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A new truck for my new slide-on

Category: My second slide-on campervan. Published: 23 Jun 2009

After deciding to buy a new slide-on campervan I then needed to find a suitable vehicle to carry it -- after some investigation on the Internet and visiting a number of car yards, including spending five hours in one car yard (yes, I did buy from them!), I eventually decided on a Toyota Land Cruiser.

As part of the purchase I arranged:

  • Longer tray (9 foot) -- the van was too long for the standard tray.
  • Two tool boxes under the tray.
  • Cruise control -- to take the pressure off the arthritis in my knee.
  • Central locking.
  • Rear-vision camera and screen.
  • New stereo -- it had a radio but I wanted a CD player.
  • Air bag shockers.
  • A plug to connect the van to the truck's electrical system.
  • Wide mirrors.

Shortly after:

  • The air conditioner stopped working.
  • Service.
  • Wheel alignment.

First trip in the new van

My first significant trip in the van was through the Flinders Ranges then along the Oodnadatta Track to Alice Springs. I had a number of problems with the truck.

Window

I was in the Flinders Ranges when the driver's side window magically disappeared down inside the door. Somehow, on the rough road, something had come loose. It took me all afternoon to fix it. But along the Oodnadatta Track, 617 km of unsealed road where you have a choice of driving through corrugations or loose gravel, it happened again regularly. I spent several afternoons fixing it before I got to Alice Springs and had to get the winder replaced.

Battery

Had a flat battery in Leigh Creek (northern Flinders Ranges, SA). RAA man said the battery was fine, not great, but fine; it might cause a problem on a cold morning, but it's OK.

Flat battery again in Marla (outback SA, near the NT border). RAA man said it was fine, just cold -- it got down to zero overnight -- and he wouldn't recommend getting a new one.

First day in Alice Springs. Truck won't start again. This time the NTAA tell me the battery's had it. Another $175.

Interestingly, each of these happened in caravan parks over a period of about three weeks. In between each of these I spent several days bush-camping and had no problems.

Tyres

I spent a night at the Copley caravan park in the northern Flinders Ranges. Late afternoon I noticed a small nick in a tyre, then woke up to see a flat tyre -- but not the one that had the nick in it. Now two tyres with problems, only one spare.

There's not much in Copley -- population 100 -- but there is a mechanic. I explained the problem with the tyres and told him where I was headed, then spent $1200 on 4 new tyres!

The flat tyre just had a small hole, but the one with the nick wasn't going to last long. It seems the tyres I had were not suitable for the weight on the truck and were definitely not going to cope with driving on the roads I was headed for.

Why did I have to wait to get to a mechanic in the outback to find out the tyres were not suitable? The people at the car yard in Melbourne who sold me the truck knew the weight that was going to be on it but didn't say anything about the tyres not being suitable, neither did the mechanic who installed the air bags -- who does a lot of work for the van manufacturers, neither did the tyre people in Adelaide who did the wheel alignment -- who saw the van on the back.

More on tyres

No more problems for the next 12 months or so.

I was in Kakadu National Park. I'd driven from Jabiru to Cooinda when I noticed I had two unusable tyres. One tyre has split away from the rim ("bead failure" I believe is the technical term), while another has a small cut in the side. Really can't drive on either of them. Only one spare.

There's nothing at Cooinda; it's basically just a caravan park and motel. I rang the service station at Jabiru. They don't have any suitable replacement tyres but can get two sent from Darwin.

I replaced the split tyre with the spare and hoped the one with the small cut would last the 50 kms back to Jabiru. I had problems taking the tyre off -- when I bought the truck I knew it had the jack and associated tools under the passenger seat. Problem is I didn't actually take them out and make sure everything was there -- which I had done with every other car I'd ever had. Very silly. No tyre spanner and a part missing from the jack handle meant I could attach the handle to the jack but couldn't actually do anything with it. Managed to borrow the required tools. (PS Bought a tyre spanner in Jabiru and the missing part of the jack handle when I got back to Darwin.)

I got the tyres replaced in Jabiru. The mechanic there said he'd never seen a tyre damaged in the way that these were. He suggested they could be faulty and to send them back to Cooper to see if I could get a refund. I did eventually get half the cost refunded but between the mechanic at Jabiru, the tyre place in Darwin or Coopers could tell me why it happened. I asked if it was too much weight, over-inflation, under-inflation but they all said none of those would cause the problem.

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