Simpson desert travel

Submitted: Saturday, Jan 11, 2014 at 17:09
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What's the easiest trek across the Simpson Desert. Would an x trail do the job? Johno
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Reply By: Idler Chris - Saturday, Jan 11, 2014 at 17:29

Saturday, Jan 11, 2014 at 17:29
An X Trail in the right hands will get across the Simpson, but why would you want too?. I fail to understand why any one would even contemplate going into the very remote parts of Australia in vehicles that are unsuited to the task. You have a responsibility to be able to look after yourself and not put at risk the lives of people who may have to come and rescue should problems arise.
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Follow Up By: Hairy (NT) - Sunday, Jan 12, 2014 at 13:25

Sunday, Jan 12, 2014 at 13:25
Gday,

"Why would he want to do it? "
The adventure......? Why Not? Maybe because he owns one and cant afford to by a new car for every different circumstance?
Why assume because he drives an xtrail he has no communications, no back up plan or help and no idea.
A soft roader doesnt risk the life of a rescuer any more than a Lancruiser?
Its not the ideal vehicle to drive across the desert but just because its not ideal doesn't mean he's irresponsible does it?
Wheres the adventure gone????

Not everyones idea of remote or risky is another's.

Cheers
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Reply By: scandal - Saturday, Jan 11, 2014 at 18:01

Saturday, Jan 11, 2014 at 18:01
Your single biggest issue you will have will be under body clearance, as far as the vehicle goes it may be up to the task but cresting dunes where there are ruts will put you at a huge disadvantage, not to mention the extra weight needed to carry will make the problem worse.
I remember reading on here about an owner having issues driving in sand with his x trail, might of been auto trans fluid overheating and de-rating the engine.
There's probably been a gazillion X trails, rav 4's, freelanders and the like make the crossing with out too much drama, but it would be interesting to find out if they would do it again, for me, I wouldn't
Shane
AnswerID: 524289

Reply By: scandal - Saturday, Jan 11, 2014 at 18:09

Saturday, Jan 11, 2014 at 18:09
Have a look at thread 97134, oh wait a minute, you already know about that.
AnswerID: 524291

Follow Up By: Member - daz (SA) - Saturday, Jan 11, 2014 at 21:21

Saturday, Jan 11, 2014 at 21:21
good answer scandal
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Reply By: Member - Fab72 (Paradise SA) - Saturday, Jan 11, 2014 at 19:54

Saturday, Jan 11, 2014 at 19:54
Johno,
I'm not going to say it wont because there was a time that people said to Columbus that he'd fall off the end of the earth if he sailed past the horizon.

The first part of your question.... in my opinion the easiest way is the QAA line travelling from West to East. It used to be the Rig Road (clay capped dunes) but it's pretty cut up these days. The French line is the most direct line but the sand dunes are pretty steep. West to East has you approaching the dunes from the least steepest angle.

OK...now for the second part. For this question I will assume that you have done your homework and know that fuel consumption will be greater than usual driving (need to carry fuel, need water, tents/swags blah blah blah.
The most critical things in my opinion are:
1. Could you conduct simple repairs if needed eg: replace a burst hose, fan belt, fix a minor electrical issue, flat tyre etc? Do you have the spares?
2. What sort of condition is the car in? If it's done a million miles and isn't well serviced - forget it. The Simpson is brutal, the corrugations deep and the punishment relentless.
3. Assuming the worst was to happen, eg: vehicle fire, roll over, serious illness, how would you get on? Communication is critical and if it's your first time across - consider going in a group.
4. Get your car out somewhere with a full load of fuel, try to replicate a couple hundred kilos of dead weight (cement bags, water containers etc) and see how it handles the sand.

At the end of the day, every off road activities has risks. The risks though can be managed and reduced by being prepared. The hard part is how do you prepare for the unknown? Read threads on this forum, ask lots of questions, do your homework and always assume the worst. But above all of that, maintain a spirit of adventure.

Hope this helps.....
Fab-io.

