(The information is listed consecutively and contains some very interesting details. Just scroll through for more details).
Conversions, modifications and repairs 2022
>Photos are with the respective texts.
Repair: Our Gazell cabin, which is made of polyester, was separating more and more in the front part, i.e. at the hinges of the pop-up roof. As a result, we had more and more water in the cabin when it rained.
The manufacturer did not know a quick and effective solution when we asked. With about 60 camping bodies sold, this is only the second case where such damage has occurred. He referred us to his agency in Versoix/Geneva, which in turn recommended a boat builder on Lake Geneva for repair.
For us, Lake Geneva was clearly too far away. So we looked for a body shop in the Basel area with experience of polyester superstructures that would take care of this damage. But they all waved us off; too costly and almost impossible to repair so that the repaired damage would last permanently. In addition, we should have taken the cabin off the jeep to be able to carry out the repair in this area. No, this was not a solution for us!
At some point I (Tom) plucked up courage, extended the hole of the hinge fastening through the complete front structure, inserted long screws that reached through the whole structure and pulled the unravelled structure together again by means of these screws. Besides the inner Gazell surface, I supported the additional (hinge) attachment to the roll bar of the Jeep. By means of the nuts on the inside, we can regulate the holding force or the pull on the cabin at any time.
Despite the initial scepticism, the repair worked. The two “fish mouths” in front of the hinges of the pop-up roof, i.e. the polyester was brought back into its original position by the mechanical force and – as the dot on the “i” – the roof is tight again in the front area.
Repair: After the stone impact, with the windscreen destroyed, the window frame pressed in and the windscreen wipers bent, this was professionally put right by a body shop.
The initially incorrectly fitted windscreen wipers were later replaced with the correct ones.
Due to worldwide delivery delays, the window frame was not replaced, but straightened and repainted.
Despite a full order book, the entire repair was completed within an acceptable time frame and was arranged accordingly by our Jeep workshop in Basel.
Modification/addition for roof load: Our space in the Jeep is sometimes very restrictive for long journeys and a lot of things have to stay at home as a result. By construction, our pop-up roof is not designed for loads and it was never an option for the manufacturer to reinforce the pop-up roof for loads.
Since actually every car has a roof load of 50 kg and this without an entry in the vehicle documents, we pursued this wish further. A luggage rack “à la Landrover or Land Cruiser” had to be left out of our wish list. Such carriers already have a dead weight of over 25 kg and would immediately render a roof load useless.
A little later, a dealer or off-road supplier gave us the idea to mount two airline rails on the roof and to coat the roof with a special adhesive paint. The roof load can thus be reliably attached to the airline rails. The airline rails and the paint hardly weigh anything.
We carried out this type of “roof load support” in the front part of the pop-up roof. Instead of 2 rails, we attached an additional rail crosswise in the front area so that no piece of luggage can slide out the front.
This way we can carry additional light but voluminous luggage on the roof of the car and the two lateral gas pressure dampers for the pop-up roof can also handle the 25 kg additional weight without any problems.
The overall height of the vehicle was not increased by the airline rails. These three rails will hardly be noticed during any vehicle inspections (CH MFK) and will not lead to a complaint.
As a result of this change or adjustment, we had to move the solar panel from the front to the rear part of the pop-up roof.
Installation of heating: In autumn 2021 we bought a mobile heating system from Nakatanenga/Germany, which was neatly installed in a box. We placed this on the back of the rack and were thus able to warm up our camper in cold temperatures via a heating hose. The product proved itself very well and we were more than satisfied with the heating performance. However, the extra kilos on the back of the rack put additional strain on our vehicle. Since our vehicle was already very loaded, another solution had to be found.
So in spring 2022, the heater box was completely dismantled and the actual heater was installed in the car, or in the back of our camper. Many parts became superfluous due to the direct installation. Now the diesel is drawn directly from the vehicle’s diesel tank instead of from a separate tank. We were able to do without many components from the heating box, as these are already available in the car and we were able to save a few kilos through this new installation.
