4WD Breakdown Checklist

Posted Posted in Driving

To assist in your planning following is a simple checklist to avoid a breakdown and what to do in the event of a breakdown.

  1. Carry a spare set of fan-belts and a top and bottom radiator hose.
  2. Carry a simple set of tools and a first-aid kit.
  3. Carry additional drinking water, food and fuel.
  4. Check each morning the condition of your under-bonnet items, in particular all fluid levels, air filter and inspect the tyres and pressures.
  5. Some of the tracks mentioned are best suited to high-clearance, dual-range transmission vehicles, so check with locals on the suitability of your vehicle and know both your and your vehicle’s capabilities in the bush – do a 4WD course!
  6. Take with you only the essentials and try and leave unnecessary items behind – they’ll add more weight and stress to the vehicle and cost you more in fuel.
  7. Avoid the use of roof-racks and if they are a necessity, pack only light items upstairs to avoid the risk of rollover. – If you’re towing a trailer, take heed of that previous tyre advice and check the condition of the wheel bearings and suspension before you leave.
  8. Leave advice with friends or relevant authorities on your destination and itinerary, so if you stay overstay your journey the alarm can be raised for search and rescue.
  9. Give some thought to communications, a UHF CB radio gives reasonable coverage with other road users and pastoralists.
  10. In really remote country someone in your party should have HF radio or a satellite phone, both can be hired inexpensively.
  11. If you do get stuck, do not leave the vehicle!

If you’ve taken heed of the above list you should be able to sit things out comfortably for a couple of days. A vehicle is a lot easier to find than a person wandering through the bush. Any strenuous activity should be done on the cool of the morning or during the night, to avoid stress during the day. Daytime temperatures can vary dramatically from season to season.

Driving on Outback roads can be tricky, too. Road surfaces vary dramatically in quality especially after seasonal extremes, when rain can make them impassable for days. Watch you speed too, for high-crowned dirt roads are treacherous when trying to slow in a hurry to avoid an animal, rock or entering a floodway quicker than need be.

Try following these rules for Outback road etiquette:

  1. Travel during the day and plan realistic distances.
  2. Break the driving up into two-hour stages and share the driving tasks with a partner to avoid the perils of driver fatigue.
  3. Avoid windscreen damage and dust when approaching on-coming cars, slow down and move over to the left of the road lane. If the approaching vehicle is a road-train, give it plenty of room and get off the road and don’t even think about overtaking a road-train kicking up a heavy cloud of dust. Stop and have a cuppa and a stretch. A 15-minute break will put plenty of separation between you.
  4. When on dirt it’s advisable to engage HIGH range 4WD. In the case of “part-time” manual front hub vehicles, LOCK the hubs, shift the transfer lever into H4 (HIGH range). With “full-time” 4WDs engage the centre diff-lock button or transfer lever position. This will offer greater security at speed on the dirt, better handling and braking. Driving on dirt in 4WD will not damage the transmission.
  5. In more difficult conditions, say mud, steep climbs and larger rocks, stop and shift into LOW range 4WD, you’ll use a better spread of power for better control at slower speeds.
  6. If rain threatens, be prepared to stay put for a couple of days to avoid damaging the roads (penalties apply for road users driving on closed outback roads) and if you’re driving in a dry creek bed get out of there quick-smart, for there’s a good chance a flashflood might roar down the watercourse, claiming vehicle and possessions.
  7. Some common courtesy and patience goes a long way, so too leaving gates as you find them and staying on designated tracks and trails.

Caravan Care & Maintenance

Posted Posted in Caravaning, Driving

Although maintenance procedures for caravans, trailers etc. are mostly common sense and follow the same principals as other vehicles, the following points may assist in covering areas which may otherwise be overlooked.