BTW.... I went across the QAA earlier last year in my Pajero io. The same car I plan to do the full length of The Canning Stock Route in someday. Possibly being the first ever io to make that trek. Somebody has to be first. :)
AnswerID: 524299

Follow Up By: johno59 - Sunday, Jan 12, 2014 at 09:14

Sunday, Jan 12, 2014 at 09:14
Thanks everyone for your thoughts, Fab I once took a XB Falcon and a weighty camper van off road for 3 weeks.Well prepared,lots of parts etc We travelled through bull dust,dry creek beds.It was a challenge and we had no prob. I understand the Simpson would be very challenging.I do wonder sometimes though if we have lost a little bit of the adventurous spirit. My friend took a VW Kombi across the Tanami and another a Peaugot 404 on the old road to Alice before it was sealed. . I was in Namibia Desert 2 year ago and there was a guy in a small Hillman trekking his way across the desert.( Don,t know if he ever made it. Haha )johno
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Follow Up By: Member - Fab72 (Paradise SA) - Sunday, Jan 12, 2014 at 10:18

Sunday, Jan 12, 2014 at 10:18
I agree with you Johno.... I think the spirit of adventure has been lost somewhat.
An adventure for some these days is crossing The Simpson with no beer.

I was determined to and DID get out to see Palm Valley when we were in Alice Springs one year in an AH Astra. I was prepared to drive as far as I could and hike the last few kays in if needed, but to my surprise, I made it all the way in. 5 people and loaded to the hilt.

Took forever though....nice and slow.

Fab-io
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Follow Up By: Member - PJR (NSW) - Sunday, Jan 12, 2014 at 10:29

Sunday, Jan 12, 2014 at 10:29
We once took a HK Kingswood and Chesney camper up and down hills in the Vic High country. Even pulled an old Toyota out of a bog with it once.

But after getting delayed several times behind Subaru (the tall model - Forrester???) on the detour between Birdsville and Big Red, I would hope not to be behind an X-trail in the middle of the Simpson. Just not enough clearance traction in the soft sand. I had to pull him back and he "had" to try once more!!!!! I would have loved to pass and leave them but . . . . Lost some under floor panels/protectors.

There is a video on youtube of a Datsun 1600 climbing Big Red. But would I take it into the desert. No way.

Sorry mate. I know your feelings about the falcon. But the desert is another matter. It may do it. But the odds are against it in my mind.

Phil
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Follow Up By: KevinE - Monday, Jan 13, 2014 at 09:13

Monday, Jan 13, 2014 at 09:13
"I was determined to and DID get out to see Palm Valley when we were in Alice Springs one year in an AH Astra. I was prepared to drive as far as I could and hike the last few kays in if needed, but to my surprise, I made it all the way in. 5 people and loaded to the hilt."

Kudos to you mate! A lot of drivers can't get all the way in a 4WD! :)

Spoke with one of the Rangers recently, she drives in to Palm Valley even when it's flooded! She's a better man than me lol!
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Follow Up By: Member - PJR (NSW) - Monday, Jan 13, 2014 at 09:20

Monday, Jan 13, 2014 at 09:20
I thought that the question was about an X-trail? Not how wonderful drivers we ALL are.

Phil
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Follow Up By: KevinE - Monday, Jan 13, 2014 at 13:38

Monday, Jan 13, 2014 at 13:38
"We once took a HK Kingswood and Chesney camper up and down hills in the Vic High country. Even pulled an old Toyota out of a bog with it once."

So it's OK for YOU to post how good a driver you are, but not anyone else?

"Not how wonderful drivers we ALL are."

If you read my follow up I was paying kudos to Fab for taking an Astra to Palm Valley. Having driven that "road" I have no idea how ANYONE could manage that.

I wasn't banging my own drum!

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Follow Up By: Member - Fab72 (Paradise SA) - Monday, Jan 13, 2014 at 14:01

Monday, Jan 13, 2014 at 14:01
I think it's a case of recognising the fact that you don't need a super dooper $100K off road weapon to get to places.

Thanks KevinE.
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Follow Up By: Member - PJR (NSW) - Monday, Jan 13, 2014 at 14:23

Monday, Jan 13, 2014 at 14:23
Here we go around in circles. Any idiot knows that we don't have to have a super dooper wagon.

