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Vehicle Problems

Vehicle Reports

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    Well, 2019 turned out to be one hell of a year for vehicle problems. We started off mildly but things heated up in August with the worst run of mechanical issues we have had in our 15 years of commercial trips. Not just a rash of minor niggly issues, we had some real trip stoppers....... Have a read below and see what you think. Plenty of lessons to be learned and just when you think you are on top of the situation something then happens to bring you crashing back to earth..... Mick could be heard muttering at times "I love my job, I love my job, I love my....."


Tour – "Rovers in the Rough" – 20 days – 1909 kms

Kalgoorlie, Queen Victoria Spring, Laverton, Shay Cart Range, Crow Cave Range, Lake Rason, Plumridge Lakes, Cable Haul Road, Trans’ Con’ Railway & Kalgoorlie

    A steady ramble around the south west of the Great Victoria Desert, we went to sites & country that will likely be out of bounds once Native Title is granted later in 2019 or 2020. Despite having only Land Rovers on the trip, we didn’t have anything serious occur. It was pretty quiet on the whole.


Problem Solution
Fridge played up a little Owner fiddled with it a bit and eventually it resumed working normally for the most part


Tour – "Frank Hann & More" – 22 Days – 1964 kms

Tjukayirla, Parallel Road #2, Connie Sue Hwy, Hanns Track, Anne Beadell Highway, Laverton, Lake Rason Road, Cable Haul Road, Rawlinna, Cocklebiddy Roadhouse.

    This was a good little trip covering some of the famous roads but largely poking around on many tracks that are not on maps at all and have never been. Much of the area we covered will be up for Native Title shortly so the chance is that we won’t be able to travel freely in that area in the future.

    We didn’t have many vehicle problems, but a few things cropped up, one in particular made a bit of work for us. Our main trouble with this trip was tyres, but you’ll need to read the 2019 Tyre Report for those yarns......


Problem Solution
UHF playing up Contact cleaned PTT button in handset – have done this before on this particular unit
Battery flat overnight Jump started
Vehicle wouldn’t start There didn’t seem to be a lot of fuel getting through the system so I changed the fuel filter & bled the system. Started eventually.
A day later the same problem, began to have a closer look and found that the glow plugs were not working after much fluffing around looking at the wrong things (yeah, great mechanic....).
Resorted to the slightest spray of "Start Ya Bastard" otherwise known as Aerostart. With only the slightest whiff the engine would burst into life even in the coldest weather, and we were having plenty of minus mornings. With only a week or so of the trip left I wasn’t worried about the engine getting addicted to the Ether, which they can if used incorrectly over long periods.


Vehicle won't start

Looking for the problem of why the engine wouldn’t start – the usual story,
pop a bonnet and immediately there are heads under it!


Start Ya Bastard

Wonderful stuff for kicking stubborn engines but try not to use too much of it all at once,
just a whiff will normally do for an engine with anything like reasonable compression.
As mentioned it turned out to be the glow plugs, as the owner wasn’t mechanical/electrical at all the Ether option
was the simplest temporary remedy to finish the trip & get back to Victoria.


Fuel line leaking Fuel was noticed leaking from under the rear of the vehicle. That afternoon a thorough investigation found the leak. What appeared to be a pressure line had over time (15 years or so) rubbed on a return line and finally opened up. The problem was the location, we could see the leak but we couldn’t get our hands in there to do anything about it.
The decision was made to remove the drawers in the rear of the wagon and all of the gear so we could access the tank sender and pipes. Bit of a job but it had to be done.
Once everything was removed we found the leaking fuel line was a short section (thankfully) that ran from the tank to the filter that was bolted to the chassis near the rear wheel. With a bit of careful effort the fuel line was removed without breaking the plastic clips. Our next problem; how to repair the leak?!
After much thought and several ideas, keeping in mind that the fuel line ran at between 40 & 60 psi as the system is common rail, we bit the bullet and cut the clips off the line and clamped in place a length of 5/16” high pressure fuel line which the owner fortunately carried plenty of (another lesson there folks). By then it was dark and we decided to do a test run in the morning before putting the drawers & all the gear back in the bus.
The next morning the repair was road tested and found to be "good". Satisfied, the vehicle was put back together and the trip got back underway. The repair held all the way back to Victoria and a new pipe was fitted soon after with precautions taken so it didn’t rub through in the same place again, many years from now.