The previously installed heating ducts in the car were retained and the former external connection of the heating hose can now be used as a heat source for an object to be heated externally. This means that we can also heat a tent, for example, with our heating in the camp compartment.
Redesigning the interior / placing a separate WC: We have already redesigned the interior several times and were often looking for further optimisations. In addition, the wish came up that we could sleep in the lower part, i.e. in the car itself and with the pop-up roof closed, in extreme weather conditions.
When it came to the toilet, we had the same problem again and again, mainly in urban agglomerations, that we couldn’t take care of our needs somewhere behind a bush. The upcoming group trip in South America also forced us for a better solution than burying ourselves in the pampas.
So there is now a large panel inside the camper which divides the interior into two parts and our luggage is now stored in boxes instead of cupboards. The panel is at the height of the seats and can be extended if necessary and used as a sleeping area without having to open the pop-up roof. Although such an overnight stay would take some getting used to in these cramped conditions, the storms we have experienced so far probably only allow for such a solution.
By changing the interior, we created the necessary space on the left-hand side for our separating toilet, which is located in a standard box and – thanks to the separation of solid and liquid – should be almost odourless. The separation toilet is mobile, i.e. it can be used indoors as well as outdoors. Normal use should actually take place in the outdoor area, i.e. in our WC tent. If necessary, the WC can also be used in the camper and when the roof is up, the second person can stay in the camper, provided he or she has a certain insensitivity to odours 😉
Electrical installation camper: After the many modifications and additions, the electrical installation resembled more a “salad” than a professionally executed work. An external expert would never have understood the wiring nor would he have been able to solve a problem.
The many switches, which were scattered all over the camper, were pulled together into a central switch box and all electrical devices/connections are now switched from there.
At the same time, the partly undersized cables were replaced by new and neatly laid wiring.
With the new installation, certain smaller comfort additions were also made, such as the built-in light at the tailgate, so that there is finally some illumination in the outside area in the dark.
Gazell cabin; outside area: On the left and right we mounted pairs of airline rails on the outside walls of the Gazell cabin. This allowed us to remove the heavy home-made carrier on the left, and the extra water canister and shovel now hang from almost featherweight aluminium plates, saving almost 12 kg in weight.
The Maxtrax sand plates are – despite the airline rails – still attached directly to the Gazell outer wall. In terms of weight, this solution is still the most optimal.
At the rear end of the pop-up roof, we mounted holding possibilities for supports on the inside. This way we can support the pop-up roof with the telescopic hiking poles we brought along on the brackets of the rear tarpaulin. This could be necessary if we ever put too much strain on the roof load or if the wind from the front would be too strong and push the roof down.
Repairs Jeep: In connection with the changes, the Jeep itself was again scrutinised a little more closely.
The two front wheel covers were finally properly reattached to the body. Since the original plastic joints kept coming loose from the side plates, blind nuts were pressed into the plate and the wheel covers were fixed with screws. Now it holds properly!
The rear fog lights did not light up since the Gazell cab was put on in 2019! We never really found out the cause and it was not due to defective bulbs either.
So, from a certain point in the vehicle where we could still reliably measure the desired voltage, we replaced the entire wiring up to the rear fog lights.
Now they light up again and the expert at the next vehicle inspection can enjoy the dazzling effect.
During the further maintenance and inspection work, various defects were discovered that had to be repaired before the trip to South America.
The universal joints on the front axle have a lot of play, the axle bearings may have lost their permanent lubrication after the many water crossings and the front cardan shaft has a little play. The automatic gearbox has also been giving us trouble since the flushing and in certain situations it no longer works as it used to. For these problems we are going to Bavaria, where a well-known Jeep expert will take care of them.
The periodic vehicle inspection will be carried out for us by the representative of OME-Fahrwerke in Thun, where our “Lady RuGa” will also receive new dampers, springs and tyres.
