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2011 Tours & Expeditions

Back to Season Tyre Reports


   Once again this is a run down of what we encountered with tyres; both tubeless & tubed over our touring season this year, total mileage being 25,000 kms. Five commercial trips were carried out and between trips this year we did a fair bit of poking around by ourselves. Much the same as last year the terrain was varied with a full Canning trip in May, an off-track expedition in the Great Victoria Desert and several off-road tours, the last being on the Nullarbor. Weather was good on the whole. We were lucky and able to dodge most of the wet weather getting around. There were a few road closures but the timing was right and when we needed those roads they had dried enough to reopen.

   The same as last year we didn’t run a new set of tyres as we normally do. I tidied up an old set of MRF All Steel Radials and put them back into service. The reason for the Radials was simple; we wanted the best footprint we could for the sandhills of the Canning Stock Route. I was prepared to "wear" a few extra punctures on the expedition for this reason alone. Midway during the season we changed onto a second hand set of Bridgestone All Steel Radials as the last three trips didn’t require "super heavy duty" tyres.

   Only a couple of things occurred which raised my eyebrows and I’ll mention those further along. I have also included the time spent between trips just as a matter of interest. Most things went according to plan and 2011 was a good year for tyres in general, however you can read this report and form your own opinion.


Tyre Troubles in Brief - 2011 Season


Trip Type of Trip * Odometer * No. of Vehicles Tyre Problems Mick's Flats
Adelaide to Halls Creek Leaving home 3102 kms  -  - 0
Canning Stock Route Tour 2572 kms 5 8 0
Wiluna to Laverton Between trips 1717 kms  -  - 0
South West Explorer Expedition 1376 kms 4 13 5
Laverton to Alice Springs Between trips 1987 kms  -  - 0
Beadell Tracks Wanderer Tour 3321 kms 6 5 2
Laverton back to Laverton Between trips 1191 kms  -  - 0
Anne Beadell & South West Tour 2076 kms 6 3 0
Coober Pedy to Nullarbor Between trips 1479 kms  -  - 0
Nullarbor Explorer Tour 1978 kms 5 3 2
Esperance to Adelaide Going home 4463 kms  -  - 0

 * Distances are uncorrected *

Included above are our distances from between the trips as a matter of interest.
As you can see more than half the distance covered was on our getting to and from commercial trips.


Leaving Home - no tyre trouble

Adelaide to Halls Creek via Great Victoria Desert – 3102 kms

   We left home in mid-April to go to Woomera for the Anne Beadell memorial dedication with the family. (Have a look at Connie’s updates for more on that - Desert Updates for 2011 and Anne Beadell Memorial.) After that we headed into the Great Victoria Desert for a week or so doing some recce work for a scientific camp, from there to Alice Springs and up the Tanami to Halls Creek to begin our first trip of the year, this time on the Canning.


#1 Trip - Canning Stock Route – 8 flat tyres

Halls Creek to Wiluna with detours - 2572 kms off-road

   Quite a number of punctures on this trip, eight in total, which is a few more than I expected. The most unusual being a shoulder stake caused by a 10mm ROE spanner while on the Tanami. That particular tyre was outside repairable limits by a small amount but having no where to get another similar tyre the decision was made to repair it with a patch and use it as a last resort spare.

No. Tyre Type & Size Problem Repair / Comment
1 Tubeless – 275/65R17 Shoulder stake – 10mm ROE spanner Out of limits - but repaired for spare use
2 Tubeless – 235/85R16 Sidewall – large stake 140TL patch & fitted tube
3 Tubeless – 275/65R17 Sidewall – pinhole 120TL patch & Sealer
4 Tubeless – 265/75R16 Sidewall – pinhole 120TL patch & Sealer
5 Tubeless – 235/85R16 Sidewall – large stake 140TL patch & Sealer
6 Tubeless – 275/65R17 Shoulder – pinhole 120TL patch & Sealer
7 Tubeless – 265/75R16 Sidewall - pinhole 120TL patch & Sealer
8 Tubeless – 275/65R17 Sidewall - pinhole 112TL patch & Sealer

    With the amount of tubeless punctures I had ample opportunity to try out a theory about leaking tubeless repairs, something that had been worrying me for some time. Turns out I may have found an answer. I began leaving the repaired tyres overnight to allow the glue to cure a little more before pressure was introduced to the tyre. Seems to have worked so far, more on that later.......