Never the best thing to find when you do a quick underbody check during the day, a decent sort of a leak and a quick sniff
& feel will soon tell you what the fluid is. The next job is finding why & where it is coming from, this is not always easy.


Found the leak

We found the leak way up on top of the fuel tank. This is the back of the vehicle with all the drawers
removed to get access to the fuel sender and pipe connections.


Hole in the line

We eventually got the offender out, you can see plainly where the fuel line has rubbed, it’s obviously taken many years.
The next problem was how were we going to fix it?


Leak fixed

The arrow is pointing to the replacement rubber high pressure fuel line. As mentioned in the text we cut the
pipe off the connecters then just clamped the rubber hose onto those same connectors and then
clipped it back in place. Pretty simple but took us a while to get to that point.


Another UHF playing up Once again Contact Cleaner used on the PTT button, no problems from then on.
Normally you buy another UHF handpiece or carry a spare. It is normally the PTT button that will fail with dust etc over long periods in the bush. Many of the new units are much better sealed for this reason.
Dusty air filters Normal job on long desert trips, about once a week air filters are blown out with a strong compressor. In some conditions it should be done much more often. It pays to keep an eye on your air filter, most folks do not realise how important they are.
If you don’t like dust in your lungs, how do you think your engine feels?


Dusty air cleaner

Ohh look, it does get in! I’m always amused when remote travellers tell me their air cleaner doesn’t need blowing out weeks
after they started dirt road travel......By the way, snorkels don’t stop dust. If dust stayed 3 feet from the ground they
would work just fine but unfortunately dust moves with air currents, and vehicles throw up plenty of them well
over the height of any vehicle. Have a look yourself if you don’t believe me.


Plastic radiator guard loose Some vehicles have plastic guards placed under the grill and front cross-member to protect the bottom of the radiator. This one was a bit loose so I just zip tied it back in place for the short term. I know the mechanic that looks after this car would do a better job as he would have more time and resources than I.


Tour – "Emu to Sandy Blight" – 28 days – 3403 kms

Coober Pedy, Anne Beadell Hwy, Great Central Road, Sandy Blight Jnc Road, Gary Jnc Road, Namatjira Drive & Alice Springs

    Whacko, this was a troublesome trip. Please read on and see what happened. The route however was a normal combination of Len’s roads with detours thrown in. We were originally going up the Connie Sue but breakdowns forced the trip to complete the entire Anne Beadell and use the Central Road to reach Warburton before re-joining Len’s roads.


Problem Solution
Front diff breather blowing oil A bit of a mystery this one and took some time to look at closely. IFS vehicles have underbody protection plates that have to be removed to inspect many underbody components, including the front differential. In this case some of the plate bolts didn’t have anchor nuts. So acrobatics were required to fit nuts & bolts to plates that you couldn’t reach..... Very time consuming.
Differential oil level was OK, a tiny bit low but nothing to worry about. The breather pipe was open and could be blown through so no problem there. I wasn’t sure why it blew the oil out so could only put things back together and see what happened. The vehicle was driven first in 2WD then 4WD and no oil was coming from the breather in either case.
Still not sure why this happened, as the diff being overfilled should have been noticed the first day after the vehicle was serviced..... The vehicle had been driven from Perth to Coober Pedy so why this occurred on day one of the trip is a mystery to me.


Looking for diff breather problem

Looking for the diff breather problem – not a lot of room to work with.


2nd Battery tray broke inner guard Aftermarket battery tray mounted on top of the inner guard inside the engine bay after only a few days on heavy corrugations cracked the inner guard and began flopping about and causing more trouble.
We removed the battery and tray. I didn’t have enough material to repair the guard and the vehicle had a third battery to run the fridge and other accessories so the second battery being in the system wasn’t crucial if the vehicle was on the move every day.


Removing battery tray

Beginning to remove broken 2nd battery tray.


No power to fridge, UHF etc This was a hangover from the above problem.
We had broken the charging circuit even though the 2nd battery wasn’t required. With a bit of fiddling and adjusting the 2nd battery leads were able to be pulled and connected to the cranking battery.
This completed the circuit so the 3rd battery could be charged and the UHF worked etc etc. At the time the 2nd battery was taken out we were not sure how the system worked, turned out it was a pretty standard set-up.
Driving light brackets failed No surprises here. Turns out those snazzy LED light bars are quite heavy and the brackets that mount them quite thin and light. Not a good combination for corrugated bush roads. Think about it people......