So we hope that the vehicle will also work perfectly for the next 50’000 kilometres and we can concentrate on travelling instead of repairing 😉
December 2021; A heater!
After Iceland it was clear to both of us; we also need a heated home in colder temperatures. But our limited space doesn’t allow us too much luxury and we can’t leave any items at home. Everything has been perfected and optimised; we really only have the bare essentials with us. With our space constraints, we also had to think about fire safety and it soon became clear that the heating system could not be installed in the vehicle without sacrificing storage space. So we looked for possibilities to somehow mount the desired heater outside the vehicle.
At the Bavarian company Nakatanenga we found the desired product and the corresponding accessories for the installation.
The heater is neatly stowed away in an aluminium box with its diesel tank and the necessary control parts. The heat is conducted to the desired location via a heating hose. Thanks to this concept, we only had to install the best possible air distribution in our camping compartment; the rest remains outside. Thus, the additional spatial restrictions were bearable.
We strapped the aluminium box with the heater to the rear rack above the spare wheel and fed the warm air into the side of our camper via a hose. The rear door of our jeep is not affected by the heater and the hoses when opening or closing.
If necessary, we can take the heater off the rack and heat a tent as well as the car.
Conclusion after the first few days in low temperatures: We would never give this heater away again; the homely warmth is unbeatable even in icy conditions! And the absolute highlight of the new heater: we can control it remotely from our bed and slip out of our feathers with the camp compartment preheated.
Wow; if we had known this earlier!
The only downer is that our extra battery was not designed for this new use and is at the lower limit of its available power after a few hours of heating. The bridging with the vehicle battery (main battery) provides a remedy, but we should not overstrain this either, as we want to start our Jeep at any time.
20 novembre 2021; Water ingress Jeep
Probably when changing the Gazell camping cabin from the old to the new Jeep the rubber seal was damaged and now somehow the water runs inside through the seal and drips into the interior of the Jeep on both sides of the driver’s and passenger’s door. The standing water in the floor pan would not be a problem as a Jeep has special openings in the pan, but the dripping water while driving is “annoying”.
The defective door seals have already been changed for a lot of money (original Mopar part), but did not bring the desired success. It still drips during heavy rainfall!
The upper frame seal is currently neither available as an original accessory nor from a aftermarket supplier.
In addition to taping off the upper window frame seal, i.e. between the frame of the windscreen and the roof of the Gazell camping cabin, I created additional openings on both sides of the Gazell roof gutter at the front and a corresponding tear-off edge so that the water should no longer run into the door seal; with moderate success.
17 November 2021; Repair and service / poor Jeep customer service
Due to the repair of the axle journal bearings in Reykjavík/Iceland, the two shaft sealing rings of the front axle were damaged and the differential gear was therefore no longer completely tight (oil loss on both sides).
The “second repair”, i.e. the replacement of the damaged shaft sealing rings, was done by our trusted workshop in Basel. In addition, scratched areas were discovered on the axle, where the oil seals are located. The incorrectly tightened screws on the steering mechanism and damaged screw heads said a lot about the quality of work in Iceland!
At the same time as the repair, we had a service carried out on the engine and all the gearboxes, so that we can experience the next x-thousand kilometres in Spain and Portugal carefree and without any workshop visits.
Unfortunately, the mileage did not quite reach the next major service, which would still be included in our service package. However, since the vehicle’s computer prescribes the oil change depending on the use and driving style, the indicator light in the cockpit would have lit up soon – one way or another – and directed us to a workshop.
In addition, on the advice of our workshop, we had the automatic gearbox serviced, i.e. an oil change including flushing and replacement of all filters and seals. As we often drive our vehicle in difficult terrain, even Jeep recommends this service, whereby the work is carried out by an external and specialised workshop.
For the lack of repair in Iceland, we already contacted the Jeep customer service in Switzerland there, as we were already on our way back. To our astonishment, they responded positively to our request and offered appropriate help and goodwill. When the repair was carried out in Switzerland, there was suddenly no longer any sign of generosity and the costs were fully borne by us. We immediately asked ourselves why we went back to Reykjavík to have the work done in an official Jeep workshop when the customer bears the risk himself anyway?
