Great central road in February?

Submitted: Saturday, Oct 13, 2018 at 20:15
ThreadID: 137338 Views:4209 Replies:16 FollowUps:9
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I’m thinking of visiting Uluru in Feb and taking the road west to Laverton towing a 2013 Jayco Expanda Outback (17’ dual axle) behind a 2010 Patrol 3.0 ST. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
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Reply By: Les - PK Ranger - Saturday, Oct 13, 2018 at 21:10

Saturday, Oct 13, 2018 at 21:10
You obviously know it will be very hot Kev, and don't mind this.
No mention of where you're travelling from, and where after Laverton, but no matter, the centre will all be likely hot, and quite possibly dangerously hot.

If you're doing this, it should go without saying that your vehicle will have to be in tip top shape, cooling system paramount, but also servicing, you might be good to go with a heavier oil to cope with heat, check with your mech.

Also, is your '10 Patrol one of the grenade motors ?
If so, the extra stresses on this might be a trigger to do some damage.
Towing adds more stain all round and more pressure on cooling and motor.

One other consideration.
The GC Rd is usually very good, but as WA can get a LOT of it's annual rainfall in the summer months (northern tropical storms), roads could go bad or close at any time.

Check if Uluru is actually open on hot days, certainly climbing the rock would likely be closed due to heat more than it is open, and walking around the rock very uncomfortable, dangers of heat stress etc.
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Reply By: Ozi M - Saturday, Oct 13, 2018 at 21:10

Saturday, Oct 13, 2018 at 21:10
Been on the GCR but no way would I go in February.
Too hot for me, the average is over 40c I think.
I suppose it also depends on who is with you, if you have kids with you they can be very effected by heatstroke and can die quite quickly.
One of those trips where all is well, while all is well, but if the car breaks down you are in deep doo doo
AnswerID: 621559

Reply By: wooly0005 - Saturday, Oct 13, 2018 at 21:49

Saturday, Oct 13, 2018 at 21:49
Hi Kev,

Its going to be very hot about then mate.

Might pay you to trade in your patrol on a landcruiser before you have trouble with it going bang in the heat.

Or take some magazines for you and some board games for the kids so you have something to do while your stuck on the side of the road.

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Reply By: RMD - Saturday, Oct 13, 2018 at 22:11

Saturday, Oct 13, 2018 at 22:11
I agree with the previous 3 replies.
It will be Blxxdy Hot and quite warm at night too.
If the Nissan has ever been even slightly above normal engine water temp with normal road use it will be taxed to the limit and probably beyond with towing a large van in trying conditions.
Is it a manual or auto vehicle? While a manual box will get extremely hot, the auto will be developing more heat than normal and with the engine running near max of cooling, the auto will add to that heat in the water, unless you have a large auto trans cooler with fan assist.

Because the ambient heat is so high, there will be far less difference between the rad heat and the ambient heat of the day, so actual cooling rate of dissipation of anything will be maxed out because the cooling rate will be low. Given it is a 3 litre Nissan I would expect it to fail.

Radiator fan clutch would HAVE TO BE in prime condition and not down on preformance at all.

I see you have an emergency survival bike on the drawbar. Good idea.
AnswerID: 621561

Reply By: KevC - Saturday, Oct 13, 2018 at 22:21

Saturday, Oct 13, 2018 at 22:21
Guys, thanks for your advice and comments. I was expecting I might get 'slammed' about the heat, the wet (which I wasn't really aware of through the summer there until I just read up on that) or just the idea in general with the Jayco. I've only had the Patrol a month - bought it with 167,000k on it and have driven it from Dubbo to Cairns and back to Newcastle, towing the van with the bike on as shown. Actually rode the bike from Cairns to the tip (5 days up on back tracks with a tour company and 2 days from the tip back to Cairns).

While I bought the bike primarily for the Cape trip, I was thinking it might be a level of back-up, should we take on some remote roads.

According to my research the 'bad engine' patrols were up to about 2006-2007. That was one reason I went for the 2010. Since buying it, I put heavier springs with a 50+ mm lift and new shocks and added the ARB rack, but that's it so far. It hasn't missed a beat. I plan on a few more mods before the end of the year. Towing this load over the last month the (standard) temp gauge hasn't moved up as high as 'half' - obviously not high tech monitoring, but an indication... included very hilly driving on The Lions Road in northern NSW - not Feb outback heat though.

I will be travelling with my wife and 2 kids - a 6 month lap of the country beginning (from Newcastle) January 1st. Hence the timing - but I can see being able to push the journey west back until early/mid March - which may make some difference in dodging the wet and maybe the peak heat.