Corrugations are the main reason for gear failures in the western deserts.


Long range fuel tank leaking A bit of a leak was noticed a couple of days into the trip and after a serious inspection the crack or hole in the tank couldn’t be seen. The tank was removed from the vehicle which is a fair job in itself and the crack found on the top edge of part of the tank. The crack was about 6" long at that stage (that’s 15cm/150mm for you modern people).
Nothing to do but weld it up, so a couple of batteries were borrowed from the same vehicle and the crack was welded up without any fuss.
The tank was reinstalled carefully and no leaks were noticed from then on. A good result and not the first time I have had to weld up aftermarket long range fuel tanks along the Anne Beadell Highway.


Crack on fuel tank

Long crack on top of long range fuel tank, couldn’t see this until the tank was removed from the vehicle.


Mick welding crack

Welding diesel tank using two batteries – have had to do this quite a few times over the years.
Yes, I am using a welding glass, just not the whole mask.


The finished weld

Completed weld using two vehicle batteries, bit rough but worked perfectly well for rest of trip. Have welded quite a number
of cracked diesel tanks on trips over the years, from memory they have all been on the Anne Beadell Highway,
the eastern end or South Australian side. All repairs have been successful.


Camper overtravel strap broken &
shock absorber oil/gas leaking
OK, this little problem caused a bit of work and thought over many days. Quite a few lessons learnt from this incident.
The camper in question was a late model hybrid job (with air bag suspension). The small hybrid caravans are designed for hard off-road travel and are physically the same size as a vehicle which makes them much easier to handle in remote country unlike the full size 4WD caravans.
Anyway, the problem was that an overtravel wire rope had pulled apart meaning that the suspension must have been set too high (the airbag had too much pressure maybe). This had a poor effect on the shock absorber. It failed, losing gas & oil due to possible overtravel. In fact, we were not sure what had happened, the shock may have failed and then caused the wire rope problem or vice versa. We had no way to tell, only that we didn’t want it to happen again.
We repaired the overtravel wire rope and replaced the shock absorber with the only spare & carried on. At the next stop the wire rope was again suffering problems, something was wrong somewhere.
Thinking caps were put on......
The owners had been given a marked pole that was used to set the height of the suspension by adjusting the pressure in the air bag suspension, a clever way of doing things unless that height was incorrect, which is the conclusion we came to after a bit of trial & error. We decided to lower the suspension height and see how that went as we didn’t have a spare overtravel wire rope and we were fast running out of bits to keep repairing it let alone the fact that we didn’t have another spare shock absorber. The other thing we tried was lowering the tyre pressures further. The tyres only had a very slight belly in them (I can’t remember the exact pressure) so we dropped them down so the sidewalls had a good bulge in them. This would reduce the work on the suspension system by making the tyre sidewall absorb much more of the corrugation movement.
Lowering the suspension height & reducing tyre pressures even further did the trick and everything seemed fine for the next day or so.
A bit later the owner was able to talk to the makers of the suspension and get a height from them and it turned out the height we had come up with was almost identical to the suspension makers preferred height for all conditions. It is best to point out here that the Camper manufacturer was different to the suspension manufacturer.
Apart from the incorrect suspension height from the Camper manufacturer, the "marked stick" method didn’t take into account tyre pressure. So, the owner hit on the idea of remaking the stick so it sat on the hub of the wheel instead of the ground. That way regardless of the tyre pressure the measurement would always be consistent with the air bag pressure. A good idea.


Broken over-travel strap

Wire over-travel strap missing and oil all over place from the camper shock absorber.
These units are an expensive gas over oil damper with a separate reservoir.


Reclamped over-travel wire

Spare shock absorber fitted and over-travel wire rope clamped again.
(The wire is to keep hold of the clamp bits if it comes apart, we didn’t have many spares)


Airbag suspension ride height

Airbag suspension ride height is simply measured from the mud guard to the ground, but this doesn’t take into account tyre
pressure, so the owner hit on the idea of measuring from the hub to the mud guard, then the tyre pressure is irrelevant. A large
tyre when deflated for bush work can be more than 1.5" (38mm for you modern folk) different in ground to hub height.


