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No names, no brands, just what happened


   Once again we have completed another travelling season in the western deserts. Four trips were carried out with a bit of travelling in the Kimberley in between. We had quite a number of problems crop up and I’m happy to say we were able to solve most of them but as usual some things just can’t be fixed in the bush.

   Similar to the tyre report I’ll table everything that I was involved with (knew about) and explain with some pictures the bigger jobs. Hope you find it of interest.


50th Anniversary of the Anne Beadell & Connie Sue Highways Tour

Anne Beadell Highway, Great Central Road, Connie Sue Highway with many detours

   We had a few issues but most of them we could either fix or make some sort of alternative repair.


Problem Solution
Leaking Transfer Case Filler plug loose from Melbourne mechanic –
topped up oil and tightened plug
Leaking diesel tank Poor workmanship – weld repair
Fridge failed on 12V Generator ran in afternoons for short time – fridge replaced during trip
Fridge tie down lost Zip ties to the rescue, tie down found later on
Very dirty air cleaner Factory paper air filters are oil soaked, not good for dust –
new filter fitted
Auxiliary fuel tank not working Suspected the switch – turned out to be a computer problem,
worked when reset
Camper stone guard fastener missing Replaced with another D shackle and added some Tek screws
Bent & worn camper stone guard Straightened & welded


Diesel Fuel Leak – aftermarket long range tank

   We’ve had a number of leaking fuel tanks over the years but I hadn’t seen such a poorly made tank before, this was a beauty! Who ever "glued" this tank had run two lines of weld on a butt join corner. Needless to say the join split between the two weld runs.


Split fuel tank weld

Pretty obvious what has happened,
very bad workmanship for a fuel tank


   The problem with diesel is that there is nothing I know of that can gum up a leaking tank. Diesel is a wonderful penetrant and quickly works around whatever you try to gum the hole up with. In the past, as in this case, my only option was to weld this diesel tank up.



Mick weldingWelding gear

Another day at the office 12V bush welding gear


   The crack was several inches long so to avoid further leaking I welded over about 10” of the corner hoping that it would hold over the rest of the Anne Beadell Highway and the other off-road sections we were to do including the Connie Sue Highway. If it needed a better weld we could either do it or get it done in Laverton mid-way through the trip or even Warburton. The weld repair came up quite well and as the trip progressed we kept an eye on it but no further problems were found.

   This particular aftermarket tank had a poor history having been back to the manufacturers twice before. From what I could see it was a wonder it had lasted as long as it had already!!!!


Fuel tank split fixed

Completed repair - 12 volt battery welding is pretty rough
but can work well enough


Dust-Caked Air Cleaner

   This vehicle had travelled with us before and I puzzled about how dirty the air cleaner had become in a short time off-road. While fitting a new filter to this vehicle the answer was very clear. The new filter was oil impregnated I guess to catch and trap air particles, but I don’t think they took outback dust into consideration. It was caked almost solid with dust.

   I asked the owners to see if they could buy "dry" air filters in the future, which would solve that issue easily.


History & Hidden Ranges Tour

Yulara Resort to Kulgera Roadhouse via the central ranges and Gunbarrel Highway

   This was short loop around the Central Ranges and most of the roads are maintained at some stage every 12 months or so, in other words not a hard trip on gear.


Problem Solution
Aux’ fuel tank leak at filler Only a problem when full so we didn’t worry about it during the trip
Loose air filter box Original bolts broken or fallen out – new bolt fitted where possible


Fixing loose filter box

Fixing up a loose air filter box


Carnegie 1896 Expedition

Great Sandy Desert

   We had quite a few vehicle problems during this expedition, as usual some we could fix, others we couldn’t. On the whole we managed quite well and the trip went according to plan, almost as smooth as silk.......


Problem Solution
Snapped exhaust at manifold Vehicle went back into Alice Springs for a proper Mig weld repair
3rd battery not charging Second set of wiring added -
later found the alternator was dying a slow death
Failing Alternator Slow decline of voltage output – without a spare we couldn’t do much
Diff lock switches not working Unable to work electrical system out so left it alone
Suspension bushes failed Don’t know why, changed them out for spare bushes – good
A/C compressor bracket broken (This rubbed the injector line).
Replaced broken bolt and shimmed mount – good
Broken front coil spring Couldn’t do much – wired it up and carried on, worked very well
Engines overheating – quite normal Regularly blew dust & debris out of radiator –
awkward job but works well
Alternator bearings failed Spare alternator fitted - good


Slowly Failing Alternator

   This was a sticky problem and we couldn’t do much about it as the vehicle didn’t have spare, lets be honest 99% of travellers don’t carry a spare alternator. We don’t carry a spare ourselves....

   The dropping of voltage during the trip caused a few issues, namely the poor charging of batteries particularly the second & third units this vehicle carried. (Connie & I have a three battery system which has worked faultlessly for many years now). Eventually the fridge wasn’t able to draw enough power and gave up the ghost but by that stage we only had a few days left of the trip and by then all the folks with fridges had plenty of room so the failing fridges contents were farmed out to other vehicles.

   To bump up the voltage of the batteries for the accessories some solar cells were plugged in as much as possible as well as the solar panels the vehicle already had installed. Engine starting didn’t seem to be a problem at any stage.


