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2016 Tours & Expeditions

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TYRE & TUBE REPORT for 2016 Commercial Trips

   We had a break from our tradition this year, we ran Steel Belted Radials for the first two trips! I think the last time we had normal tyres on during desert work was 2006 or 2007. I’ll explain further on.......For our poor old desert bus this year the tyre situation was much the same as usual. Considering what we do, we had very little trouble at all. On the other hand some of our customers had quite a bit of trouble for various reasons and we’ll go into all of that in the report. Four trips were completed as has been the case the last few years.

   The following are from those four commercial trips & a bit from between trips as well;

2016 Season Tyre Troubles in Brief


Type of Travel Distance Vehicles Tyre Problems
Tour     Canning Stock Route 2646 kms 6 1
Tour     South West Explorer 1743 kms 6 6
Scientific Project – Great Sandy Desert 2521 kms 1 0
Expedition     C96 Two Soaks 2520 kms 6 20 ½
Tour     Nullarbor Explorer 2577 kms 8 8
    - 35 ½



TOUR – "Canning Stock Route & Explorers" – 28 Days - 1 tyre problem

   We did quite a few overgrown detours & were surprised we didn’t have more tyre trouble, from memory the last CSR trip we had 6 or 8 flat tyres. So this year was a good run. This year the CSR sandhills were quite firm on the northern side, in 2011 they were not. So I had fitted a set of 235/85R16 tyres on our normal split rims anticipating the soft conditions & they didn’t happen, oh well. The single puncture was repaired, sealed and refitted back onto the vehicle with no problems at all.

No. Date Size Position Problem Repair / Comment
1 13/5 Tubeless 285/70R17 Front left Shoulder stake 3mm damage – 120TL patch & sealer


Shoulder stake

The only tyre problem on the Canning trip was a tiny shoulder stake in a tubeless tyre – May 2016.


TOUR – "South West Explorer" – 18 Days - 6 tyre problems

   This was a pretty quiet trip using a great many tracks that don’t see a lot of vehicles. In some cases these tracks were pretty overgrown & tight so we really did pretty well on the whole. Apart from a slow leak that was run flat all the other tyres were repaired and put back into service. While fixing the last tyre I found upon inspection a second stake this time in the tread. It hadn’t gone through, but I pulled it out & put a heavy tread patch in just in case. It pays to look closely at tyres, something that doesn’t happen when plugs get used.......

No. Date Type & Size Position Problem Repair / Comment
1 10/6 Split Rim – 225/75R16 Rear left 2 pinholes in tube 7A tube patch – didn’t record any more details
2 11/6 Tubeless – 275/65R17 Rear right Slow leak – sidewall stake 10mm 122TL patch & sealer – OK & refitted
3 20/6 Tubeless - 275/65R17 Rear right Slow leak – sidewall stake 120TL patch & sealer – OK & refitted
4 24/6 Tubeless - 275/65R17 Rear left Slow leak – run flat & destroyed Fitted new spare carcass
5 24/6 Tubeless - 275/65R17 Front left Slow leak – sidewall stake 5mm 120TL patch & sealer – OK & refitted
6 25/6 Tubeless - 275/65R17 Rear right Slow leak – sidewall stake 5mm 120TL patch & sealer, found tread stake 125TL


            Here a few pics of the tyre trouble on the South West Explorer Tour;


Just another sidewall stake in a radial tyre out in the western deserts – nothing unusual.


Run flat

This was a slow leak that wasn’t noticed on an old bumpy overgrown track. The tyre was ruined.
This is where tyre pressure monitors are brilliant gadgets.


Inside the run flat

This is the inside of that buggered tyre. You can easily see the broken sidewall cords & all of the loose rubber bits which are mostly the mashed up innerliner. It’s easy to see how fragile the sidewalls of your expensive 4WD tyres are.
Remember all Steel Belted Radials tyres are the same construction, there is virtually no difference in 99% of them.


DESERT DISCOVERY – Scientific Project – Great Sandy Desert

    Connie & I spent about a week helping with this biannual scientific camp. Our job was to lay in wheel-tracks in selected areas for the boffins to follow to carry out their studies. Simple work for us as the off-track jobs were short loops off the existing road network. As these were done we gave digital mapping to the boffins so they could find where we had gone, look at what we had earmarked in regard to landform & flora; this also included water sources & aboriginal sites.

