I am often asked how does my vehicle line up for tour after tour of the roughest tracks in Australia, day after day, week after week, year after year. – the answer $$$$$$ and time spent on maintenance.
In the last few weeks I have been working non-stop on major and minor maintenance issues, some designed to ensure reliability, others designed to make my five months every year in the cabin more comfortable.
On the major maintenance side of things, I began with new CV shafts, a new new stub axle for the left wheel, new front wheel bearings and new freewheeling hubs.
Other items included the fuel sender unit. Last year at the end of the touring season, my main fuel gauge stopped reading, which stops the auxiliary tank transfer from being selected- not a good thing in remote areas. It is a pretty horrible job to drop the main tank (145L) so I’ve put it off until now. I obtained a new sender from Nissan for a reasonable price and I’ve held on to it waiting for an opportunity to do the job. My neighbour offered me the use of his 900kg gearbox jack which made matters much easier. Once I’d removed the tank, I removed the old sender and fitted the new one. See if you can spot the differences.
For some time I’ve also had, on occasions a horrible noise from the air conditioner belt which is usually alleviated in the bush by spraying the idler with lanolin spray. I noted that the idler was quite shiny and worn so elected to replace it in this round of maintenance. Interestingly it seemed to be rotating quite OK when I removed it, but the shiny marks on it indicated it wasn’t always doing so.
After many years in red dust country, the engine bay was looking quite dirty with red stains, so I elected to give the under bonnet area a good clean. I also removed the radiator and cleaned all of the grass seeds from it.
I had recently replaced the damaged headlights and corner lights with new units, so now took the opportunity to upgrade to High Intensity Discharge (HID) globes. I had a few issues with this installation including low beam being high beam and high beam being low beam, but managed to get that sorted, no thanks to the chinese instructions.
Once underway I elected to refurbish the cabin. since I spend almost half of my awake life in it. I first of all cleaned the entire cain, then removed everything – seats, carpet, console and dash. After seven years and nearly 300,000 of Australia’s worst kilometres it was time to spruce up the old girl. I found that Townsville Wholesale Paints can supply paint, suitable for vinyl and plastic trim, colour matched and delivered in aerosol cans. I took some trim in to match, and I must say I am very happy with the matching job.
Communications are an essential part of my job, and my vehicle reflects that. While many choose Sat Phones, here in north queensland, in the wet season, under heavy cloud cover, sat phones are useless. I’ve been using HF radio since I was 13 years old- some 37 years- and that is the medium I trust most. My vehicle is fitted with two HF radios, one VHF radio and three UHF radios, it is tracked 24 hours per day on HF radio, VHF radio and via satellite system known as SPOT. I have access to a range of HF frequencies including Royal Flying Doctor, VKS737, RadTel and Amateur Radio as well as Citizens Band 27 Mhz CB. I also have access to some Amateur VHF and UHF frequencies as well as Citizens Band UHF.
After many long seasons on rough roads, it was time to check all of the radio and antenna installations. First all of the antennas and feed lines were checked for faults, and all but one required some maintenance. The autotune HF antenna was not tuning below 4 MHz and also needed some attention. I tidied up the installation of the two HF radios and the APRS tracker, tidied up the wiring and installation of the UHF radios. I also relocated the Icom IC706 control head to the centre of the dash and relocated the Barrett 950 loudspeaker.