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Vehicle Problems

Vehicle Reports

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   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 and very normal occurrence in remote country travel.

Flat tyre - slow leak

   Wide tubeless tyre picked up a nail in the tread while near Forrest on the railway line. The tyre was taken off the rim and repaired with a mushroom plug and innerliner sealer, a permanent repair.

Camper Trailer - Coil Spring

   The left hand coil had popped out of the axle/suspension A-frame because the "overtravel" strap had broken. The shock absorber had been damaged as well, but without a new one not much could be done at the time. No big deal, we jacked up the trailer popped the spring back in and fitted a new overtravel/limiting strap.

   (New shock absorbers were ordered via sat phone and arrived and were fitted at Tjukayirla Roadhouse during a day off from travel.)

Fridge Failed

   Power to the rear of a vehicle had vanished. As the vehicle and wiring was new and seemed the correct size something was amiss. Tracked it down to a blown fuse at the second battery, and the culprit was the camp light. As soon as the light was plugged in the fuse would blow. Replaced the fuse, ceased using the camp light and the fridge worked......

Flat tyre

   Wide tubeless tyre picked up a small sidewall stake on the Gunbarrel Highway. We had just stopped to look at something when the tyre was heard leaking, lucky as it could have been destroyed quickly on the corrugations of the Gunbarrel. Once again at camp the tyre was removed from the rim and a correct sized patch bonded on with innerliner sealer. No trouble at all.

Flat tyre - slow leak

   Bias tyre on split rim, a tiny tread stake had rubbed the tube over a period of time. Hard to tell how long it had taken to put a pinhole in the heavy duty tube. These were the tyres from the 2009 season so quite possibly it was a stake from last year, although I had spent a good amount of time inspecting the tyres before I refitted them with new tubes for 2010. Anyway pulled it apart and repaired the tyre with a mushroom plug and the tube with a patch. Re-assembled and OK.

Power Steering - leak

   This could have been very serious. Vehicle was losing power steering fluid at a fair rate, eventually tracked it down to a worn section of a metal pipe. The cause was simple, the pipe ran underneath the radiator, with time, many kilometres and a number of challenging desert trips the rubber mounts under the radiator had hardened and worn down leaving the radiator resting on the power steering pipe. Not a good thing at all.

   Luckily the pipe was a return line (not pressurised) so we were able to cut the damaged piece out, reshape and re-route the pipe to the reservoir. No doubt it wouldn’t cool as well as the original under the radiator, but warm power steering in better than no power steering!

Battery Terminal - broken

   For some reason the terminal had cracked right through. No big deal we replaced it with a good brass spare. It does pay to have a few nick nacks like that in your kit.

Rear Coil Spring - popped out

   Jacked the vehicle up enough to get the coil back in. We’ve seen this a few times now and the remedy is very simple. I just use a bit of heavy wire to put a simple twitch around the coil and the chassis mount so it can’t come out when fully extended, a fairly agricultural repair but it is light, simple and seems to work for very long periods.

Rear Tailgate - not opening

   This was a bit of a puzzle, tried a few different ways to get inside the back of the vehicle, no luck. Having exhausted every method we could think of, after discussion and with permission I cut a hole in the rear upper tailgate so we could get to the latch. We found that the link rod had fallen out between the latches and the handle, no wonder it couldn’t be opened. With a hole cut it was an easy matter of operating the latch with a single finger. A pretty drastic solution but ultimately better than going 3500 kms home.

Deep Cycle Battery - died

   The battery was cactus, wouldn’t hold charge at all. Not much you can do unless you carry spare batteries, which most folk don’t. The battery in question was a couple of years old and had done quite a few desert trips.

   The vehicle in question actually had three batteries, one cranking and two deep cycles. The only solution was to wire out of the system the dead battery and let the other two carry the load. This did work quite well as the remainder of that trip we were travelling every day so the remaining two batteries got a fair charge everyday. Power consumption was monitored closely and no more trouble was encountered.

Sidestep - broken

   This vehicle has been out many times both on tours & expeditions and finally the aftermarket aluminium side-steps on one side came away. Turned out the bolts holding the step onto the mounts had pulled through the soft aluminium. Simple fix, just drilled some more holes and put new bolts in, solved.

Camper Trailer - water tank fell off

   Just coming out of Warburton we had to stop as a camper trailer in our group had "lost" its water tank. Found that the poly tank was split beyond repair after it hit the road full of water, so we couldn’t do much about that. We tidied up the loose ends and had a look to figure out why it had happened.

   The tank is held in place with a folded tin cradle which is not a bad idea. However the cradle was attached to the chassis of the camper with pop rivets, and not many of them for the weight of a full water tank. To me another example of cutting corners or not understanding the rigours of long range touring on poor roads, what can you do?

   After the trip the camper went back to the manufacturer for repair. A new tank and cradle were fitted and you guessed it, they stuck it on with pop rivets, but apparently this time they used a few more......