   One of our other jobs was to conduct a tyre repair demonstration for the members. This was done at the end of July north of Lake MacKay in Western Australia. There were a couple of tyres that needed repair so these were done while going through the details of bush tyre repair. As usual plenty of interest once folks figured out just how much there is to know about the whole job.


Tyre repair demo in the bush

Another day at the office – tyre repair demo’ for scientific group.


EXPEDITION – "C96 Two Soaks" – 28 Days - 20 tyre problems

3 weeks spent off-track in the Great Sandy Desert looking for explorer sites & other things of interest

   This expedition was dogged by tube problems from the first few days of the off-track work. I have completed a full Expedition Tyre & Tube Report (elsewhere on our website - Tyre & Tube Report - Expedition 2016) so I’ll only briefly mention things here, but at the end of this report I’ll go into detail about some likely solutions. We had tubes splitting in the sidewall area from low pressure travel, we had tubes splitting under repair patches & we had a few staked tyres, (stakes are perfectly normal). The tube problems however were coming thick & fast there for quite some time. It made hard work out of what should have been a pretty trouble free expedition as everyone had Bias tyres fitted. Anyway see what you think but remember these expeditions are unique circumstances, very few travellers will ever have these sorts of problems.

No. Date Type & Size Position Problem Repair / Comment
1 15/8 Bias – Split Rim Rear right Slow leak – tube split #3 tube patch – Mick did tube patch
2 15/8 Bias – Split Rim Rear left Slow leak – tube split #3 tube patch – Mick did tube patch
3 16/8 Bias – Split Rim Rear Slow leak – patch failed Buff off old patch - #5 patch to cover extra split
4 16/8 Bias – Split Rim Other rear Slow leak – tube split #3 tube patch
5 17/8 Bias – Split Rim Front left Tread stake – slow leak B8 mushroom & #5 tube patch
- 17/8 Bias – Split Rim Front left Pulled to clean as no silicone Way to much talc, cleaned refitted & silicone
½ 18/8 Bias – Split Rim Front right Pulled to clean – tiny stake UP6 on tyre, nothing needed on tube – tyre not flat
- 19/8 Bias – Split Rim Spare Pulled to clean, no silicone Way to much talc, cleaned refitted & silicone
6 20/8 Bias – Split Rim Front right Slow leak Sloppy work, looked like sand rub? #5 tube patch
- 20/8 Bias – Split Rim Spare Pulled to clean, no silicone Way to much talc, cleaned refitted & silicone
7 21/8 Bias – Split Rim Rear right Shoulder stake – slow leak #5 tyre patch & #4 tube patch
8 21/8 Bias – Split Rim Rear left Sand rubs? Tube patches – customer did work
9 22/8 Bias – Split Rim ? Tread stake – 10mm #3 tyre patch & #4 tube patch – Mick did tyre patch
10 22/8 Bias – Split Rim Rear left Slow leak – tube split #4 tube patch
11 22/8 Bias – Split Rim ? Slow leak – patch failed Suspect these Chinese tubes don’t like glue
12 22/8 Bias – Split Rim Rear right Slow leak – 3 tube holes Put in spare tube
13 23/8 Bias – Split Rim Rear right Slow leak – patch failed Put spare tube in – 7B tube patch put on 3 holes, old tube
14 27/8 Bias – Split Rim Front left Very slow leak Put spare tyre on before leaving camp in morning
15 27/8 Bias – Split Rim ? Don’t know details Spare tyre fitted
16 27/8 Bias – Split Rim Rear right Slow leak – tube split I fitted new Bridgestone tube for customer
17 27/8 Bias – Split Rim ? Don’t know details Vehicle had left convoy – heard over UHF only
18 27/8 Bias – Split Rim Rear left Slow leak – tube split I fitted new Bridgestone tube for customer
19 28/8 Bias – Split Rim Front right Slow leak – tube split under patch New tube fitted
20 29/8 Bias – Split Rim Front left Slow leak – tiny shoulder stake #3 tyre patch & #5 tube patch

   I’ve broken the problem down into the two main issues;

Tube simply splitting in sidewall

   The failure of tubes splitting at low pressure was concentrated on two vehicles, both fitted with cheaper Korean tubes. We have suspected for some time that the material these tubes are made of are too "hard" and won’t stretch enough. Over the years I have developed ways to prolong the life of these cheaper tubes, but the expedition this year really showed the problem up. The best way to avoid this problem is to only use better quality tubes.

