18' Series Touring vs outback

macpanda

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Hi All. My wife and i have recently purchased a 2010 Expanda 18.57-6 (non- outback version). We love the layout and fact that we didn't have to get a 21+ft van to have what we want! We are planning a 7 month half lap of Aus at the end of the year with our daughters, 6 and 8. We will be generally sticking to the main routes, most of which look sealed, and are not planning on crossing through any long distances (100km+) of dirt roads at a time. However we also don't want to be limited to going to caravan parks etc - we will be needing to use dirt roads and potentially sandy track to access national parks, more remote camp sites etc. So my questions are:

1. Should we sell up and get something more build for off road? I don't particularly want anything too much bigger, and to step to something more built for off road is a big leap in $$.
2. Are there some relatively simple modifications that we can make to beef up what we have a bit. I have spoken to a caravan repairer who will flip the axel for around $500, potentially add some bigger rims and deeper tread tires etc? What about suspension?
3. We don't yet have a tow vehicle - happy to spend $30k to $50k to get something reliable. I am thinking a Toyota Hilux, mainly because of reliability and access to repairers and parts in case something goes wrong on the trip. Also because we will need some extra space on the tray as the payload on the van is pretty limited. Any thoughts or suggestions?

Thanks!
 

MDS69

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Jul 6, 2014
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Really the main difference between OB and touring is the OB has
bigger brakes
bigger chassis
some chequer plate for stone protection
different rims and tyres
solar
don’t know about suspensión on the earlier models, J-Tech independent from around 2013/14

The OB and tourer vans from the floor up are the same. The joinery will fall apart in both. Best you do a bit of preventative maintenance/mods.
My personal opinion is that the touring chassis is sufficient for some sporadic outback dirt road driving. Tyre pressures are probably more important to reduce damage.
Yes flip the axle for greater clearance but remember if it is a solid axle then you have the same clearance there but better approach and departure angles.
With a flipped axle, if you have an annexe it will now be short. Also drop down legs may need attention.
I think payload is greater on a touring model compared to J-Tech OB due to the heavier suspension of the OB. Don’t know about non J-Tech OB.
Solar can be retro fitted if you don’t have it.
light truck tyres and different rims can be fitted if required.
 

Drover

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1. Should we sell up and get something more build for off road? I don't particularly want anything too much bigger, and to step to something more built for off road is a big leap in $$.
As @MDS69 said regarding the differences, I wouldn't sell, I would just modify, tidy up all the lines/pipes underneath, flip the axles, the same stuff will fall off in a tourer as an Off roader.
2. Are there some relatively simple modifications that we can make to beef up what we have a bit. I have spoken to a caravan repairer who will flip the axel for around $500, potentially add some bigger rims and deeper tread tires etc? What about suspension?
Flipping the axle is the way to go, it will give you 80 to 100mm in extra height (usually80mm) thing you have to watch is you may have to do some changes to your vehicle tow hitch, depending on what wheels are fitted going wider rims is better than bigger diameter, you have just lifted the van 80mm so any more isn't always better, if 14" though go to 15" rims better variety of tyres and you can get a size which doesn't give any more lift, going over 100mm of lift will just cause possible stability probs and hook up drama on tug, there is a legal height for tow ball from ground, ignored more often than not, you don't want chunky tyres on van they don't do improve things, just look cool and wear more, a good LT All Terrain with a moderate tread is ideal......

3. We don't yet have a tow vehicle - happy to spend $30k to $50k to get something reliable. I am thinking a Toyota Hilux, mainly because of reliability and access to repairers and parts in case something goes wrong on the trip. Also because we will need some extra space on the tray as the payload on the van is pretty limited. Any thoughts or suggestions?

A million answers for that one, while I won't advise a brand what you want is a vehicle with a 3.5t tow capacity, they cannot in real world tow that much, mostly about 2.9t https://withoutahitch.com.au/ask-expert-navigate-tow-vehicle-limits/ explains it far easier, so thats the vehicle load sorted, a dual cab is ideal one with 2.7 to 3.2lt engine, I don't care for these 2lt twin turbo jobs .......... 6 speed or more auto box, I prefer a trayback with a alloy canopy on back, can carry more and means no unpack repack when you want to get something out no stretching, no ladder needed................ I'll relent, D-Max, Ranger, Colorado be my main choices.... then again it depends on year model as each has their gremlins but are really same, same.


 
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Vere

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I have a 2013 non-outback, I have had no problems. I have towed dirt roads and across paddocks/fields to get to off-grid camp spots with no problems. Adjust your speed top suit and get a compressor so you can adjust tyre pressures to suit. Flipping axle will increase your clearances front/back but not really been a problem for me. Keep and eye on pipes/wires underneath (can add protection if your concerned) as others have said - inside is the same and door will fall of just both versions :)
 

Drover

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I did it to my 14.44 as it would scrape its bum at the Shell garage at Moree and my driveway.................10" drums versus 12" the shoe/braking area is the same so no need to worry about upgrading really....
 
