Soft 4X4 on Gibb River Road

Submitted: Monday, Jun 06, 2005 at 12:26
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Has anyone had experience driving the Gibb River Road in a Nissan X Trail? I will be in the area, hopefully, around the end of August. Perhaps I should stick to the bitumen?
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Reply By: mattandlana - Monday, Jun 06, 2005 at 12:46

Monday, Jun 06, 2005 at 12:46
Depends a lot on when it was last graded.

We travelled through there a couple of years ago in January, between the rains, in a Cruiser and a Pathfinder, with the latter having no worries at all. It is a major formed dirt road most of the way. We hit some boggy puddles which would be no problem to anything with 4 driven wheels and would just be a bit rutted when dry before grading.

Major risk: The road is made of very sharp and unfriendly stones so have good tyres if you don't want slashed sidewalls.

I would say the road was fully traversible by a 2WD vehicle driven with care, so your X Trail should have no problems.

If you stick to the bitumen you'll miss 90% of the scenery.

But speaking of bitumen, if you have the time to spare the 1 day bitumen drive from Kununnurra to Katherine is almost equally spectacular.

AnswerID: 114567

Follow Up By: JohnJan - Monday, Jun 06, 2005 at 14:34

Monday, Jun 06, 2005 at 14:34
All terrain tyres might be my best bet. I wouldn't want to miss the best scenery after having travelled so far (Melbourne).
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Follow Up By: Member - Banjo (SA) - Monday, Jun 06, 2005 at 14:51

Monday, Jun 06, 2005 at 14:51
Now you're talking JohnJan..... after spending all that dosh on fuel to get up there, you need to capitalise on the experiences in that region - maybe upgrade the tyres for the trip and put the originals back on when you get home - keep the quality rubber for the next trip - tough tyres, a second spare and some reliable comms (just in case) is the go.
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Follow Up By: JohnJan - Friday, Jun 10, 2005 at 08:24

Friday, Jun 10, 2005 at 08:24
Your suggestion that the trip between Katherine and Kununnurra is very scenic interest me as we are considering cutting across from the Stuart Hwy on the Buchanan Hwy. to Timber Creek. Does this miss the most scenic part? We could go north from Top Springs on the Buntine Hwy. and take in more of the main route from Katherine and Kununnurra. What do you think?
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Reply By: Tim HJ61 (WA) - Monday, Jun 06, 2005 at 13:42

Monday, Jun 06, 2005 at 13:42

Back in the days when I took on life's challenges without the benefit of years of experience, I took an EH holden station wagon through there - in the late 70's. In fact, I did the birdsville track and what is now called the Great Central Road and the iron ore track from Nanaturra to Tom Price in the same trip and live to tell the tale.

No tyre problems at all in my whole year of travelling - but that was because I took two spares! I did lose the exhaust on several occasions, and the front wishbone suspension arms undid themselves on the corrugations, and the floorpan wasn't quite pristine after bellying into rocks at 80kmh! I suspect the road has improved rather than deteriorated over the last 25 years and although the rocks won't have got any softer, the main problem in generally clearance not traction.

I know this is not recent experience, nor can we really compare an X Trail with an EH holden (1964 model), but it seems to me it all depends on how much of a risk to your vehicle you want to take and how much damage you are prepared to wear. If it's nil, then take the bitumen but then miss out on the scenery. If you're prepared for you never being able to sell it as 'never been off road' then maybe it's worth a go.


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Follow Up By: X-Trail Fan - Sunday, Jun 12, 2005 at 03:21

Sunday, Jun 12, 2005 at 03:21
Has anyone done the Simpson Desert area in an X Trail? How did it go?
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Reply By: Kumunara (SA) - Monday, Jun 06, 2005 at 15:01

Monday, Jun 06, 2005 at 15:01
Travelled the Gibb River Road in May in a GU Patrol. Could have done it in a 2WD car without a problem.

An X-trail will do it without any problems depending on your tyres. Keep your tyre pressures down and make sure your vehicle is fitted with off road tyres. The sharp stones will go straight through your tread if your tyre pressure is too high. I don't know what the correct tyre pressure would be for your vehicle but I used 28 psi front and 30 psi rear. I did not have any tyre problems at those pressures.

I also went to Mitchell Falls. Your X-trail will do that without any problems provided you drive slowly. The road is unmaintained.
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Follow Up By: Max - Sydney - Monday, Jun 06, 2005 at 16:28

Monday, Jun 06, 2005 at 16:28
" ... provided you drive slowly."

