2WD or 4x4 through South America?

#1
Hi all,

I am about to start my journey from Canada to Argentina. I am shipping my 2wd (with rear difflock) camper to Canada in about a month and am looking for some advice for the rest of the trip.

The reason I chose the current campervan compared to a 4x4 with rooftop tent or a pickup unit is space, I now have a lot of room and standing height! However I am not sure if this campervan is a suitable option to continue my travels through South America. I am curious to read your experiences? Have you traveled through South America in a campervan, is it doable or would a 4x4 with for example a habitat be a far better option?
 
#2
I think you will get a lot more thorough and helpful responses if you can provide a bit more specific info about your rig. "Campervan" is a pretty generic term these days and runs the gamut of brands and builds. A pic is worth 1000 words...but even year, make, model, and gas or diesel would be helpful.

Sounds like you've got an epic journey planned!
 

Bbasso

Expedition Leader
#3
I agree, more information about your current vehicle is needed. There are several if not many members of this forum who have done a trip similar to what you have planned I'm sure they will chime in but it might be best if you posted in the regional sections of this forum
 
Last edited:
#4
Thanks for your responses guys, appreciated. I currently have a 1992 Mercedes 310D Westfalia campervan, its a diesel. Not build to go offroad.. I will post some pics later this week.
 

Raul

Adventurer
#5
Awesome vehicle, but very, very rare in North America, I am not sure in South America. As a 26 years old vehicle I'll worry about breaking down and getting spare parts. I'll not take my van to travel Europe for that reason. I can get spares very easy for my Ford van in Us and Canada. If I need parts for my BMW cars, I have to order them and wait a week or more. For the cost of shipping your van you may be able to buy a local van in decent shape with easy access to spare parts and sell it for what you paid for at the end of the trip.
 

luthj

Adventurer
#6
Those TN trucks (the pre-sprinter) were never imported into North America. There are a few personal imports rolling around. Does your van have the OM602? The 5 cylinder was not very common in the USA, but the 6 cylinder version of that engien (rotary pump, pre-chamber) was sold in a variety of mercedes cars. So parts are available here.

South America got quite a bit more mercedes imports, so the 310D and the 5 cylinder will have been imported to some countries. Whether there are any on the road is another question.

The good new is the 310D is easy to repair, and most mechanics familiar with mercedes and bosch rotary fuel injection systems will be able to work on it.


Now with regards to using this vehicle in the Americas. This is not the third world. Some areas may feel like it though. It is the "developing" world. All these countries have roads, the majority of which are paved in some fashion. Though more remote areas will have dirt or gravel roads. The 310D seems to have good ground clearance. Departure and approach angles are more important than 4wd for operating on public roads (not tracks).

You should have no trouble using the van in these countries. Having a rear diff lock is a good start. If you plan on taking the van on rough roads, or into sketchy situations you will need a few pieces of gear. A tow strap, shackles, tire chains (rear only is okay), a decent portable 12v air compressor, tire plug kit. Etc. Put a good set of all terrain LT (light Truck tires) on the van, and being willing to air down. This makes the ride much more comfortable on rough roads, and increases traction, while reducing wear/damage to your tires and vehicle.
 
#7
People have been circumnavigating the globe in VW 2WD wanagons, and traveled into the Saharan Desert in a 2WD MB711Ds with dual-tires, they all made it. My daughter has a first gen VW LT 2WD with a rear locker - it will go all over the place as long as the ground clearance is sufficient. Just use you common scene, a set of maxtrax, and you will be fine I think. Most MB spares can be obtained worldwide. Getting a lift will help a bit...: http://www.dff-autofedern.de/

http://7globetrotters.de/mehr-bauch...t2-unterlegplatten-distanzkloetze-federbriden
 
Last edited:
#8
4x4 is almost unheard of it these countries. If you go to South America, probably 95% of the vehicles on the road are 2wd. Theres no real snow to worry about or anything so it just comes down to how far off the beaten path you want to go.
 
#9
Awesome guys, seems like I will be oke to travel all the way to Argentina with this van. Now would you recommend 4season tires AT or summer? Mostly I will be driving on paved roads, maybe some dirt roads every now and then, but no intension to go trail driving with it.
 
#10
Those TN trucks (the pre-sprinter) were never imported into North America. There are a few personal imports rolling around. Does your van have the OM602? The 5 cylinder was not very common in the USA, but the 6 cylinder version of that engien (rotary pump, pre-chamber) was sold in a variety of mercedes cars. So parts are available here.

South America got quite a bit more mercedes imports, so the 310D and the 5 cylinder will have been imported to some countries. Whether there are any on the road is another question.

The good new is the 310D is easy to repair, and most mechanics familiar with mercedes and bosch rotary fuel injection systems will be able to work on it.


Now with regards to using this vehicle in the Americas. This is not the third world. Some areas may feel like it though. It is the "developing" world. All these countries have roads, the majority of which are paved in some fashion. Though more remote areas will have dirt or gravel roads. The 310D seems to have good ground clearance. Departure and approach angles are more important than 4wd for operating on public roads (not tracks).

You should have no trouble using the van in these countries. Having a rear diff lock is a good start. If you plan on taking the van on rough roads, or into sketchy situations you will need a few pieces of gear. A tow strap, shackles, tire chains (rear only is okay), a decent portable 12v air compressor, tire plug kit. Etc. Put a good set of all terrain LT (light Truck tires) on the van, and being willing to air down. This makes the ride much more comfortable on rough roads, and increases traction, while reducing wear/damage to your tires and vehicle.
I have the 5 cylinder with overdrive gearbox.
 
#13
The KO2 has okay road noise. About average for a AT tire. They are tough, and long wearing. They tolerate aired down operation extremely well.

Cooper AT3 is a great choice for performance on poor roads, and good strength. The cooper tire will have lower road noise, and slightly better fuel economy compared to the KO2.


I would recommend a 4 season tire. Not because of snow, but because the 4 season tires have a softer rubber compound (like the KO2). This improves traction in cold weather, and on slippery surfaces.

You need a tough tire. As the roads, potholes, and road debris will put them to the test. Airing down when you are driving on bad roads make a difference as well. Taller sidewalls is also helpful, but don't mess up your gearing to much, as steep roads are common.

Very common in mexico, central america, and many south american countries are speed reducers, speed bumps, topes, etc. They are often unmarked, built in the shade, and very tall/rough. In mexico they are right in the middle of highways near towns. If you don't see and slow down in time, they can do serious damage to a vehicle or tire.
 
#14
people have traveled for decades in 2x4 vehicles. you have nothing to worry, plus you will probably get better fuel economy and less maintenance from a 2wd van
 
#15
you will be fine.
good tires.
plugs and good compressor.
stauns if you want to air down
max trax.
good jack and shovel.
mild recovery gear.
recovery points on your rig.
just don't drive at night.
have a idea where your going to camp the day before.i-overlander.
common sense and patience will take you far.
enjoy your trip.
kp
please don't pay bribes!!!