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Vehicle Problems

Vehicle Reports

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No names, no brands, just what happened


   Another five trips were carried out between May & October this year. On the whole it was pretty quiet with vehicle issues but we’ll list what happened in any case. For each trip 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.


Tour – South East Great Victoria Desert – 12 days

Anne Beadell Highway, Vokes Hill Corner Road, various eastern Nullarbor tracks & the Dog Fence

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


Problem Solution
Anderson Plug busted off towbar Shifted plug to the top of the towbar – experts fitted it to the bottom, genius......
Under bonnet relay broken wiring Re soldered
Suspension Radius Arm lost a nut Replaced with similar nut from spares
Ladder mount bent from scrub Straightened & refitted
Under bonnet relay wire broken again Re wired relay
Poor charging to trailer battery Fuse too small, replaced – to much draw through cable.
Managed power better by switching off the fridge overnight and only starting it after the
vehicle was started in the morning, fridge & charging batteries to much draw.
(This is common and stems from mainly poor workmanship & doing things on the cheap).
Cables between vehicle & trailer burnt Replaced cables with heavier gear and renewed connections – much better


Cables after fire

The remains of the cables between vehicle & trailer after a small fire.


   This little accident happened at Nullarbor Roadhouse one cold morning when doing some electrical work without disconnecting the battery first. The end connections touched and welded together and the cables overheated very quickly burning off all the insulation. It was a simple thing which could have ended very badly but a bit of quick work putting out the fire saved the gear from any major damage. We put new heavier cables on with new connections and the whole thing was better than we started.

   You can be lucky sometimes – not all the time. Think first & work slowly is often the best way when doing most jobs.


Fixing the damage

Replacing burnt electrical cables with new gear between Anderson plug
and battery box on the drawbar of the camper trailer.


Tour – The Full Gunbarrel Highway – 18 days

Kulgera Roadhouse to Carnegie Station with detours into the Rawlinson Ranges & others

   A normal off-road journey along the complete length of the Gunbarrel with some good detours thrown in.


Problem Solution
Gas fridge wouldn’t light up Eventually found the supply tap had been accidentally knocked onto the "off" position
Broken bolts – 2 piece tubeless These 2 piece tubeless rims belong to a late model larger vehicle.
A couple of the 24 rim studs had broken, not sure why – we replaced them with spares
and did them up with a torque wrench, no more problems.
Noisy fan belts After much listening & feeling we found the alternator bearings had worn and made the
belt noisy – fitted spare alternator
Loose roof rack mounts A common problem – did a fair bit of work to fix it up. Glued rubber strips onto mounts,
straightened them up as they were bent out of shape and loctited the nuts.
Bent steering tie-rod Flopped into a bad hole in a soft patch of sand near Carnegie Station. Removed the rod,
bashed it straight on a block of wood & refitted.


Replaced broken rim studs

An uncommon 2 piece tubeless rim on a larger 4WD vehicle –
replaced broken rim studs.


Repaired Roof Rack mountsFixing bent tie rod

Repaired roof rack mounts.
Rubber to stop slippage & Loctited bolts.
Taking the bend out of a tie rod,
notice the front wheels are a bit "cross-eyed".


Tour – End of an Era – 24 days

Gary Highway, Kidson Track & Windy Corner Road

   We covered a fair distance with this trip as it was a big loop from Carnegie Station and back. We had a few vehicle problems, only one was a major issue though forcing the vehicle to leave the trip to seek repair. I think this may be the 3rd time in 9 years of tag-a-long trips that this has occurred, a departure from the trip for help.


Problem Solution
Broken UHF aerial Common problem, replaced with spare and then shifted the aerial away from the side
of the bullbar as much as possible so the scrub couldn’t bash it as much
2nd battery failed The indicator showed black – new battery sourced in Newman during trip
Suspension bushes worn out Radius arm rear bushes flogged out – replaced with spares
Bent chassis – nasty It was noticed that the tray on the ute wasn’t quite as square as it should be,
inspected the chassis and found it bending near the bump stops at the rear springs
Coil spring sagging Rear coil spring beginning to sag due to age & use. Can’t do much with these until you
get somewhere to get new springs.


