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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.


   These are the things of interest that happened during the five trips we guided this year. In particular we had two major welding jobs. There were more issues, like a flat battery or similar but they are pretty normal and not worth reporting. I’ll include a few images this year, makes it all a little clearer.

2nd Battery Isolating Relay;

   From previous experience the folk had bought a spare and carried it in case of problems. On the day the trip started the fridge was a bit down and the relay was found to be not throwing.

   We replaced the relay with the spare and things got back to normal which was a 28 day trip down the Canning Stock Route.

Engine Warning Light;

   At Billiluna on the second day of the trip the engine warning light was noticed staying on after ignition and the normal few seconds. Nothing out of place could be found under the bonnet and not knowing the vehicle in question (what was wired into the engine warning light circuit) we decided to ring a dealership and ask advice.

   After a discussion we were advised to reset the computer, which was simple enough and see what happened. The thought was that it was more than likely something turning the warning light on that was not a serious issue, such as the fuel cap. So this was done and the engine light went off. During the trip it came and went but no adverse effects could be noticed particularly with engine performance so it was left alone.

Belt Idler Pulley;

   Folk smelt a problem from under the bonnet and having a look found that the idler pulley for the Air Conditioner had packed it in. Just before leaving Halls Creek that same idler had made a few funny noises and the folk had purchased a spare just in case, wise move.

   Fitted the new unit and carried on. Worst case scenario the trip would have to have been completed without the A/C, not a real disaster.

Turbo Noise;

   Folk noticed a throttle problem, in that when building up rev’s a very persistent whistling or forced air sound came from the engine. There didn’t seem to be any other symptoms and the vehicle was performing as normal. First thought was a turbo leak somewhere around the compressor & intercooler set-up. The next morning we spent some time with pressure built up as much as we could in the system (handbrake & footbrake on hard and in Drive with some revs, best we could do without tying it back to something big and heavy). Couldn’t hear anything so soapy water was sprayed on all the ducts and piping and no leaks could be found, it had me a little puzzled. During the day I drove the vehicle myself up a larger sandhill deliberately bogging down to raise the boost pressure as much as possible. The engine and turbo noise appeared normal and I was still puzzled. A couple of days earlier the top of the snorkel had been turned backward to limit the amount of Acacia flowers being sucked into the air cleaner, that put the snorkel inlet right near the drivers side window.

   I drove with the window open and it dawned on me finally that the audible noise was right at the window. I turned the inlet around to face forward again and the noise almost vanished. I’m not 100% sure that was it but it was all I could come up with. The vehicle completed the Canning without issue.

Broken Leaf Spring;

   Only a few days from the end of the Canning trip a couple had heard and felt some clunking in the front end of their vehicle. I had a look for 5-10 minutes and finally noticed that the left front spring pack had a broken leaf. The broken leaf wasn’t going to cause any problems so we let it be as there really wasn’t much we could do anyway.

Shock Absorber Mounting Bolt;

   This wasn’t much of an issue but I’ll include it because it’s a good example of a simple problem that can be avoided.

   During the expedition a vehicle came to a halt with a funny noise from the rear. Turned out one of the rear shock absorber mounting bolts had come loose and fallen out and a stick had pushed the shocker off the mount. We couldn’t find the bolt and was lucky enough to find a replacement (no spare proper bolt). The opposite side was found to be loose as well.

   Items such as these should always be installed with some sort of "thread lock" goo on them. This stops them coming loose during regular off-road trips etc. It’s such a small thing that can make a huge difference in the long term.

Bolt fell out of shocker mount
Oops, the bolt fell out

Camper Trailer Independent Suspension Frame Bolt;

   We’ve had plenty of camper trailers over the years but this was a new one for me. One of the long 9/16” bolts that hold the independent suspension frames onto the camper chassis broke in half. One end stayed in the frame the other end worked out and disappeared along the track somewhere.

Trailer bolt broken

   This immediately put stress on the other frame bolt and the result could be very serious eventually. I didn’t have a spare bolt long enough and neither did anyone else, there is a lesson there. To get us out of trouble I made up a "short" dummy bolt and lock wired it in place to carry the load and ease the work on the other three frame brackets. It didn’t look much and didn’t work as well as I wanted but we were able to get into civilisation and get the correct replacement without any mishaps.

Trailer bolt fix

12V-240V Inverter Failed;

   Travellers weren’t able to charge camera batteries and the like and couldn’t figure out why. Tracked it down to a blown fuse in the inverter circuit and tried another fuse, pop, it went as well. Not much we could do.

   The inverter in question has been sitting loose behind a seat for a number of years and possibly the rattling around, bumps & jolts may have caused some internal problems. Inverters normally have mounting holes for a reason, they are better solid mounted.