Tube splitting underneath repair patch

   The second problem was the tubes splitting under the repair patches. This has happened before but only once every couple of years, not enough to bring it to the fore as a major issue. Our main theory about this is quite simple; we reckon that these days the tubes are less elastic, but the tube patches are still like they were years ago, quite rubbery and capable of stretching far more than the tubes made these days. So what happens at low pressure is that the repair bulges with the sidewall of the tyre, the tube stretches as well as the patch. The problem then being that the patch doesn’t support the tube because it can stretch more than the tube. The hole in the tube is allowed to work backwards & forwards and begins to split and the patch can’t hold it because it isn’t stiff /strong enough. I hope that makes sense.

   Over the summer & next year I’ll work on how to beat this problem, otherwise our off-track work is going to become quite a lot of hard work & frustration if folks don’t have the right gear to start with.


Tube split

This is similar to what was happening in the sidewall of the cheap tubes, tiny splits due to the stretching of the tube while at low pressure for off-track sandhill travel.
Very annoying as it shouldn’t happen.


Split under patch

This is one of the cheap tubes that split underneath the patch.
We have some work to do to figure out a way around this problem!


Tread stake

A Bias tyre with a standard tread stake – don’t mind these at all as this sort of damage should happen while travelling off-track with no road at all, although not very you can see by the results this was the case.


Poor Fitting – very common these days

   The entries in blue were a set of tyres on a customer vehicle that early in the expedition I decided to pull them all apart and see that they were fitted to my satisfaction. (Given the early trouble we were having with tubes I was trying to prevent any further problems occurring.) Quite simply there were not fitted to my satisfaction. The single problem I found was that the tyre fitter had used a bucket of talc powder & more to the point it was in the wrong place. So I wiped out all the excess talc while spreading it around the sidewalls, checked for grit & sand & put them back together then sealed the rims with silicone. That set of tyres with good quality tubes did not have any serious problems for the entire trip.


Too much talc

Just a little too much talc powder!


TOUR – "Nullarbor Explorer" – 22 days - 8 tyre problems

From Esperance to Coorabie via many different tracks & roads – very very little bitumen

   This was a nice steady trip with very few other travellers been seen, which is normal on the Nullarbor. We didn’t have many mechanical troubles but we did end up with 8 flat tyres, so we were a bit unlucky but "strange things happen on country roads" to use a well known phrase.......

No. Date Type & Size Position Problem Repair / Comment
1 25/9 TSBR – 255/55R19 Front left Hit stone – sidewall cut - 10mm 120TL patch & sealer – OK – still bulge in tyre
2 27/9 TSBR – 285/70R17 Front left Sidewall stake - 35mm 140TL patch & sealer - good
3 1/10 TSBR – 235/85R16 Front left Sidewall stake – 9mm 120TL patch & sealer – good
4 7/10 TSBR – 285/75R16 Rear left Sidewall stake – 7mm 120TL patch & sealer – tiny leak – but did seal
5 11/10 Split rim - 7.50R16 Rear left Slow leak – tube pinhole #3 tube patch
6 11/10 TSBR – 285/70R17 Rear left Sidewall stake – 45mm 140TL patch & sealer – good
7 11/10 Split rim – 7.50R16 Rear right Slow leak – tube pinhole #3 tube patch
8 12/10 Split rim – 7.50R16 Front left Slow leak – didn’t check tube Ditched tube & fitted near new spare tube


   The Tubeless Steel Belted Radial (TSBR) flat tyres were the usual sidewall problems from sticks & stones. There was nothing out of the ordinary with this result. Steel Belted Radials have weak sidewalls because they are very thin in comparison to the rest of the tyre, there are many reasons for this, (it doesn’t matter why for this report) and because of this thinness these tyres are very prone to damage in the sidewalls. The proof is in the pudding so to speak........Anyway all of those tyres were repaired and put back into service.

   If you run Steel Belted Radials (let’s face it, 99% of travellers do & have no choice about it) you have to expect sidewall problems if you spend time in remote county on small narrow tracks. It pays to have a bit of an idea about how to fix tyres and have the gear to do it.

   The split rim flat tyres were caused by a much different reason. As you can see by the dates all of the slow leaks occurred within a couple of days & all came from the same vehicle! It turns out that the split rims, tubes & tyres had not been pulled apart for maintenance for many years. This means that there is an amount of grit & sand inside the tyre rubbing the tube and if there ever was any talc powder in the tyre it has long since hardened and become useless. So what happened was that the tubes developed pinholes in them from sand & grit after almost 3 weeks of lower pressures. We simply fixed them and put them back together and bolted them back on the bus, no problems at all. With split rims, maintenance is the key to success.


