Yesterday we booked BOB in for his next service in Almaty. It's long overdue – the previous service was 8,000km ago in Vientiane. Not ideal but the distance vs. time equation in China really didn't leave much room for a stop! Arranging this service prompted me to recall what maintenance we've had to perform on BOB so far. Before setting off we had set aside a decent budget for repairs and I was fully expecting various problems along the way. Suprisingly to date, this has not been the case. Which considering how far we have driven, the increased weight we are carrying and the condition of some of the 'roads' that we've been driving on, is amazing.

Pen celebrates as BOB recieves a clean bill of health from the Toyota garage in Bangkok. Oh what a feeling!

Most surprising, we have had no punctures. The original worn tyres got us from Syndney to Perth where we bought a new set of 'Ling Long' tyres which were about $200 per tyre. I was dubious to say the least as this was a brand I have never heard of. But the guys at GSA Motor Garage in Freemantle assured me that the mining companies are using this brand and they are solid as a rock. They have certainly stood the test of time!

As you would expect with Toyota, the engine has been rock solid. Regular oil and filter changes and thats pretty much it. Not once has it failed to start (fingers crossed for the future!). We suffered from awful engine performance in China but this was down to a combination of altitude (regularly +2000m and even +3000m) and crap fuel quality. We changed the fuel filter close to Kazakhstan just to make sure and since we filled up with Kazak fuel, everything is back to normal. The fuel is much cheaper here too! $0.70 per litre! You've gotta love driving in oil rich countries ;-)

There was some confusion at the first Kazak fuel station though. For some reason the decimal point on the fuel pump was in the wrong place. I asked the guy to stop at 500.00 and promptly handed over a 500T note. He frowned and showed me that he wanted 5000T. We'd read plenty about corruption in Kazakhstan but I didn't expect it to be so blatant and at the bloody fuel station! So I protested and we argued in broken Russian, broken English and finger pointing. After a few minutes, as Pen returned, I was starting to sense that I was in the wrong. I gave him the 5000T he wanted and asked Pen what that was in AUD. “5000 Tenge is about $35, 500T is less than $4” she informed me. Hmmm. I was tempted to chase the chap down and apologise...but decided that driving off with my tail between my legs was a much better option!

Now back to the maintenance of our Off Road Extreme friend BOB. The only large job that we've had to tackle ourselves so far was changing a wheel cylinder on the back right wheel. This was tackled in the car park of our Bangkok hotel, much to the amusement of the security guard. Now generally I like working on cars. I like fixing things myself instead of paying someone to do it. However for me something unexpected always happens. In this case there were two 'incidents'. Firstly, whilst playing around with the old wheel cylinder that I had just removed, I managed to squirt brake fluid into my eye. Even though the words on the brake fluid bottle were written in Thai, it was clear to me that if you get brake fluid in your eye, you should do something about it! Luckily Pen was on hand to help wash out my eye and everything was well again. Until 20 minutes later. High fives were being exchanged after we managed to refit the extremely awkward springs that hold the brake shoes in place. All that was left to do was refit the drum. Easier said than done, the drum no longer fit. It couldn't have shrunk could it!? No stupid idea. After various attempts to 'make it fit' we reached panic stations. The car was suspended on a jack, we couldn't put the wheel back on and were supposed to leaving tomorrow... In the end we sorted it. But it took a good 30 minutes of cursing.

Fixing the wheel cylinder. Is this right!?

Suspension is our next concern. We still have the original shock absorbers from when I bought the car so we've asked for these to be changed during our Almaty service. The roads in Laos and China were really hard on the suspension. I hit more potholes at speed than I car to admit.

Apart from that it's really just been a few niggly problems. The latch on the back door snapped in Thailand which I didn't get around to fixing until China. Pen still doesn't have a sun visor, much to her annoyance. But probably most concerning, I snapped the drivers side door handle whilst at a petrol station in China. Not sure how but for now it still works. Not sure for how long and also not sure what I do if it completely breaks!? So if anyone knows where I can buy a replacement door handle for a '91 Troopy in Kazakhstan, please let me know!