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Our Mitsubishi L200 camper has overheating problems

This article is not a travelogue of our time in America, but rather a summary of the overheating problems we experienced with our Mitsubishi L200 4×4 camper and what we have done in the past 1,5 years to solve it. It is therefore more of a nice story for the car technicians among us ? and not so much for the reader interested in our journey in America.

That said, here we go!

The ultimate tour of North America

This article is part of a large one-year tour the United States en Canada, with a Dutch 4×4 camper that we shipped ourselves… It is a bucket list worthy and an once in a lifetime experience that will never be forgotten.

The ultimate roadtrip route through America and Canada | Wereldreizigers.nl
The ultimate roadtrip route through America and Canada | Wereldreizigers.nl

We wrote almost 100 articles about this ultimate tour. Visit our North America page for more information.

What's the problem?

We've been driving around for a few months now America with our Mitsubishi L200 4×4 camper which we go to Baltimore have shipped... However, lately we have noticed that he has more and more difficulty maintaining the temperature when it is hot outside, especially in the mountains. Unfortunately, the problem is not new to us. Overheating of the Mitsubishi L200 is something that has been going on for some time.

Also read: Our 4×4 world trip camper (1) | Bathroom and interior
Also read: Our 4×4 world trip camper (2) | Gadgets & Upgrades
Also read: Our 4×4 world trip camper (3) | Technique and upgrades to car

Every time we replace some parts related to the cooling and then it seems to be fine again, until the problem returns later. It's extra frustrating at the moment because we're now on another continent where parts are barely available. Our Mitsubishi has never been sold in America and they don't know small 2,5 liter 4-cylinder Turbo Diesels here at all. So challenging.

Let's go back in time.

Engine too hot in Croatia

Ever since I bought the Mitsubishi L200 4×4 camper (1,5 years ago), it started to get very hot when I put heavy loads on it in extreme conditions. In the summer of 2021, I even had to put the L200 aside a few times in the mountain passes of Croatia during a steep climb and at 38+ degrees, because the engine was likely to overheat. This in itself is not very strange, because these are extreme circumstances in which many newer cars and caravans, for example, also have a hard time. However, it is not pleasant to drive and that is why I started looking for parts that we could replace preventively.

New parts

Naturally, I thought of all kinds of standard cooling parts, hoping to solve or at least reduce the problem. I was on the island of Brac, ordered parts and had them installed by a local garage.

The Mitsubishi L200 4x4 camper at the garage on Brac in Croatia
The Mitsubishi L200 4×4 camper at the garage on Brac in Croatia

That was in the summer of 2021. This is what I did to solve the L200's overheating problem:

  • New cooling fan
  • New Visco coupling
  • New thermostat
  • Flush cooling system
  • New coolant

I had already preventively replaced the water pump with all pulleys and timing belt at the beginning of 2021, so I left that out of consideration.

Problem not solved yet

I drove up the mountain after installing the new parts at 38 degrees and yes, the problem was still there. Sweating behind the wheel in short sessions up the mountain, so ???

But this only happened under extreme circumstances, so after this trip I thought, I'll just check it out... Afterwards I made a few trips in Europe, no more problems. I braved many mountain passes but never really put them to the test again at temperatures of around 40 degrees…

Problems return in America

We have been traveling in the United States for several months now. We have had no issues with a hot engine during our roadtrip on the east coast of America, (which is quite flat), but in Colorado when we went up again in extreme heat.

It's not a nice feeling when you see the temperature rise and you have a train of cars behind you on a 1-lane mountain pass with hardly any opportunities to stop.

So I got back to work.

Camper a little too heavy

I weighed the camper several times before we left and we are at the maximum technical weight of the license plate. In fact, we are usually 50 to 100 kilos over it with full load and liquids…

I thought ?That poor 2,5 liter turbo diesel can't handle all that violence at all! Dragging 3 tons up the mountain in the heat, I'm just asking too much.

I started thinking about how I could lose some weight.