CSR Large sidewall cut in 235 tyre
Large sidewall cut from stake in tubeless tyre – 235/85R16 - Canning Stock Route May 2011
Right on allowable damage limit, patched with 140TL and put back into service with a tube fitted.


Between 1st & 2nd Trips - no tyre trouble

1717 kms - Wiluna, Kalgoorlie & Laverton

   We had a bit of wet weather but it cleared off and we were able to poke around the Goldfields area looking at explorer sites, and searching for other features of interest. Not really very hard work for tyres as most of the time is spent walking about.


#2 Trip - South West Explorer Expedition – 13 flat tyres

1376 kms - 504 kms off-track – 872 kms off-road

   This expedition was another exploratory trip so our daily travel was lower than normal. Such was our travel that this expedition covered the least amount of off-track distance that we’ve ever done for a 28 day expedition. Another factor in such a small puncture tally was that after such heavy rainfalls over the summer & autumn the ground in the Great Victoria Desert was just a little softer than normal. We’ve noticed in the past after rain flat tyres seem to ease until dry ground is reached. The downside being that fuel usage will be higher than normal.

   We were pleasantly surprised by the low flat tyre count (13) after 28 days in the scrub. There were no great mysteries about any of them and all tyres were repaired and ready for use.

Every Vehicle was fitted with MRF All Steel Radials on split rims.

No. Date Position Problem Repair / Comment
1 22/6 Right front Slow leak, sidewall stake – tiny UP6 & No.3 patches
2 22/6  - Shoulder stake – tiny UP6 & No.3 patches
3 23/6 Right rear Sidewall stake – medium 122TL & No.4 patches
4 23/6  - Sidewall stake – small 120TL & tube patch
5 24/6  - Sidewall stake – 50mm 122TL & No.7B patches
6 24/6 Left rear Sidewall stake - large 140TL & No.5 patches
7 26/6 Left rear Slow leak, sidewall stake – medium 140TL & tube patch
8 28/6 Right rear Slow leak Tube problem, patched
9 2/7 Right rear Sidewall stake - small 120TL & tube patch
10 3/7 Rear Slow leak Tube problem, patched
11 15/7 Left front Sidewall stake - small UP6 & tube patches
12 16/7  - Sidewall stake - small Didn’t see patches
13 17/7 Left rear Slow leak, sidewall stake - tiny UP6 & No.5 patches

   The two tube problems were the normal thing; a tiny cut in the tube causing a slow leak but no evidence of a stake in the tyre at all. We see this now and again and even now after quite a few years I’m not sure exactly what happens, we usually put it down to the tiniest sliver of wood getting through the sidewall or shoulder, cutting the tube but the hole being too difficult to see in the tyre.

Mick flat
Great Victoria Desert sidewall stake in MRF All Steel Radial – 7.50R16
Damage was within limits, repaired and put back to work

Andrew fixing flat
Mr Andrew Watt of Victoria - "just another day at the office"
South West Explorer Expedition - June/July 2011


Between 2nd & 3rd Trips – no tyre trouble

1987 kms – Tjukayirla Roadhouse to Yulara & Alice Springs

   We spent quite a few days poking along the Great Central Road quietly. Weather was glorious and conditions were very good.


Changed Tyres @ 195,169 kms

MRF All Steel Radial to Bridgestone All Steel Radial

   After generosity from a friend we were given a set of four second-hand Bridgestone tyres. They were All Steel Radials the same as the MRF but a lot lighter in construction. The sidewalls are thinner but the carcass has the same amount of "plies"; in both cases 4 steel belts in the tread and one in the sidewall.

   We didn’t require the heaviest duty tyres for the remaining three trips so I changed them over to see if there was any differences, in truth I doubted I would notice anything except for maybe a change in fuel consumption.

   For interest sake the MRFs this year did 10084 kms and the Bridgestones eventually completed 15,299 kms.


#3 Trip - Beadell Tracks Wanderer Tour – 5 flat tyres

3372 kms – Yulara, Warakurna, Kintore, Kunawarritji, Warburton, Neale Junction & Laverton

   This was a 24 day off-road trip around a number of the famous Beadell tracks. This sort of trip is a standard affair from our point of view, but for 99% of travellers it is as serious as it gets in the western deserts. A great many detours were included in this trip so time was spent on wheeltracks through the desert scrub to features of interest.

