Cape York

Troopy Goes Bump in the Night

Cape York

 

Yo – Dave here.

 

After enjoying the sunset at the most northerly point of mainland Australia, we went to check out a deserted resort a couple hundred metres back from the Tip car park.  The resort was abandoned back in 2000 and had some potential for free camping.

 

We followed a track into the resort and found ourselves confronted by a creepy, overgrown building and a rusty, smashed up caravan.  Needless to say it was a little creepy, especially at dusk, so I slowly backed the Troopy out the way we came in.

 

The BUMP

All of a sudden, we felt a little nudge, and saw nothing but a tree in the way.  After I let out a few profanities, we headed back to the Tip carpark to find a less deadly place to spend the night.  Once positioned, we promptly inspected the Troopy’s rear end.  Juz reckoned the tree hit up high but all was fine.  We figured the Troopy and the tree walked away unscathed until we tried to open the back door.  It wouldn’t open, and thus we found where we had hit the tree – the left hand rear bumper was bent in and arched upward, so we couldn’t open the door.  Bugger.

 

Cape York

 

Friendly neighbours to the rescue

Levering the bumper back into shape was the primary plan but all of the necessary tools were in the back of the Troopy, behind a door we couldn’t open.  Fortunately for us, a couple of guys we’d met earlier were camped next to us and we borrowed a piece of pipe from them.  Despite having the pipe, I couldn’t get any leverage where I needed it, so the bumper was going to have to come off completely.  This job required the socket set, which was neatly packed away in the back of the Troopy behind a door we couldn’t open.  Bugger.

 

Once again, our new mates Tim and Tony came to the rescue with their socket sets, and some beer to ease the pain.  We promised that we’d return the favour with some Mt Uncle rum that was tucked away behind the jammed door.

 

 

With their tools, I was able to take all the nuts off except one, which was only accessible if the tail light came out first.  I cursed, we all had a laugh, and then I sucked it up and started taking the tail light off.  After lying in the dirt under the Troopy’s rear end for over an hour, the damaged bumper was off and we could finally open the door.  I grabbed the bottle of rum and some cups and we had a couple of celebratory drinks with Tim and Tony.  Woot!

 

Finishing the job

At first light the next morning, I got to work bending the bracket back to where it was meant to be.  Next came the hard bit – bending the actual bumper back into a shape that wouldn’t interfere with the opening of the rear door.  After trying to smash it with a hammer and wishing I had a vice, I had a brainwave and used our high-lift jack and the weight of the Troopy to bend it.  Within 20 minutes, the bumper was straight enough to bolt back on and still allow the door to open.

 

Cape York

 

While the tail light was out of the bumper, I figured this would be the best time to fix the wiring issue that had started not long after we left Alice Springs – the brake light was flashing instead of the left indicator.  Once I got that sorted, the Troopy was back to its old self, but with a new battle scar.

 

On our way back to Bamaga, we returned to the spooky abandoned resort to have a look around.

 

Cape York Cape York Cape York

 

 

Cape York

Troopy Update : Boots, Brakes & Various Outakes

Old Ghan Trail

 

Yo – Dave here.

 

After our radiator dramas and a weeklong visit to Country Diesel Maintenance in Alice Springs, the Troopy was running great.  But what fun would it be if nothing ever went wrong? 

 

By the time we rolled into Cairns, we’d done some great four-wheel driving up at Cape York, but it didn’t go without any hitches.  One of the front spring mounts snapped and the brake booster shat itself just before we got to Iron Range National Park.  Also, at some point we started leaking fuel and the Troopy kept stalling and was hard to start.

 

On the other hand, our new tyres copped a beating on the dirt roads of the outback and are going great.  The new mozzie screens on all the windows have been perfect on the hot nights – with more windows open we get better airflow through the Troopy.  The roof-top wind deflector that I installed in Alice Springs is working a treat and looks fantastic.

 

Cape York

 

Snazzy new boots

TroopyBefore leaving Alice Springs, we got the Troopy a brand new set of boots.  The all-terrain tyres we bought 50,000km ago turned out to be rubbish and I was keen to upgrade to a mud-terrain tyre, so after a great chat with the staff at the tyre store, I ended up going with a set of Maxxis Bighorns 764.  We paid $350 per tyre and that included fitting, balancing and a wheel-alignment.

