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2013 Tours & Expeditions

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   Five commercial trips were completed this year during the cooler months, May to early October. Of those five only one was off-track, the rest being fairly standard off-road tours. There was a significant increase in tyre trouble this year and it was hard to say why we had 60 odd tyre issues as we normally only have around 40.

   The only thing that raised my eyebrows this year was the ludicrous way that some "experts" had fixed a couple of these tyres before the vehicles joined us for the trips.

   Once again we ran older tyres for our commercial season, two sets in fact. We ran that same second-hand set of Bridgestone All Steel Radials again for the first tour then changed onto Bias for the expedition and other three tours. The same Bridgestone tubes were used as we had last year.


2013 Season Tyre Troubles in Brief


Type of Travel Distance Vehicles Tyre Problems
Tour - South East Great Victoria Desert 1620 kms 6 11
Tour - The Full Gunbarrel Highway 2190 kms 6 4
Tour - End of an Era 3330 kms 8 16
Expedition - Unknown Hills & Lakes 1790 kms 7 21
Tour - Beadell Tracks Wanderer 2770 kms 4 8
TOTAL   60


Adelaide to Coober Pedy – highway travel

   The old Bridgestone 857 All Steel Radials were fitted for the first tour. The usual run up the Highway, no great excitement really apart from I recall a bad headwind which isn’t unusual.


TOUR - South East Great Victoria Desert - 11 tyre problems

Anne Beadell Highway, Vokes Hill Corner Road & eastern Nullarbor tracks – 12 days

    For such a short trip we were at times busy with tyre repairs. Below are the problems in order of occurrence with as much detail as I recorded at the time.

    The vehicle with the split rims initially had a slow leak. Investigation found that the internal stickers had been left inside the tubeless tyres when fitted with tubes and had rubbed with the lower pressure while off-road. In fact it was our second day in the bush. No talc was used either. This fellow was from Melbourne and had purchased his 235 tyres from a very well known 4WD workshop in that town. (In fact this workshop/family used to run outback tag-a-long tours for about 20 years). The workshop had fitted them for him and he’d headed for the bush confident that he’d paid good money for a job well done…… not so. Needless to say he was going back to that particular workshop to inform them of their errors.....While on the trip (after that first slow leak) each afternoon that fellow chose to strip a single tyre, check the tube and remove the stickers, add talc etc, a good opportunity to get a little practise at tyre work.

Poor fitting is very common especially with tubes and something we see reasonably often.


No. Type & Size Position Problem Repair / Comment
1 Tubeless – 265/65R18 Left rear Slow leak – shoulder pinhole 120TL & innerliner sealer
2 Split Rim – 235/85R16 Right rear Slow leak – sticker rubbed tube #5 tube patch
3 Split Rim – 235/85R16     Tyre stripped to remove stickers & add talc
4 Split Rim – 235/85R16     Tyre stripped to remove stickers & add talc
5 Split Rim – 235/85R16     Tyre stripped to remove stickers & add talc
6 Split Rim – 235/85R16     Tyre stripped to remove stickers & add talc
7 Tubeless – 265/65R18 Right rear Sidewall bulge - delamination Not much to be done – fitted spare
8 Split Rim – 235/85R16 ? Slow leak overnight Pinhole in tube sidewall - #3 tube patch
9 Split Rim – 235/85R16 ? Slow leak Same sidewall pinhole in tube - #3 tube patch
10 Tubeless – 285/75R16 Right front Small Saltbush stake in sidewall UP6 & innerliner sealer
11 Tubeless – 265/65R18 Left front Slow leak – shoulder pinhole 112TL & innerliner sealer (112TL used instead of UP6)


Rubbing due to inspection stickerThe cause of the slow leak

Tube rubbed by the inspection stickers being left in a
tubeless tyre fitted with a tube. Common problem.
The cause of the slow leak, these stickers should always
be removed from tubeless tyres when fitting tubes.


   I’m thinking of writing a sheet for our customers to give to their tyre fitter while getting their tyres done before a big trip......


