Steve and Buddy are on a 4 week road trip to Lake Argyle to film updates for the 2019 edition of Discovering Lake Argyle and making a YouTube video series about their trip.
< Previous Episode: ONTO THE OODNADATTA TRACK (EP2)
As the sun rises over William Creek Buddy and I are up early and get packed up and head over to say a quick adios to Gilly and Penny whose campfire I shared last night. A quick stop for a coffee at the William Creek hotel and hit the road determined to get to Mt Dare for the night, 450km north of William Creek.
My plan at this stage is to stay the night at Mt Dare then head up through Finke and along the Old Ghan Railway line into Alice Springs. It’s the same route they run the Finke Desert Race along and it's notorious for being a very rough track - it certainly has been the two times I’ve driven it in the past.
Stopping in at the Pink Roadhouse in Oodnadatta, Buddy and I share a bag of hot chips before we push on.
Along the way we cross a clay pan and we stop in the middle to stretch our legs and end up hanging there for half an hour or so. Not a single car comes past and the silence is total. Not a bird or a breeze or anything else. Amazing!
The road steadily deteriorates the further north we go and by them time we are in the last 50km to Mt Dare it is very rough.
I’ve barely seen another vehicle for the past few hours but follow a convoy of 4WD’s and camper trailers crawling the last 10km into Mt Dare and arrive just in time to find a camp spot before dark.
It’s been a long day and we are both exhausted so dinner turns out to be a Bunnings special - sausages on bread - which both Buddy and I are very happy with.
With Dingos on the prowl during the night I make sure not to leave my boots or our rubbish bag outside the car where they can get to it and we are both sound asleep by about 9:00pm.
It’s a beautiful morning here at Mt Dare, after a cold clear night the sun climbing over the horizon brings some warm relief.
Spirits are high. After the usual build up to a trip like this, the planning, the preparation and the anticipation, it feels like we’re finally out here and on our way.
A dingo is sitting in the nearby scrub just watching us and hoping for an opportunity to sneak over and scavenge some food. I noticed that Buddy’s water bowl was empty this morning and have a fair idea who the culprit was!
The last stretch of track into Mt Dare last night was seriously rough going and I noticed a new squeak/rattle from the right side of the car so I set about trying to find the source.
It turns out to be the side rail that connects from the bullbar to the side step has worked it’s way loose and may need some repairing but I give it a squirt of WD40 for now to see if that helps reduce the squeaking.
While I’m working on that I crawl under the car for a general look to make sure everything else is okay and notice that the front right swivel hub is wet with oil.
A small puddle of wet dirt underneath reveals it’s been dripping through the night!
This is not ideal!
A quick look in the service manual suggests it’s probably the inner oil seal has failed and is allowing the diff oil to escape.
At this stage I’m not sure how serious a problem this is.
Obviously losing oil from the diff is not a good thing but pulling it all down to repair it here at Mt Dare is not my first preference as they most likely won’t have parts here and I’d rather not be stuck here for days waiting for parts to come out from Alice Springs.
I do have an inner oil seal in my spare parts but if there are other parts needed then I’ll be stranded.
So I make the call to keep going this morning but instead of continuing north up the Old Ghan Railway line into Alice Springs, which is notoriously rough track, I decide to head west through Finke and across to Kulgera on the Stuart Highway. At least from there I’ll have sealed road into Alice and easier access to parts.
I can also call my mechanic Terry from Mr Mods and get his opinion of the best plan of attack.
So with the decision made Buddy and I hit the road.
Driving as gently as I can I stop every 20 minutes or so to inspect the swivel hub and while it is still leaking and there is oil splatter on the inside of the tyre, it’s not getting any worse so we push on.
I have a GoPro camera which I usually mount above the windscreen or the bonnet to get the driving shots and I come up with the idea of mounting it with a suction cup on the front of the bullbar looking back under the car.
I can monitor the camera from the GoPro app on my phone so this effectively gives me the ability to watch the swivel hub in action as we are driving along.
I’m not sure what I’m expecting to see but at least if there is any major failure and the volume of oil increases dramatically I’ll be able to see it and stop.
So for the next 3 hours we steadily make our way to Kulgera without any further incident.
In Kulgera my second phone (Optus network) comes alive so I’m ‘back online’ - my main phone which is on Telstra has no service.
In fact it hasn't had any service since Leigh Creek!
In the Kulgera road house I grab a litre of diff oil and park under a shady tree, crawl under the front and remove the diff filler plug to see how much oil has been lost.
Fortunately it take less than 100ml to fill the diff housing back up again which is less than 10% of it’s capacity so it hasn’t been losing too much.
I get Terry on the phone and have a chat about my options . . . do I try and fix it myself, get it fixed by a workshop in Alice Springs or push on?
> Next Episode: LAKE ARGYLE OR BUST (EP4)