   Apart from the tube repair failure there was nothing out of the ordinary about these flat tyres. All were small or tiny wooden stakes in the vulnerable areas of the Radial tyres

No. Tyre Type & Size Problem Repair / Comment
1 Tubeless – 265/75R16
Camper trailer
Shoulder stake – small 120TL & Sealer
2 Tubeless – 265/65R17
Late model SWB Prado
Slow leak
Sidewall stake – tiny
UP6 & Sealer
3 Split Rim – 7.50R16 Sidewall stake – small UP6 & No.4 patches
4 Split Rim – 7.50R16 Tube repair failed Fitted new tube
5 Tubeless – 265/75R16
Camper Trailer
Slow leak UP6 & Sealer

   The tube repair failure was not unexpected and the cause of the failure still has me puzzled, (refer to last year’s report). The damage split under the patch and became long enough to escape the patch edges. The initial damage was a tiny cut in the tube less than 3mm long so I was unable to round out the end of the damage as required normally. The tube was buffed for the patch and as usual nothing different occurred that I could notice. Once again perhaps the glue wasn’t 100% or doesn’t like the tube rubber or I did do something wrong. It was the only time this year that it happened and I can’t explain why it occurred then and not at other times.

   I’m wondering if the rubber of the tube is too hard or brittle and splits while stretching at lower than normal pressure in the sidewall area. Thinking on that a bit more, if the patch elasticity & the tube elasticity were different enough would that cause the patch to delaminate and the split lengthen???

Mick fixing trailer tyre
Repairing one of the Camper Trailer tyres, with an audience......

patch liftedsplit under patch
Tube split under patch - original damage was about 3mm long


Between 3rd & 4th Trips – No tyre trouble

1191 kms – Laverton & Goldfields

   We spent quite a few days poking along the Great Central Road quietly. Weather was glorious and conditions were very good.


#4 Trip - Anne Beadell & South West Tour – 3 tyre issues

2076 kms – Laverton, Ilkurlka Roadhouse & Coober Pedy

   This was a pretty straight forward trip along the Anne Beadell Highway with a 500 km detour into the Lake Rason area. There were three tyres worked on but only was a puncture.

No. Tyre Type & Size Problem Repair / Comment
1 Tubeless – 245/70R17 Sidewall stake – tiny 120TL & Sealer
2 Tubeless – 225/70R16 Deep cut in sidewall Reinforced patch - safety
3 Split Rim – 7.50R16 Uneven wear Turned tyre on rim

   The deep cut in the tubeless tyre had been there since the vehicle had left NSW to join the trip. When I noticed it the synthetic cords of the sidewall & shoulder were visible and I wasn’t happy to let the tyre continue on in case the damage split further. At that stage we were at low pressures for sand & corrugations and our travel rate was reasonable slow. Not a good combination of factors for a damaged tyre. So we patched it before the damage worked through the tyre and caused a run flat which can at the least ruin the tyre if not cause a dangerous driving situation, particularly on the highway after the trip was finished.

   Also noticed a tyre wearing unevenly so simply turned it on the rim to hopefully get a bit more life out of it, the vehicle in question participates in all of our expeditions so I had a vested interest in keeping things as good as possible.

   Expedition type tyres such as All Steel Radials & Bias are not required for "normal" offroad work, a set of Steel Belted Radials are perfect for off-road travel.

Pointy stake
What you find in 98% of flat tyres in the desert country


Between 4th & 5th Trips – No tyre trouble

1479 kms – Coober Pedy, Wirrulla, Ceduna & Nullarbor Roadhouse

   Most of this distance was spent off-road on a variety of gravel roads and wheeltracks as we were in no rush to get to Nullarbor to start the final trip. We had no trouble at all with tyres or tubes and had a very interesting quiet couple of weeks.


#5 Trip – Nullarbor Explorer Tour – 3 Flat Tyres

1978 kms – Nullarbor, Coompana, Eucla, Eyre, Toolinna, Israelite Bay & Esperance

   This was our first major commercial Nullarbor trip and all of our customers had been with us before on previous trips over a number of years. The Nullarbor is a very surprising place and contains a broad cross section of conditions for tyres and 4WDs. Limestone obviously dominates the Plain itself, but get away from there into the Mallee & Myall woodlands and things become quite different. There were three tyre incidents in all, two of them presented something different.

No. Tyre Type & Size Problem Repair / Comment
1 Split Rim – 7.50R16 Sidewall stake – medium 122TL & fitted other tube
2 Tubeless – 265/75R16 Sidewall stake - tiny 120TL & Sealer
3 Split Rim – 7.50R16 Slow leak – broken patch 120TL & No.5 patches

   Saltbush staked one of my tyres on the first day of the trip, I didn’t think Saltbush was capable of doing that but I suppose I’m so used to having "bullet-proof" tyres I take it for granted that lighter scrub won’t cause any problems. I’d forgotten that I had lighter tyres fitted. Oh well no harm done.

