21/6/14 – We had decided we needed to get up early and be on the road around 7am. We just hadn’t said which 7am. Qld, NT which is half an hour behind Qld or WA which is 2 hours behind Qld. We are kind of between time zones at the moment. It was still dark when we got up but it was light enough to drive by the time we were ready to go.
There are quite a few burnt out car wrecks along the Tanami, we have seen this once before on the Finke Road. We thought it would be a good idea to check a few of the wrecks for spare wheel studs. Luck finally went our way, the second one we checked was a burnt out Holden Rodeo, an older version of our Ute. The studs were rusted on and took a bit of gentle bashing to get off but we had 6 studs as an insurance policy if we broke any more.
We had heard over a CB that the WA side of the Tanami was pretty ordinary and they weren’t half wrong. Some of the corrugations were pretty savage particularly in the state our Ute was in, we could do without them. We continued to check the wheels every 20kms.
We had to forgo going into Wolfe Creek this time, we had more pressing priorities. Everything was going well so the last 120kms Chris decided to push the checks out to every 30kms.
The quarantine bin is right at the end of the dirt on the Tanami just before the turnoff on bitumen.
Once in Halls Creek we called into the servo and got some brake fluid, this made a massive difference to the brakes but they might still need bleeding. They told us to call into the local Toyota place for the studs. Chris picked up 2 sets of studs and nuts, they weren’t quite right but hoped they would do the job, turned out where they seat is slightly too long. We were told the IGA would hopefully sell a water drum, which it did. We then proceeded to fine a place with shade to have lunch and work on the Ute. After a while we were drawing too much local attention with some of the local kids coming over and seeing what we were doing. One sat down next to Chris having a chat when he started touching Chris’s tools. After being told to leave it alone he didn’t so I had to tell him to move on. Another kid came over and we had to tell him the same thing. Way to many locals walking past, we didn’t feel comfortable or safe so we moved ourselves out the front of the police station. Funny enough none of them came and checked if we were ok, other travellers on the road that saw us stranded did.
Chris fixed the ok back wheel first using the new studs but when he went to fix the one we had lost he found the new studs were not going to work as they wouldn’t go in properly due to the brake drum. So guess what, the ones we took from the burnt out Holden Rodeo ended up saving the day as Chris used them. If we come across a Toyota somewhere that has broken wheel struts we will be able to help them out. 🙂 The front one is getting it’s original studs put back in, which will take a while. All going well, we should be back on the road in a few more hours and heading towards a rest stop near the Bungles.
20/6/14 – Chris had no choice but to take a front wheel off to get 2 studs for the back. It evolved taking the hub apart and prizing off the brake from the hub to get the studs off. Luckily he has the ute full workshop manual to work out how to do that. After many many hours he finally got that sorted. Then he had to get them on the back wheel, things taking longer and a lot harder than it sounds, all day in fact, as Chris encounter a few problems. We didn’t get back on the road until 4.30pm local time, with the idea of getting a few hrs of slow driving in. Chris checked the wheels every 5 km to start, then 10km, then 20km, we had 3 to check now since he had taken studs off other wheels to get us going and we still had dodgy brakes.
Well crossing the border into WA was rather an unceremonious event. No signs welcoming you into WA, no bins for quarantine of fruit and veg, just the road got worst.
We stopped for the night just after the sun set 250km from Halls Creek in a gravel pit. As it turned out there was one other couple there and they were grateful for the extra campers. Have to be a little careful where you camp this end of the Tanami, we have been told some campers have had local visitors.
19/6/14 – We found out about 9pm local time that road trains also use this rest area. One arrived and stayed until 5.30am, he left and another one pulled in.
From Alice Springs to Halls Creek the Tanami is the longest shortcut in the world at 1077km. Total unsealed length 763km.
We were on the road by 9am local time. We stopped and topped up the tank at Tilmouth Well roadhouse. Fuel was $2.25L. There are no doors on the loos.
The Tanami is bitumen until just past Tilmouth Well. The road was a lot wider, corrugated and bull dust. We stopped and had morning tea and Chris let the tyres down ready to tackle the dirt. There are sections of bitumen.
We stopped at Renahans Bore for lunch, another spot that you can stay the night with fireplace, shelter, table and water tank.
It was about 4pm and we were starting to look for a place to stop when we heard a bang and the Ute pulled to the right, with Chris grabbing the steering wheel tightly to gain control and get us to stop safely. With him saying this isn’t good, this isn’t good and he was right. We had lost a wheel, with the studs on the wheel snapped off and the brake backing plate dragged along the ground.
We found the tyre in one direction in the bush the brake drum in the opposite direction and the nuts and cap close to the road. Someone how we managed to find all the bits bar one nut. When the wheel and brake drum had come off the Ute they damage the mud flap bending it backwards and damaged the edge of the stone stomper. One or both had also hit the stone guard on the trailer putting a small rip in it and breaking the 20lr water drum on the front of the trailer. So we had wet red mud all over the front of the trailer and rear of the ute. The stone stomper and guard would have protected the trailer. The brake backing plate was damaged and curled inwards so it was flat along the bottom, Chris pulled it all back into shape with vice grips. We had also been leaking brake fluid which Chris soon stopped. As bad as it was it could have been a lot worst.
Chris jacked up the front wheel with the idea of using 2 studs from each front wheel but they weren’t so easy to get too. So he took 3 from the other back wheel. Eventually after 6 hrs on the side of the Tanami Road we started moving again it was after 10pm by this time, brakes were a bit dodgy, the brake warning light on the ute was on. All we wanted to do was find a place to stop for the night. After 20 odd Kms of going slow we broke another stud on the same wheel as it had not been pulled through its hole enough and had come lose. Poor Chris was kicking himself that he didn’t stop and check it all earlier. Thankfully were we had stopped we could pull off the road safely for the night. We eventually crawled into bed after 11pm.
Chris was feeling pretty bad we had broken down and were stuck. All I thought was damn I sure married the right guy, he is so handy and can fix most things to get us out do trouble. This was the last thing we thought could go wrong, we will be carrying extra studs now. How did it happen? We didn’t hit anything, sure the road was a bit rough but we have been on far worst. Chris said the studs can crack when they have been tightened too hard with a rattle guns at workshops and then at some unknown time break and the wheels come off.
Make sure everything is locked up at your vehicles and don’t leave them too long if it can be avoided. I had to pop into Coles and Chris stayed at the Ute. 2 local kids came and checked the ute and trailer out looking like they were up to no good. They didn’t know Chris was watching them in the rear vision camera. Once they saw him they took off like a bat out of hell. It was so nice to be back out of town and starting down the Tanami Track