Front diff leaking The diff housing had cracked around the front of the diff centre, the thin round cover welded into the stronger thicker housing. It wasn’t losing much oil so was left for the short term. Unfortunately, that vehicle left part way through the trip so the owners could go back to work and that leak was never welded. We heard it got worse before they got home so must apologise for not doing the repair when I should have during the trip.
Rear spring popped out and shock absorber eye broken off A vehicle had a bit of a bump through a wash-out we assumed and popped a rear spring out of the top bracket and at the same time the shock absorber on that side snapped below the eye of the mount on the top of the unit.
The spring was easy to put back in, just jacked the chassis up until the spring could be easily pushed back into place. To stop it coming out again a thick piece of wire was tied around the top mount and the top of the spring.
The spare shock absorber was fitted and everything returned to normal, or so we thought.
Rooftop tent struts broken I wasn’t involved with this problem so can only comment about what I saw from a distance. The rooftop camper was a model that goes up "square", not hinged at one end like most that are seen these days. Apparently, the little winch system that pulls the camper roof up was damaged or broken as well as a couple of the braces for the same roof.
A couple of temporary braces were made to fit and the wind-up system with a little help continued to operate, though not brilliantly.
Rear spring popped out in bottom Vehicle hit a wash-out a bit quick and pulled the bottom of a rear spring out of the mount. A few minutes with the jack had the wayward spring back in position. Normally the bottom of the springs are held in place with a steel strap bolted over the top of the bottom most coil. In this case these straps had worn away or broken off some time ago and had not been replaced. Not a big deal if the owner just went a bit steadier.....or did some maintenance!


Bottom of Spring popped out

Bottom of rear spring popped out, quite an easy matter to put it back in. Later in the season a new steel keeper
plate was made & fitted to both sides Bottom of rear spring popped out, quite an easy matter to put it back in.
Later in the season a new steel keeper plate was made & fitted to both sides.


Camper LH stub axle snapped Oh boy, this was a show stopper!!!
Had a call on the radio that a vehicle had had "a bit of an accident" and wasn’t moving, then the UHF call came through that a wheel had come off. Didn’t sound so bad?! Connie & I headed back to see what could be done, I was hoping it was just some wheel nuts, NAH!
Found a camper sitting a little crooked on the track..... the left-hand stub axle had snapped clean off at the inner bearing. Not something that I could fix; this needed a new stub axle at the very least. We were on the Anne Beadell Hwy 100kms east of the WA border, new parts don’t grow on trees at this place.....
At this time, I found that two other vehicles also had problems that required parts. They say things happen in threes!
We all camped at the break-down location for a day while we ordered parts and figured out a way to get them out into the desert that didn’t take a week or more. Turned out a mate in Perth was happy to gather the parts we needed and drive them out the Eyre Highway. Connie & I would drive down from the Anne Beadell and meet our mate somewhere on the bitumen highway. On the bright side, a good opportunity for a shower.
We got an early start the next morning and left camp with the temperature at -5.2C. Back to Vokes Hill Corner & down the Vokes Hill Corner Road. We met our mate at Cocklebiddy where we had a feed and took delivery of several parts (more than just stuff for the broken camper). We were back at camp and I had all the parts fitted and finished just after dark the 3rd afternoon.
The electric brake had been destroyed when the axle hit the dirt & I didn’t bother replacing it. I just ordered a basic unbraked hub to suit the new stub axle and the spare bearings & seal we had on hand. This worked out really well.
(We were lucky with the camper stub axle. Our Perth mate had gone to see the local Trailer place and it turned out that this mob used to make the original stub axles & gear for the camper in question which was a WA made product. With a few measurements from me over the radio/telephone they were able to identify the particular stub axle and manufacture another very quickly. We got incredibly lucky with that one.)
It may be of interest to note almost all of this was organised over the "old fashioned" HF radio with a telephone call capability. Connie & I don’t have or use Sat’ Phones.
Many thanks to Stuart Kostera of Kostera Tyre Service in Kalamunda WA.


Snapped stub axle

You can see the snapped axle still in the hub. A bit of a problem you could say!


Mick thinking

Mick having a think about how to get around this break-down, not something that could be done without quite a bit of effort & several days-worth of time which usually includes a lot of travel to secure parts. In this particular case we were something like 500-600kms from the nearest towns. Knowing all these towns quite well it was unlikely they would be able to help anyway.


Trailer with snapped stub axle

No matter how you look at it, this one was going to be difficult to repair.....


Stub axle out of camper

Bolt on camper stub axle, well made unit except for the snapped stub. This is not something that
can be fixed in the bush with the gear normally carried. A new unit is the only solution.