Malou and I went through our clothes and stuff again and cleared out 2 bins with clothes and unnecessary stuff that could go away. About 20 pounds. Don't put your foot down.

Remove unnecessary swatch

Then I suddenly thought, this car has all after-market junk on the L200 which I don't need at all! All that extra weight can also cause the L200's engine to overheat.

I grabbed my toolbox and went to work rigorously at a wild camping spot in the woods.

I removed all pieces of unnecessary metal ?, ao…

  • The decorative side skirts came off
  • The chrome decorative rear bumper came off
  • The tow bar came off
The Mitsubishi L200 4x4 motorhome - removing unnecessary steel to save weight
The Mitsubishi L200 4×4 motorhome – removing unnecessary steel to save weight

In total, our L200 is now about 120 kilos lighter. At least that's getting there. We later donated the metal to a local elderly man who collects it.

Better handling but still a warm engine

120 kilos doesn't seem like much, but I especially notice the removal of that weight at the back, behind the axle. The handling has changed, in a positive way, less 'bumpy'. The weight distribution of the motorhome is now better, so that's a big plus!

But as soon as I went back into the mountains with the L200 with about 35 degrees, the temperature rose again ?† Overheating was always lurking.

I was helpless…

I decided to do early maintenance again and to 'flush' the engine of the L200 twice in quick succession at Grease Monkey and to provide it with new oil and filters. Also a few times in a row injector cleaner in it. Just to see what it does.

  • Engine flush (2x)
  • New oil (2x)
  • New oil filter (2x)
  • injector cleaner (5x)
The Mitsubishi L200 4x4 camper at Grease Monkey in America
The Mitsubishi L200 4×4 camper at Grease Monkey in America

In the meantime, I've ordered a new radiator, or at least the one Mitsubishi is trying to get in Salt Lake City. I don't know (yet) whether that will work.

More horsepower and better starting

The engine flushes, new oil and injector cleaners have had a real effect, strangely enough, I have noticeably more horsepower again ?, which I find surprising. Also slightly less smoke from the exhaust and easier starting. I always thought it was a myth, but flushing and cleaning does work, as it turns out…

But, when I kick him on the tail in the mountains, still too hot.

Goddamnit! ?

So we hope for new filters and a new radiator in Salt Lake City. Fingers crossed that it isn't the water pump after all, because that would be a real shame... ?

Then the timing belt will have to be redone.

A golden tip

Meanwhile we meet two nice Overlanding Swiss, Suzanna and Peter van @brechoepf† I explain the problem, and we conclude together that the radiator could make all the difference. Mine is already 10 years old, and a new one could easily make a 20% performance difference.

And then…. the next morning Peter suddenly knocks on the door with an idea ?.

The license plate is blocking the airflow

He says, your Dutch license plate!

You have to get it out of there. It doesn't sit well there.

I look again and damn, it has indeed been there for years, never thought about it of course, but it blocks quite a bit of air at the front.

I unscrew the number plate and the bracket and went straight on the road yesterday: The Trail Ridge High Point Pass in the Rocky Mountains at more than 3700 meters altitude. The thin air, 20+ degrees, full of water and diesel. The test!

The Mitsubishi L200 4x4 camper - now without a license plate to improve airflow
The Mitsubishi L200 4×4 camper – now without a license plate to improve airflow

It's an improvement

And guess what: I can suddenly go a lot further. I even tried to force it to see how far I can go. Up the mountain in higher gears and shifting later… I got the temperature gauge moving but it stayed far from the danger zone. It was quite a difference! That's not surprising when you consider how huge the lot was blocked by the license plate. Check out the photos at the top of the blog to compare!

Without a license plate a much better airflow
Without a license plate a much better airflow

Now we were driving in the mountains without a license plate and as soon as it got a bit warm, accelerate back and the temperature drops again. Perfect. So removing the license plate definitely helped.

So after 1,5 years of searching, lots of parts and maintenance, and even screwing 100 kilos of metal from my camper, I found out that the number plate has been a major problem cause all along.

A license plate! ??