Camper Trailer Suspension Coil Frame Failure;

   This was an interesting problem and required some pooling of resources to repair. The coil spring on a camper independent frame was noticed hanging through the cup it should normally sit in. We couldn’t go on so made camp right there and got to work repairing the break.

   We intended to remove the suspension A-frame so we could weld it easily but we couldn’t get it off, the bolts had frozen into the bushes. So we had a think and turned the frame right back under the camper so it was upside down and we could get at the bottom of the spring cup, it worked well and a good weld resulted using two batteries.

Broken base of trailer spring
Bottom of coil spring cup cracked and bent away by spring action on Anne Beadell Highway

Ready to weld
Damaged area cleaned up and bent back into shape ready for welding.

All fixed
The final result with a strengthening strap added.
Thankyou to everyone for their help with this job, in particular Owen Kershaw of Canberra, welder extraordinaire.


Aluminium Bull Bar – mounts cracked;

   Aluminium bar on a popular late model airbag 4WD was found to be cracking in one particular area. The steel chassis mount points had given way badly and the Bull Bar was all but on the ground. In this case the aluminium wasn’t at fault, but the designers of the mounting system hadn’t taken into consideration remote area travel on unmaintained tracks.

   We couldn’t do much so the Bull Bar was removed totally and tied to the top of the nearest Camper Trailer and we carried on.

Broken bullbar

Boiling Battery – nasty;

   In my experience batteries come in two varieties, good & bad and in this case it was all bad. Travellers could smell an evil aroma from under the bonnet and it turned out that the sealed battery was boiling itself. There wasn’t much we could do and another battery was borrowed from a different vehicle.

Petrol/LPG Switching Problem;

   The vehicle wouldn’t run or start after switching from one fuel to the other. This little issue dragged on for a few days and during that time 3 or 4 things were found to be a little dodgy. Initially after a little bit of checking we came down to suspecting the relay in the switching gear under the bonnet. Having rigged a wire to bypass the relay we carried on, but this solution deteriorated as well.

   The dashboard switch was checked, both the switch itself and the power to it were dodgy. Using another short wire with fittings we got reliable 12V from another source and got rid of the switch making a manual connection to choose which fuel was needed, that solved it.

Problem with electrics
Electrical troubleshooting - something I still have a great deal to learn about.
A very big thankyou to Allan Bull from Queensland.


Front Axle Housing Oil Leak - Radius Arm Bracket;

   We’ve saved the biggest job to last.....This was an interesting problem and required a little bit of elbow grease to rectify. I’ve included a few images to make it a little clearer what was happening.

   We all pulled up at a feature and went and had a look for about ½ an hour. On returning to the vehicles one was noticed to have oil dripping from the front axle area. Having a bit of a look we could see that there was a crack in the housing at the weld for the Radius Arm bracket. At that stage I figured we’d just weld it up and see how things went, I didn’t look hard enough initially.

Cracked Diff Housing

   We headed back to Cocklebiddy Roadhouse on the Nullarbor and by chance was able to borrow a little single phase hobby welder, we hoped it would be hot enough to handle the job; it was, just.

   Finding a shady patch to work under I had a close look at the crack and found that the rear of the Radius Arm bracket had cracked right around on all sides and wasn’t holding at all. It was virtually impossible to weld it up where it was. The decision was made to remove the front axle housing entirely. Sounds like a big job but surprisingly there isn’t much to it really.

   As soon as I removed the Radius Arm the rear of the bracket fell off into my hand. Then with the housing out we could finally see what needed to be done and we could get at it to do the job far better & easier.

Hole in axle housing
Easy to see the hole in the axle housing

   Firstly the housing itself was cracked along the weld where the three sections are put together during manufacture. Grinding the cracks out and welding those up were the first job before repairing the broken Radius Arm bracket.

Mick welding

Ready for bracket
Ready to weld the bracket back on

Bracket welded on & reinforced
Bracket welded on and doublers added to reinforce the repairs

   The welding completed the axle housing was reinstalled, brakes bled and diff oil topped up. It took nearly all day to complete this repair but we had the time and it had to be done. The way the housing was cracked it could have failed totally in the near future.

   Always check for cracks in chassis & other components.

Grass seeds under Land Rover

Grass Seeds & Fire Hazards;

   The Nullarbor was in very good condition, so good in fact that the native grasses were tall and full of seed while we were travelling through. I’ve included this in the report as a reminder about fire prevention for vehicles in remote areas where there is not enough traffic to keep the grasses knocked down on tracks.

Grass seeds under Land Rover

Radiator full of grass seeds
This is another illustration of Mother Nature at work – Canning Stock Route May 2011


   For Connie & myself they were the vehicle problem highlights of 2011. Some things could be fixed, others could not. Ultimately there is an amount of luck involved as well, but don’t mistake luck for good management.

   Nothing will ever beat thorough and careful inspection & maintenance........

We wonder what next year will bring.

Mick Hutton
Copyright : November 2011




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