Mike’s Page

This is Mike’s pages where I will write about our ‘Rig’ and all the mods I have carried out as well as any repairs or upgrades during our adventure. I will also be posting reviews of any wifey sanctioned, man only activities (fishing, 4×4’ing and brewery visits) that may be undertaken.

14th February 2012

G’day all

Well the big road trip has come to an end.  It’s back to reality with a chilly jolt.  It’s been a while since I posted but we’ve had a fairly good run home. I will sum up how the rig performed and fuel costs etc

But first I must relate our minor truck woes after Cape York that escalated into multiple visits to mechanics.  In my last post I mentioned that a small coolant leak was diagnosed, well I booked the truck into NatRads Cairns for this minor repair.  After fixing the leak, Tony pointed out that the viscous fan was not functioning correctly and offered to repack it the next morning, easy half hour job.  So Saturday morning arrives and I drop the truck in and take the kids for a walk.  Then I get a phone call from Tony to return to the workshop.  An ominous sign.

The junior mechanic has leant on the plastic spout on top of the radiator tank and snapped it off (This is a well known issue to be careful of when working on a Patrol).  Tony only has a new radiator in stock and it’s fit this or have no truck.  We were heading up to Cooktown that afternoon.   I’m unhappy, but need the truck so had to agree. Costs me $300 for the new radiator but no labour charges.

So I get the truck back early afternoon.  We dump the van and after 2 nights in the Daintree Rainforest we head up the Bloomfield track towards Cooktown.  In Rossville, the ECUtalk alarm starts blaring and the engine temp has hit 115deg.  I pull over to watch all the coolant spill to the floor.  NatRads had not fitted the new radiator properly and left the bottom hose rubbing on the air con pulley.  RACV flatbed trip to Cooktown later and all is repaired and Tony refunded the repair costs.

But the story does not end there… I had the water pump replaced in Brisbane as a last resort before we discovered that the garage in Cooktown refilled the truck with Burson’s own brand coolant, which is poor quality and not suitable for vehicles with alloy fittings.  This coupled with the new NatRads radiator being cheap Chinese crap has resulted in ongoing cooling issues.  I now have to have the cooling system flushed out again at my own cost and the correct coolant filled. I may also have to replace the radiator again for a good quality one.

The moral of this story is avoiding NatRads at all costs; their own brand radiators are very poor quality and not fit for purpose.

Aside from these issues, the truck and van held up very well in my opinion, considering the misfortune of fellow travelers we have witnessed.  We only had the one avoidable breakdown and we also survived without needing to purchase any new tyres.

We covered 36,594 kilometers with a fuel consumption of 16.97L/100k, which I’m pretty happy with. We travelled at 80kmh whilst towing to help with the consumption and to enjoy the views. The truck performed very well considering the age and engine capacity.

We spent $9739.23 on 6210.15 litres of Diesel at an average cost of nearly $1.57 a litre.  We used too many supermarket coupons to count.  The cheapest fuel was purchased at an independent servo in Adelaide ($1.339) and the dearest at Roper Bar ($2.20) in the Territory.

We had 6 punctures repaired and the tyres rotated 3 times.  The caravan bearings were repacked once and I serviced the truck 5 times.  I changed the oil filter 5 times; fuel filter twice and air filter twice. We also had to replace the 2nd battery and tray after all those corrugations.

The biggest expense was the new clutch right at the start of the trip at just over $2000. All in all we spent $6050 on rig maintenance including truck & van Rego and pushbike servicing.  Of course there are also rig setup costs which we did not keep a record of, but probably approaching $3000 including purchase of the Engel fridge.

Once again a big thanks to Warrnambool 4WD club, John (worm) and Graham Wines and all the 2.8 gurus at Patrol4x4.com who taught me so much in a short space of time. We couldn’t have done it without your help.

An extra thanks to Derek at ABR , Mick at Engel, Peter at ECUTalk for their assistance in our rig preparation.  Finally thanks to Phillip for a copy of Camps 6 the Ozzie traveler’s bible.

All in all I think we did very well on a limited budget and proved it can be done without breaking the bank.

For anyone thinking of doing the big lap I say ‘seize the day’.   Get out there and experience the natural beauty of this vast and diverse country we call home.