My wife and I have done the Nullarbor West to East and I was considering the GCR to get to the centre, then go West, while trying to avoid an out-and-back journey and the Nullarbor again.
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Follow Up By: Zippo - Sunday, Oct 14, 2018 at 02:45

Sunday, Oct 14, 2018 at 02:45
Kev, not sure if you are exiting WA via the Kimberly or not. If not, then have you considerd going west on the Nullabor and returning on the GCR to the Rock/Alice? That - with a later start - will give you better weather for the latter bit, and if you have vehicle issues early on it will be on the more populated Nullarboring.

Also your bike looks like it will be exposed to a fair bit of rock damage.
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Reply By: Ron N - Sunday, Oct 14, 2018 at 00:19

Sunday, Oct 14, 2018 at 00:19
Kev - Some things to bear in mind. The later Patrols did indeed solve the "grenade engine" problem.

A friend owned a 2009 Patrol traytop and it purred along very happily to 263,000kms, at which time, he managed to fall asleep at the wheel and run off the road, severely damaging the LHS.

The insurance company declared it a RWO, and he went and bought a late model BT-50 with the insurance money - because he couldn't find a low km, late model Patrol with leaf spring rear end.

He was quite happy with the performance of the Patrol and would have bought another one if Nissan was still building them.

Most Japanese vehicles run hot, and the temperature gauge is not a reliable indicator.
The thermostats on todays vehicles open at 88 deg C and most Japanese vehicles regularly run around 95-100 deg C on hot days.

They are designed to run at these temperatures - but because they run hotter than older vehicles, where thermostats opened at 82 deg C, there is less margin between hot, and really hot, for the engine.

Oil starts to suffer with a lowering of lubrication ability at temperatures above 120 deg C.
I've worked and driven around in temperatures of 45 and 47 degs C in the Northern and Eastern Goldfields of W.A. in Summer - and I can assure you, you don't want to be driving too far on those types of days - particularly if loaded, and towing, too.

You will need to assess the weather conditions before commencement of the trip, ensure the vehicle is in tip-top condition, take it easy - and possibly be prepared to "sit it out" for a couple of days, if you run into a severe heatwave with mid-40's temperatures.

Remember, it's not just cooling and lube systems that suffer with severe heat - it is also tyres - and the humans.
Your water consumption will skyrocket as you constantly feel the need to wet yourself down, as well as consume a lot of fluids.

The other factor will be a very low level of other road users, as most people would prefer not to drive in a severe heatwave if they can avoid it.
This means that if you do run into trouble, you will have a longer wait for assistance.

Cheers, Ron.
AnswerID: 621564

Reply By: Erad - Sunday, Oct 14, 2018 at 10:00

Sunday, Oct 14, 2018 at 10:00
I agree with most of the above comments. Yes - it will be hot - probably 50 Deg C or more. First thing I would do it to buy a decent monitoring system - for the engine mainly. Scangauge or Ultragauge are good units. They plug into the diagnostic socket normally located just above the drivers left foot. This allows you to monitor what is going on under the bonnet. I have a Scangauge II unit and it is OK, but if I was buying a new unit I would probably go for the Ultragauge because it allows up to 8 parameters to be monitored and also it has an alarm function, which the Scangauge lacks.
Having bought a unit, check it out - preferably on a hot day, towing your rig to check engine coolant and auto transmission temperatures, boost levels etc. Then note the outside temperature. remember that when it is above 40 Degrees, WE feel hot but the car does not have an evaporative cooling system like us. So if it is say 35 Degrees outside and you are getting 92 Degrees cooling water temperature, at 50 degrees outside temperature the coolant temperature could be as high as 107 Degrees - it all depends on how much reserve is in the cooling system. At least you can check it out before you leave. I suspect that the cooling system will work just adequately.
More importantly, you can monitor the boost levels. The main cause of the earlier engines failing was over-boosting because the sensor pressure failed.

Another issue to check would be tyres. They will take a pounding on the corrugations and stones, and will be very hot. Lower the pressure a bot and go slowly and you should be OK, but you are subjecting them to extreme conditions.
AnswerID: 621567

Reply By: Peter_n_Margaret - Sunday, Oct 14, 2018 at 11:04

Sunday, Oct 14, 2018 at 11:04
We once came south along the Strzelecki in November while a gale was blowing and the shade temperatures (there was no shade) were in the very high 40s. A tail wind is the worst for the vehicle.
In conditions like that, even a minor mechanical problem can become life threatening very quickly, and having that problem becomes more likely.
I would not choose to risk that with a family.
Photos do not do the conditions justice.

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AnswerID: 621568

Follow Up By: Ron N - Sunday, Oct 14, 2018 at 11:34

Sunday, Oct 14, 2018 at 11:34
You get two types of extreme heatwave, as regards wind.