Snapped stub axle

The snapped stub axle, the other half is in the background. Camper is a 2005 model
that has done plenty of miles. Fatigue would be the obvious culprit.


New stub axle fitted

New stub axle fitted, problem solved but took a bit of effort & 6 days of collective travel between two
vehicles to secure the parts from Perth. Thankfully all the bits were spot-on and we didn’t have to go through it all again.....


Shock absorber eye snapped off and damaged fuel filter head This problem happened at the same time as the camper stub problem. The same vehicle that had the broken shock absorber a day or so ago had the other side shock absorber fail the same way. The top eye mount broke off.
On this vehicle the fuel filter is fitted on the chassis near the shock absorber and the broken absorber rod had smashed off one of the fuel lines from the filter head. A rather unusual problem to say the least. I had a few plumbing bits that might have been useful but upon inspection I found the filter head was plastic and my bits were of no use. I was able to jerry rig the fuel line with a bit of fuel hose and there was enough plastic pipe showing to just get it all clamped up and the vehicle mobile. However I doubted that the repair would hold with the amount of corrugations we had to cover for the rest of the trip.
We ordered some more shock absorbers and a new filter head. If we had to do a parts run we may as well get everything that was needed. New shocks and filter head were delivered at Cocklebiddy and fitted when I returned to camp on the Anne Beadell.
The only sour point being that the plastic clips used for the fuel hoses onto the filter head were almost impossible to remove off the old unit as the dust & grit had got into the clips and it was almost impossible to get them to operate as they should have. Compressed air and flushing the fittings helped to some degree but ultimately I had to break some of the clips to get the hoses off. Using small zip ties I was able to refit the hoses to the new filter head and it was all fine under whatever pressure with the engine running. This set-up didn’t give anymore trouble on the trip.
I have struck this plastic clip problem on several makes & models of vehicles. Fine if you stay in town but no good in the bush after a few years of dirt road travel.


Snapped shocker eye mount

This was the second unit that failed this way, not the cylinder as you would think but the top eye mount has broken off. On close inspection it looks like the eye is crimped onto the rod, if there is any weld there it isn’t much. I don’t think that is satisfactory for our outback conditions. At Alice Springs I spoke to a local mechanic (born & bred Territorian) about this and he knew exactly what I was talking about and immediately pulled a couple of shockers from under the bench with identical breaks. We both agreed we would be seeing much more of this if the manufacturing methods continued this way. Around town you would never know but working a vehicle hard, heavily loaded in rough conditions for long periods is a very different matter!


Snapped fuel line

Arrow points to the snapped fuel line on the filter head itself. It was snapped off by the broken shock absorber shown above. You can see the shocker mount on the left quite close to the filter & fuel lines.
As an aside I have run the same type of vehicles for more than 1 million kms, much of it in rough conditions both while touring and commercial logging in a previous life. This is the first time I have seen a shock absorber damage any fuel gear. However anything is possible, never say never!


Fuel line fix

I did manage to get a bit of high pressure fuel hose clamped onto the little bits of broken plastic fuel line. It worked fine but I wasn’t confident it would hold for another couple of weeks in the remote desert. (In this picture we are actually removing the broken filter head.)


New filter head installed

The new filter head installed, as explained in the text, this was a problem to fit as the plastic fuel line clips fill with dirt & grit and will not open easily. Washing out with WD40 and the like, also compressed air, barely helps. Let’s just say it is very time consuming and frustrating, all the while trying not to break those bloody clips.....


Camper shock absorber failed!!!!!! This was number three of the trio of "all at once" big problems!
The camper that had given us a bit of a run-a-round earlier in the trip now threw another wobbly. The owner inspected his camper suspension while I was busy attending to the other dilemmas. He reported that the "good" shock absorber had failed on the camper. I stuck my head under the camper and saw that the shocker had indeed taken on a life of its own. The shockers in this suspension were built the same as a normal hydraulic cylinder with a barrel and two screw-in ends. Unlike generic shockers which are a formed tube with only one or no screw-in ends.
In this case the barrel had unscrewed itself completely and of course the gas & oil had long gone.
This unit could not be salvaged, the unit was damaged from flogging against one another and there was no way I could put gas back into the unit obviously. The owner got on his Sat’ Phone and ordered 2 new shock absorber units to be delivered to Perth. (He had already ordered spare shocks to be delivered to Warakurna to be picked up later in the trip – this turned into another story which we will detail later in this report.)