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macpanda

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Thanks all, great feedback. I'm going to take it out to a few different spots and see how the clearance goes at take it from there. I had a guy take a look at the axles and he thought he would need to weld new stubs on (currently a drop axle) so not as straight forward as i was hoping. Might just try to upgrade the wheels and tyres and avoid flipping the axles, but will see how it goes.
 
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Drover

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Thanks all, great feedback. I'm going to take it out to a few different spots and see how the clearance goes at take it from there. I had a guy take a look at the axles and he thought he would need to weld new stubs on (currently a drop axle) so not as straight forward as i was hoping. Might just try to upgrade the wheels and tyres and avoid flipping the axles, but will see how it goes.

Throw some pics up for us to see, the more the merrier, we should have a solution for you, seems strange that a van that size would have drops fitted ... also what the tyre and rim size is ...... if it has got drops there are solutiuons, a whole new axle isn't all that expensive, using the old brake/hub combo and its easy to do in a driveway, not really a biggy... I hate throwing money away on complicated solutions when a practical inexpensive one is available.
 

Boots in Action

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Throw some pics up for us to see, the more the merrier, we should have a solution for you, seems strange that a van that size would have drops fitted ... also what the tyre and rim size is ...... if it has got drops there are solutiuons, a whole new axle isn't all that expensive, using the old brake/hub combo and its easy to do in a driveway, not really a biggy... I hate throwing money away on complicated solutions when a practical inexpensive one is available.
Hi @macpanda , I have a 2013 Penguin which is not quite as long as your van, but have successfully had the axle reversed to obtain greater ground clearance for body of van, but the beam axle is still low. That would only be an issue if travelling over a "humped" section of road and there are plenty of other things that will be hit before the van axle. Definitely worth the change. Attached are some pictures for you to consider. All that really happens is that the axle is now BENEATH the leaf springs and is not ABOVE the springs. Attachments with "U" bolts are unchanged as are brake lines/cables.
 

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macpanda

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Nice one - i guess you get a lift equivalent to the 40mm axle + height of the leaf springs? Is it easier to completely remove the axle to do this or jack up the van and remove and reinstate the springs?
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Drover

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To under sling the axle with a drop down its virtually the same as a straight axle :
While I said originally it doesn't apply to drop axles, I can't for the life of me see why .....I.m more aquainted with them now........ @Boots in Action might be able to point out..... I may have been in error.



You will need 5 jack stands, spanners, hammer, scribe, wheel spanner, tape measure, new U bolts/nuts/fish plate and washers, welder, 2x spacer blocks, flat hard surface, good jack.... you cannot just flip the axle the brake drums have to be in the same position, they have LH and RH as well as front and back positions.
 
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Boots in Action

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To under sling the axle with a drop down its virtually the same as a straight axle :
While I said originally it doesn't apply to drop axles, I can't for the life of me see why .....I.m more aquainted with them now........ @Boots in Action might be able to point out..... I may have been in error.



You will need 5 jack stands, spanners, hammer, scribe, wheel spanner, tape measure, new U bolts/nuts/fish plate and washers, welder, 2x spacer blocks, flat hard surface, good jack.... you cannot just flip the axle the brake drums have to be in the same position, they have LH and RH as well as front and back positions.
Hi @Drover and @macpanda , I had the axle on my van done by a caravan repair mob at Brendale just to the north of Brisbane - about $300.00 several years ago. At the time I did not know too much about them either but had seen the same thing done on my Daughter's double axle 2010 Discovery at the dealers when bought new. I could immediately see the advantage by having the body of van much higher, although the axle still stays the same clearance (height) above the road surface. Where the advantage comes in is going over dips and gullies as you traverse very uneven ground (including deep gutters at driveways etc). The BODY of van has greater clearance when passing over these dips. Also handy when fording streams as the body is that much higher than the water level at axle level. No difference in drivability or handling, although in theory, the centre of gravity of van is higher.

Somethings to consider are the extra height in getting into van ( a bigger step for those vertically challenged as my partner is - see tape measure in my pictures) ) and a slight change in height of ball coupling for connection to tug. I just reversed by ball and van now sits perfectly level. My full annex (when I use it ) still fits perfectly (was a genuine Jayco one that came with van), but some members have stated that the axle re-positioning has meant that awning is now short of the ground.

Now @Drover and I have discussed this axle rotation issue at length and I also thought that it was just a matter of maybe just rotating the axle 180 degrees but then @Drover pointed out that would put the parking brake lines/connections on the wrong sides. Then I also thought that this could be corrected by rotating the axle and ALSO changing the axle around to the other side of van and get even higher with the offset axles . But @Drover shot that one down also as the leading and trailing brake shoes are then back to front!! Bugger!!! So after all that, there was only the basic change and simpler too!!!

If doing the changeover yourself, make sure you measure EXACTY where you reattach the leaf springs so that they are EXACTLY at right angles to the direction of travel. If not, you will get severe tyre wear on the forward or rear edges of the van tyres. Also heed @Drover's safety warnings. He has posted quite a few points about this subject including how to readjust the positioning of "U" bolts holding springs on to the axle (if not correct) and the use of nyloloc nuts on the shackles to ensure they do not come loose.