 

We’ve done over 2,000km on them so far – about 50% on bitumen, 50% on dirt/sand/rock.  Compared to our old set of tyres, they’re definitely more aggressive, a little louder and make the Troopy about 5cm taller, which is noticeable when we climb into the back at night.  Driving along corrugated dirt road is definitely more comfortable and the steering even feels a bit lighter.  The extra traction on sand is really obvious and I’ve found I don’t have to let the tyre pressure down as much as I would have with the old tyres.  Considering the amount of driving on rocky roads we’ve done, the tyres have held up well – no punctures or major damage – and the amount of wear is acceptable.

 

Over all, I’m really happy with the Maxxis.  The price fit our budget and the performance has been great.  Also, by the look of them after 2,000km, I reckon they’ll get us all the way back to Melbourne no worries.

 

Cape York

 

Custom-built checker-plate roof-top wind deflector

While we were in Alice, we did a HelpX job for two guys who run a steel yard called DnA Steel Direct, so I had access to steel as well as all the necessary equipment to fabricate a customised wind deflector for the top of the Troopy.

 

With a rough sketch on a notepad, I found a piece of checkerplate that was big enough and thick enough for what I needed.  I used the industrial steel bending machine to bend the sheet, then I cut the taper with a grinder.  I made templates for the two side pieces, cut them and bent them.  Then one of the guys quickly welded the sides on, as well as the hinges and latches before I bolted the whole thing on and gave it a lick of black paint.  The final touch was some small chains to limit how far the deflector opens.  I reckon it came up a treat.  A huge thanks goes out to DnA Steel Direct for letting me use their machinery.

 

Cape York

 

You break it, you fix it!

If you’re a four-wheel driving fan, go to Cape York and do the Old Telegraph Track.  Juz and I loved it and even though I broke the Troopy a bit – check out that story here.

 

The next day, after doing the Five Beaches Track along the eastern coast of the Tip, I noticed that one of the Troopy’s front spring mounts was broken in half.  We carefully limped the next 20km to Bamaga and went straight to the wreckers.  Lucky for us, they had what I needed and I had it changed over in less than half an hour.

 

 

Stuck between a rock and broken brakes

As we were making our way along Frenchmans Track towards Iron Range National Park, we got hung up on a rock on the descent into a creek crossing.  While Juz stuck her foot on the brake pedal, I got out to have a look.  All of a sudden, there was a psssshh sound as the brake pedal pushed up.  I initially thought a hose had come off, but I couldn’t see any leaks or abnormalities.  We managed to get the Troopy off the rock and through the creek, but the brake pedal was really stiff and stopping in any hurry wasn’t an option.

 

Cape York

 

When we got to Cooktown, I did some research and diagnosed a busted brake booster, but the nearest replacement was in Cairns.  So, our plan to take the CREB track from Wujal Wujal was changed to a gingerly drive down the Bloomfield track instead.  There were a few steep downhill sections that were a little hairy because of our reduced braking ability, but otherwise it was quite a nice drive.

 

Cape Trib

 

The Troopy takes a leak

Somewhere up in Cape York the Troopy decided to start leaking fuel.  While we were in Cooktown, I traced the leak back to a tiny hole in the primary fuel filter casing.  Unfortunately, I’d have to wait until Cairns to get a new one.

 

In the meantime, our timing belt light had been on for about 3,000km so I finally got around to changing it.  If you’ve ever changed a timing belt then you’ll know that the fiddliest bit is getting the tensioning spring back on.  After wrestling with that for a while, I got it back on and shouldn’t have to worry about the timing belt for another 100,000km.

 

Cairns – Let’s get wrecked!

Once we got to Cairns, I spent the first available Saturday doing the rounds at the wreckers.  I needed a few things, but my main priorities were finding a brake booster and a fuel filter.  After visiting two wreckers, I picked up a fuel filter for $50, a battery tray and bump stop for $50 and a brake booster for just $80 – SCORE!

 

Changing the brake booster was a piece of cake and took all of about half an hour.  The battery tray was also easy but the battery bracket was a bit more fiddly because of a broken bolt head.  In the end I just drilled a new hole for it and everything was sorted.

 

After buying a complete primary fuel filter from the wreckers, I picked up a new cartridge for the secondary fuel filter.  I took the old parts out and they were filthy and full of sludge.  I blew out the fuel lines (mmm… delicious diesel!) and cleaned up the bits that were going back in.  After installing the new filters, the Troopy instantly began running smoother and starting more easily.

 

Go Troopy!!

 

Cape York

 

Troopy bits

Cooling Down in Alice Springs

Heating Up in Hermannsburg – Part 2

 

We arrived back in Alice Springs after our amazing visit to Uluru and Kata Tjuta, and I got to work as soon as possible.  The first few days were spent fiddling with the Troopy to try and figure out why the engine was overheating.