   The tubeless puncture was no big deal until it came to reseating the tyre onto the rim. Turned out the rim was too wide for the tyre and there was no way with the normal methods that we could get the tyre to reseat. Even our compressor wasn’t good enough....By the time it had dawned on me what the problem was I’d been trying for more than half an hour to reseat the thing. There were two options at that point, I chose the OH&S preferred method and fitted a tube, problem solved.

   The last flat tyre was a slow leak and I fully expected a tube problem. I was wrong, turned out that a previous repair (remember these were second-hand tyres) had failed but not like normal. The tyre patch bonded to the sidewall had split & broken and the sharp edges had rubbed the tube over quite some time until it failed. I was genuinely surprised. I rarely see a patch failure like this. In fact I’m struggling to remember when it has happened in the past. So I buffed off the split patch and bonded on a larger reinforced patch.

Split patch
Split & broken tyre repair patch, not very helpful.

Tube damage from split patch
The corresponding damage to the tube from the split tyre patch
Nullarbor Explorer - Burnabbie Ruins – October 2011


Observations from 2011

Leaking Tubeless Repairs

   Leaking tubeless repairs had been an issue in the past and when I say leaking I mean the tiniest bubbles at a rate of one every 5-15 seconds, you really have to strain to see them at all. So please don’t think that the leaks I’m talking about are large affairs. During this season I tried leaving the tyre overnight to let the glue cure & bond before inflating the tyre. That seemed to do the trick nicely.

   So what we did was repair the tyre with a reinforced patch as required then sealed the edges with Innerliner Sealer as usual. The tyre was then put back on the rim and re-seated but then the valve was removed and the pressure released. The tyre was left overnight and inflated the next morning before heading off for the day. Reseating the tyre meant we could have the gear packed away and only the compressor & air line was needed next morning.

Beware rim width

   Reseating tubeless tyres in the bush is normally not that much of a problem. However if the rim is too wide for the tyre you will have problems. In our case the rim was 9” in width but the tyre was a 265/75R16, those tyres have a maximum rim width of 8”. So you can see the problem we had......Lucky we had a tube.....

Damage in Older Tyres Causing Trouble

   For the last couple of years you will have noticed in the reports (if you actually have read them) that I have been having trouble with "veteran" tyres (for want of a better expression). What has been happening is pretty simple. The various cuts that the tyres have received in the past gradually work through becoming a split in the tyre which then works on the tube when at lower pressures that causes a slow leak.

   During the summer while putting together a set of old All Steel Radials I vulcanised all of the rubber cuts in the sidewalls & shoulders. This means I cooked new rubber into the prepared damaged areas. Rather a time consuming job if there a dozens to do but worth the experiment. Turned out to be a good thing, this year we didn’t have any problems at all with old damage.

   So that seems to be the go. Just be aware that this really only applies to thick heavy tyres and not the general thin "party balloon" tyres that most 4WDs wear these days.

Changing Tube Brands

   Next year we’ll be changing tube brands to see if we can eliminate the splitting problem under the patches. It doesn’t happen often but it seems to be the last tube problem we haven’t been able to get on top of. You have to be careful changing parameters when testing things because if you change too many variables then you won’t know what solved the problem.....

Low Pressure Side Effects

   As you may have noticed the bulk of the "curly" problems with tyres stems from working at low pressures for long periods of time, obviously the thing to do would be to raise the tyre pressure. However there are more reasons than just floatation for reducing tyre pressures. I’ll list them and see what you think.

   It comes down to this; I’d rather fix the odd flat tyre than replace expensive shock absorbers or rubbers, weld cracked vehicles, or buy extra fuel at expensive prices. All of these things cost far more than the odd repair to a tyre or tube. Connie & I run a very small business. We go out for five & six months at a time and do multiple trips. You don’t have to have an IQ of 170 to work out financially what is the best option.

   Lessons learnt or reinforced this year;

  1. never trust tubeless tyre repairs in the bush
  2. be wary of old repairs to tyres
  3. always carry tubes as a last resort for tubeless tyres when in the bush
  4. keep a close eye on tyres for deep cuts & patch them for safety

So we’ll see what happens in 2012
Regards, Mick Hutton
Copyright : November 2011





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