Just as aside, while camped up at the Mareeba Showground sometime back, I was approached by a vanner asking why my van was so high off the ground as she was wanting a similar sized van to take outback. Dealer told her would need to purchase an OUTBACK model which was higher (and heavier) and getting too heavy for her tug. After looking at my van and the clearances it had, she went away with a more positive and cheaper idea of how to have van higher and with greater ground clearance!!
 
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Drover

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You can get the U bolts and bits from most hardware shops, its a great time to actully replace the spring shackle bolts with greasable ones as well... If you haven't done them before check out Couplemates web site I'm pretty sure they have a good description of how to tighten up the U bolts so you don't stress them out too much........... don't have to remove springs entirely just drop one end so you can move the axle .....
 

macpanda

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The Expanda is at the shop getting the axle flipped. They have changes out some of the brushes/shackles as you suggested Drover. Have the option of going for 15 inch wheels - plenty of room now. I need new tyres anyway - have been quoted $1250 for 5x steel rims & tyres or $1700 for 5x alloys and tyres. More decisions!

I have done a bit of reading for pro's and cons of alloys vs steel. My main concern is weight, but i cant seem to find specs for weights of different wheels/tyres. Does anyone know ballpark for weight difference between 14 inch alloys and tyres (originaly jayco stock from 2010) vs 15 inch steel with medium tread all terrain tyres vs 15 inch alloys with medium tread all terrain tyres? Are we talking a couple kilos per wheel (so don't worry about it) or could it be more like 10-15kg's per wheel?

My other concern is how it will level out with the tow rig. I went with a Dmax, can raise the tow hitch a bit but not too much as the tailgate on the ute will hit the trailer hitch. I think i will need to take a drive and hook it up to be able to decide on that one.
 
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Hitting the road

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Keep in mind that rims and tyres are "unsprung" weight, they really don't have an effect on the vans carrying capacity as such. But, obviously when weighed the total weight including rims and tyres comes in to play affecting what the manufacturers TARE & ATM are stated as...and as the TARE will be a tad higher, though I reckon we'd be only talking maybe 25 - 30kgs with a spare, the payload would be similarly less.
All Terrains will weigh a tad more than conventional tyres due to the extra ply in the sidewalls, plus the difference in weight will also be influenced by manufacturer and tread pattern.
Imo it would be worth opting for AT type tyres as you will get the extra sidewall strength, tougher tread, with a tread pattern more suitable for occasional forays on to unsealed roads...
 

mfexpanda

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The Expanda is at the shop getting the axle flipped. They have changes out some of the brushes/shackles as you suggested Drover. Have the option of going for 15 inch wheels - plenty of room now. I need new tyres anyway - have been quoted $1250 for 5x steel rims & tyres or $1700 for 5x alloys and tyres. More decisions!

I have done a bit of reading for pro's and cons of alloys vs steel. My main concern is weight, but i cant seem to find specs for weights of different wheels/tyres. Does anyone know ballpark for weight difference between 14 inch alloys and tyres (originaly jayco stock from 2010) vs 15 inch steel with medium tread all terrain tyres vs 15 inch alloys with medium tread all terrain tyres? Are we talking a couple kilos per wheel (so don't worry about it) or could it be more like 10-15kg's per wheel?

My other concern is how it will level out with the tow rig. I went with a Dmax, can raise the tow hitch a bit but not too much as the tailgate on the ute will hit the trailer hitch. I think i will need to take a drive and hook it up to be able to decide on that one.

we had a outback expanda that we had the springs moved to the top of the axle to raise it even more worked and towed great
we towed it level by flipping the tow hitch on the back of a colorado
 
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Drover

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When I redid the suspension on the 14.44, I chucked the alloys for a nice pair of ROH steellies, wider and with the new tyres added about 1.5kg if I recall, preference to LT tyres of a mild aggressive tread if not highway, no need for chunky stuff, 15" gives more variety especially in lT .... don't worry about the weight if its going to be crucial then your need to throw out some junk ................ ignore the TARE weight, if the ATM and ball weight are okay the GTM will be as well, the tug is another matter.....

As for setting up the hitch well start from scratch is easier, van on flat level pad, measure from ground to bottom of hitch coupling, with tug on the flat you will ideally want the bottom of the ball to be about 25-30mm higher than the van measurement, now to achieve this depends on the reciever/shank you have, some can be flipped around to give the desired lift some cannot, some can be adjusted in height, they come different sizes so no need to fit a plow on the back like some go round with.... if the tail gate is going to hit and you have a bog standard ball hitch swapping to an ALKO off road hitch or similar could be the answer as they have a lower profile.....
 

macpanda

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Any thoughts on whether I can flip the variable height weight distribution hitch to get extra height? It’s on its highest selling with the lugs section pointing down, but can’t see why I couldn’t flip it so the lug section is point up, and re attach the tow ball section. It might be made for this but I don’t have the user instructions!
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