Delamination bulgeSaltbush stake

Bulge in the sidewall of an 18” tyre which indicates a delamination
which can’t be repaired, not something we see normally.
This was a saltbush stake collected along a set of wheeltracks
on the Nullarbor. Repaired that afternoon successfully.


Coorabie to Adelaide – highway travel

   Headed back home for a few days and while there I fitted another set of older MRF 12 Ply Super Milers, not the set from 2012. Once again these tyres had already completed a season some years ago so had dealt with several tours and an expedition off-track. I checked them over as best I could particularly for "soft" spots in the case which would or should indicate hidden damage of the cords. I was hoping to avoid old damages from breaking out and damaging the tubes at the lower pressures we maintain for long periods.


Adelaide to Kulgera Roadhouse – highway travel

   Back up the highway to start our second trip, no troubles.


TOUR - The Full Gunbarrel Highway – 4 tyre problems

Kulgera Roadhouse to Carnegie Station – the complete road – 18 days

   A pretty standard trip in regard to tyres with only 4 flats all of which were sidewall stakes.


No. Type & Size Position Problem Repair / Comment
1 Tubed – 235/85R16 Front left Sidewall stake 120TL & #4 tube patch
2 Tubeless – 305/70R19.5 Rear left Sidewall stake – 11mm 140TL & innerliner sealer - good
3 Tubeless – 305/70R19.5 Front right Sidewall stake – 8mm 120TL & innerliner sealer - good
4 Tubeless – 285/70R17 Front right Sidewall stake – 38mm 140TL & innerliner sealer - good


Measuring tyre damageTyre repair demo on the Gunbarrel

Measuring the damage on the inside to find what patch is required. Another tyre repair demonstration, this time on the
Gunbarrel Highway.


Carnegie Station to Perth & return to Carnegie Station - between trips travel

   1060 kms of gravel roads & 1600 kms of bitumen – no troubles.


TOUR – End of an Era – 16 tyre problems

Various Len Beadell tracks in the west & north west including the Kidson, Boreline & Marble Bar to Newman Road – 24 days.

   Once again a pretty standard trip but this time we had far more tyre problems than we normally have, and there didn’t seem to be any reason for it that I could see, just bad luck.


No. Type & Size Position Problem Repair / Comment
1 Tubeless – 275/65R17 Right rear Shoulder puncture/stone – 5mm 120TL & innerliner sealer - good
2 Tubeless – 265/85R15 ? Tread puncture – poor old repair 145TL & innerliner sealer – good (spare only)
3 Tubed – 238/85R16 ? Valve stem came off tube! Fitted new tube – don’t carry valve stem patches
4 Split Rim – 7.50R16 Left rear Slow leak – tread hole? B8 plug & #3 tube patch
5 Tubeless – 285/70R17 Left front Sidewall stake – 7mm 140TL & innerliner sealer - good
6 Tubeless – 275/65R17 Left front Slow leak – 10mm shoulder 140TL & innerliner sealer - good
7 Tubed – 235/85R16 Right front Slow leak – tube sidewall Customer did repair – didn’t see it
8 Tubeless – 265/85R15 Left rear Slow leak - tread fracture & delam’ 135TL & innerliner sealer – good (spare only)
9 Tubeless – 265/85R15 Left front Very slow leak – tiny sidewall stake UP6 & innerliner sealer – good
10 Tubeless – 275/65R17 ? Star fracture & run flat Could not repair - carcass damaged
11 Tubeless – 275/65R17 Spare Small innerliner damage 114TL & innerliner sealer – good
12 Split rim – 225/75R16 Right front Tube failed – unsure – tyre OK Fitted new tube
13 Split rim – 225/75R16 Left front Slow leak – tube sidewall pinhole Customer repaired tube
14 Tubed – 235/85R16 Right rear Slow leak Customer did repair
15 Tubeless – 285/75R16 Rear Tread damage – lump of steel rod 135TL & innerliner sealer – good
16 Split rim – 225/75R16 Trailer Run flat - tyre ruined No repair possible


   One tyre was lost due to a run flat. Can’t do much about these but I’ll say again that tyre pressure monitoring gadgets are a good thing and I would urge folk to seriously consider them as standard requirement for remote area travel.

