79’s case, is under the dash on the left-hand side of the steering wheel. Plug it in and run the cable to where the unit mounts – in the Cruiser’s case that’s on top of the steering column in front of the dash, which seems as good a place as any.
Once plugged in and the vehicle ignition switched on the ScanGauge will communicate with the vehicle. You’ll then need to calibrate it for engine size, fuel type, distance in kilometres, fuel tank size, etc., all of which is pretty easy.
Once all that is done the gauge will display a range of readings including engine revs, fuel usage, speed, intake air temperature and a whole lot more. Importantly it also has a scan tool, which you can use to view and clear diagnostic trouble codes, pending trouble codes, as well as being able to turn off the Check Engine light. The unit is also very easy to move from car to car.
There are many scan gauges on the market, but for the cost and peace of mind the ScanGauge II takes a lot of beating. I’m also much happier now that I’ve fitted the airbags – not only does the rig sit flatter and look better, it also rides better as the airbags allow the leaf springs to work to their fullest.
The complete ownership adventure on 4x4 Shed
4x4 Shed Log: 2013 Toyota Land Cruiser 79 Series
Current mileage: 132,250km
Date acquired: April 2016
Mileage this month: 5700km
Average fuel consumption: 16.3L/100km