Those four words are the key to a good transit on just about any outback road. You are on holiday, take it easy, and you don't waste time waiting for tyres to be fixed!
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Follow Up By: Member -Dodger - Monday, Jun 06, 2005 at 17:21

Monday, Jun 06, 2005 at 17:21
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Follow Up By: Member - Cocka - Tuesday, Jun 07, 2005 at 18:43

Tuesday, Jun 07, 2005 at 18:43
Keerekt. It's all about the weight you carry, compensated by the correct tyres AND pressure (do not over inflate) if anything lower pressure, and stay away from the edges (gutters) on the road, all sorts of big boogies hiding in the roadside dust ready to rip out the side walls.
Enjoy the trip, it's a great road and you need plenty of time to see it all.
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Reply By: The Rambler - Monday, Jun 06, 2005 at 23:29

Monday, Jun 06, 2005 at 23:29
Your E.H. Holden would still be fine on the G.R.R. as they even have signs telling you where the dips and bumps are. For Eastern staters it is the most over rated 4w.d. road in Australia apart from the wet season when it can be impassable due to highwater and nothing to do with the road.
AnswerID: 114698

Reply By: troy35 - Tuesday, Jun 07, 2005 at 15:41

Tuesday, Jun 07, 2005 at 15:41
I live in Broome and did the GRR in my work ute (Ford courier) no probs back in May. I also sent a truck up there (We service the Mt Barnett Roadhouse) at the end of May without any probs what so ever. Just take note of the good advice given on this thread so far and you will have no problems.
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Follow Up By: JohnJan - Tuesday, Jun 07, 2005 at 18:27

Tuesday, Jun 07, 2005 at 18:27
Thanks everyone.
I'm getting quotes on All Terrains tyres at the moment. Looks like $200 each for BFGoodrich will be the go. Well worth it for the peace of mind.
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Reply By: troy35 - Tuesday, Jun 07, 2005 at 19:39

Tuesday, Jun 07, 2005 at 19:39
The most important thing to remember on the GRR is to take it easy. Every year I see through my line of work damaged cars that have rolled over on the GRR. The biggest culprit is Maui and Britz campers but you do get all kinds of cars fall victim to the road. The problem is that the GRR is a fairly good quality road as far as gravel roads go. Its nice and wide and generally flat and smooth apart from the corrugations in certain areas and at certain times of the year. Its graded often so people tend to travel on it faster than they should often without even realizing it. All of a sudden they have to act quickly to avoid an oncoming road train or another car or a pothole in the road and over they go with very bad results. I know of some horror storys of people sitting on the side of the road with dead and injured passengers waiting for help to arrive for up to 8 hours.

So please take it easy, there is no rush. Also the best thing you could do is put your car in four wheel drive as soon as you hit the gravel. You may use more fuel but your car will be so much easier to handle and safer to drive. Also note that Bell Gorge can get very busy on Wednesday nights. People leave Broome and Kununurra on a Monday and usually all meet up at Bell Gorge by Wednesday so it gets full. Not always of course but quite often.
AnswerID: 114810

Reply By: The Explorer - Tuesday, Jun 07, 2005 at 21:45

Tuesday, Jun 07, 2005 at 21:45
Did it in the Rav in 98 - easy - as people have mentioned a bit overated with respect to 4WD status..its just a relatively remote gravel road used by all sorts of vehicles from Push bikes, 2WD cars to Cattle Trucks. Side roads vary so a bit more caution required here. Corregations can be an issue so make sure your fillings are up to scratch or carry some supper glue. The "soft" roader vehicles have an advantage over the "proper" 4WDs as they are much lighter so tyre selection and pressures (for the GRR) are less of a concern due much less weight. Got a flat in Broome though so beware there. Have fun.
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Follow Up By: ausscot - Thursday, Jun 09, 2005 at 19:07

Thursday, Jun 09, 2005 at 19:07
Did the GRR last month, (early May) in my 97 Jackaroo, 3.2 petrol. The condition of the road was generally very good. It would be a breeze in a soft roader, and a little more comfortable than in a 'real' 4wd. There were plenty of rental Daihatsu Terios getting around! The GRR was a dream compared to the WA section of the Tanami Track. Most sections of the GRR had been recently graded. Never engaged 4wd. Averaged 85-90kmh. There were only a few sections that were particularly rough and corrugated, mostly near the Kalumburu Rd, turnoff and they were only a few kms long. Wish i was back there.
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Reply By: erekka - Friday, Jun 10, 2005 at 14:14

Friday, Jun 10, 2005 at 14:14
Did any of you guys who have done the GRR recently head up to the Mitchell Plaeau?
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