Cleaning out spinifex

Cleaning spinifex and grass out from underneath a vehicle –
if the conditions are bad enough you may need to do this every hour or so.


Bent chassis with bulgingBent chassis with bulging

Bent chassis just behind bump stop.
The opposite side wasn’t quite as bad.
Another view of bent/bulged chassis behind bump stop.
Not cracked yet but well on the way.


   This was caused by the rear springs failing & sagging which in rough going lets the weight of the vehicle bang & thump onto the little rubber blocks used as bump stops, if they bump enough that amount of weight concentrated in that little area will damage the chassis. It will either crack, bend or both.

   Unfortunately we couldn’t do much with this problem. I didn’t have enough steel for repairs and we may not be able to get the chassis straight enough in the bush to be able to fix the problem in the first place. Taking this further, even if we could fix it in the bush it would probably take a couple of days and even though we are pretty relaxed about time, 2 days out of a trip puts a lot of pressure on everybody. After a discussion it was decided that the vehicle would be best leaving the trip and trying to get the repairs down in town somewhere.


Springs at full extension

This was the cause of the chassis bend – the picture is at a funny angle but you should see how the leaf spring shackle is laying
right over because the springs are at full extension or flat. The shackle should sit straight up & down or as close to it as possible.
If the springs are flat then the weight will bear on the bump stops, no good.

Always check the distance between the axle & the bump stop – 4” (100mm) would be a minimum when loaded – more is better.


Bent chassisStraight chassis

This is what we noticed, the vehicle tray angle wasn’t right
or square with the cabin.
The same vehicle after the repair, all nice and square again.


   Getting a tradesman to do this repair was going to be difficult as most welding workshops don’t like these sorts of jobs, they are fiddly. After quite a few knock-backs from several workshops a bloke in Karratha said he’d do the job. Over a week the job was completed and new rear leaf springs were fitted at the same time. The springs were stronger with a few extra leaves being added to help with the load carrying.

   The repair to the chassis (sorry we didn’t get a picture) was pretty "simple". The tray was removed and with a lot of effort the tray was straightened using hydraulic jacks etc. Steel plates were then welded to the outside of the chassis rails on both sides. The tray was put back on and that was that.


Expedition – Unknown Hills & Lakes – 26 days

Off-track in the Great Victoria Desert

   Apart from the usual staked & damaged tyres we had very few vehicle problems. I only recorded 4 issues (above our normal off-track problems) & they were only minor. I guess this year we got lucky.


Problem Solution
Bent steering tie-rod Removed straightened & refitted
Squeak in axle/wheel A stick had bent the brake guard & it was rubbing on the rim - bent it back
Custom spare rim wouldn’t fit Customer had a split rim made for his Land Rover – the manufacturer hadn’t made the centre hole
large enough to fit over the hub – ground out the centre until it fitted nicely – slow job
Flat battery in morning Jump started vehicle – battery held charge for the rest of the trip
Partially blocked radiators Blew them out with compressed air as usual


Jump starting

Jump starting in the morning.


Tour – Beadell Tracks Wanderer – 21 days

Anne Beadell, Connie Sue & Gunbarrel Highways, Sandy Blight Junction Road & Gary Junction Road

   This little ramble went off pretty much without incident. There was only one recordable problem when a brake pipe snapped.


Problem Solution
Broken rear brake pipe Can’t do much about these, clamped off the rear brakes and ran on the front only



All in all 2013 was pretty quiet for vehicle faults only the chassis bend livened things up a bit. For whatever reason we had a good run and I can only hope we get the same results in 2014.
As I said last year, please don’t mistake luck for good management.

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

Mick Hutton
Copyright : November 2013




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