 

I flushed the cooling system and changed the bottom radiator hose before getting some advice from a local mechanic, who suggested lubing up the fan clutch.  After doing that, I took the Troopy for a short test drive and it seemed successful, but the best way to check was to go on a long distance drive.

 

The next day, we drove the Troopy down to Rainbow Valley, about 100km south of Alice Springs.  Unfortunately, once we were over 80kmph, the temp gauge moved towards the red.  Back to the drawing board…

 

Rainbow Valley

 

The next day, I called the mechanic and booked the Troopy in so that they could have a look.  I dropped the Troopy off the following week, and got a phone call later that day from the mechanic, asking if I had time to come by the workshop.  The Troopy was up on the hoist and the mechanic said that they hadn’t even taken it for a test drive because they didn’t want to risk driving it anywhere – the front wheel bearings were gone.

 

He went through a list of things that needed to be repaired urgently, before we had another long chat about the why cooling system might be playing up.  He explained that the air in Alice Springs is really dry and therefore isn’t as effective at cooling the radiator, and he also recommended getting rid of the fly-screen mesh from the grill, as it can severely restrict air flow at 80-110kp/h.

 

Looking at the list of required repairs, there was no way I could do all that myself so I booked the Troopy in for a proper session.  Unfortunately, they were so busy, the next available time was the week after, so I took the Troopy home, went through the list, and did what I could myself.  I replaced the leaky brake proportioning valve, ripped off the fly-screen from the grill and picked up a few less urgent bits and pieces to swap later.  A week later, I took the Troopy back to the mechanic so they could do the rest. For the next week, we were lucky enough to borrow a shitty Ford Falcon with a cracked windscreen, no windows and ripped up interior to get around town.

 

The main repairs the mechanics did for us were:

  • Swivel hubs and bearings
  • Three brake discs
  • Handbrake shoes
  • Uni joints
  • Rear pinion seal
  • Steering – drag link ends and tie rod ends

 

Troopy bits

 

A week later, and over $4000 out of pocket, we were reunited with a new and improved Troopy, minus all the squeaks, grinds and clunks.  The Troopy was feeling strong and we were filled with excitement when we finally left Alice Springs to continue our journey south.  These days, the Troopy still heats up a little sometimes, but it’s only when it’s worked hard for a while.

 

Birdsville

 

 

 

Heating up in Hermannsburg

Heating Up in Hermannsburg

Heating up in Hermannsburg

 

After visiting Palm Valley, our plan to was to head to Kings Canyon to meet up with some mates who were up from Melbourne and Sydney.  We stopped into Hermannsburg to suss out the road beyond Finke Gorge National Park and we were advised to take the other way around to Kings Canyon.  About 30km out of Hermannsburg, our temperature gauge was showing heat.

 

We stopped on the side of the road and Dave stuck his head under the Troopy.  The radiator had a massive crack in the seam on the bottom.

 

At about 1:30pm, Dave applied a quick-drying putty but it did not hold.  At 2:40pm he tried some epoxy and left it for an hour.  We got impatient and filled up the radiator but the epoxy hadn’t set yet and it didn’t hold.

 

People stopped to offer help, tools or to pass on messages.  Luckily, a car from Hermannsburg, with a local elder in the passenger seat passed us and we were able to get permission to stay on the roadside over night.  He said yes, and even suggested we make a fire to keep warm.

 

We decided to try the epoxy again but stay on the roadside overnight to allow it to dry.

 

Heating up in Hermannsburg

 

In the morning, we held our breath as we filled the radiator with water.  Despite a constant drip, we packed up and hoped for the best as we fanged it back to Hermannsburg.  We got about 23km before the temperature gauge was in the red again.  We had a look and the water was spurting from the crack like a super soaker!  Dave let it cool before refilling the radiator and we continued to Hermannsburg where we refilled our containers with enough water to get back to Alice Springs 120km away.  Juz also made some phone calls to wreckers in Alice for radiator prices.

 

Heating up in Hermannsburg

 

We estimated that with about 1 hour of travel time and 1 hour of stopping to refill the radiator, we’d get back into Alice at around midday.  On the second stop to water the Troopy, Dave had the idea to include some anti leak stuff.  As we drove, we passed the 20km mark, 30km mark, and we started to question the temperature gauge, which was not rising.  We had to stop to investigate and found that we weren’t losing water.  The anti leak stuff miraculously plugged the hole and we ended up getting to Alice Springs at 10:44am.

 

There was a mad rush to get everything sorted.  We stopped at Repco first to spend $500 on a new radiator, coolant and a few other bits before revisiting our Helpx host to install the new radiator.  We had it all sorted by 1pm and after showers, grocery shopping and a petrol stop, we were on our way down the Stuart Highway by 3pm to meet our friends at Yulara that evening.