The next bitter pill to swallow was the 96’000 km service: this was not covered either, although a service package was included in the purchase. On our onward journey to Spain/Portugal, we did not want to drive to a garage after only a few kilometres and have the engine serviced. After our journey across Iceland, the vehicle computer would have directed us to a workshop soon and the service package is only valid in Switzerland.
Since the required kilometres had not yet been reached and the service indicator light in the cockpit was not activated, we had to pay the full costs.
The advertising promises a lot and during the sales pitches everything is backed up even more. Unfortunately, the small print is not referred to and with our heavily modified Jeep, the customer bears the full risk anyway. So that’ s it!
Yes, we are disappointed with the Jeep service in Europe! Maybe there is too much Fiat behind it! A lot is promised, but suddenly the small details count and; “the last one bites the dog” – the customer is always asked to pay!
Too bad for the great vehicle!
PS: The statement about Jeep customer service refers to “Jeep Switzerland” and not to the workshop in Basel, which does impeccable work and has our full trust. This workshop is also at the very end of the chain and is only allowed to take the “beating” from the customers.
September 8, 2021 / Front axle right, axle ball joints failed / Iceland, on the south coast.
When changing the wheels – in an off-road vehicle you change the wheels at regular intervals – I noticed a lot of axle ball joints play on the right front.
Whether the worn out joint was caused by the many tracks in Iceland and whether the original material of our Jeep is not as good as the manufacturer claims, we would like to leave up in the air. However, the fact that we have often pointed out a cracking noise in the steering to different authorised workshops within the warranty period; these are facts, but we were always told that there were no problems at all with the front axle and that a certain amount of play was absolutely normal.
Back in Iceland: A little uneasy, we returned to Reykjavík and visited a Jeep authorised workshop (Ísband) there. Our Jeep was immediately examined and the diagnosis was clear: worn axle ball joint, top right!
The workshop also understood with our special situation and that we live in this vehicle. They facilitated a repair the following day (9.9.21) and to our amazement, the necessary spare part was in stock.
In 5 hours the job was done, i.e. greasable ball joints were fitted on both sides and the worn front brake pads were also replaced. (…there was not enough time for the rear pads, although they are more worn! What a workshop!)
After transferring about sFr. 1’500.- for the diagnosis, work and material, we could continue our journey in Iceland.
But – oh horror – after a later vehicle check I discovered oil leaking from the front axles! One problem (axle ball joints) was solved, two new problems were created; little oil dripped from the axles on both sides. Presumably, the shaft seals inside the axle were damaged during the repair in Reykjavík when the shafts were pushed in.
(The design of the much-praised Dana axle probably still corresponds to the same type of the original Jeep, which simply had to work and was a throwaway product in the chaos of war anyway).
Since a return trip to Reykjavík was no longer possible, we had to regularly top up the oil in the front cardan housing and hope that the oil smears do not cause too many environmental problems.
Let’s hope that our workshop in Switzerland will do a better job with the follow-up repair.
14. August 2021 / weld seam on exhaust pipe torn / Iceland, track northeast of Laugafell
After a water crossing, there was suddenly a strange rattling under the right side of the vehicle. Only after a second thorough inspection of the underside of the vehicle did we notice the complete crack of the weld seam after the diesel particulate filter (DPF).
When, how and where we could weld this stainless steel pipe back together was rather a minor problem out in the sticks. Somehow we had to put the pipe parts back together to avoid further damage.
With “ResQ-Tape”, an old tin can and two pipe clamps we could eliminate the ” rattling”. The whole makeshift connection survived all further kilometres of the slope, so that we refrained from going to a welding shop for the time being. (…. presumably the corresponding explanations in Icelandic would also be correspondingly difficult to put everything back together as we wished! 😉 )