The poor bloke was asking about his X-trail and you only mentioned how well you went with the Astra. How does that relate to his car? And it wasn't even the desert. Yep and just like your exploits neither were mine.

You recognised how I was off track yet you have a go at me for exactly the same thing. At least I said "It may do it. But the odds are against it in my mind."

How about your opinion on the X-trail and not on how people are a lot more cautious and responsible these days.

Phil
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Follow Up By: Member - Fab72 (Paradise SA) - Tuesday, Jan 14, 2014 at 07:00

Tuesday, Jan 14, 2014 at 07:00
Phil,
With all due respect, I think my original reply was very specific to how I thought an X-Trail would go with the right preparation. In fact I was one of the few people who actually answered his other part of the OP.... which is the easiest way?

Yes I deviated with the story about the Astra, as you did with your experiences with your mighty Kingswood.

It was not intended to become a "brag" file and I'm sorry if you have percieved it to be that. I was merely trying to put things into perspective in the fact the the "not so right car" can achieve quite a bit in the right hands.

Take it for what it is, opinions, experiences and a bit of fun. Please refrain from turning it into a slinging match.

Fab.

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Follow Up By: Member - PJR (NSW) - Tuesday, Jan 14, 2014 at 07:47

Tuesday, Jan 14, 2014 at 07:47
I hate the way we get into these silly little arguments.

But if I was to say. "No Don't take the X-trail" I would be jumped on. So we try to explain why we say such things.

I have only driven across on the WAA line so I can't comment on which way to go. All I know is that the WAA was the supposedly "hardest" way last year so that's the way we went.

So how about we just call it a day. It's so frustrating.

Okay.

Besides I have a lot of layers of sunscreen to put on. I am off to the PMs XII with the group that's coming with me on the Canning. Bonding and a bit of weight lifting.

Cheers

Phil
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Follow Up By: Member - Fab72 (Paradise SA) - Tuesday, Jan 14, 2014 at 10:22

Tuesday, Jan 14, 2014 at 10:22
Agree. And I was starting to worry that it was headed that way.

Enjoy the cricket mate.

Fab-io
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Reply By: Member - Bucky - Saturday, Jan 11, 2014 at 20:06

Saturday, Jan 11, 2014 at 20:06
Johnno
In 2006 I coached a 16 year old kid, on L plates, up Big Red in his mother's Subaru Forrester.
2 know it all meat-heads, turned up in their "200kw 76 series Toyota TT. And they had "diff locks", and laughed at the Subi.

Should have seen their faces when the little "Subi" got up dune, 3rd attempt, first 2 attempts failed because his mother was hysterical.


The Subi had 15 psi in the tyres, and no Mother, and with those tyre pressures, virtually no run up was needed.
The "know it all's" tyre pressure was 44psi. They took 12 trys, till they eventually dropped their pressures to 18psi. (From memory) and they too got up

I hope you and the X Trail, buddy up with some mates. Don't do it alone.

It may pay to raise the little Nissan, 3 " if possible, and put some real tyres on it (BF Goodrich All Terrain, are my personal choice)

Tyre Pressure is the key, I did the Canning with 12psi front, and 15 in the rear, and my Patrol ate up the dunes.
I did the same in the Simpson, but that was in a Navara, standard height, but with some Cooper ATR tryes (one and only set).
It may well pay to try your X Trail in something a little less challenging, and then work up to the Simpson.

Do not be put off by the knockers, but please do your homework first.

AnswerID: 524301

Follow Up By: Sigmund - Saturday, Jan 11, 2014 at 20:19

Saturday, Jan 11, 2014 at 20:19
Plenty of Foresters have done it:

1. With suspension lift
2. With aftermarket alloy sump guard
3. With good quality light truck tyres, AT tread

and after the drivers have done some practice to test their rig and their skills.

