It’s been a while since I wrote about our trip preparations and a couple of people who visit the blog have mentioned that they are about to do a similar trip to us, so I’ll write a quick summary of problems / solutions / great ideas etc.
Problem 1: The Fridge. This has finally been fixed! The freezer compartment in our Dometic fridge managed to stay under zero but the fridge area couldn’t maintain anything near 6 degrees – it got to 20 degrees one day. We have a fridge shade that helps – this is mounted on sail track above the fridge vents and keeps the sun off the rear of the fridge compartment. The fridge runs fine on 240V and 12V. We had also noticed the gas hot water system was slow to light and the BBQ flame wasn’t very high – the solution was to replace the main gas regulator (around $60) behind the gas bottles. Now all is well and we are very relieved – around a $60 fix.
But 3 way absorption fridges do struggle sometimes in over 35 degree heat so be prepared for the odd problem. We have since bought a portable 60 litre fridge/freezer for the car which we run in freezer mode if we venture into very hot weather.
Problem 2: Damage to the underside plumbing pipes and electrical (brake wiring). The idiot van manufacturer had used plastic cable ties to secure the wiring above the axles. After 50kms on gravel roads the ties all snapped off and the brake wiring dragged on the ground for 200+ kms on the way to Birdsville. Not good. Temporary solution was to use electrician’s tape to cover new ties – the softer surface resists the stones breaking the brittle plastic on the metal axles. The permanent solution was to use ‘jubilee’ metal pipe clips (the kind you use a screwdriver to tighten) to hold the brake wiring loom in place. The plastic piping breakages were repaired then pool ‘noodles’ were cable-tied over the pipes. Cable ties are fine so long as they aren’t used over metal surfaces – they just bounce back if the surface is resilient. I used the noodles over all the exposed blue/red water piping also to stop any breakages on gravel roads. Fixed – no more broken plastic pipes to fix!
Problem 3: Dust. Travelling on outback roads throws up enormous amounts of dust that eventually finds it’s way into any area not well sealed. Our spare toilet cassette & chemicals storage box on the rear of the van had an inch of grey dust in it which will have to be removed and the cupboard that the hot water system is fitted had a layer of dust after the Windora to Birdsville road.
Some solutions are: Make sure all window seals are clean, put a towel at the bottom of the door inside when on the road and tape a cover of some kind (we used a windscreen sunshade cut to size) over the door vent. Also plug all floor openings like the shower floor drain and use silicon to seal all places where wiring/pipes enter from underneath and if there are mud wasps around plug any holes as they can block water connections in a flash! Some vans have a small ‘pressure hatch’ on the roof – remember to open this to help with preventing dust entry.
Clever idea 1: Carolyne came up with this one. I made a board from plywood that fits over the cooktop to gain extra food prep / kitchen surface. Most of the time we don’t use the inside cooktop as I cook on the outside BBQ so why not make use of the extra counter space?
Clever idea 2: This one is a winner also from Carolyne. We made up light blockouts from stiff foam covered with silver fabric (ours was from Spotlight) glued on using contact adhesive that fit inside the skylights of the main room and the toilet/shower. The van stays nice and dark so you can sleep in until 7:30 instead of being woken at 6:15am when the sun comes up. A big bonus is that the silver fabric reflects heat really well and keeps the van much cooler on hot days. We expect they will retain heat in winter too so we won’t need to wear long johns or have 2 blankets on the beds!
Vehicle: If you come across a servo – fill the tank, regardless of how much range you think you have (or the price), our fuel consumption when towing varies by an amazing amount. On one leg the trip computer range display plus distance travelled was 540Km a tank while on another leg we only managed 390km – this was with a headwind and a slight uphill run most of the way from Winton to Hughenden.
Diesel prices have ranged from $1.25 per litre (this was in 2015) on the NSW coast to $1.81 at Birdsville and our average fuel use is 17-22l per 100kms when towing with the 3.2 turbo diesel Pajero towing around 2400kg. Without the van though, we get close to 10l per 100km (works out around 700km range but we carried kayaks and a roof box on top) so it can work out cheaper to leave the van at a caravan park rather than drive further to find a free camp close to something we want to see.
We have learnt a lot from talking to fellow travellers and your knowledge slowly grows over time – if you have a problem, let us know in the comments and we’ll try to help. Happy travels!