Shock absorber unscrewed

This was the next problem; the other side shock absorber "unscrewed" itself and of course failed.
I doubt this is a common problem but it happened on this one.....


Unscrewed shocker

As you can see this unit cannot be repaired in the bush, the gas & oil are long gone..... You can see the damage to the cap where the cylinder kept smacking it while rattling over the corrugations. Also in the picture is the over-travel wire rope retaining bolt, more on that below.


Worn suspension bolts

Oh boy don’t I get sick of seeing this! Incorrect suspension bolts, this even happens in vehicles, not just campers & accessories. The black arrow points to a worn section of thread on a suspension bolt. The reason this has happened is simply that the bolt is too short; what I mean is that the weight should bear fully on the bolt shank (the bit with no thread – yellow arrow) as it is stronger and will not wear as quickly just due to there being far more bearing surface.
Ignoring basic engineering principles and/or ignorance combined with saving a few bucks on longer bolts is to blame. It is very annoying for me seeing this & I know many vehicles straight off the show room floor have these same issues tucked away in odd places, or in some cases major components. It is lucky the majority of folks never work a vehicle very hard so never get to see this sort of problem.


Suspension bushes flogged out (The whole story took about a week and much happened before this problem was resolved.) Owner noticed a different clunk from the vehicle and upon investigating found a couple of suspension bushes were flogged out. No spares were available and even if they were these bushes were pressed in and would be very difficult to do in the bush.
In rough conditions over another couple of thousand kms this problem had the potential to crack the chassis and do further damage. Even though the vehicle was mobile it was better this issue was repaired.
Spares were ordered to arrive in Laverton & the trip adjusted to go right along the Anne Beadell to suit this delivery.
We arrived in Laverton and the parts had not arrived. Chasing the tracking numbers it was found the parts had gone to Cairns before going to Perth which meant they were late and would not reach Laverton for another 2-3 days. Time our trip did not have to spare. We had used our spare time with the other break-downs that had occurred. The owners got on the phone & found other parts in Perth. The decision was made to drive to Perth, fit the parts & return to Laverton as soon as possible.
The trip participants were due for a day off and so the vehicle in question headed off Friday afternoon only a couple of hours after reaching Laverton and hoped to be back before the tour was due to leave Laverton on Sunday morning.
This was done and the repaired vehicle re-joined the group about 11:00am Sunday morning, a couple of hours late after a round trip of 1970 kms.
Once again many thanks go to Stuart Kostera of Kosteras Tyre Service in Kalamunda WA. It was his workshop that was used for fitting the new suspension parts.


Flogged bush

This picture is taken looking up while underneath the vehicle so may be a bit hard to imagine where this suspension component is. If you look carefully where the arrow is pointing you can see the bright steel bush is no longer in the centre of the suspension arm where it should be. This means the rubber has collapsed and been largely flogged out. The clunking that could be heard & felt was steel on steel, never a good thing and certainly a very bad thing when you still have millions of corrugations to cover in the next couple of weeks.
It is situations like these that force some serious decisions upon a trip; possible further vehicle damage, time, how to get parts, how to repair, if you can’t do it yourself then who can help, many questions come to mind and must be decided upon.


Rear axle housing snapped in half Well this job took the cake!!
Just 11kms short of Ilkurlka Roadhouse we had a call on the UHF saying a vehicle had lost a wheel. Strange sense of "deja vu" about that call. Connie & I headed back and found the stranded vehicle sitting crooked on the road. I dismissed the wheel nut theory when I saw the loose wheel had the axle still attached!!!!
The rear axle housing had completely snapped between the springs and the hub on the right-hand side. OH DEAR I thought or words to that effect.
Once again nothing I could do with this one, I didn’t have the steel, welder or the time to get it back together and it seemed that the bearings in the hub had seized as the axle couldn’t be turned by hand.
Thankfully we were able to use the phone at Ilkurlka Roadhouse and eventually we were able to ask a mate in Kalgoorlie with recovery gear to come out to Ilkurlka and pick up this broken vehicle. He would get underway early the next morning and hoped to be at the vehicle late the following day.
Some of us camped with the stranded couple that night and we had to head off in the morning. We picked up the rest of the travellers at Ilkurlka and continued on. That afternoon we came across our mate doing the recovery west of Neale Junction. After a quick yarn he carried on and we made our way west & camped shortly after. We had done as much as we could do. When we reached Laverton a few days later we rang our Kalgoorlie mate and he had picked up the vehicle and got them into Kalgoorlie after a slow trip over rough roads with a heavily loaded trailer.
In the coming days we rang our unfortunate couple and spoke to them and they were home in Perth and the vehicle was due into Perth shortly and repair was organised. Reading this you may wonder why we didn’t use the Insurance to recover the broken vehicle. We did look at this option but recovery would have taken at least a week longer and we didn’t want to leave our people on the side of the Anne Beadell for that length of time. We could do better time wise, so we did.
Many thanks to Andy Boult of Fiesta Caravan Hire in Kalgoorlie.


