The Gibb River Road workshop. A special on-location edition.
Most of you know that Carlisle Rogers is now running tagalong tours (if not, then check p20 for the first wild instalment).
As the magazine’s resident mechanic I thought it only fair that I tagalong as well, on this particular mission through the Kimberley.
It was the perfect road test, for me, to see what can and will go wrong for a bunch of different vehicles when all put through some serious paces.
We tackled the Gibb from Kununurra through to Derby and saw just about everything in between. It was an 11-day tour, headlined by Shadow the Isuzu, and three other vehicles.
There was a new Isuzu MU-X that towed a soft floor camper, a Diesel Pajero towing an Ultimate camper, and a 2013 Toyota Troopy.
Let’s start by saying that there seems to be a stigma with places like the Kimberley, where a lot of people reckon it’s just a beautiful place to wreck your 4WD.
People will warn you, saying that because it’s so remote, you could also end up stuck out there, helpless.
Well, maybe in the rainy season, but conditions were optimum when we rocked up. The road wasn’t all that bad, although conventional wisdom tells us that the road will get worsen toward the end of the season.
It was corrugated but we found that if you drove at the right speed you could almost skate over the top of the judders and bumps, but you still have to keep aware because there are dips in the road that come out of nowhere.
There’s also a huge amount of cows roaming around that you don’t want to get too up close and personal with.
The 4WDs on our tour were well set up and they’d all had a thorough service before they left their respective hometowns.
Some travelled all the way from Sydney and Canberra so they needed to be in tip top order just to get to the Kununurra starting line.
The biggest problem once we got cracking on the Gibb was punctures, oh, and equipment falling off the vehicles. I repaired a connection for a solar panel and that was about it.
Terry with the Troopy picked up a puncture coming into El Questro. We fitted a spare and then back at camp we tried to sort it with a puncture repair kit.
We used four of the puncture threads but it still wouldn’t seal. The rock that went through had actually gone in and torn it at a 90° angle. Fortunately Terry had two spares, which to be honest is the only way to travel up there.
It’s important to remember that help is usually not too far either. El Questro and Home Valley Station both have small workshops that can help with these sorts of repairs.
Wolfe with his MU-X didn’t have any major issues on his trip, just a couple of frustrating ones.
He had his left spotlight fall off and we needed to find a new set of bolts for it. It had been fitted with all three bolts but they had wriggled themselves loose over the corrugations.
I am unsure why, because the right spot light was still nice and tight and had all its bolts intact with spring washers still there. I would definitely suggest fitting your spot lights with spring washers and Nyloc lock nuts as well.
The solar panel repair was a matter of replacing few connections. I did this by replacing a pair of Anderson plugs because the old connections had a bad contact.
Yes, I did solder the wires into the Anderson connectors and, yes, I am that guy who takes a butane soldering iron along.
From my experience, 12V problems are the majority of the issues we experience so why not repair them correctly even if you are travelling the Gibb.
There were a few smaller things like adding a little bit of oil to some engines as they were a little low when we checked the levels and I tightened the drive belts on the Pajero as on cold start each morning they would squeal a little and I didn’t want them to get hot and break.
We only had a couple of minor things with Carlisle’s Isuzu, Shadow.
First off, we were filling up diesel and I noticed an odd brake squeal. It turned out the brake pads were really low so we ducked into the local auto parts store in Kununurra grabbed a set of front pads and I replaced them about 9pm back at camp.
There was also another strange one. We came into Galvans along the Gibb and smelt a gear oil leak. We stuck our heads under the back and checked the rear diff and couldn’t see anything.
We then stuck our heads under the front diff to find oil leaking from the breather. I removed the air filter, checked and blew through the breather hose to make sure there wasn’t any blockage, and we then took off to Neville’s place.
He runs a small workshop called ‘Over The Range Tyre and Mechanical’ and dropped in because I didn’t have any diff oil with me and I wanted to drain the oil to see what it looked like. Neville knows his stuff and is such a good bloke.
I had to remove the ARB under-body protection before I could drain the oil, which actually didn’t look too bad, then I refilled it and refitted the under-body protection.
But to be honest, these were the only issues things we had to deal with during the tagalong, relatively minor issues that we quite easy to repair. And it all comes back to having well prepared vehicles.
I would definitely be taking 2 spares along as well as a puncture repair kit. I would also make sure all accessories have Nyloc nuts and are also Loctited in place.
Having the top RAC cover is also recommended but you will need to check what they offer as different states have different rules.
But to be honest Just get out there and do it. You’ll have the time of your life!