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   Well, another commercial tag-a-long season has been completed. Our old bus has got us out & back once again without much trouble. As far as we know, everyone that was with us got home safe & sound as well. So, as I do every year this is a report about what happened to the vehicles while on 3 tours & our 1 expedition.
See what you think.......


Tour – "Series in the Scrub II" – 14 days – 1,070kms

Coober Pedy to Coober Pedy via the Dog Fence & various pastoral stations

   This was a short trip for early model Land Rovers. Almost all of them were 1950s models, the first version of the breed. Most of the problems with older vehicles stems from some of the spare parts which are a mix of new bits & original parts that in many cases are more than 60 years old. This means every so often there will be little niggling problems that are sometimes hard to find. This seems pretty normal in vintage car circles as far as we are aware. Anyway, we had a few minor problems but all of the vehicles kept going & finished the trip. Most of the vehicles had a great many spares tucked away and the fellas were able to keep things rolling.


Problem Solution
Points closing up, caused several problems during trip Loose screw in distributor innards was the cause but took a little while to find it. Once tightened up it ran like a dream.
Starter motor not fully engaging Eventually jump started, funny problem, seemed to be a voltage drop on starting
Flat battery Jump started
Netting wire wrapped around axle Cut it out with pliers – wound on pretty hard
No clutch Clutch connecting rod bolt sheared – replaced and OK
Generator failed Last day of trip, jump started and finished trip OK


Series Land Rover

Chasing gremlin in the distributor – not something you see much of in the bush these days.


wire around axle

Old bit of dog fence netting wrapped around rear axle housing


Checking voltage

Trying to figure out the voltage drop problem when the starter motor was engaged


Tour – "Anne Beadell & Connie Sue Highways in Full" – 26 Days – 3,112kms

Anne Beadell Highway, Great Central Road & Connie Sue Highway

   A rather long trip through the bulk of the Great Victoria Desert in June with 7 tag-a-long vehicles. A nice steady trip and we only had a couple of problems that you might think of as serious.


Problem Solution
No electrical power, couple of times Jumped started & battery terminals cleaned
Rattly noise Gearbox noise – oil OK, not much could be done in the bush
Front diff housing leaking Poor welding at manufacture – welded up in the bush with 2 batteries – OK
Camper trailer kitchen hinges loose New pop rivets
No auto transmission, bad oil leak Mulga stick punctured transmission oil cooler – bypassed cooler – worked well
Petrol engine missing – engine light Seemed to be spark plug leads – no spares – had to carry on


   The welding job was an interesting problem in so far as it was caused by poor welding during the manufacture of the housing at the factory. The front plate on this housing is reasonably thin and is welded by (I assume) MIG to the heavier steel of the banjo housing. I haven’t seen this before anywhere, so obviously it’s a factory problem. I guess the MIG wire wasn’t quite in the right spot or the right angle. (The trouble with MIG being all the welds look good and you can’t tell if it has been burnt in deep enough.) Anyway the front plate came away from the housing and of course the oil decided it would be better off outside the diff housing instead of inside. A bit of a weep is OK in the bush but a huge leak is a problem because you won’t normally carry enough oil to cover the loss.

   Over the years I have welded quite a few things in the bush; diesel fuel tanks, chassis and various odds & sods. I hadn’t needed to do a diff’ housing before, but there is always a first time. So pulled a couple of batteries out, fitted the cables and a short time later the leak was repaired. Welding with batteries isn’t as easy as a workshop welder at home but it’s not too bad, and quite effective.


Diff Housing Weld

Diff housing welded in the bush with 2 batteries – not my best work but it held perfectly.
This was not a structural strength issue as the front plate is quite thin and is only a cover to hold the oil in.


Welding equipment

Two vehicle batteries set-up for welding in the bush


   The other major problem was another odd one, something I haven’t seen in the bush. In this case a Mulga stick has gone through the front grille and punctured the bottom corner of a small Transmission Oil Cooler that is positioned in front of the radiator. The vehicle driver didn’t realise anything was wrong and only figured something was up when the 4WD failed to proceed. Thankfully it was a cool day and we weren’t pushing hard (we don’t anyway) so the transmission wasn’t working all that much. We went back down the road to find out what was wrong and it didn’t take long once the bonnet was popped to find the oil and trace it to the little cooler behind the grille. The reason for the leak was pretty obvious. The Mulga stick was still in there; it probably helped by slowing the rate of loss. On the bright side the oil we could see & smell didn’t seem burnt or out of order.

   So the next problem was how to get around the problem, it wasn’t something we could fix on the spot. Long story short we just joined the two hoses from the transmission and bypassed the cooler entirely. I have enough bits in my kit for just such emergencies and so we got it done and then tackled the next problem, we needed quite a bit of ATF oil. Between all of the vehicles on the trip we could only come up with a couple of litres and we didn’t know how much we would need as the dipstick didn’t show any oil on it. We had to assume the transmission capacity at about 8-10 Lts as we didn’t have a good maintenance manual for that particular vehicle.