13th October 2011

 G’day again all,

As Sharon mentioned in a previous post, we had to stop in Cairns to get some diagnostic work carried out. The Truck has been running hot and losing a little coolant, after a little online research I decided to get a compression test carried out. The symptoms pointed toward the dreaded head gasket failure and I needed to know before the next big section of our trip.

I am glad to report that the truck passed the compression test and a small coolant leak was diagnosed instead. We also picked up some bad fuel in Burketown on the Savannah way which didn’t help matters, but a new fuel filter has fixed that up.

So onwards to one of my highlights of the trip. The famous Old Telegraph Track on Cape York Peninsular.

The first challenge was Palm Creek, right near the start. Palm Creek Crossing We spent a while inspecting the steep, rutted incline into a boggy creek crossing.  There were no chicken runs or alternatives, so we had to just do it.  I was suddenly really glad of my previous learning about the truck and the practice trips.  I edged through slowly and got through fine, as did Chris.  Some guys headed in the opposite direction weren’t so lucky.  They broke a steering rod halfway up the incline, and need help jacking and winching themselves out.  We left them when they were nearly out.  They had the assistance of some other blokes who were going nowhere until they cleared the track.

It was the following day we were to cross the famous Gun Shot Creek.  There were a couple of ways across, and some already impassable due to washouts, and damage from others playing about.  Even the so-called chicken run was steep and rutted, but I chose the safest path and got through unscathed.  A couple in a Landcruiser decided to have some fun, and go down one of the more challenging routes.  They managed to get through without getting stuck, but only just.Gunshot CreekCannibal Creek

There were many fun crossings.  Sharon & Jayne played trip photographers, wading across creeks and rivers to take photos of the Patrols going through.  I tried not to remind them about the crocs that ‘might’ live nearby.  The kids loved getting out of the truck to assess the safest route across the river with their dads.

Both nights we were lucky enough to find some great spots for bush camping.  We made damper (without beer, as supplies were too precious), and shared stories of the days adventures next to the fire.

Our third day brought us to Nolan’s Brook.  We had been warned that this was the deepest crossing, so we expected a challenge.  I wasn’t feeling full of confidence, especially when we arrived to find the Landcruiser (of Gun Shot fame) stuck in the middle of the creek, minus its owners.  We were guessing they got stuck the afternoon before, and no one else had turned up to help them out.

Nolans DrowningIn order for anyone to get across, we had to pull this truck out first.  Another party, who arrived before us, used their winch to pull it out of the creek and out of the way.  A lightweight Jeep then made it through without any issues, but their mates with the winch go stuck near the exit.  It was all hands on deck to get the snatch strap attached and pull them out before the cab started filling up with water.  Their quick actions helped them get through unscathed.

Next it was my turn.  I miss judged the entry, and got the side caught up on a tree root before I even entered the water.  Luckily, there was enough muscle hanging around to help get me out, with next to no damage.  After that, I made it across, no problem. No pictures of my crossing but you can view a video on our Flickr stream here.

Next it was Chris’ turn.  You just have to love the Patrols, as he made it across with no issues as well.  But the entire experience was a touch nerve-racking.  Looking back at the videos, all you can here is Jayne screaming ‘floor it, floor it’.  At least now it makes a great story.

Nolan’s brook was the end of the Old Telegraph track and we had all had a challenging and enjoyable few days. Now just 1000 k’s of dirt road and corrugations to come. I’m not looking forward to inspecting the truck for damage when we finish our Cape York expedition.

By the way, the owners of the Landcruiser turned up.  They had walked 12 km that morning to get help.  Despite their truck being underwater for 15 hours, after draining the water from the gearbox, Chris managed to do a tow start, and they made it across.  We saw them later that day, truck wet inside but working OK.  We now refer to him as ‘Lucky Pete’.

28th August 2011

G’day again,

I know it’s been a while since I posted but you’ll forgive me as its been nonstop maintenance and off road adventure.

If you’ve been following the main blog you will know that we have done a considerable amount of off road travel. This has included the Pilbara interior, Dampier Peninsular, The Gibb River Road (incl Mitchell falls trip), the Bungle Bungles and Kakadu. This has required constant maintenance and rig inspections at every camp stop. I also installed a new 2nd battery on the truck in Broome; the original one was showing signs of failing.