 

Heating up in Hermannsburg

 

As we were travelling, Dave saw water on the windscreen and dismissed it as rain, but after the temperature gauge slithered into the red, he checked under the bonnet and a hose had slipped off the shiny new radiator pipe.  After refilling the radiator (again!), we continued on before another shocking spray of water over the windscreen.  We had to stop and find another clamp for the hose.

 

Thankfully, a car stopped and its passengers offered to help.  Dave didn’t have a clamp that would fit around the hose so while Juz chatted to the lady and her baby Flynn, Dave and Mohawk man (these are the names we gave them as formal introductions were omitted) prepared a clamp.

 

Despite all this fuss, as we continued down the Stuart Highway, the Troopy was still overheating.  We stopped at a rest area north of Stuart Well and asked the fellow travellers for some advice.  They all said the same thing – “your thermostat is buggered”.

 

Thanks to 4x4World.com.au, we had a spare, but with sun going down fast, we decided to stay the night and change the part in the morning.  This didn’t irk us at all as we got to have a lovely evening by the fire with fellow travellers Jules, Loretta, Chris and Brian.  Our mates will still be at Yulara the next day.

 

Dave had his head deep under the bonnet by sunrise.  We thought it’d be a quick job but the thermostat happens to be behind the lower hose, not the upper hose as initially suspected.  Because of this, the alternator had to be moved out of the way before the thermostat could be changed.

 

Heating up in Hermannsburg

 

It was all done by just before 11am and as we rampaged towards Yulara, we were completely baffled.  During our periodical, paranoid glances at the temperature gauge, we found that it would rise when travelling uphill or at high speeds, but it would cool down at lower speeds and when we were moving downhill…

 

After visiting Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Kings Canyon, we decided to head back to Alice to get the Troopy issues sorted before we went any further into the desert.

 

Hermannsburg

This aboriginal community was originally established by Lutheran missionaries from the Hermannsburg mission in Germany in 1877. Twenty years later, the missionaries left but the settlement was maintained by local workers.  In 1894, a pastor came to the settlement and learnt the local Arrernte language, and translated the bible for them.  The mission was eventually handed over to the traditional owners in 1982, and the Hermannsburg Historic Precinct was added to the Australian National Heritage List in 2006.

 

Hermannsburg

 

Within the Historic Precinct is the Kata Anga Tearooms.  They do a lovely apple strudel served with cream, as well as scones and damper.  While the amount of damper provided was inadequate, the strudel was fabulous.

 

Hermannsburg

 

Hermannsburg provides an oasis of reception for Telstra customers, as well as two general stores and a petrol station.  It is also the home of artist Albert Namatjira, who was born at the mission in 1902.  He saw much of Central Australia working as a camel driver and reflected his love of the land in art.

 

Hermannsburg

 

After two Victorian artists held an art exhibition at the mission in 1934, he became interested in western style painting and was taught how to paint with watercolours by Rex Battarbee.  By 1938, he held his first exhibition in Melbourne, followed by sell out Sydney and Adelaide exhibitions.  From then on, his artwork continued to sell quickly, earning him the Queen’s Coronation Medal in 1953.

 

Albert Namatjira

 

 

Man talk!

Troopy Report : Updates, Upgrades, Up Sandhills

Hi everyone – Dave here.

 

We left Melbourne almost three months ago and since then, we’ve learnt a lot about our mobile home.  We’ve had mechanical issues, punctured tyres, spring cleans, new additions, and practical renovations.  We’ve even tested it’s abilities at Loveday 4×4 Adventure Park.

 

Mechanical Issues

Our first hiccup was a tinny rattle coming from the under the bonnet.  We were initially told that it was the water pump, and after spending most of Christmas Day changing the part with a spare we got from 4x4world.com.au, we were later advised that it was the alternator.

 

Changing the water pump on Christmas Day

 

The timing was a bit inconvenient – most wreckers were closed for the holiday period, and New Years was just around the corner.  We picked up a second hand alternator from a wrecker and installed it. Unfortunately, one of the bolt holes was really worn and I couldn’t get any tension on the belts. So I got another one from the wreckers and put that in.

 

The weird thing was that it still didn’t seem to be charging enough. We decided to get an auto electrician to have a look but we had to wait until about a week into 2013 before one was open. He had a look and promptly told me the alternator was dead. He sold me a brand new one and I installed it before I drove away. Unfortunately, the dying alternator took one of our batteries to the grave with it, so we had to replace that too. We returned the second dodgy alternator to the wreckers (with a full refund) and the Troopy is now running smoothly again.

