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Afghanistan Vehicle Checklist - Kuhnke International News

Afghanistan Vehicle Checklist

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If you will be spending a significant amount of time on the road outside major cities, we recommend that you prepare your vehicle ahead of time.  Although it is entirely possible to drive around Afghanistan in a battered 1980 Toyota Corolla with bald tires and a TYPE-R sticker on the windshield, keeping some basic supplies in your 4x4 is a good idea.  Buying these ahead of time in a major city and keeping them on hand will save a great deal of time  and frustration.  It may also keep you safe if you experience vehicle trouble in an area with less than ideal security.

The list assumes a light to medium duty 4x4 such as a Toyota Land Cruiser, Surf (also 4Runner), HiLux pickup, Nissan Patrol, etc.  Some of these items are optional and specific to winter conditions.  Some people may consider bringing everything on this list to be overkill, but it can be used as a good baseline.

Note that this guide does not address communications issues related to mobile phones, handheld or vehicle mounted radios, satellite phones, etc.  

Checklist - Paperwork:

Registration paperwork in glove box.  Is it current?  Whose name is on the registration?  Is he the one driving the vehicle?  If not, is the registration accompanied by a letter from the registered owner authorizing the driver to travel with the car?   Does the registration really match the vehicle?

Lease paperwork: If you're traveling with a leased vehicle be sure that copies of the lease contract are in the glove box.  These should be in Dari and English with contact phone numbers for the vehicle's owner.  You should be aware that if you signed a lease without reading the details, the fine print of some vehicle leases wisely prohibits them from being taken out of the Kabul-Bagram-Charikar area without obtaining advance permission from the owner.  Owners don't want their nice cars being beaten up on the road to Feyzabad...

Front and rear license plates: This should be obvious but can save some hassle.  We've seen instances of front plates being stolen from vehicles street-parked in Kabul without the owner realizing the theft for several days.

Owners manual or service manual for the truck.  This should list basic things like the types of engine oil required for specific temperature ranges, gross vehicle weight rating and locations of the fuses.  If you have several of the same make and model of vehicle it's definitely worth it to buy the factory service manual from eBay ($30) and bring it with you to Afghanistan.   

Checklist - Equipment:

Spare Tire on Rim: It's essential to have a full size spare tire mounted on a rim.  Do you know for certain that the tire is not bald,  cracked by sun and age and that it is pumped to the appropriate pressure?  If you're doing a lot of mountain driving on dirt roads with sharp rocks it may be worth taking a second full size spare on the roof rack.  This depends on the distances, weather and situation.  If your spare tire has dry-rotted from disuse you can buy decent P265 and P275 size tires with 50%-60% tread remaining from most tire shops.

Jack.  This should be something larger than what normally comes with a light duty 4x4.  Do you know where the axle jacking points on your truck are?  Have you practiced changing a tire?  Scissor type jacks should be sufficient for Surfs but anything heavier should use a hydraulic jack.  If you are certain you have a good quality jack be sure the handle is also with it.  You can buy jacks in the tool district on the south side of Shar-e-Naw in Kabul.  

Jack platform.  If you need to change a tire in slush, snow, mud or on any soft surface you'll be glad to have this with you.  Take a 30 x 30 cm (12 inch x 12 inch) piece of 2.5 cm (1 inch) thick plywood to put under the jack.  Many jacks have relatively small footings.  On a slope or in any less than ideal situation having a stable platform will reduce the possibility of the vehicle slipping off the jack while changing a tire.  

Tire chocks.  You can use a couple of large rocks if they're nearby but you may also want to bring some rectangular blocks of wood.

Tire pressure gauge.  Another inexpensive thing that's good to have.  After a long drive over sharp rocks use it the next morning to ensure you don't have a slow leak.

Lugnut wrench: Prevent frustration and make tire changes easier by buying a larger wrench than what normally comes with a Toyota 4x4.  We've seen cheap lugnut wrenches bend like spaghetti.  The best choice is something about 75 cm long made of chromed steel with a square socket on the end.    

Spare lugnut: Bring one.  They're cheap.  Definitely worth the 100 Afghani cost when it you're changing a tire in the mud or snow and drop a lugnut.

Tire Chains.  For winter travel.  If you have a box of chains in the back of your truck do you know for certain that they match the tire size?  Don't find out at the wrong time that you have a box of chains made for P265/75R15 tires in a Land Cruiser with P275 size tires.  Have you test-mounted the chains in dry weather on a flat surface to ensure that they fit correctly and you know how to put them on?  Getting stuck or stranded in -15C weather in the middle of nowhere can be dangerous.  Think about that twice before going without chains.