Light weight and low CoG give them an advantage from the off. On the manuals the LSD and low ratio ditto.
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FollowupID: 805891

Follow Up By: Member - Fab72 (Paradise SA) - Saturday, Jan 11, 2014 at 20:37

Saturday, Jan 11, 2014 at 20:37
Bucky nailed it.
I went to the edge of the Simpson with my io before doing the crossing 6 months later, just to try it out.
While I was on Big Red, there were big arsed V8 Turbo Diesels having no luck at all. Some of my attempts can be seen on the below link but what I failed to film was me walking the io up the "tough" track in first gear low range at no more than 1500 rpm (about 3-4 kmp/h). The secret? 6 psi in my BFG M/T's. And at that sort of weight, there's very little chance of rolling a tyre off the rim. Love my BFG's. Their beads are a really tight fit on the rim which make them ideal for airing down.
Fab-io.
Pre Simpson Crossing trials.
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Follow Up By: Member - Bucky - Sunday, Jan 12, 2014 at 04:23

Sunday, Jan 12, 2014 at 04:23
Fab-io, Don't forget to add

Tyre footprint is the key, to sand travel.
It's the length of tyre on the ground, width is secondary.

Feels real weird, when your vehicle actually lifts to on top of the sand, kinda like it when a boat first lifts out of the water, when you jam open the throttle, before it planes.

I am always prepared to drop my pressures to 8psi, to get out of trouble, but never had to, yet !.





Look, how we tried to shut-up his Mother, but it didn't work



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Follow Up By: johno59 - Sunday, Jan 12, 2014 at 09:22

Sunday, Jan 12, 2014 at 09:22
Thanks Guys, I let the tyres down to 18psi in some sand dunes in WA and was amazed really where I could go. We really had no problem going to the same places the BIG 4x4grunters went ! Johno
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Follow Up By: Member - Fab72 (Paradise SA) - Sunday, Jan 12, 2014 at 10:23

Sunday, Jan 12, 2014 at 10:23
Love that last pic Bucky. I need that for my wife...wait, what's that? Yes love, just making you breakfast now.....shhhh!
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FollowupID: 805935

Reply By: Sigmund - Saturday, Jan 11, 2014 at 21:14

Saturday, Jan 11, 2014 at 21:14
I reckon the X-trail is a pretty good SUV.

Beware though of clutch burn-outs on the manual.
AnswerID: 524308

Reply By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Saturday, Jan 11, 2014 at 22:32

Saturday, Jan 11, 2014 at 22:32
Hi Johno

Driving in sand is an art and you do not have to have a four wheel drive to do it.

I am surprised that it has not been mentioned, but what I am now say will make many people surprised.

Those that have been to Birdsville will all have heard of Birdsville Auto, run by the famous Barnsey.

He is now officially retiring and Birdsville will no longer have any mechanic. Barnseys son is going to take an old VW Beetle across the desert, and before any smart person claims it can not be done, then they died not see the News on TV the other night.

They showed people out on Big Red, in there flash four wheel drives trying to get up the real soft sand. Many gave up and looked on in surprise as Barnseys son and his girlfriend, sailed up the steep western side in their old VW Beetle, just standard two wheel drive. They sailed over the top and put the four wheel drives to shame.

So when you know what you are doing......nothing is impossible.


Cheers


Stephen
Simpson Desert Colours

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Follow Up By: Member - Fab72 (Paradise SA) - Sunday, Jan 12, 2014 at 10:28

Sunday, Jan 12, 2014 at 10:28
Stephen..... I've learnt everything I know (being a relative newbie to the off-road scene) from asking questions and reading lots of posts. Incidentally most of them yours. Thank you and the other seasoned regulars on here to the enth degree.

Knowledge is something you can be prepared with, experience you can't.
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Follow Up By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Sunday, Jan 12, 2014 at 10:46

Sunday, Jan 12, 2014 at 10:46
Hi Fab

It is always a learning curve Fab and I believe that it does not matter how much we know, there is always something to learn.

I wonder now what will happen with the retirement of Barnsey.