   The second tyre problem listed above was a funny one. The tyre had copped a small tread puncture of some description prior to our trip and the tyre had been repaired in a nearby town at considerable cost. The "expert" who did this repair had carved out a couple of the steel belts before fitting the repair patch on the inside of the tyre. No doubt this genius thought he was doing a great job but I’ll let the pictures tell the story. The weakened carcass bulged under pressure and wore quickly as you can see. There wasn’t much that I could do with it, I just fitted the biggest strongest tread patch I had and relegated the tyre to being a spare only. I should have gotten some better pictures of the "repair".


Tyre damageThe patch was too small

The result of a poor repair, the original damage
size can be seen in the centre.
Have a look at this - poor patch selection, preparation and
no sign of any innerliner sealer – great job!!!!


Rod in tyreThe rod inside the tyre

Every now & again someone picks up
something unexpected in a tyre.....
Turned out to be some sort of steel tie-down rod.
Tyre was repaired and serviceable.


Carnegie Station to Perth & return to Laverton - between trips travel

   540 kms of gravel roads & 1750 of bitumen – no troubles.


EXPEDITION – Exploration of Unknown Hills & Lakes - 21 tyre problems

26 days spent off-track in a section of the southern Great Victorian Desert looking for Aboriginal sites.

   Another in our series of off-track trips specifically looking for water sources, these trips are almost unique in a commercial sense. Unfortunately with current Native Title great chunks of the desert are being "locked up" and allowed access to unexplored country is becoming harder, much harder.

   The bulk of the flat tyres were the standard stakes from scrub, and a few tube issues for various reasons – nothing out of the ordinary really. All tyres were 7.50R16 radial or 7.50-16 bias.


No. Type Position Problem Repair / Comment
1 All Steel Radial Left rear Sidewall stake – 42mm 122TL & #7B – customer did repair
2 All Steel Radial Left rear Sidewall stake – tiny UP6 and #4 tube patch – customer did repair
3 All Steel Radial Left rear Run flat – unknown problem Case damaged but new tube fitted for spare only
4 All Steel Radial Left front Sidewall stake – pinhole Customer did repair
5 All Steel Radial Left front Sidewall stake – 10mm 120TL & #3 tube patch – customer did repair
6 All Steel Radial Left front Sidewall stake – 25mm 140TL & #4 tube patch – customers did repair
7 Bias Left rear Run flat – damaged case – bugger #4 tube patch – for spare only
8 All Steel Radial Left ? Sidewall stake 120TL - #3 & #4 tube patches – customer did repair
9 All Steel Radial ? Sidewall stake - small UP6 – customer did repair
10 All Steel Radial Left front Shoulder stake – 20mm 140TL – I did the patch, customer did the rest
11 Bias Left rear Sidewall stake – 12mm No.4 tyre patch & #4 tube patch – customer did work
12 All Steel Radial Left rear Slow leak – pinhole in tube #3 tube patch – customer did repair
13 Bias Right front Shoulder stake – 15mm No.5 tyre patch & #5 tube patch
14 All Steel Radial Left front Slow leak – tiniest sidewall stake Customer patched tube
15 All Steel Radial ? Sidewall stake 120TL – customer did repair
16 All Steel Radial Right front Sidewall stake – 2 cuts 122TL & #4 tube patch – customers did repair
17 All Steel Radial ? Sidewall stake – 50mm 122TL & 120TL
18 All Steel Radial ? Shoulder stake – tiny 5mm 120TL and #3 tube patch – customer did repair
19 All Steel Radial Right rear Sidewall stake – 35mm 122TL – customer did repair
20 Bias Right rear Shoulder stake – 10mm No.4 tyre patch & #4 tube patch (had fitted sleeve)
21 All Steel Radial ? Slow leak – tiny sidewall stake Tube patch only – customer did repair


   The tally of 21 was normal; for the last 9 years our expeditions have hovered between the high teens & high 20s in number. This year was a little different though as most of the customers were new to expedition work.


Stake in tyreShoulder stake

Bugger – but later it was repaired
and made serviceable.
Larger shoulder stakes aren’t common but they do occur.
Again this tyre was repaired and made serviceable
as the damage size was within limits.