I am however glad to report that thanks to being vigilant with the maintenance, low tyre pressure , my slower dirt road driving and a little good fortune, the rig is still travelling well. We suffered only one puncture and that was in Broome on the black top. Others along the way have encountered multiple punctures. Our travelling companions the O’Callaghan’s suffered from some bad fuel on the Gibb, this was rectified with a new fuel filter, flown in on the mail plane. I filled up at the same roadhouse and had no issues (more good fortune). Many other travelers fell afoul of the bad diesel, so I count myself lucky to have come through unscathed. The corrugations did cause a few minor issues, the battery charger in the van failed (replaced with a better unit via EBay) and the 2nd battery system had some issues. I traced this back to lose connections at the control unit, courtesy of those corrugations.

Finally as we approached Darwin the power steering belt snapped (see main post). Upon closer inspection all 4 drive belts needed replacing. A tip from the campsite maintenance man on which mechanic to use, and all was fixed next day. I didn’t fancy another 200k without power steering.

I have managed to squeeze in another half days fishing. I spent a top morning trying my luck for Dew Fish on Darwin Harbour with ‘Fish Darwin’. Skipper Ben and deckie Taj showed us the basics of trying to land a Dewie as well as running through the safety briefing before we departed our mooring. Fish Darwin Leaving the MarinaWe headed straight out into the harbour and did a little bottom fishing on a reef whilst we waited for the right tide conditions to try for Dewies. We had a small number of bites, and a few small ones were landed.

Fish DarwinFish Darwin SkylineBen cooked up some awesome garlic chilli prawns on the Barbie. Around 10am the tide turned and we moved to a spot near a sunken barge, a victim of cyclone Tracy on Christmas Eve 1974. Taj informed us that this is the spot for Dewies, and explained that if you hook then lose a Dewie it will somehow inform the rest of the group and they all swim away. After about 20 minutes trying two were hooked at the same time and it was a struggle to get out of the way in time.  One was landed but the other slipped the hook and got away. We never did get anymore bites.

The Dewie that was landed weighed in at 15kg and measured around a metre long. Ben moved the boat to another spot and I caught a few small ones which were used as bait. Almost immediately a very large shark was hooked using one of my catch as bait.  But after 10 minutes of fighting and getting the shark within view, it too slipped the hook and swam away.

After all the action was done, we enjoyed lunch of Crocodile Burgers and salad skillfully prepared by skipper Ben. One last stop for a final go and we headed back to the marina. Although I didn’t catch anything worth keeping, the fella who landed the Dewie offered half as it was too much for him.  I jumped at the offer and we enjoyed fresh Dewie, French bread and salad for dinner…Delicious.

If you’re ever in Darwin and looking for a great morning on the water, enjoying the surrounds of the harbour and trying your luck for that big catch, give Fish Darwin a call. Check out their website below for details of half day trips and extended live aboard charters. Thanks to Ben & Taj for as great mornings fishing and sightseeing.Fish Darwin Logo 


We now headed off road again across the Savannah way toward Queensland then up Cape York, I will have to keep up the maintenance and be vigilant to extend our run of good rig fortune.

02nd June 2011

G’day again all.

As you have hopefully read from the main blog we have spent a week in the Shark Bay World Heritage area.  After a spending  a day tackling the 4wd track to Steep Point, the most westerly point of mainland Australia, I decided I had to go fishing in Shark Bay. Whilst standing on the cliffs at Steep Point we saw all types of large fish swimming below us, it was then I decided a day’s charter fishing was in order.  About time after three months on the road.  I checked out the local operators in Denham, and managed to get a half day trip booked with ‘Mac attack’ charters.

We left from the town Jetty at 8am sharp, after skipper/owner Glenn did the introductions and explained how the trip would run. We motored out into Shark Bay, passing right under the most spectacular storm front, for about 35 minutes to reach the first spot.  All 10 on board were straight into the action with snapper being caught left, right and rear of the boat.  We spent a few hours moving between spots, bottom fishing and catching snapper.   I caught 20 odd fish though all had to be returned as they were undersized.  I did however catch five blowies (toad fish), a record for the day, but this is not a good thing.  For the last hour and a half we moved to another area and tried our luck at surface fishing for mackerel.  Finally I caught a fish to be kept and followed with another on the last cast of the day. Before we knew it, our time was exhausted (though much bait was left) and we had to return to port.My Mac Attack Catch

All on board had an awesome mornings fishing and our thanks go to Glenn & Sarah for making a trip with ‘Mac Attack’ charters a day to remember.