Snapped rear axle housing

Not the best thing to see in the bush, particularly with that patch of oil where the wheel should be......


Wheel off after snapped housing

I don’t see this very often, in fact this was the first time! No matter how much I scratched my head I couldn’t think how to repair this one in the bush..... I didn’t have enough steel or welding rods. Apart from that it felt like the bearings were damaged in the hub anyway, they were locked solid! You can see the oil on the tyre, the housing had been cracking for a day or two presumably.


Vehicle jacked up

Got the axle housing jacked up in preparation for getting the vehicle off the road, not a pretty sight.


Threaded the wheel back on

To get the vehicle off the road we jacked up the axle housing and simply jammed the axle and broken wheel assembly back in. You can see in the photo things are a bit wonky! Being very gentle we were able to then drive the bus back off the Anne Beadell into a camp site we cleared for the job. This way we weren’t causing any traffic problems and our stranded folks could camp with some comfort until help arrived in the next couple of days.
If you look carefully you can see a puncture in the driver’s door. That was the axle end when it came free and went off down the track. A bit higher & it may have come through the window, very nasty.


Help arrives

Andy Boult from Kalgoorlie on the Anne Beadell west of Neale Junction on his way to pick up our folks with the broken axle housing, this was the next day after the breakdown. At the time of the breakdown quite a few phone calls were made. Of the mobs who could do the job the time required was many days, even a week, before a recovery could be made. Instead, Connie & I organised a mate of ours who hires out remote area caravans and does some recovery work to do the job. Andy luckily had some time available and was able to get underway early the next morning from Kalgoorlie, a very quick response time for our stranded customers. We thank Andy for his considerable time & effort, it was a big job.


Driving light brackets failed Pulled up on the Anne Beadell to look at a site and a vehicle found one of its driving lights was loose. Once the light was removed it was noticed that the top of the bullbar was cracked where the light was mounted.
The light was removed completely and the other light was taken off as well in case the bullbar cracked further.
This particular bullbar is a known brand & I was surprised to see how thin & flimsy the top plate was where the lights were fastened. Not good for rough conditions.
It is important to note here that bullbars for airbag vehicles are very specifically designed as they have many things they must do in the event of a head-on collision. The problem with this is simply that the bullbars are not suitable for very corrugated conditions for long periods of time. You only have to watch one of these bars coming down the road toward you on bad corrugations. It is no wonder lights break off and UHF aerials snap like carrots. Airbag bullbars vibrate and shudder unbelievably. This is why we see quite a few brand new bullbars on the side of the tracks..... they simply break off.


Loose driving light

Driving light removed because of being loose and also finding that the bullbar was cracking near the light mount. Note the broken UHF aerial as well. Airbag bullbars are not designed for remote area use on corrugations.