One is the windless, totally still, breathless heat, that accompanies the middle of a high-pressure weather system - the second is gale-like conditions from strong winds that bring enormous heat with them, from the Centre of the continent in mid-to-late Summer.

AFAIC, the second type is the worse type of the heatwave types. It's like opening the door of a blast furnace, the hot wind increases the drying effect of the extreme heat.

Even if you can find shade, you get little benefit from it, as the wind drives the heat through the shaded area.

I think the worst hot day I've endured, closest to the coast, was at Eneabba on the last day of February 1997.
A massive high-pressure weather system was centred over the Nullarbor, and strong North-Easterly winds associated with it, were bringing huge amounts of heat down from the Centre, over SW W.A.

Eneabba recorded 47.6 deg C that day to take the highest temperature for the State.

Elders were holding a farm clearing sale near Eneabba, and I went along because I had put some items in the auction.
Luckily there was a water tank right near the auction, and the crowd gathered around it regularly, wetting themselves down constantly, before going back to the auction. There was no shade anywhere near the auction area.

The poor old auctioneer never got that opportunity, and I honestly thought he was going to collapse with heat stroke.

Cheers, Ron.
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Follow Up By: KevinE - Sunday, Oct 21, 2018 at 10:14

Sunday, Oct 21, 2018 at 10:14
I think that you completely missed what Peter is saying Ron.

Peter wrote; "A tail wind is the worst for the vehicle" And Peter is 100% correct!

FollowupID: 894270

Follow Up By: Ron N - Sunday, Oct 21, 2018 at 11:32

Sunday, Oct 21, 2018 at 11:32
Kevin - No, I didn't miss what Peter was saying. I was referring to the heat effect on a personal basis, as compared to Peter stating what the heat effect is on the vehicle.

At the end of the day, if your vehicle karks it, you will then be up against the personal effects of severe heat, with no benefit from the vehicle, such as air-conditioning, or just wind movement.

The only two benefits a dead vehicle provides, is some shade - and a large visual cue for searchers.
That's why you never, ever leave your vehicle, when it breaks down in remote regions.

Cheers, Ron.
FollowupID: 894277

Reply By: KevC - Sunday, Oct 14, 2018 at 11:49

Sunday, Oct 14, 2018 at 11:49
Thanks for all your input guys. Great points on temperature. All taken as you intended, but I will be applying common sense - if there's a forecast for a heat wave, I would hold off departing on a very remote road. Below is a couple of screen-shots from National Weather Centre searches. Averages yes, could be hotter or cooler. And it's not always necessary to drive in the hottest part of the day.

Thanks again.

AnswerID: 621569

Follow Up By: Frank P (NSW) - Sunday, Oct 14, 2018 at 12:12

Sunday, Oct 14, 2018 at 12:12
Warburton, on the GCR, is a notch or two above those:


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Follow Up By: Jackolux - Sunday, Oct 14, 2018 at 12:14

Sunday, Oct 14, 2018 at 12:14
Those temps are in the shade there is bugger all shade in a lot of place on the GCR .
I have been in the centre many times , April on the Oodnadatta Tk one year was dangerously hot and another time at the Rock even September early November was uncomfortable hot for me anyway .

I know ppl do,travel out there in summer they can have all to themselves
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Follow Up By: Genny - Monday, Oct 22, 2018 at 05:58

Monday, Oct 22, 2018 at 05:58
We were at the Rock in April a couple of years ago. 36 degrees every day. Those averages could be viewed with suspicion.
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Reply By: Allan B (Sunshine Coast) - Sunday, Oct 14, 2018 at 13:24

Sunday, Oct 14, 2018 at 13:24
As someone who has lived, worked, and toured in the more remote zones of Australia over some years, I can tell you that it is not a good place to be in the summer. Even being at Uluru will not be pleasant and travelling west from there could even be unsafe.
To needlessly subject your wife and two kids to this would be foolhardy and impose both physical and emotional stress upon them.

You said that "I will be applying common sense" and "any advice would be greatly appreciated" yet you appear determined to proceed despite the consummate advice presented to you. Good luck mate!


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Reply By: KevC - Sunday, Oct 14, 2018 at 14:18

Sunday, Oct 14, 2018 at 14:18
Thanks Allan, I've decided not do this route in February based on all the info provided here, but I won't just drop my plans completely based on that same info. I can easily push it back a few weeks with my schedule, so that would be my preference - or go across the Nullabor again, if necessary.

One way or the other, we'll get to the other side of the country before April and up into the Kimberly after the wet.