   We had only just left Ilkurlka Roadhouse on the Anne Beadell so Connie & I whipped back to see how much ATF oil they had in stock, we were lucky they had about 4 Lts on the shelf. Back to our party on the side of the road and we started putting ATF into the transmission. We got lucky, from memory it took about 3 Lts. On the go again I kept an eye on the ATF level in the auto transmission and topped it up a little for the next day or so. The bypass didn’t leak and transmission temperatures remained steady, that was the best we could hope for.


Hole in transmission cooler

Hole in Auto Transmission cooler behind the front grille caused by a wayward Mulga stick, a bulbar doesn’t protect anything from
this sort of intrusion. An unusual problem but when you think about it you have to wonder why it doesn’t happen more often!


Expedition – "Carnegie, Wells & Hann" – 28 days – 1,488kms

Great Victoria Desert W.A.

   Our August Expedition was a good one, we didn’t have many problems but we did have a recurring issue with one vehicle that was not unexpected considering what we were doing, that is, pushing through 682 kms of trackless desert country. I had warned the vehicle owner that this might happen so we were prepared for some trouble but honestly we had more trouble with IFS boots than I thought we would. (We had an IFS vehicle with us on the 2016 Expedition and by chance nothing happened at all. It was in a different desert which isn’t as scrubby as the Great Victoria, but we still thought something would happen. Guess we just had a lucky run!).

   The other main issue we had was a vehicle with an electrical short of some description in the engine circuit. The result being that with a blown fuse the injector pump was shut down straight after the engine was started. Took a little while to cotton on to what was actually happening under the bonnet to shut the engine down, more on all of this below.

   All of the vehicles finished the trip without major mishaps and got home in one piece.


Problem Solution
IFS rubber boot holes & tears, many Small holes covered with duct tape & zip ties – for larger damages the only solution was to cut off the boot and replace with tyre tube & zip ties, this worked pretty well.
Vehicle stopped dead Blown engine fuse, unable to find short – removed injector pump shut down link – manual engine stop (bit of rope). Engine ran without fuse so we carried on keeping an eye on things.
Vehicle starved of fuel Found the fuel strainer badly contaminated with dirt & water (hadn’t been changed for years). No spare so bypassed the unit and carried on.
Dusty blocked radiators (normal) Blown out as best we could – many vehicles are almost impossible to clean well
Dusty air filters (normal) Blew out with compressed air when needed


Damaged CVJ boot

Damaged Constant Velocity Joint boot caused by stick while travelling cross country on our expedition.
There isn’t much you can do to repair this boot, better off starting again.


Repaired CVJ boot

The original boot was cut off completely and replaced by a section of an old tyre tube.
This solution works pretty well and is quite simple.


Jammed log

This particular boot damage was slightly unusual. It’s not common to have a log jammed between the axle & wishbone.


   The engine fuse popping was a curly problem that we didn’t ever properly solve. Electrical shorts are hard to find and the engine loom is one of the worst. (I’ll just point out here that the vehicle in question was an old 75 Toyota, yes, the old mechanical motor thankfully. If it had been a late model electronic vehicle we would probably still be there.) Unable to find the short we just went on & worked around the problem which is the normal thing to do in the bush. With the fuse blown there were no dashboard instruments, no big deal, but the worst problem was that the engine shut off solenoid wouldn’t hold open. This meant that as soon as the starter motor was de-energised with the fuse blown the solenoid wasn’t powered and would close, thus the push-rod would shut down the injector pump and the engine would stop. After a bit of a think the easiest thing to do was just remove the push-rod, then the solenoid could do whatever it wanted with no effect on the running engine. However then you couldn’t stop the engine without opening the bonnet and shutting the injector pump by hand on the hot engine, not ideal. So we made a manual stop with a bit of wire & a short length of rope out the front grille, worked fine.


Mechanical stop

Mechanical injector pump with a bit of wire set-up to shut the engine down.


Dirty radiator

Dirty radiator – a normal thing if you are travelling cross-country.
The only thing to do is blow them out with compressed air.


Tour – "Beadell Tracks Wanderer" – 18 days – 2,310kms

Windy Corner Road, Gary Highway, Gunbarrel Highway, Old Blackstone Road & Gunbarrel Highway to "Victory Downs" Station

   We had a quiet trundle along Len’s roads to finish the season. We didn’t have much trouble so there isn’t much to report, the only small issue was a battery issue.


Problem Solution
Cranking battery not holding charge A dual system just wasn’t charging to the point that the vehicle needed jump starting in the morning towards the end of the trip. In the end the cranking battery started to smell, never a good sign. We replaced the cranking battery with a new unit & for the last couple of days the system seemed fine. We finished the tour and all headed home.
The owner of the vehicle contacted us several weeks after the trip to say that the cranking battery was still draining power somehow. The auto electrician couldn’t nail down what was drawing the power from the cranking battery.


Cranking problem

Trying to figure out the cranking battery mystery.


Safe travels,
Regards, Mick Hutton
Copyright : November 2017




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