We thought we had tackled the problem in its entirety for a while…

Still too hot

But we drive around for a few weeks and you guessed it… the engine is warming up again. If it's 35+ degrees outside, the cooling won't pull the weather. grrr!!!

Everything we've done so far has worked to some degree, but there's still something there. A problem that seems to be getting worse slowly but surely. It comes back every time, with some delay.

This is annoying, but on the other hand we are now getting closer to the actual problem. There are actually only two possibilities: the radiator that has still not been replaced or the water pump.

All the preventive maintenance and making the camper lighter that we have done so far, that's all nice for the future...

Mitsubishi dealer does not want to help

In the meantime, of course, I'm still trying to get a radiator in America. There is an official Mitsubishi dealer in Salt Lake City. I have approached them three times with the problem. I wonder if they can arrange parts, especially a radiator. Every time I get a 'ok we will come back to you', but then I hear nothing for weeks.

I think that is really very bad service from Mitsubishi I must say. I understand that this car was never sold in the US, but you would expect them to try something, if necessary via an order in Europe or Asia, for example. After all, they are an official dealer!

Extremely disappointed that we are not even helped by official dealer, our mission continues. We need to get it resolved. Every time we go into the mountains we run the risk of even more misery.

Back to the garage

We drive around in and around Salt Lake City. We visit A1 radiator, a radiator manufacturer. They can't help us because they only make mega-large industrial radiators. We are well advised and referred to Dustin, owner of a local garage called State Automotive in Salt Lake City. He has a lot of experience with Import Toyota's and also radiators so hopefully this is someone who can help us.

We explain the problem to Dustin and indicate what has already been done in an attempt to solve it. Dustin quickly agrees with me that it can actually only be the radiator or water pump. We decide to take the radiator out to see how it works.

The radiator goes out at State Automotive, Salt Lake City
The radiator goes out at State Automotive, Salt Lake City

Radiator clogged and worn

The radiator is out and wow, it is immediately apparent that this is probably the real problem. During a flow test, so much junk came out of the radiator that it is almost inevitable that this is the problem. The mechanic indicated that he was blocked for about 80%. It is also clear to the naked eye that the radiator really needs to be replaced, the slats are crumbling on all sides. Oh dear.

Chemically clean the radiator

The mechanic does not dare to do too much on the outside of the radiator. High pressure with water or even a soft brush would only damage the radiator further. The only thing we can do is make sure that the blockage on the inside is solved.

With a chemical composition specially made for this type of blockage, the inside of the radiator is flushed. In any case, this should ensure a better flow for now, so that we can get back on the road.

However, we absolutely have to speed up to arrange a new radiator, because this one is really at the end of its life. It can be a matter of hours, days or weeks before he really gives up. The sooner we have a new radiator, the better…

Dustin is looking for a new radiator

Dustin indicates that he also wants to help us find a radiator. We also share our itinerary so that we don't have to wait for the radiator, which could take a few more weeks… Once the radiator is delivered to Dustin, he will ship it to us anywhere in the US.

Finally a solution in sight

Finally we see light at the end of the tunnel. Would the overheating problem of the Mitsubishi L200 camper that we have been dealing with for 1,5 years now, finally be solved?

Time will tell, but we are really hopeful now. We have already driven 250 kilometers with the unclogged, cleaned radiator at 37 (!) degrees in the mountains, and this has gone a lot better. For the first time in a long time in the mountains we did not have to stop to cool down, the temperature was manageable with gear changes, even in that enormous heat. So we found the problem. The old radiator now does what it is supposed to do, but for how long is the question.

If Dustin isn't able to get a radiator, we'll let someone in next week The Netherlands order one and send it. To be continued!

Update: The new radiator is now installed and we can go into the mountains undisturbed again!

Plan your vacation to America here

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Chris Thomassen

Owner of Wereldreizigers.nl † Discover the world!
- Full-time blogging world traveler.
- Writes about travel, photography, sustainability and gadgets.
- Likes to discover extreme and unknown places.

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