Check out their website at http://www.sportfish.com.au/

20th May 2011  

A day out by Myself  

Hello again all. As you can see from the main blog we have been busy since my last post, exploring southern WA at leisure.  The pace of the trip has slowed a little now, and the rig has been running fine with no issues to report.  This gave me some free time to have a day (morning to myself) whilst Sharon took the kids to Playgroup.  Whilst enjoying all that Kalbarri has to offer I noticed that bush Quad bike tours were available.

I have been quad biking on previous travels but never in a bush setting.  I therefore couldn’t wait for my 2 hour trip with Kalbarri Quad Bike Safaris. After a brief safety and instruction talk with Ellen (owner & guide,) our small group of 3 was off into the mallee scrub bush to the northeast of Kalbarri around the Murchison River.

Our Quad’s were 400cc EFi units with automatic gearboxes, easy to use for all abilities although power steering is not an option. We were provided with plenty drinking water, handy as the temperature rose to over 30 degrees by 11 am. 

We went slowly at first to get a feel for the bikes before venturing onto smaller tracks with varied terrains.  We followed the course of the river through sandy beaches and over rocky outcrops before stopping for photos.  Ellen took a few pictures of us riding the Quad’s and posing by the river, also giving a little information on the river and the recent flooding.  A little further on and we stopped for a brew and biscuits before heading onto some faster more challenging sections.  Emu’s were spotted, though the sound of four screaming Quad bikes approaching sent them scattering into the bush.

Before we knew it our 2 hour safari was over.  I had a blast, was covered from head to toe in red dust (my fault for following too closely) and badly needed a shower.  I would have loved to carry on, as the 2 hours flew past but maybe next time.  A big thanks to Ellen for making it a easy and fun trip.

For more info on the range of tours offered check out their website. www.kalbarriquadsafaris.com.au

I spoke too soon about the truck running fine, for as we left Kalbarri it started behaving oddly and lost power.  A quick check of ECUtalk readings showed that the MAF (mass air flow sensor) was sending some strange and erratic voltages.  Luckily I had a spare with me.  Thanks to some advice from members of Patrol 4×4.com, a quick roadside change and we were off again, with all power returned and fuel consumption back to normal.  Now all I need to do is get another spare.

11th April 2011

 Rig Issues On the Road

Since my last update, we have had a few teething issues which Sharon has touched upon in the main blog. Whilst in Port Augusta SA, I noticed that one of the caravan wheels seemed to be leaking grease from the hub. A quick check by a new travelling friend revealed that 3 of the 4 wheel bearings were in need of some attention. The next morning we had the bearings all repacked at TyrePower in Port Augusta.  Big thanks to Robbie for fitting us in so promptly.

Moving on down the Eyre peninsular we thought our issues were behind us but then the bigger problem showed itself.  I had been aware before the trip that the trucks clutch wasn’t in A1 condition but had hoped it would last. Alas, it didn’t but at least the problem was spotted before total failure. The local 4×4 mechanic Port Lincoln suggested we upgrade to a heavy duty – single mass flywheel clutch and dump the old dual mass setup. I had done some research on this area before we departed and it was decided to spend the extra dollars and hopefully guarantee against another failure.

I recently carried out the first OTR truck service, changing the oil and filters, whilst at a bush camp spot. It went well but I finished the job wishing I had a workshop at my disposal.  It didn’t help that the morning I decided to do this, we encountered the first rain we had seen in a while.

All of this rig maintenance has been taking up more time than we had hoped. Lets pray for some trouble free motoring so I can get down to some serious fishing. Speaking of which, I did manage to grab a few hours with the rod at Cape LeGrand and caught a good size Cod (of some sort) which we BBQ’d for tea…..Delicious.

16th February 2011

The rig is finally ready for our ‘Big Road Trip’.

Springs & AirbagsLast Thursday my very mechanically minded friend, John Wines (Worm) fitted the new heavy duty rear springs and Polyair airbags.  The rig now sits level & will tow much safer and easier, it may also improve fuel consumption.  Worm also gave the suspension and running gear a pre-trip check / lube & repacked the front bearings.  During the check it was discovered that the truck needed new rear sway bar D bushes and the transfer box an oil top up.  I’m glad we carried out the check and these minor problems were discovered.