Tyre run flatWrinkles in a run flat tyre

This case was damaged as you can see by the ripple in the
sidewall, however it wasn’t catastrophic so the tyre was
sleeved and put into low speed off-track service.
Another run-flat as you can see by the wrinkles,
again the case wasn’t overly damaged so it was put
back to work for the rest of the expedition.


   Both of the run flat tyres were thoroughly inspected on the inside and I found they should stand up to low speed work while we were off-track for the next few weeks. The innerliner was damaged but the carcass cords appeared intact. The only problem was running at lower pressure which puts a lot of stress on the sidewalls as they have to flex a great deal with every revolution. We discussed the problem and decided to sleeve with old tubes and put them back on the vehicle. This is a sort of last resort option but being off-track the options are limited so any chance of keeping a tyre in service in such a remote location should be considered. Travelling off-track rarely gets above 15 kms/hr so the potential for serious problems is pretty remote. The idea being that we may as well continue to use the damaged tyres while off-track so saving the other tyres from staking in the scrub.

       I do not recommend this type of "repair" for high speed highway travel.

Images of tube sleeve are in the observations at the end of this report.


Comfortable fixing heightMick is there to help

It is a lot easier to repair tyres if you can work
at a comfortable height, much better than
scrabbling around in the dirt.
Sometimes I don’t have to do the work, I consult
(I think that is the modern term for it....).


   Since we can no longer get the MRF Steel Muscle tyres which were extremely thick & heavy, many of our customers have chosen to use All Steel Radials from other manufacturers. On the whole these are good tyres and very strong compared to the normal Belted Radials, but they are quite a bit thinner in the sidewall which can cause extra punctures while off-track. The above results should confirm this. The best tyre for off-track work is the old fashioned Bias tyre. Cheap, strong and easy to repair, for rough work they tick all the boxes.


Laverton to Broome & return - between trips travel

   Mixture of gravel & bitumen – 3400 kms – no troubles.


TOUR – Beadell Tracks Wanderer – 8 tyre problems

Laverton to Alice Springs via a number of Len’s roads – 21 days

   The trip went really well apart from a bit of windy weather and a few hot days. However with the tyres we had a few gremlins that caused a few problems. The 8 tyres that were worked on came off only 2 vehicles.


No. Type & Size Position Problem Repair / Comment
1 Split rim – 7.50R16 ? Run flat – cause unknown Tyre destroyed
2 7.50-16 – Bias Right rear Slow leak – shoulder area Old damage & case delaminated – couldn’t do much
3 7.50-16 – Bias Right front Slow leak – shoulder area Old damage broke through – too large to repair
4 7.50-16 – Bias Right rear Very slow leak – tube pinhole Patched tube - OK
5 Split rim – 7.50R16 Right rear Run flat – cause unknown Tyre destroyed
6 Split rim – 7.50R16 Left front Stripped, cleaned & repaired Tube patch on weak spot as precaution
7 Split rim – 7.50R16 Right front Stripped & cleaned All OK once cleaned
8 Split rim – 7.50R16 Right rear Stripped, cleaned & repaired 2 patches for tube on weak spots


   Four tyres were "lost" on this trip due to extensive damage. With run flat tyres it is normally impossible to tell what caused the flat to begin with. However with split rims you can normally expect that the inside of the tyre is dirty with dust & grit causing rubs in the tubes which turn into slow leaks and a run flat if you don’t notice it. One vehicle had lost two tyres before I asked to split & clean the remaining tyres & tubes. This particular vehicle had been with us a number of times including expeditions and I believed that the tyres had not been apart for some years. Another problem was that the split rims hadn’t been sealed with silicone. It was likely they had rubs in the tubes from grit. This turned out to be the case with several patches being put on a couple of the tubes. Hopefully that should stop the run flats and the rest of the trip was carried out without incident.