Jumper cables: Buy a readymade set of jumper cables with big alligator clips.  Know how to use them.

Plastic funnels: One long skinny plastic funnel and a normal sized funnel.

Wiper blades:  There's nothing worse than discovering halfway through a trip that the summer weather has cracked and sun-rotted the rubber on your wiper blades.  Check them before departing.  Also check that the nozzles of your windshield wash sprayers are not clogged with the omnipresent dust.

Air filter: Do you know when it was last replaced or cleaned out by high pressure air hose?  Check before departing.

Extra fuel: We recommend the 20 litre size steel petrol cans that are for sale in Kabul.  These are the same cans you can see on ANA and ANP trucks.  If you use a cheap plastic petrol can check it carefully to be sure it doesn't leak when tipped.     

Extra fluids: We recommend the following, but this can vary depending on vehicle type, age of the vehicle and the anticipated chances of something bad happening, distance and weather.  

a) Seven litres of engine oil matching what your vehicle's owners manual says for the engine and temperature conditions.  Varies by engine size, but buy enough to do one full oil change plus an extra litre.
b) One litre of transmission fluid sealed in original bottle, usually Dexron 3 type.
c) One litre of hydraulic brake fluid, DOT 3 type.
d) One litre of power steering fluid.  
e) Three litres of antifreeze, ethylene glycol type.  The best quality antifreeze available in Kabul is generally found with a "-40C" rating on it in gray bottles with cyrillic characters.      
f) Three litres of water in bottles (not for drinking by humans, if you need more than 3L use the drinking water)  
g) One litre windshield wiper spray fluid
h) One litre of brake cleaner or another strong solvent / degreaser in a tightly sealed bottle.
i) 250 ml size penetrating oil in squeeze bottle, Triflow with teflon or similar.

Bag of cotton rags or two rolls of paper towels for cleaning headlights and windshield.  Paper towels for cleaning your truck can also serve as toilet paper and kleenex on long road trips.

Bungee cords and/or rope:
Rope is cheap.  Losing things off your roof rack isn't.

Tow straps:
Bring a set of good quality tow straps with heavy duty hooks and carabiners.  Do you know where the recovery hooks on the front of your 4x4 are?  If you can't find good quality tow straps/cables in the Kabul tool district try looking in the Bazaar-e-Bush.  

Duct tape:
Can be used in emergencies to patch a radiator hose or for many other things.

If you have an older HiLux / HiLux Surf of any age, keep a few extra fuses of various sizes in the glovebox.  This is another thing that only costs a few hundred Afghanis to buy in advance but will save you much frustration.

Tool kit:
Use your common sense putting this together, but it should include at the minimum a set of high quality wrenches and sockets in metric sizes, an adjustable wrench, regular pliers and needle nose pliers, various sizes and types of screwdrivers, wire cutters, etc.  You should also have a flashlight with recently checked batteries in the tool kit.  

First aid kit:
Although a thorough discussion of medical issues is beyond the scope of this list, bring a comprehensive first aid kit and somebody who knows how to use it.  Be aware that if you buy a "over the counter" first aid kit from American or European sources it may not come with some common pharmaceuticals that are a good idea to keep in the kit.  These include ORS (Oral Rehydration Salts) packets which are used to treat severe diahhreah, 500 mg ciprofloxacin (a potent broad spectrum antibiotic), strong painkillers, etc.  You can buy pretty much any generic pharmaceutical in Kabul, Jalalabad, Mazar-e-Sharif or Herat but check the expiration date on the box first.     

Other supplies:
Keep a full box (six 1.5 liter bottles) of bottled drinking water in your truck.

Other details to consider:

Petrol/Diesel label on the tank flap: This one seems obvious but tell that to the guy who accidentally let gas station attendants fill a Diesel Corolla with 87 octane Petrol.  Get somebody to write "DIESEL ONLY" on a sticker in Dari if you want to be overly cautious.

Gross Vehicle Weight Rating.  Total the weight of people, cargo and the supplies listed above.  Do not exceed the vehicle manufacturer's GVWR.

Roof rack weight distribution.  Try to load as many heavy things as possible lower in the vehicle's center of gravity and reserve the roof rack for lightweight, bulky items.

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