4 x 4 Australia - - Bulldust -

WHEN­EVER you head off on a big out­back ad­ven­ture, it’s in­evitable that some­thing will go wrong. On some trips that might be as in­signif­i­cant as a chipped wind­screen, but on oth­ers the list of fail­ures can be long, so it al­ways pays to be pre­pared. But how pre­pared do you re­ally have to be?

12 years ago I em­barked on a 5000km out­back pub-crawl with a few mates. It was a great idea be­cause (all in the name of a good story) we man­aged to do the whole trip on the com­pany’s bud­get. Four of us in two ve­hi­cles met up at the Sil­ver­ton Ho­tel in NSW one evening in Fe­bru­ary and raised our first schooners to the up­com­ing ad­ven­ture. Yes, it was go­ing to be hot (think 48°C) but the beers would be icy cold.

Our loop would see us ‘test­ing’ beers at 11 pubs, all in one amaz­ing week: Sil­ver­ton Ho­tel; Pack­sad­dle Road­house; Al­bert Ho­tel, Mil­parinka; Ti­booburra Ho­tel; Fam­ily Ho­tel, Ti­booburra; Cor­ner Store, Cameron Cor­ner; In­nam­incka Ho­tel; Munger­an­nie Ho­tel; Co­p­ley Ho­tel; Mar­ree Ho­tel; and the Prairie Ho­tel, Parachilna. On the way home we stopped at the Blin­man Ho­tel and Great Western Ho­tel just for good mea­sure.

Our steeds were the two long-term test ve­hi­cles on the 4X4 Aus­tralia fleet at the time: a Nis­san D22 Navara V6 and a Land Rover Free­lander Td4. Of course, we packed a heap of spares for the Free­lander, think­ing that the thing would be lucky to go the dis­tance, es­pe­cially in the ex­treme tem­per­a­tures we would face. And, of course, the only me­chan­i­cal prob­lem we had all trip was a busted fan belt on the Navara. Luck­ily it hap­pened just out of Co­p­ley and we man­aged to roll into town and have a new belt fit­ted at the lo­cal garage.

The fol­low­ing year on a Madi­gan Line Cross­ing we man­aged to bust a cou­ple of shock ab­sorbers on the back of a Land Rover De­fender 130 Crew Cab. We weren’t car­ry­ing spares but we did have a welder, so we were able to ef­fect a de­cent re­pair on a red clay­pan. We were all set to go first thing in the morn­ing with­out any neg­a­tive im­pact on our sched­ule. Again, we had packed plenty of spares and tools for all three ve­hi­cles on that trip, so we were con­fi­dent of our self-suf­fi­ciency.

This year I joined ARB on the re­cent Off Road Icons ad­ven­ture across the Simp­son Desert. We were well pre­pared, with plenty of spares, plenty of tools and sev­eral very able and me­chan­i­cally minded blokes who could fix stuff if it failed. And fail it did!

Our tucker trailer copped a busted leaf­spring pack (re­placed track­side), a busted hitch (welded back on track­side), a bent axle (fixed at Birdsville Auto) and the wheel fell off (reat­tached track­side and prop­erly re­paired at Birdsville Auto). The FJ40 Landcruiser didn’t like wa­ter and it had a mi­nor elec­tri­cal fault, so it had to be towed more than 200km across the desert. The GQ Patrol’s al­ter­na­tor packed it in from all the mud we en­coun­tered (re­built in camp at Munger­an­nie, but still not sorted). A sway-bar link on the Ford Ranger ‘pho­to­car’ failed, putting a hole in the CV boot, so the sway bar was re­moved al­to­gether (fixed track­side on Wil­low Springs). The al­ter­na­tor failed on the 79 Series Landcruiser (fixed at Birdsville Auto), and later, the studs failed on a rear wheel, which came off (towed to Co­p­ley for re­pairs). The Land Rover De­fender copped an al­ter­na­tor full of mud but it came good once washed out with a jerry-can full of wa­ter (fixed in the mid­dle of the night about three dunes shy of Big Red), and the en­gine started stalling at Wil­low Springs (drained fuel/wa­ter sep­a­ra­tor which fixed it promptly).

De­spite all the chal­lenges, and thanks to good prepa­ra­tion and a bit of good luck, all of the ARB Off Road Icons and sup­port ve­hi­cles even­tu­ally made it to the end of the trip un­der their own steam, which wasn’t a bad ef­fort con­sid­er­ing the age of some of the ve­hi­cles – and the par­tic­u­lar chal­lenges we faced on the trip.

So how pre­pared do you have to be to tackle Aus­tralia’s re­mote in­land? Well, very. And even then you might en­counter prob­lems that are sim­ply un­fix­able, in which case you’re go­ing to be bloody glad you’re car­ry­ing a sat-phone with you and you’ve told peo­ple where you’re trav­el­ling and when you ex­pect to ar­rive at your des­ti­na­tion.

Some­times the ‘she’ll be right’ ap­proach just doesn’t cut it.


Mark Lowry (left) (right) and David Cox sort­ing an elec­tri­cal fault on the Toy­ota FJ40.

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