Tips for Times of Trouble
Stuck in Mud on Silver City Highway
Outback Travel is exciting and easy, if you follow some common sense rules. Not everything runs to plan in this world though.
Here are some tips if you do get into trouble.
Telstra’s Next G mobile phone Network covers a surprising part of the Outback now, and a UHF radio at least, is a must for out here. Either of these should put you in touch with someone who can help you, especially in the winter months when there are outback tourists every where.
Put your UHF radio on scan every now and then. You may find the channel that other outback travelers are using around you. Remember the first 8 channels are repeater channels. You will know if you are in range of a repeater by pressing the transmit button on each channel and listening for the telltale beeps. It pays to test this every now and then. But DON'T keep asking for a radio check!
The Pink Roadhouse at Oodnadatta has a map showing the repeater areas along the Oodnadatta Track. It is also available from the Outback Community Development Trust of South Australia. (www.oacdt.gov.au)
Most 4WD drivers use channel 20 for outback travel. Pick a channel between 21 and 38 to communicate in a group. Listen for our mob on channel 26.
If you are stopped on the road in trouble most tourists will stop to help you. It may be a chance for them to try out some as-yet-unused bit of recovery gear, or they might have one of the latest model satellite phones to call for help. At the very least they will stop for you out of curiosity and offer moral support, free advice and sympathy. THEY will have read up on all the information available on Outback Travel.
TIPS FOR GETTING UN-BOGGED
A plastic bucket and a long handled shovel could be the best recovery gear you can carry. (They should be among the first things you pack anyway.) I learned this old bullock driver’s trick while reading an early account of outback transport.
When you get bogged in mud or sand, light your fire, have your cup of tea, and then look around for some dry clay or dry sand. Fill your bucket with this and carry it over to put in your wheel tracks as close to the front and rear of the wheels a possible.
Let your tyres down as much as you dare. Get in your vehicle and using first and reverse gears, gently rock it back and forth a bit at a time. Try to extend your length of travel on each back and forth cycle. You may have to keep filling your tracks with dry clay until you can get enough momentum to either reverse or drive out of trouble.
I have used this method successfully after being bogged to the axles in mud and also in coarse sand.
On one other memorable Outback travel journey when "The Kid" was very young we found ourselves bogged in a long waterhole on a remote track. We built a small levee bank behind the rear wheels of the Datsun 2WD ute. Then, using the plastic bucket and a saucepan we bailed the water out of one half of the mud hole we were bogged in.
We had our cup of tea, curled up in our muddy swags and went to sleep.
In the morning the bailed-out section, where the Datsun was, had dried out enough for us to drive out. That was when we noticed the completely dry detour around the bog hole!
Tips to remember. Watch out for dry detours! Walk through the water first!
OUTBACK TRAVEL TIPS FOR BREAKING DOWN
If you are broken down, you are already stopped so make a small fire and a cup of tea.
If your 4WD is diesel and won't start try bleeding the fuel lines. You need to learn how to do this well before you start off on your trip. Usually diesels won't have fuel trouble unless there is air in the system. Assuming you haven't run out of fuel (Just about the silliest thing you can do out here!), there must be a leak somewhere. Look around the fuel system and fuel lines. The leaking spot will either be dripping or have dark coloured dust around it. A leak before the fuel pump will be indicated by a large amount of air being released when you are trying to prime the pump.
I eventually found a leak like this when a broken shock absorber hit a rubber fuel line. The line was only cracked enough to let in a bit of air every now and then.
If the leak is on the high pressure side of the pump it should be fairly obvious. Always carry a short bit of rubber fuel line with two good hose clamps already screwed onto it.
If no fuel comes out when you try to prime the pump, first make doubly sure you have the switch on the right tank if you have two! If that's OK unscrew your fuel filter and empty it out. It will probably have water and scale in it. Another trap on Toyotas especially is in the fitting where the fuel line attaches to the injector pump. Unscrew the fitting and look inside it. There is a tiny mesh filter which has a bad habit of blocking up!
Other major mechanical problems are out of my realm. But if you do have a serious breakdown and have to be towed, make the tow as short as is safe so stones won't hit the windscreen, Then put a swag or 3 or 4 thicknesses of tarpaulin across the front of your vehicle to protect it.
Don't forget to use 4WD if you blow up your back differential in a bog. Remove the rear tail shaft and let the front wheels drive you. Stop if you hear any strange noises coming from the rear differential and go to plan B, whatever that might be. I once drove 150 km in first gear back to Finke. It was an extremely slow trip but I did find a spare tyre in the bush that I had lost 3 weeks before!
Look for comprehensive outback travel tips in good books on the subject.
Its not much good taking enough to tools and spares to completely rebuild your vehicle if you are not a mechanic! If you have prepared sensibly, others will not mind helping you.
DON'T PANIC. TRAVEL SLOWLY. CAMP EARLY
Enjoy your outback travel.
Engine out of Kombi again, Barcaldine, Qld
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Take Good Maps With You for Outback Travel
Working in the Outback
What is the Secret of the Outback's Attraction?
Survival in the Outback