Starting at the front of the caravan, the following points should be especially considered:


  • Check that the coupling is effectively lubricated and that head and shaft rotates freely (apply grease through nipples).
  • Adjusting screw and nut should not be frozen in head and should be adjusted to stop ball from rattling (oil adjusting screw shaft by turning coupling upside down. Lightly grease inside coupling head where it fits over towball).
  • Backing stop should move freely.
  • Ensure free movement of all parts.
  • Master cylinder cap should be in good condition to prevent moisture entering reservoir.
  • Check operation of spindle and screw nut.

NOTE: On all couplings, trigger lock on handle should be moving freely and in good condition (oil regularly).

Hand Brake

  • Check for rust or corrosion where base plate fixes to A frame.
  • Hand brake level should move freely and should travel approx. 15mm when correctly adjusted (adjust with turnbuckle).
  • Check condition of brake cable and pulleys.

Safety Chain

  • Should have no visible signs of rust or cracks at fixing point and should be long enough to reach towbar chain hook and allowing for cornering.

Jockey Wheel

  • Handle and wheel should turn freely (if lubrication is needed, squirt oil under handle to travel down shaft).
  • Wheel should spin on axle freely.
  • Check clamp and clamp bolt for easy operation (apply oil to thread if necessary).
  • Should be checked regularly for rust and stress fractures, particularly outriggers and all cross member fixing points, A frame, springs and spring hangers and stabilizer legs.
  • Check for signs of movement around spring hangers, shackle plates and bushes, U-bolts and fish plates.
  • Check jack legs for ease of movement and ensure handle is in good condition.
  • Check step for cracks, rust and ease of operation.

NOTE: Surface rust should be removed by sanding or with a wire brush and metal surface then painted with an anti-rust paint.

Main Door

  • Lubricate door lock and hinges with light oil (CRC type).
  • Check condition and operation of annex roller and cabin hooks.
  • Door lock tongue and striker plate should be regularly checked for signs of wear.

Wheels, Rims & Tyres

  • Check rims for buckles, cracks or other damage after each trip.
  • Check tyres for signs of excessive wear from under/over inflation or wheel alignment problems.
  • Bearings and oil seals should be inspected and repacked regularly and definitely before any proposed long trip.
  • Brake shoes should be checked for signs of uneven wear and drums for any marks which may indicate early signs of brake deficiency.
  • Hydraulic lines should be checked for signs of leaking.
  • If electric brakes are fitted – drums should be cleared of sand/gravel deposits to prevent excessive wear on magnets.

NOTE: Operation of all braking systems should be regularly checked for signs of wear or fatigue in wires, clamps or connections.

Water Tank

  • Check hoses for leaks, kinks, signs of wear.
  • Check hoses for any mildew growth in hose.
  • Check clamps for tension.
  • Check tank straps for signs of cracking or rust.
  • Stoneguard if fitted should be checked for dints which may rub hole in tank.

Exterior of Van

  • General condition of aluminium check particularly for cracks in sheet or corrosion in roof sheets.
  • Check for movement above door and in lower corners of van. May indicate chassis or frame movement. (Movement is usually indicated by black rubbing marks).


  • Check glasses for cracks.
  • Internal and external sealing rubbers for signs of being perished or ill fitting.
  • Check easy operation of windows (forcing windows will break glass).

Shades & Protection

  • Pay particular attention to hinges and fixings.
  • Operation of stays and locks should be regularly serviced (apply light oil – CRC etc).

Corner Moulds

  • Sealing and around corner moulds – windows, doors etc. should be checked for cracks or holes which may allow water to enter and rot framing or lining sheets.

NOTE: Corner moulds should be resealed every 5 – 7 years.

Exterior Lighting

  • Important for safety aspect that all 12V brake indicator, tail and running lights should be operative and lenses not faded.
  • Check rubber seals around all exterior light bases to prevent intrusion of water.
  • Check 12V wiring and plug for any signs of breakage or insect nests in 12V plug.