Bull Bar - cracked

   Aluminium bar on a popular late model airbag 4WD was found to be cracking in two areas, firstly near the chassis at the mount points and secondly out in the wings where a strut from the wheel arch bolts to the bull bar. Not much we could do as aluminium is pretty hard to work with in the desert, it can’t be welded (that’s a hint by the way). All we could do was keep an eye on the damage and hope it completed the trip, which it did.

   (I’m not in favour of aluminium as a general rule, for the simple reason that most aluminium gear is made from low grade material, not much more than recycled coke cans. This sort of stuff is quite soft and doesn’t handle stress very well, particularly heavy loads and corrugations over long periods of time, such as the western deserts. Plenty of folk will howl me down on this point, but I will stick to what my experience has taught me.)

Camper Trailer - shocker bushes worn out

   While having a look at the tank problem I noticed that the shock absorber bushes were just about gone as well. Both units were loose but the right was the worst having just about bashed the nut through the washers and rubber bushes. Pulled it apart and was annoyed to see that not all the gear had been fitted whenever those damper units had been put on. There were no locating washers between the bush and the mount on the camper chassis. That means over time the bushes get pounded into the hole that the threaded rod goes through. There should be 4 washers and 2 bushes, on these there were only 2 washers, not good enough.

   Dug into my bag of bits and pieces and put it back together with the correct gear, or as near as I had at the time. Kept an eye on the other shocker and did the same for it a few days later.

   Poor workmanship on what is in reality a very good piece of off-road equipment.

1000W Inverter - failing

   Bit of a curly one, but in a nutshell the inverter was failing well below its rated capacity. Turned out the fuse fitted into the wiring was too small for the draw the inverter needed to run the gear it was bought for. Carefully kept going up in fuse amperage until everything worked nicely and nothing got hot and bothered.

PersistentRattle from Under Vehicle

   Rattles are a bit of a worry when there are still hundreds of kilometres to go and much of it is corrugated. This one didn’t sound serious, the noise was too tinny, but it pays to find these things as it may develop into a serious problem if left too long. The problem was found and solved during a weekly inspection while under the vehicle, turned out to be an exhaust shield under the drivers side floor pan. The remedy was simple, just a couple of larger washers where the shield had pulled over the original nuts.

Front Shock Absorber - leaking oil

   Noticed oil under the front left of one of our group's vehicles. Had a bit of a squiz and found that the shocker unit seals had let go and let the oil escape. OK, these things happen and sometimes there is nothing that can be done. We could have fitted a spare if the vehicle had one........

Flat Tyre - interesting slow leak

   This one was a very slow leak and the owner opted to repair it while I was available to help as the leak happened towards the end of a trip. It was pretty hard to find being so small but plenty of pressure and a keen ear located it. Got the tyre off the rim with little drama (good opportunity for the fellow to try out his gear) and straightaway found the problem and it was not what we expected.

   The tyre had been purchased a year or so before in a remote area as a second-hand unit to replace a ruined tyre after a mishap. Turns out the tyre had been repaired and then sold (at a pretty stiff price). There is nothing wrong with running on well repaired tyres, Connie & I do it all the time in fact we do entire tag-a-long seasons on repaired tyres with no ill-effects.

   In this case the tubeless repair was leaking even though the patch and repair area had been painted with Innerliner Sealer. This is not uncommon with tubeless repairs. On inspection the patch looked fine and was still bonded, no sign of further structural damage to the tyre either, no broken cords etc. The easiest thing to do in the bush would have been to fit a tube and put it all back together. The tyre & rim were 17" and the fellow didn’t have a tube, and mine wouldn’t fit because of the different valve stem.

   So to be sure I buffed off the old patch, inspected the tyre very carefully and bonded on a new patch being as careful as I could with the delicate innerliner. A new coat of Innerliner Sealer and we put the tyre back on the rim and had no trouble inflating it with the fellows standard 4WD compressor. The new repair went well and I was confident that structurally the tyre was better than new (reinforced patches are very good) however I was not confident that the new repair would hold air......and I was right. All of our effort had only halved the volume of the leak (probably down to 5-10psi a week)!

   Every tubeless repair we do I reinflate the tyre and check the repair by dribbling soapy water over the damaged spot. I have found, and I’ll be honest about it, 1 in 8 tubeless tyre repairs done in the bush will continue to leak a tiny tiny bit. There wasn’t much more we could do so we put the wheel back on the vehicle. As long as the pressure was monitored it would be fine.

   Two lessons to be learnt;

1.  never trust tubeless tyre repairs
2. always carry tubes as a last resort for tubeless tyres.


   If you have read this carefully you will have noticed that some things couldn’t be replaced or repaired because the vehicle in question didn’t have spares, think about that.

   There were quite a few other minor things that cropped up during the year, but that is normal and easily handled.

Anyway we’ll see what happens in 2011........

Mick Hutton
Copyright : November 2010




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