Cheers


Stephen
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Follow Up By: Member - Fab72 (Paradise SA) - Sunday, Jan 12, 2014 at 11:06

Sunday, Jan 12, 2014 at 11:06
Stephan,
Don't know. Last time I was up there I was having a chin wag to Barnsey. We actually started going into some details.
As a Toyota trained mechanic I (semi) joked - (semi) seriously spoke about relocating and heading up there to work.
Problem is he is looking at pulling right out of the whole business.Shop, servo, workshop, recovery service and all.
The capital outlay is the killer because understandably the place for its location and the huge improvements Barnsey has made, would be worth a small fortune.
Jeff at Mt.Dare is going to get busy and recovery costs will sky-rocket even more. Can't blame Jeff either....it's not an easy of quick task to do any recovery...even a repair. Even worse if it's a full body lift.

Give me 6 numbers and I'm there!!!!

Fab-io
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Follow Up By: Member - Phil G (SA) - Sunday, Jan 12, 2014 at 14:30

Sunday, Jan 12, 2014 at 14:30
The beetles have always been capable in sand, which is why heaps got converted into dune buggies. Plenty of clearance, weight over the rear wheels, big diameter tyres with a long footprint.

I think his son is doing it smart - do the crossing in a bug while his dad still has the retrieval service going, and can come an pick him up if needed with that big German truck! I don't think Johno and his Xtrail have the same backing! hehe
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Reply By: Member - Phil G (SA) - Saturday, Jan 11, 2014 at 23:08

Saturday, Jan 11, 2014 at 23:08
Here was my answer last time you asked the same question. Basic answer is that you'll need a backup vehicle and don't go solo. And the cost of extracting an Xtrail from the desert might be as much as the Xtrail is worth.
..............
A few years back I took a group across the French Line which included a stock standard Kia Sportage. Like the Xtrail, it only had a 60 litre petrol tank, so he carried an extra 3 jerry cans and from memory used about 105 litres from Oodnadatta to Birdsville. I carried a lot of his other heavy extras such as 60 litres of water and his second spare tyre in an attempt to reduce the strain on the Kia. We towed him over 3 dunes after he got stuck through lack of clearance - vehicle sitting high and dry on its belly - couldn't back down the dune. The vehicle had heaps of grunt and we aired down the tyres to about 15 psi (any less and he would have had almost no clearance!)

Problems? He split a sidewall when it hit a tree root on the edge of the track (only tyre I've ever seen destroyed in the Southern Simpson desert). He had the engine warning light come on half way across for no apparent reason (sat phone calls to dealer in Adelaide suggested just keep driving - no cause was found) and the vacuum operated 4wd mechanism failed, locking it in 4wd - had to disable it in Birdsville so he could drive home in 2wd.

But we had a good time, and I'd do it again if a very good friend wanted to take their small 4wd.

I've owned two Xtrails, but have to admit my sense of adventure is not great enough for me to want to do this myself - much happier with my Landcruiser which is made for the job.
AnswerID: 524314

Follow Up By: Ozhumvee - Sunday, Jan 12, 2014 at 07:57

Sunday, Jan 12, 2014 at 07:57
We've done a bit of beach work with a friend in his Xtrail and the thing that stops him whenever it is warm and the sand is soft is that the transmission overheats and the engine electronics either limit the power or it just stops and then we wait till it cools. It is the fluid coupling that connects the 4wd system that overheats as it can't be locked from my understanding. It also runs out of ground clearance on occasions, mostly on beach entrance and exit points where traffic is concentrated just like dunes in the desert.
On a couple of occasions he has had to wait for quite a while on a rising tide (read disappearing beach) till it was cool enough to proceed.
As Phil said make sure you travel with others who can assist and carry the extra load as the Xtrail will be in trouble if it has to carry all the fuel and gear for the crossing.
Peter
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Reply By: mikehzz - Sunday, Jan 12, 2014 at 17:40

Sunday, Jan 12, 2014 at 17:40
We've had quite a few Subarus and XTrails go out into the Simpson on trips with my club. I wouldn't go solo in an XTrail but would in a group. The biggest factor in it all is the driver. Also, get decent AT tyres and go up a few sizes. XTrails only run around 27-28" tyres standard which doesn't help if the cars making ruts are running 33's plus.
AnswerID: 524378

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