 

Punctured Tyres

On our way to Arkaroola, we copped two punctures.  One on the dirt road between Flinders Ranges National Park and Balcanoona, and the other was while we were driving to our campsite in the Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges National Park.  We decided that we didn’t want to camp there so we drove back to Balcanoona and realised that we had another puncture.

 

Our first puncture...

 

On both occasions, we worked as a team to change the tyre and managed to have the job done in under 30 minutes.  This included taking the high-lift jack off the roof from under the TREDs, digging out the cross brace from its storage place and removing the spare tyre from either the back door or roof racks.

 

Unfortunately, after the two punctures, we had no spare tyres left so we decided to turn back rather than take on the rougher terrain of Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary.

 

Once we got to Parachilna Gorge, I pulled out the tyre repair kit that we got from BushJunkie.com.au and worked on fixing the puncture.  One tyre worked perfectly, but the other was beyond repair.

 

 

4WDing

We took the Troopy 4WDing (fully loaded) around the tracks at Loveday 4×4 Adventure Park and learnt a few more things about our truck:

  • It’s rear clearance could be a little higher because there was plenty of bum scrape on the 150 Bumps track.
  • The degree of sideways tilt was underestimated – it has room to tilt a little more than expected.
  • When 4WDing, all books must be removed from the overhead parcel shelf prior to commencement.
  • Juz can drive the Troopy over a sandhill!  She got in heaps of 4WDing experience at Loveday and loved every minute of it.

 

 

 

 

Beach 4WDING

While travelling with our new friends Tom and Bella, we decided to drive along the beach from Parry Beach to Green’s Pool. The sand was initially nice and firm but then it got real soft real quick! Tom and Bella were leading the way and soon their Hilux was stuck past its axles. While they did some digging, I wound out our winch (thanks BushJunkie.com.au!) for its maiden use and hooked it up. We pulled the Hilux back on to firmer sand and they took a different line that was a bit easier. We started following them but managed to get the Troopy stuck too! Meanwhile, Tom and Bella got stuck again about 100m ahead!

 

STUCK!

 

We all let our tyres down nice and low and started digging. Juz drove the Troopy out (with ease!) and got close enough to the Hilux to reach them with the winch cable. The Hilux was on a fair bit of an angle and the tide was starting to get pretty close, but we got it out without too much trouble.

 

At this point, we decided it was probably best to turn back. We made our way back to the bitumen to respool the winch and pump up our tyres. Our compressor from BushJunkie.com.au was super-fast – it filled all four of our tyres in the time it took Tom to pump up one of his tyres!

 

 

Getting stuck in the sand was a great learning experience.  We got to use the winch for the first time and truly appreciate the power of our compressor.

 

 

New Additions

We have a new piece of equipment onboard – courtesy of Loveday 4×4 Adventure Park and TRED 4×4!  A set of TRED (Total Recovery & Extraction Device) 1100s.  Looking forward to our next precarious mud puddle.

 

In the meantime, I’ve found the perfect place to store the TRED1100s.  They’re mounted on an angle in front of our roof rack box.  Not only are they safely and securely stored, they’re also acting as a wind deflector.  We felt a significant decrease in the amount of drag straight away. We’re very happy about that because less drag = less fuel 🙂

 

Troopy on the beach!

 

We picked up a couple of cheap push-bikes while in Port Elliot – a little blue mountain bike and a Harley-esque black low rider with flame decals. When we were leaving the Port Elliot Beach House YHA, we decided to donate the low rider to the hostel instead of lugging it along with us. Ben at YHA was absolutely wrapped!  We still have our little blue bike strapped on the roof and it comes in quite handy sometimes riding to and from toilet blocks while camping.

 

Sweet ride...

 

 

Renovations

We’re getting really fast at setting up and packing up camp and the inside of the truck’s neatness is surprisingly maintainable. We have makeshift hooks to keep bags from rolling about in the Troopy and ocky straps to keep everything secure and out of the way!

 

Our pocketed curtains are working perfectly (thanks again mum!) and the additional storage space they provide is being well utilised with shoes, plastic bags and bedside table accessories. Our improvised magnetic fly-screens on the side windows are working so well that I might have to copyright my design!

 



GO TROOPY!

 

30DoP Tools

Day 7 : Toolkit

You sure as hell don’t want to be stuck up shit creek without a paddle, and you sure as shit don’t want to be stuck with a tight screw and no screwdriver!

 

We are packing a simple toolkit for general repairs and mechanic work, as well as for possible DIY situations.