As you may know, I recently purchased and imported a Russian “Buhanka” 4×4 van. Its official name is UAZ 452 3741. This irrational decision involved me buying it in Russia over the internet – sight unseen. It was delivered to Colorado after six months and with a monumental amount of help from many friends and family members.
Now it’s time for me to see exactly what I bought, so I take it to Charley’s Garage in Boulder, Colorado. Charley specializes in Toyota vehicles, but he also knows a lot about many Eastern European cars and trucks.
It seemed like I was experiencing a slight gasoline leak from the van’s dual-tank “saddle tanks” system. There is another oil leak that is coming from somewhere around the 4-speed manual transmission gearbox. What other problems hide within?
We get the van on the lift and inspect it front to back. One important area to check is the four-corner drum brakes. The Buhanka has a very basic manually-adjustable drum brake system. Charley notices that the brake shoes have good life remaining, and he adjusts all four brakes for a slightly more firm brake pedal feel and more effective braking.
Still, this van is not easy to drive on modern highways and roads in America. The van is most happy while cruising at 45-50 MPH. It can approach 55-60 MPH, but it’s really not geared to do this. The lower gearing makes the most use of the 76 horsepower that this 2.7-liter I4 engine produces.
The rudimentary brakes tend to unpredictable pull to the left of the right, so the driver always needs to have a firm hold on the steering wheel and paying full attention.
In the end, we find just one small transmission oil leak. The transmission fluid is topped off, so this 4×4 van is ready for many more miles or kilometers of life.
Charley calls it “Dirty, but Sturdy”. Should this be its new nickname? Let me know in the comments below.