Whilst these jobs were being carried out, I performed a final oil and filter change.  In the process I managed to get used oil everywhere, a good clean up of the workshop floor was required afterwards.

I will be constantly checking and maintaining the rig whilst we are on the road.  The ECUtalk unit will help me keep an eye on things. The Patrol requires an oil change /minor service every 5000k’s, so we are therefore carrying a basic set of spare parts as well as a good tool kit and socket set.  I have carried out all the prudent preventative maintenance our budget allows but as with all things 4wd, the list of possible mods and maintenance is never ending.

Hopefully my next post will be about a blokey activity.  Bring on the fishing…

26th January 2011

Happy Australia Day everyone…

Here is a brief update on truck modifications.  Since my last post I have been flat out with the tools.  The Patrol now has an ABR Sidewinder dual battery system and associated wiring. This includes the wiring to run our new Engel MT45s fridge/freezer, as well as the caravan fridge whilst towing.

I have also installed an ECUtalk unit to monitor all the essential engine parameters whilst on the road.  A set of storage draws obtained on EBay has also been fitted.  Lastly I had the cooling system completely overhauled.  Towing in thirty plus heat will show up problems really quickly.  I’m doing as much as possible to avoid breaking down in the middle of nowhere.  ‘Preventative maintenance’ is essential as well as a great excuse to spend money on other modifications.

The final adjustment required is to up rate the rear springs and fit airbags to handle the extra load the van puts on the beast…but more on that later.

To read more on our favourite upgrades just follow the links to our ‘Essential Stuff’ page.

The caravan has also been subjected to a few modifications’.  The spare wheel has been relocated to allow for a 4 bike rack on the rear. Big thanks to John (Worm) & Graham Wines for their massive assistance, design and welding for the caravan and dual battery mod’s is all down to their expertise.  I’m going to miss Thursday nights ‘work and bullsh*te’ sessions in the Wines brother workshop.

The final touches need to be finished soon…It’s all getting a bit real.

08 December 2010

Sharon is writing the majority of entries on our travel blog, but as she is clueless on all topics mechanical and manly.  I’ve dOur Patrolecided to have ‘Mike’s page’, especially for all the blokes interested in the technical parts of our travels.

Now I’m no mechanical guru, but I’ve spent endless online time researching trucks and caravans, 6 months before we even knew for sure we were doing the trip.  Big thanks to the members of Patrol 4×4.com and Warrnambool 4WD club for their valuable help & advice.

So this trip around Australia was a great excuse to buy a truck (I needed something to convince the wife).  After much Toyota Vs Nissan debate, I finally settled on a 2000 Nissan Patrol GU RD28ETi.  It has a 2.8 litre turbo diesel engine coupled to a manual gearbox. This is the towing truck for our house on wheels, the horse for our cart.  It gets fairly good fuel consumption considering it weighs 2.5 tonnes empty.  Whilst not the fastest tow vehicle around, it’s a happy medium of economy Vs grunt.  It was a stock standard Patrol when we took ownership but I have been slowly making modifications to help the trip run smoothly.  I call it preventative maintenance to convince the wife.

I have so far added:

  • Tekonsha  Primus IQ electric brake controller – To slow the rear brick down
  • Ironman snorkel – For any deep puddles in the top end
  • Cargo barrier – Safety 1st and maximum camping kit 2nd
  • Touch screen, multi-media stereo /GPS unit – Original unit played cassettes and CD’s
  • Donator diesel power chip – To help with low down power whilst towing the van

Heaps more planned before we take off.  Will give you an update soon.


2 Responses

  1. Hi Mike, I Work at Glaxo and we have met once at a social club function and over Sharon’s time at Glaxo we have become good work mates.
    Love this page of yours as I’m keenly interested in the mod’s you’ve made to the “Truck”, you seem to be a just do it man and I find this blog an inspiration as well
    as a practical insight to the amount of preparation required to set out on a journey of this kind.
    All the best and look foward to the next blog about the truck, before you set sail.
    Cheerz Michael.

  2. Thanks Michael, it sure has given me a crash course in mechanics and trip preparation. Glad you find the page useful.


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