My wife and I once rode a large sports touring bike Yamaha FJ1100 from Darwin to Uluru, back to Newcastle via Broken Hill, where I was born. We left Darwin on Boxing day. No A/C on a moto - yes, it get's hot in the summer. I do appreciate the info. Prior to this last month, I've done very little caravan and 4x4 touring.
AnswerID: 621571

Reply By: Member - Mark (Tamworth NSW) - Sunday, Oct 14, 2018 at 17:23

Sunday, Oct 14, 2018 at 17:23
Unlike just about everyone else I'm not against travelling through that country in February. Lots of us do live away from the coast where is is warm or hot in summer, doesn't stop us doing things, we just moderate what we do (certainly not hard physical work).

I wouldn't do it with kids though in February, just in case, even if there were no problems, it just wouldn't be enjoyable and you want kids to have fond travelling memories
I really don't know much about the Jayco Outback, nor travelled that particular road, but having seen my neighbours off road Jayco pop up caravan, I'd be really questioning whether it's worth the risk or damage taking one of those on any serious long gravel road. Not saying it wouldn't make it, but there would certainly be some damage done which will appear "down the track"
AnswerID: 621572

Reply By: KevC - Sunday, Oct 14, 2018 at 18:18

Sunday, Oct 14, 2018 at 18:18
Thanks Mark, I have a friend currently somewhere between Mt.Isa and Karumba towing Pop-Top Jayco who has shared some advice on dust-proofing, rock protection, internal structure and tyres etc, which will help me prepare for the rough stuff.

There's also a website/forum for the particular series van I have and I'll run the same question over there and see what comes of it.

I have a lot to learn in the 4x4/Caravan touring dept, which is the reason I came here with this question. Thanks for your comments. I do appreciate your feedback and those of others in this this thread. Peace. Kev.
AnswerID: 621575

Reply By: KevC - Sunday, Oct 14, 2018 at 18:23

Sunday, Oct 14, 2018 at 18:23
I believe I received one of the most important pieces of advice regarding the caravan, from a well travelled caravaner, a couple of weeks ago on my trip to the Cape: Drive slow!

Apparently the more expensive vans also fall apart when they are not being driven to the conditions.

Once again, thanks guys. Kev
AnswerID: 621576

Reply By: Gerard S - Sunday, Oct 14, 2018 at 18:27

Sunday, Oct 14, 2018 at 18:27
Hi Kev,
We came off a west bound transit of the GCR six weeks ago, a Ford Ranger towing a 20ft Lotus off road van. From Laverton through to Warburton no problems...26psi in van and tug.
Warburton onwards to Docker River got a bit rougher and then Docker onwards was rough. Good camping spots on Wiki Camps. We didnt overnight at any off the communitie's camp grounds. Docker River's was vandalized and had been burnt out. Your permits, 2 required, allow for 3 days travel. We took 4 and a half days to avoid having to travel too far and too fast for the conditions. If you break down my guess it would be from around Docker River to the rock....the worst and most under resourced part of the GCR. If you want to check out the Olgas and Uluru do so before you exit through the toll gates....otherwise you'll be charged to re enter. I smashed one water tank tap, despite it being shielded and had our internal ensuite wall pull away from the side wall of the van...repaired promptly by Lotus under warranty.
AnswerID: 621577

Follow Up By: Greg J1 - Monday, Oct 15, 2018 at 15:36

Monday, Oct 15, 2018 at 15:36
Well there’s off road vans and then there’s real off road vans !!!

Cheers Greg
FollowupID: 894145

Reply By: KevC - Monday, Oct 15, 2018 at 10:10

Monday, Oct 15, 2018 at 10:10
Hi Gerard, Thanks for your insight, especially on time-lines and road conditions when you went. It seems the NT side is always reported as being the worst.

I can see similar issues on our van, with a lot of vibration. Our ensuite door hinges are pop-rivited and are loose now, so need re-riviting. I am planning to do the Oodnadatta Track from Marree to William Creek, then over to Coober Pedy, prior to going to the Centre. Unless I have a high level of confidence in the vehicle and van, after that leg of our trip, we may decide against the centre and GCR on this trip and just go across the Nullarbor instead.

Cheers. Kev
AnswerID: 621596

Follow Up By: Member - John and Lynne - Tuesday, Oct 16, 2018 at 18:14

Tuesday, Oct 16, 2018 at 18:14
The Oodnatta Track will not be much more enjoyable in summer than the Central Road. If you wish to have an enjoyable trip and ensure that your children have happy memories it would be better to head south at that time. There is a lot to see along the south coast and in SA. Uluru and Oodnatta will still be there in the future. Just go and enjoy other interesting places that you haven't seen before and have a happy family looking forward to the next trip. Remember conditions in the centre can be not just uncomfortable but dangerous in the hot months. You will be asking a lot of your van if you try extended travel on corrugated gravel roads. A breakdown of any sort could be disastrous. Lynne
FollowupID: 894167

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