Gas Fittings

  • Check gas connections by turning bottle on and spraying fittings with detergent and look for bubbles.
  • Check flexible hose for fraying or kinks.

NOTE: At the time of sale of any caravan fitted with or capable of being fitted with LP gas appliances, (i.e. gas lines fitted) a current certificate of compliance must be supplied by the seller to the buyer. Serious consequences can eventuate if this law is not adhered to.

Interior of Van

  • Hatch mechanisms should be lubricated and free of rust or corrosion.
  • All flyscreens should be intact and still attached to rubber mould or aluminium framing.
  • Check cupboards for movement which may indicate chassis problems (look for black rubbing marks near ceiling, walls and floor where furniture attaches).
  • Cupboard locks should be lubricated to avoid jamming which may strain and break lock.
  • Check light glasses and affixing buttons for cracks.
  • Fridge and stove should be firmly fixed to surrounds – loose bolts could result in appliance jarring loose in travel. (Grasp appliance and attempt to move back and forth).
  • Check mattresses regularly for signs of moisture retention – causes premature wear.
  • Any discolouration of ply lining around hatch windows or any ceiling, floor or wall corners indicates the intrusion of water which may rot framing or lining unless rectified quickly.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Any suspected problems with gas lines or the operation of any gas appliance or electrical fault should be referred to a qualified gas fitter or electrician respectively and should not be tampered with by an unqualified person.


  • Due to the new compound tyres available to the motor industry, there is no real need to store caravans “on blocks” as in the days of rubber tyres. The only advantage of “blocking” a van is to take the pressure off the bearings, again not totally necessary.

Outback Driving Safety Tips

Posted Posted in Driving

There’s a difference between traveling say, in the Flinders Ranges and in the far Outback. On a main road in the Flinders Ranges, there’ll usually be some form of traffic passing every few minutes – on a side road , every few hours.

On a main road in the far Outback, you might be the only vehicle there for a day – on a side road, several days! Even though you’ll find many towns and campsites throughout the area, we must stress that you’ll be in wilderness country.

Wilderness can be unpredictable – so you’d be wise to be prepared for all events. Freecall 1800 633 060 and you’ll get sound, up-to-the-minute advice, and have access to a comprehensive range of brochures and maps.

Most will travel by car (2WD or 4WD) and the check-list below indicates what we feel you should have in your car at all times:

  1. Maps of the area – as detailed as possible. If you know where you are, you’ll never be lost.
  2. A compass, matches or a lighter and fire-lighter blocks.
  3. Water: See the section on “Water”.
  4. Food: Enough for each person for two days, carried in an esky or 12V fridge.
  5. Clothes: Two changes of clothes, one for the heat, one for when it becomes cold. However hot the days may be, nights are cold. Everyone should wear a broad-brimmed hat, long-sleeved shirts and worn-in comfortable shoes or boots (never thongs). Be prepared!
  6. Medicine: Most people never need it, but you could be glad you took a kit with bandages, plasters, an antiseptic cream, sunblock, a broad-spectrum antibiotic, insect repellent, a pain-reliever, anything else you feel you may need – and a booklet on first aid. Some outdoor shops sell good snake bite kits.
  7. Tools: A complete set, especially a jack that works (and you know how to work it); if going to the remote Outback, take two jacks and preferably two spare tyres (before you set out, make sure your spare tyres are correctly inflated); spare globes, spare fanbelt, spare fuses, one or two big flashlights. (Shovel – A long-handled shovel is a must).
  8. Radio: One that can pick up at least one station, so you’ll get those all-important weather reports. – When in the remote Outback, it’s important to carry a 2-way HF radio with Flying Doctor and Telstra frequencies. Mobile phone signal coverage is very limited – in most areas it is non-existent.
  9. A loud metal whistle – to signal if you’re ever lost.

Carrying fuel in jerry cans – Carrying extra fuel is not usually necessary – except in the remote Outback when towns are a long way apart. Most towns have fuel facilities, so simply plan ahead and keep your tank topped up as you go. If you are using jerries, check for small pin holes before you leave.