Underbody protective plates loose Not a major issue as long as none of the plates actually fall off.
The bolts had just come loose with all of the corrugations and a couple were missing. I had to scour my bits & pieces but I found a couple of specific bolts that I had pinched off wrecked vehicles in the desert over the years.
All the bolts were removed and thread lock was applied and the bolts refitted and tightened up. Pretty standard repair.
As I have said many times in other vehicle reports over the years, please thread lock everything that is added to the vehicle. Don’t use Loctite (red goo), that means you won’t ever get the bolts undone again. Use the blue goo, this is just a binding agent and stops them coming undone due to movement & vibration, brilliant stuff for desert work.
Relays & fuses failing A niggly little problem that only surfaces as vehicles get older, and this sort of problem will plague the later vehicles with huge electrical content, that is fuses & relays.
This time the vehicle was cutting out as it was driving along and then the engine would come on again a few seconds later, this happened several times one morning. I was familiar with this vehicle and there had been relay issues in the past so I immediately suspected a couple of relays that control the fuel pump and what seemed to be power for the engine management computer.
Pulling the relays, they looked fine as the pins were not discoloured from overheating (blue) and I hit on the idea that with the relays being pulled now & again over the last few years that the female terminals may have loosened up and contacts may have become a little loose. I carefully used long nosed pliers to give the female terminals a tiny squeeze and refitted the relays.
Beautiful response, no stuttering or unusual behaviour. Finally had a good result.....
Camper step loose screw A pretty simple problem and an easy fix.
One of the campers found that their step was loose and upon inspection a screw was found to be loose. I supplied a longer screw and it was fitted and the step was sound once again.
Radiator overflow hose leaking Pulling up for smoko one day a water leak was noticed coming from the radiator. Nothing obvious was found and the radiator was dry everywhere that could be seen. Eventually after a bit of snooping a tiny rub was found in the hose that connects the radiator to the overflow tank.
The hose was cut and joined and a bit later a new hose was fitted and where the old hose rubbed was reinforced to save the problem happening again. Once again this sort of problem comes with age and many miles/years in very rough conditions.


Rubbed radiator hose

Radiator overflow hose rubbed through on bracket. Turns out years of corrugations do have side effects!


Front diff leaking oil Not a huge problem but annoying all the same. The diff housing had cracked around the front of the diff centre, the thin round cover welded into the stronger thicker housing. It wasn’t losing much oil so was left and welded up after the trip was completed.
Fuel contamination light came on Light indicates water or dirty fuel. The filter was pulled and inspected; it was a little coloured and a very small amount of water was found in the bottom of the filter bowl. Certainly not enough water to pose any threat to the pump & injectors.
A new filter was fitted and the system bled before starting, this was made much easier when the fuel tank cap was removed so the system could "breathe". There was also a procedure followed to wipe the warning light out from the dashboard by switching the ignition on & off etc.


Tour – "Central Desert Explorer" – 16 days – 1899 kms

Lasseter Highway, Great Central Road, Gunbarrel Highway, Blackstone Road, both old & new, Gunbarrel Highway, Sandy Blight Junction Road & Great Central Road again.

   This was a small loop trip west of the Rock with quite a few detours off the main roads, pretty steady run with not a lot of problems. Weather was quite warm largely due to the very dry conditions.


Problem Solution
Fridge playing up Earth wire problem – I believe it was repaired
Leaking hub seal New seal fitted & OK


    During the periods of breakdown and immediately after, then also during the later trips, we had many discussions about the things that had happened; could anything be done to avoid these problems? Could extra spares be carried? Why did these things happen at all? Were there better ways to handle the problems? What else could be done? It went on & on as you would expect, nothing unusual about such questions once the dust has settled. In the end I don’t think any of the questions got answered, at least not to the satisfaction of everyone involved. No surprises there as folks see things differently with experience & opinions always bring differing points of view to a discussion about anything, let alone the intricacies of remote area travel.

    It’s my job to be able to "manage" these problems when they arise and for many years I reckoned I wasn’t doing such a bad job. Rarely had there been a problem I couldn’t repair or couldn’t be bodgied up or the problem bypassed somehow for a short time. However August of 2019 certainly tested things more than ever before.

    Ultimately all folks can do is buy & fit well known, time tested brands in regard to accessories. The blokes that fit them also need to be on the ball. Don’t believe everything you read or are told, most is just advertising and has no place in a real discussion about reliability in the long term. Most "experts" seem to have only used a product once on a trip and then go forth and tell the world it’s the greatest..... not the best in my opinion but it’s difficult to get any other information. Seasoned travellers often don’t "talk" about their gear particularly, for them it is the journey. Not the bits that made it possible, they are just tools.

    With vehicles themselves it becomes much harder. Budget, proposed use & amount of use, garage space, number of airbags and the list goes on. I would suggest that folks looking for a new desert vehicle ring and talk to as many remote area recovery business’ as possible and see what these blokes have been rescuing. Possibly not the best way but the best thing I can think of, certainly the most relevant to long range remote touring. On that note over the last few years I have been recommending looking at the 2nd hand market for vehicles to many that have contacted us for advice on this matter.


    Drop me a line if you have any thoughts about any of this.


Safe travels folks & I hope our 2020 trip season will be a bit quieter than 2019 (with the Covid-19 outbreak it is looking like our trip season will be very quiet indeed.......).

Regards, Mick Hutton
Copyright : March 2020




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