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I bought a second-hand lemon

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7 lessons you need to learn from my (expensive) mistake

By now you might have seen me go on about my GQ Patrol. It’s been one of the biggest projects I’ve undertaken, and the sad thing is it was supposed to be the easiest. Swap the good gear off my rusty petrol GQ, put it onto the new blank canvas. Well, I’ve literally swapped every panel off a wreck now too. I’ve had to rebuild the braking, electrical and fuel systems (the list is longer but I’ll spare you the pain). I’ve also come to the realisation that I bought a lemon and this makes me sad, because this isn’t my first rodeo; I should have known better. Also, I’d prefer to be working on my project Suzuki and driving this thing. At a count, I’ve bought 15 used 4WDs in as many years (hey, I hate paying rego). Sure some of them have been quirky… but none as bad as this old kettle. I made some very stupid mistakes, because emotion got in the way. Take these seven lessons, and never ever repeat my errors.

 

Don’t buy in the rain

You can’t help this sometimes, but looking at a 4X4 in the rain is a bad idea. Why? Well it makes it harder to find leaks and rust spots as the water covers every nook and cranny. My Patrol, despite running fine on the test drive, had a rather serious injector pump leak. If it wasn’t raining I would have noticed the 14-odd litres of diesel covering the front axle housing. This cost me $1,200 for a reconditioned pump and another $400 for fitting. Not what you want after buying a vehicle and coughing up for rego and insurance at the same time. Not such a bargain now, is it son?

 

Don’t buy the closest 4X4

I spotted the Patrol only 10 minutes from my house, and thought ‘you bloody ripper’. While it was conveniently close, the reality is plane tickets are cheap. If I had looked further afield I could have picked up a model with less kays and more mods for the same sort of coin. I got lazy, and it WILL cost me in the long run. If searching for a new or used 4X4, don’t be afraid to expand your search field. I wish I had…

 

Don’t buy the cheapest

My GQ is a 1989 model with 516,000 kays on the NA Silvertop TD42 motor; and I paid $5,400 for it. Which these days is a pretty damn good price (on paper). If I was smart, I would have looked for, say, a 1994 model with less kays. Why? Well, while the mechanical stuff is relatively easy to fix, the little stupid things that need to be replaced on a vehicle of that age are a very real issue. The handbrake cable snapped one day, the next day the passenger side mirror just… fell off. The rubber seals in the rear door have perished, and (no joke) the air-con vent crumbled like a cookie when I went to adjust it. Luckily I was able to find a wreck and pinch most of the parts off that – but again that is time and money wasted fixing the truck when I should be out enjoying it.

 

Don’t assume anything

I noticed the volt meter on the dash was off the chart, saying the charging system was pumping out 18V. “Surely this is just a dodgy gauge,” I muttered; and thought nothing of it. Well, wasn’t I wrong. Turns out the alternator was shot, and it was overcharging the electrical system. This cost me a new battery ($250) and an expensive alternator ($500) plus a few hours of my time to fit it. If I had brought along a multimeter for the inspection, this could have been picked up and the price re-negotiated. But I didn’t bring a multimeter. Play stupid games and you win stupid prizes I guess.

 

That clunk sounds expensive… it was

I diagnosed a worn tie rod end. No big deal, I thought… there are even upgraded parts available. Yeah, it was more than that. The rubber coupler in the steering column was perished, and the passenger side body mount had compressed – resulting in a creaking clunking noise on every turn. This went from a $50 part (and an easy fix) to being much more involved. Moral of the story: If there is a clunk or a bang, don’t dismiss it as being an easy fix. Investigate further. PS: Just the rubber coupler cost $160 to replace. And now I’m up for at least another $1,000 to replace all the steering arms as well as getting the GQ on the hoist to lift the body and replace the compressed mount. Le-sigh…

 

Don’t trust the seller

Old mate was into hot rods, and was a really nice chap. He had motorbikes and drum kits in his living room. Just my sort of dude. But I quickly learnt that hot rodders and 4WDers build things very differently. The ‘rock sliders’ mentioned in the advert look to be fabricated from an old street signpost, for example. There was no coolant overflow bottle, as he had used it on another project. The wiring ‘worked’ but was an absolute mess… at a guess I pulled 20kg of wiring out of the vehicle. The oddest thing was that the rear sway bar mount had been cut off, despite the fact this model GQ has a factory-fitted sway bar disconnect. Just like oils ain’t oils, automotive enthusiasts aren’t always alike.

 

Don’t bring an eager mate

I brought along our new vehicle Editor, Sam Purcell. He was fresh off a trip through the desert driving the ARB Icons GQ Patrol. He was very enthusiastic about the vehicle. At one point on the test drive he said, “I reckon you have to get it.” I was sitting on the fence at the time, but his words of encouragement tipped me over the edge. I should have brought my wife, who would not have been enthusiastic. She would have said ‘do whatever you want’ which means DON’T DO IT, MAN! This is worthy of note: Sam helped me rebuild the braking system the other day, and he didn’t complain about being asked to do so.

 

Have you bought a lemon, and should Ev sell his GQ for something newer and more reliable?

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