Broken Exhaust Pipe

   I didn’t hold much hope of doing a good weld on the thin exhaust pipe with the 12V two battery "bush welder". As we were only just out of Alice Springs it was better all around if the vehicle went back to town and had a permanent repair. This was done and there were no problems at all for the rest of the trip with the exhaust.


Broken exhaust pipe

Pipe broke away right at the flange, very awkward & noisy as well


Broken Coil Spring – left front

   Just after starting off one morning we were following an old overgrown seismic line. Normally these aren’t much fun as they are difficult with scrub and wash-outs. In a better part of the old road the huge spinifex clumps were the only obstruction so we pottered forward from memory in about 3rd gear low range. Termite mounds were the only snag and we whacked a few as we motored. After enough clunks & bangs with the termites to make us slow down we hit another mound hidden in the spinifex, this one caused a sharp cracking noise and straightaway I didn’t like the feel of it. A few lumps and bumps later there were some clangs & bangs from the front left corner so I stopped to have a look. I suspected a broken spring and I wasn’t wrong.

   During a day-off not long afterwards I turned the spring sections around a bit & wired them up so they couldn’t move about and rub the shock absorber. There wasn’t much I could do otherwise. Turns out that the wire job held really well for another fortnight of the expedition and I was able to fit new springs at Halls Creek, ones we had ordered over the HF radio.

   This was only the second broken coil I have seen, the other was on an 80 Series some years ago.


Broken SpringBroken Spring wired up

Broken front left hand coil spring – bugger Simple but effective


Overheating Engines – Blocked Radiators

   A common problem while off-track and quite easy to fix but requires a bit more air pressure than you get from your average 12V tyre pump. The biggest set-back is that most of the vehicle manufacturers don’t build their front ends & radiators so they are easy to get into. The Japanese vehicles have woeful access for keeping radiators breathing during weeks of off-track travel. I realise it’s a non-existent consideration for them but it makes it hard to work on the front end whatever maintenance you have to do....

   Normally I struggle along and blow out as much as I can from the top. It’s not much more than a gesture but better than nothing. Had a change of direction this year and we started pulling off the little plastic guard from under the bottom of the radiator and blowing from the bottom. We do usually remove that guard to get out all the spinifex stalks and other large debris collected during the travelling, but it is also the best way to get at the radiator. I used a wedge to open up between the A/C evaporator & the radiator making it a lot easier to get into the radiator. Seemed to work and the amount of dust & rubbish I had all over me meant we were shifting some of it somewhere else.....


Blowing out radiatorReplacing guard


John Forrest's 1874 Route by Track

Canning Stock Route, Gunbarrel Highway, David Carnegie Road, Hunt Oil Road, Blackstone Road & APY Gunbarrel Highway

   An interesting trip with a variety of conditions both road & weather. For the first and hopefully last time we had some heat damage from bush fires burning along the western end of the Gunbarrel Hwy. It brings home very quickly how things can turn sour and just how much on modern vehicles is plastic......


Problem Solution
Loose compressor under bonnet Loctite (243) on bolts and put back together
Broken cab bolt near windscreen Fitted Tek screw, rough but OK
Vehicle & camper – heat damage Rear vehicle air-bag lines damaged – holes eventually found & cut out of line - OK
Vehicle & camper – heat damage Poly vinyl canopy damaged – covered with spare canvas tarp
IFS axle boot damaged Replaced with part of old tyre tube and clamps – seemed to work really well
Camper night light failed Broken wiring – joined & OK
Possible driveline noise??? Funny noise heard occasionally – couldn’t find anything but have some suspects


Split IFS Axle Boot

   I’d often wondered how to "repair" one of these and on this trip I found out. An oil or grease stain was noticed on the inner guard on the front end and with a quick look we could see that the axle boot had split on the outer end near the clamp. We couldn’t see any reason for it, maybe it was old and failed or a stone cut it open, it really doesn’t matter. The trick was now to be able to fix it.....

   We broke off the old clamps and cut away the boot. We packed as much grease as we could back into the now open hub, cut up an old tyre tube carried in my gear for just such an occasion and wrapped it around the axle & hub. Using hose clamps at both ends to replace the factory clamps (not reusable) we tightened them up. The outer clamp on the hub is a very large diameter and we had to join two smaller hose clamps to make it big enough, but it seemed to work.

   The tube/clamp repair held for the rest of the trip and might still be there right now on the vehicle, although I hope not. Anyway it was nice to be able to fix this one, I have worried in the past about off-track work and how we would deal with such a problem. Luckily folk who seem interested in expeditions normally have "beam" axle (old fashioned solid front end) vehicles so the problem can’t happen.


Split axle boot

Split axle boot
(I didn’t get a picture of the repair)


   So these were the goings on with vehicles during 2012. On the whole we seemed to manage OK & everyone got their full trip in and seemed to enjoy themselves. At least that was what we were told. There is an amount of luck involved with any sort of travelling. You just have to hope you’ll only have problems that can be fixed in the middle of the outback.

   Please don’t mistake luck for good management. Nothing will ever beat thorough and careful inspection & maintenance.......

Bring on 2013...

Mick Hutton
Copyright : October 2012




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