If you get stranded – stay with the car. Never leave it. Use it for shade. This is the most important advice we can give you. People have died after walking away from the safety of their vehicle.


  1. Inform family or friends of your travel plans and intended route
  2. Check the conditions of Outback roads before leaving the nearest major town
  3. Take care when driving 4WD vehicles, eg drive at reduced speeds on unsealed roads
  4. Note where petrol stations are en route
  5. Take frequent rest breaks and change drivers regularly
  6. Carry extra supplies of water and food
  7. Carry extra spare tyres and tools in remote areas
  8. Hire appropriate emergency communication equipment eg. satellite phones
  9. Obey road closure signs and stick to the main roads
  10. In an emergency, stay with your vehicle


Make sensible arrangements. Before you set out anywhere, get local advice about conditions and the trails. Advise people of your intended trip, when you’ll be leaving, when you think you’ll be back; so if you’re not back, they can get help to you. Never walk alone. Carry water, food, a map, a compass, a whistle, a lighter and some fire-lighter blocks. Wear protective clothing; and whatever the temperature, carry clothing to protect you from the cold.

In An Emergency

If correctly planned, your trip will go smoothly and happily. But from time to time, people do get lost. Remember, don’t panic, just sit down and study your maps. Work out where you came from, and slowly take that route back. If you can’t find the way back, move to higher ground, share out the food and water, listen for rescuers, and signal if you hear them. Signal with three torch flashes; and with your whistle. During the day, light a small smoky fire of green leaves. As night comes, light a small bright fire with dry materials. Be prepared to wait. Watch for exposure, too. From heat – people become pale, clammy and breathe rapidly. They should rest in the shade, be sponged with cool water, and drink cool water with a little salt dissolved in it. From cold – they become slow and irritable, may stumble, get cramps, shiver, and get blurred vision. They should rest in shelter from the wind and the rain, wrap up as warmly as possible, share a sleeping bag, have warm drinks.


As you tour, you’ll find that most towns have water – but at some places, you may not be able to get drinking water. So we recommend that you carry drinking water with you – in very hot conditions or in the Outback, carry 10 litres of water a person a day. It may seem like a lot, but when it’s hot you should drink about a litre an hour. Don’t rely on waterholes, dams, bores, mills, tanks or troughs. Soap or detergents should not be used in any natural watercourse or stock watering point.

Most Important Tip

The Royal Automobile Association (RAA) produces a booklet entitled ‘Outback Motoring’. The booklet contains all the information you need about preparing for your Outback trip and surviving in the case of an emergency. Get hold of a copy (Ph +61 8 8202 4540) and keep it in the glovebox.

Chatting a Truckie

Posted Posted in Driving

With your UHF on Channel 40, its as simple as making the following conversation when engaging in a passing manouvre.

YOU, “Red truck behind the Traveller caravan, are you on channel”

HIM, “Yes Mate”

YOU, “Give us the drum when your want to come around”

HIM, “Having a look at you now”

YOU, “Go when you’re safe”

When his cab is going past your vehicle, you can back off a little if it is safe to do so, bearing in mind there may be other vehicles behind you.

If there is no distant oncoming traffic, maintain your speed.

Once he has passed, you can finish by saying, “You’re clear

Hope this is of some help.

Truckies Top 10 Tips for Sharing the Road

Posted Posted in Driving

Like you, truckies want to get home safely to their families, so let’s share the road. This Top Ten Tips is a shorter version of the National Sharing the Road with Heavy Vehicles Program, which is a more detailed explanation of these items and is available to spread education on sharing the road with trucks, with the aim of improving safety for all on the road.

For further information please contact :
Rod Hannifey, Road Transport and Road Safety Advocate,
mobile: 0428120560 or e-mail rod.hannifey@bigpond.com (more…)