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Vehicle Problems

Vehicle Reports

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  This is just short run down of what happened to vehicles during our trips in 2009. We haven’t seen any other tour operators do this. We thought it may be of interest for travellers in general and give folk a bit of an idea of what can happen and why you need to carry a few bits and pieces in your "spares kit".

  No names, no brands, just what happened and what we did to solve the problem. I have included flat tyres as most travellers view a flat tyre with dread when they are a very simple, normal occurrence in remote country travel.


Air Tank brackets broke off vehicle

  Not much to do really, the rear airbags could be manually inflated and deflated so the tank was removed from the system. The factory brackets were too light and flimsy, better brackets would need to be fabricated after the trip.

Aftermarket long range fuel tank very difficult to fill

  Very annoying and messy problem, had a bit of a look and found that the fellow that had installed the tank had placed the breather hose (the small one) lower than the filler hose (large one), so the breather would fill with fuel and not be able to breathe. So the tank would cough and blow back fuel when you tried to fill it.

  Had a fiddle and refitted the breather hose so it was higher than the filler, seemed to work better then.

Two flat tyres

  Both were very small punctures in the sidewall or shoulder of the tyre. Stripped the tyres off the rims and patched the tyres as per the specifications for the size of the damage.

  Tyres were refitted to the vehicles and they went home without any problems.


Two flat tyres

  Again tiny punctures in the sidewalls of the tyre, again same deal, stripped them off the rims and repaired them. Both were tubeless tyres and one of them the patch simply refused to seal 100%. It bonded really well but checking the repair when the tyre was reinflated (one of our safety checks) it would still be leaking very very slowly. So we jammed a tube in the thing and that solved that problem.

  That is one reason why tubes should be carried in your spares kit. Sometimes a tubeless tyre will need a tube installed to remain serviceable.

Turbo problem

  This turned out to be a curly one. The vehicle reported blowing black smoke, using a small amount of oil and a slight drop in fuel efficiency. But the vehicle was still underway and seemed in fact, quite OK.

  Nothing made sense as a blown turbo really knocks the vehicle around. They virtually don’t go at all which is why I didn’t think much about the turbo at the time. Engine seemed fine and no other indications that anything was wrong. We even rewired the fuel chip out of the system in case it was playing up and causing the timing or some such to be out, still nothing and it just didn’t make sense.

  The couple decided to play it safe and left the trip to travel home via the bitumen in case something decided to fail completely. They got home OK and had the vehicle checked out later. Turns out the turbo had a variable vane set-up and it was playing up. That explained the black smoke, fuel consumption and the bit of oil usage, but more importantly it explained why the vehicle was still on the go. The turbo was actually working, but the variable vanes playing up would have altered the air flow needed for the engine to react to throttle settings correctly.

  You live and learn. Variable vane technology has been around for a very long time, jet engines have been using it for many decades. I just didn’t realise it had made it into 4WDs!


Old perished shock absorber bushes (causing a knock in the front end)

  Pretty common problem this one, the fellow had had the vehicle checked at a reputable 4wd workshop but as usual many of these places don’t seem to understand what to look for or how much work the vehicle will have to do while travelling badly corrugated roads.

  Anyway pulled the shocker off and found some spare bushes and washers out of my kit (he didn’t have any) and put it back together, told the bloke to keep an eye on that one and the others.

  A few days later the same problem but on the other side, this time though the shocker had pulled right through the washers and bent the threaded end over while bashing against the chassis & mounting bracket, nice. In hindsight I should have fixed both, but it did look OK and I thought it would make it with a bit of care, not so.

  Pulled the shocker off and very gingerly bent the rod back straight, it actually went nicely and showed no signs of fatigue or work hardening. Refitted it with more bushes and washers from my own kit and finished the Gunbarrel with no further problems.

Two issues here -:

Car alarm / immobiliser activating

  Thankfully this was an easy one, turns out the switch on the driver’s door, you know the one that operates the interior light, was full of dust and the immobiliser wasn’t getting the signal that the door was open or closed, so it would sound the alarm.

  Pulled the switch and sprayed it clean with electrical contact cleaner, easy fixed.

Bullbar bolts loose

  Another simple one, this time the bolts were loose. Put them back in and tightened them up, but I put a bit of thread lock on them first. Don’t use full strength Loctite, just the version for stopping threads from coming loose. Actually you can use gasket goo or even silicone. Just something to help bind the thread so it can’t start to come loose under the pressure of millions of corrugations.

  Anything bolted to a vehicle should be treated the same way.

Snapped wheel stud

  This was the direct result of over-tightening by a rattle gun, a very common problem. A rear tyre was found flat and while removing the tyre for repair all of the nuts were found to be extremely tight, one just couldn’t be moved at all. I had a go with the wheel nut spanner and applying steady increasing force I still snapped the stud in half. (I didn’t use a pipe or jump up and down on it either.)

  No spare stud in the camp for that vehicle so we had to continue on with 5. However the vehicle was a 6-wheeler so the weight carried by the rear tyres was split over four not two tyres, we figured it would be fine. We were right.

  Lesson is quite simple; make sure the dudes fitting your tyres nip the wheel-nuts up with the rattle gun and then torque them up by hand, that is how it should be done.

August - Off-Track Expedition

22.5 flat tyres

  Nothing unusual with this result for an expedition, 21 days travelling through the desert without roads or tracks tends to give you flat tyres. We just repair them properly and carry on. The reason for the half flat tyre was that one vehicle had a slow leak before the trip started so it couldn’t be fully counted in the tally.

Broken speedo electrical wire

  A stick or a bit of scrub pulled and snapped the electrical wire for the speedo. After a bit of a fiddle to get enough bare wire we soldered it back together and taped it back up, no problem.


One flat tyre

  This was our flat tyre and my fault. A deep stone cut in one of our rear tyres I didn’t investigate fully before the start of the last trip. Last day before civilisation we had a flat tyre.

  Turns out the stone cut had gone through the tyre but not cut the tube. So running low pressure for corrugations for a couple of weeks the small cut of 6mm in the tyre rubbed a hole in the tube eventually. As usual we just repaired it and carried on.


Here is some food for thought -:

  Now for those of you thinking that if we had tubeless tyres for the above problem we would not have had that trouble, think again. The stone cut on the sidewall of our tyre is about 50mm long on the outside and 6mm inside, our tyre sidewalls are 12mm thick.

  If it was a tubeless tyre we would have had an instant deflation with that size cut as tubeless tyre sidewalls are only about 6mm thick. So we would have had an instant sidewall slash 20mm-30mm long, nasty. Now if the tyre wasn’t destroyed before we had time to stop the vehicle we would have had a tyre that was more than likely "unrepairable" with just plugs. So then you’ll have to do a few miles with only one spare before you get to anywhere to fix the problem. If we were normal travellers we would have been told to toss the tyre and buy a new one, at $200 or $300.

  What did Connie & I do with our old fashioned "rag" tyres, split rims and sensible tyre repair kit? Repaired the flat properly ourselves for about $10 and continued on our way.

Mick Hutton & Connie Beadell
Copyright : October 2009




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