23 June 1995

THE DAIHATSU FOURTRAK

DIESEL MILESTONES

Looking for a secondhand Daihatsu Fourtrak? Advice on picking a good example comes from John Humphries, boss of East Sussex-based Daihatsu main dealer Humphries and Parks.

Andrew Pearce reports

&#8226 July 1984: F70 introduced, mainly as windowless Commercial in swb form, some soft tops. No turbo.

&#8226 Later 1984: F75 lwb turbo Commercials.

&#8226 1988-89: F77 lwb pickup, limited Kan Doo edition.

&#8226 1989: F73 swb TDS, F78 lwb TDL Commercial.

&#8226 1993: F73 Coil/torsion bar Independents launched.

Regular oil/filter changes should let 2.8-litre diesel go past 150,000 miles. Engine should be mechanically quiet and show no oil leaks.

THE Fourtrak has carved a niche for itself as the closest alternative, at least in size, to a short wheelbase (swb) Land Rover.

In July 1984 the original slab-sided little F20/F50 models were replaced by the bigger, current-shape versions reviewed here. These leaf-sprung cars stayed unchanged until July 1993, when the Independent range ushered in torsion bar/coil suspension, wider track and fatter wheel arches. Engines stayed much the same throughout.

Farmers have favoured diesel variants of the lwb/swb Commercial or the plusher, high-roofed Estate. All share the same motors and running gear, so a common check list applies to all models. Power units are a 2.8-litre turbodiesel producing 89hp, an optional non-turbo delivering 73hp and from 1991, an intercooled version with 100hp. Brakes are disc/drums, steering by ball and nut.

"These are tough little vehicles which prove very reliable if looked after," says John Humphries. "The key thing is to look for a complete service history. This, along with the vehicles overall condition, tells you how its been cared for and determines the price."

Engines

Practically all Fourtrak diesels are turbocharged and largely trouble-free. Service history should confirm regular 3000-mile oil changes, though the turbo itself is unlikely to suffer through minor disruptions to the schedule. The engine itself should start easily, emit no audible signs of grief and leak no oil. Fuel consumption averages around 25mpg, with more coming on tour, less on towing.

Given regular attention, motors should see the far side of 150,000 miles before needing major work. Drive to the high-set cam changed from gears to belt in September 1987, so ask for evidence that the cam belt has been changed at 60,000-mile or five-year intervals. Belt failure means engine damage, but John Humphries says hes not yet known one go.

Transmission

Clutches stand some abuse. Assess wear from the take-up point. If the pedal comes close to the top of its travel before the clutch bites, a new one will be needed soonish.

Transmissions are all five-speed manuals delivering drive through a two-speed transfer box. 4WD is part-time, engaged by a separate range lever. Some early cars suffer from difficult second gear engagement which, although not common, is only fixable by a factory modification kit costing around £550 installed. Symptoms are harder to spot with the oil warm, so ask to drive the vehicle from cold. This should be done anyway, as its the best means of checking any diesels starting ability and hence, by inference, general engine condition.

Check that 4WD and low range both engage. Dont rely on the dash warning light to confirm 4WD is present; drive the car gently on lock on a hard surface. If it feels reluctant to roll forward as the circle tightens, 4WD is working. Dont overdo it, as the transmission is literally absorbing punishment by winding up its driveshafts.

Garages unused to servicing 4x4s can forget to check transfer box oil, and box bearings will suffer as a result; listen out for ominous whines from down below during a test run.

Moving down to the axles, oil leaks from the rear diff nose are not unusual, and high-mileage Fourtraks can wear the diff pinion bearing. Again, listen for noise. Sorting this out from wheel bearing rumble can be tricky, but if the noise drops away on turning right or left its likely to be a wheel bearing.

Suspension and steering

Rear leaf springs sag or their leaves can break during a hard life, though bushes and dampers last well. Check both springs visually, then confirm that the car sits square. New rear items are £120-£150 each, depending on model. Coil/torsion bar systems are fairly new, and have not yet shown problems.

Steering boxes and joints are robust, though still look for excess play in the system. With the front wheels on solid ground, lay underneath and feel/watch all connections as someone swings the steering wheel gently either side of centre.

Swivel hub bearings let the front wheels turn about fixed chrome swivel hubs at each axle end. Wear is common, so find play by jacking up each wheel (support on axle stands), then trying to rock front wheels from top to bottom. Decide if rock originates in the hub or wheel bearings by having someone put on the brakes. If the play goes away, its a wheel bearing; if not, wear is in the hub. New hub bearings are £11.17, plus two hours labour to fit.

Brakes and electrics

No common problems on either front. Look for scored discs on high-milers or cars used hard off-road, and investigate the possibility of a regrind on the car. Replacements are £85-£86 each, genuine pads £32-£52 a set. Rear drums are pretty mud-proof, handbrakes ditto. Electrics are generally reliable, save for run-of-the-mill alternator failure.

Bodywork

Daihatsu got its act together with post-1984 cars, piling in the wax, galvanising some areas and initially offering an eight-year anti-perforation warranty. This has since subsided to six years, but rotting wings, window surrounds and doors disappeared with the original F20/F50s.

From the outset later-style Fourtraks boasted inner wheelarch liners and a glass-reinforced plastic (GRP) top for the Estates. Rust still chews the top of rear wheel arches, nibbles the roof rails and maybe the sill seams, while unattended stone chips will scab the flanks and bonnet. But unless accident damage is left or poorly repaired, body panel corrosion should not be bad. Even on older examples, the front inner wings, footwells and chassis should all be unscathed.

Above: Fourtrak front suspension and steering is generally tough… Right: …but swivel hub bearing wear is a common MOT fail point. Look for play as wheel is rocked from top to bottom.

Left: Three areas to look at here – rear springs for sagging or broken leaves, the diff nose (top right) for leaks or the rumble of a worn pinion bearing, and dampers for leaks. Above: General condition and the number of stamps in the service book sets vehicle value, says John Humphries. Tread carefully where history is missing, and ask for evidence of cam belt change.

For those not fortunate enough to win FARMERS WEEKLYS Daihatsu competition – the lucky winner gets a new 2.8 turbodiesel Independent 4×4 (above) – buying a used example may be the most affordable option.

Recognise a later Daihatsu Fourtrak (right) from its older counterpart by its boxier wheel arches, wider track and the Independent name.