Staked tyre

A good sized sidewall stake on the Nullarbor trip –
it was within limits & repaired.


Observations from 2016

    So with about 35 flat tyres over 4 trips we had a pretty normal sort of year considering in the past we have got up near 60 for a season. The only thing out of the ordinary was the amount of tube trouble we had on the expedition; I’ll cover this properly in a report specifically on the expedition tyres & tubes, check the website. I’ll just go through a few things that popped up during the year that I think should be mentioned or gone over again.


Leaking Tubeless Repairs

   I covered this in last years report & thought I would just mention the progress I have had in the bush this year with this problem. My initial reaction has been to let the glue dry to more than "touch dry" In short this seems to have helped greatly as only a couple of repairs leaked the tiniest amount when checked & seemed to seal later on during the same day that they were first inflated, which is the next morning after the repair was done (remembering that I leave them uninflated overnight to let the repair cure). I’m pretty happy with this so will continue doing the same thing next year and see what happens.

The Black Art of Using Tubes

   It has been pretty obvious over the last decade or more that the majority of folks do not have a good grasp of how to fit tubes into tyres, plus the other aspects of tube use including of course repair. It’s better to point out here that really there are two reasons for this;

  1. Firstly, old timers who used tubes decades ago (when tubes had high natural rubber content) have not adapted to the new butyl tubes and the changes in the last few years with tubes becoming exceptionally thin & hard.
  2. Secondly, the new generations of 4WDers have had very little or even no contact with tubes at all. That’s not their fault as everything has been going over to Tubeless since the late 1980s.

   As we have found out, very few even at the highest levels have given much thought to how tubes react these days when you work outside the envelope. Our work on the subject is ongoing & I hope to come up with some solutions to the problem we had this year while off-track. I’ll keep you posted.

Be Prepared

   Shouldn’t really have to say much about this but it is very clear that the bulk of folks these days only travel with a plug kit. Once again I’ll say that a flat tyre should be expected while in the bush, it is completely normal, BUT more than half of travellers think of a flat tyre as a real calamity, a disaster, something to send shivers down your spine. The 4WD & Tyre industries should be ashamed of how they have convinced folks into believing that tyres don’t puncture & plugs can fix everything with no effort. Perhaps it is a result of our modern urban society where the majority of Australians now have no connection to the bush unless it’s through the window of a speeding air-conditioned 4WD. Sorry about that, maybe I’m just getting old & cynical......

Tyre Pressure Monitors

   I wrote this last year or maybe the year before but I’ll include it again because it’s true.

   Tyre pressure monitors are excellent tools. So good in fact I reckon just about everyone should have them when touring off-road in a 4WD. The monitors, if set correctly, will tell you with an alarm when a tyre is in trouble, mostly you will have time to get off the road and find a good flat spot before you need to get out and have a look for the problem. The monitors will save you money as they almost eliminate the problem of a run-flat tyre, which destroys the tyre. Just one or two run-flats and the monitors have paid for themselves. Particularly with low profile "modern" tyres & rims, monitors are the bees knees, trust me. Those travellers who always seem to have trouble with tyres for whatever reason, should have tyre pressure monitors. The lucky folk that never have a tyre problem may get away without them. As with most things it is a choice that is up to you.

   Sometime in 2017 Connie & I will be fitting pressure monitors to our old desert bus. It’s about time we did and I’ll be doing some experiments with them as I have a few things I would like to test and put on paper in articles for the website. Here are a few thoughts;

Fuel consumption & tyres

   This has been on my mind for years, namely what influences fuel consumption in regard to tyres? We all know that pressure has a huge impact on consumption, particularly on the highway. We also know from years of experience that the construction of the tyre also has a bearing of consumption, the stronger the tyre the harder it is to roll down the track so you’ll use more fuel to do it. However I have a theory that tyre width also has an effect on fuel consumption. The reason why I think this is simple. Connie & I do plenty of tours with late model vehicles. Almost all of them have wider tyres than our own vehicle. Despite this I’m struggling to remember a time when a wide tyred vehicle has beaten us on fuel consumption. Think about it. Now I realise that that isn’t a good test comparison for the tyres being on different vehicles etc. So I’ll be ordering a set of tubeless rims & I’ll test my theory on our old bus. (The pressure monitors will help with this as I can have all of the test tyres at the same 4psi rule setting using direct readings. OK, it’s not Mythbusters but the best I’ll be able to do.) Should be interesting.......


Mick Hutton
Copyright : July 2017





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