   With our old set of Bias tyres we again struck the problem of the case failing from damage sustained in the past. This isn’t a new problem and we had been waiting for something like this to happen during the 2013 season. On the bright side the tyres that failed were pretty much right down to the wear limit so we had got the best out of them before the end. At a rough guess they would have covered about 60,000 kms the bulk of the time being spent on gravel, dirt & rough roads & tracks. I’m still at a loss about how to detect spreading damage within the cords of the Bias case. Without inspecting them carefully internally every week I’m not sure what to do about it.


Destroyed tyrePreventative cleaning out

Can’t fix this one. Stripping a tyre off a split rim for inspection & cleaning.


Review of Observations from 2012

   On the whole 2013 went on to confirm the same observations I made last year and probably earlier years. The following points were a little bit extra I took note of.


Poor Work from Tyre Repairers

   Quite simply I’m struggling to remember seeing a decent or correct repair from a tyre workshop over the last few years. Seriously this is a very dangerous situation and it is easy to see why repairs are frowned upon by many sections of the industry.

   Apart from widespread training I can’t see how this can be rectified.


Using Damaged Tyres

   Putting a damaged tyre back onto a vehicle is not something anyone would normally do, but in very remote country with no new tyres in sight it can become an option. In most cases after a run flat the tyre will be ripped about and it just won’t be possible to do anything with it, but some only have minor damage with the innerliner being knocked about. For the less damaged tubeless tyre a tube will always have to be fitted because anytime an innerliner is damaged the potential for a tubeless tyre too leak is extremely high. Of course fitting a tube into a tyre with sharp & rough edges isn’t going to end well, so the solution is to have an old tube on hand and use that as a sleeve to protect the inflated tube. It is a simple solution that may just get you out of a tight spot in the future.

   Once you eventually reach civilisation see a tyre workshop immediately.


Stake in tyreTyre damage

Can’t use this tyre for anything but a paperweight. As a last resort this type of damage might allow
the tyre to be used for slow speed travel.


Tube & sleeveSleeve

Tube showing sleeve fitted. Sleeve moulded into the shape of the damage inside
the tyre and doing a good job protecting the primary tube.


   In the past and during this season we have used this sleeve "repair" a few times and it has worked well for an emergency spare or for very slow off-track travel. The sleeve has absorbed all of the dangers from sharp & rough surfaces on the inside allowing the tyre to be used almost as normal. It is surprising how well this can work if the circumstances force this sort of repair.


Bridgestone Tubes for Second Season – more good results

   We have been testing Bridgestone tubes for long term durability so I fitted the same tube set for this 5 trip season after using them last year for a full season of 4 trips. Normally between commercial trips I would strip all of the tyres and check for problems and make sure they are clean but this year we didn’t have time for various reasons. However at the end of the season in Alice Springs I pulled them all apart to check before running down the highway home to Adelaide.

   What I found pleased me as the Bridgestone tubes showed a small amount of thinning in the sidewall after 9 desert trips but nothing to be worried about and the tube surface was pretty much blemish free. The lack of rubs on the tube are due to a number things; firstly the rubber compound is good, secondly the split rim is sealed from grit & sand, and thirdly (most of the time) I keep to a high level of maintenance, which means pulling the tyre & rim apart and cleaning and putting fresh talc powder in the tyre & on the tube (if required).

   A few of these veteran tubes now have a few patches on them and to be honest I don’t like heading off for many months on patched tubes. I will be having a long hard look at these old tubes before thinking about fitting them for another season of 4 trips. I’ll detail what I decide to do in next years report.


Bridgestone tube

Markings on the Bridgestone tubes I have been using.


The Same Lessons Were Reinforced this Year;

  1. Be wary of old repairs to tyres.
  2. If you do a tyre repair use a large reinforced patch. Patches should be 3 x the size of the damage; minimum.
  3. Leave tubeless repairs overnight before inflating.
  4. Tyre pressure monitors are a great thing – money very well spent.
  5. Long term use of Bias in very harsh conditions can cause problems with some tyre damages expanding.


Flat tyreAdjusting tyre pressures

This sort of thing shouldn’t cause stress on a trip.
Learn how to repair & carry the gear to do it.
Always adjust your tyre pressure to suit the road conditions.


Mick Hutton
Copyright : November 2013





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