How would an onroad van handle Birdsville/Oodnadatta tracks

Submitted: Thursday, Jan 16, 2003 at 14:43
ThreadID: 2986 Views:2076 Replies:9 FollowUps:25
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Currently we intend taking a tent, but then change our minds to a camper trailer, then to a 11ft poptop (cheap 2nd hand onroad version). From those who have been along these "highways" would you consider taking an onroad caravan without being worried it will shake apart. We're going in August.
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Reply By: OziExplorer - Thursday, Jan 16, 2003 at 18:48

Thursday, Jan 16, 2003 at 18:48
thinking, been a whle since I have been through there.

John, what are you towing this with?
What brand is this 11ft pop-top?
What type of suspension does this pop-top have?

John I have taken on road vans off road, with suitable tyres and tyre pressures and a spare spring. Yes, I have used the spring. Depends on how you drive and time you take and if you are at times prepared to get out and fill a pot hole that you cannot get passed and things like that.

This months 'On The Road' has a report on the Birdsville Track, but hey, I have not read it so have nooooo idea what it is like.
It is a reasonable magazine, with some respect, unlike some magazines like some 4WD monthly magazines.
AnswerID: 11396

Follow Up By: Thepublican - Thursday, Jan 16, 2003 at 21:00

Thursday, Jan 16, 2003 at 21:00
Why the hell bother with an answer if you dont know any current information,or for that matter give some USEFULL information such as the 2 next posts do,Ozi a waste of space just as this missive is.
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Follow Up By: Blitzdriver - Thursday, Jan 16, 2003 at 21:34

Thursday, Jan 16, 2003 at 21:34
publican you are just a dummy and a fool with no bloody brain
where have you helped others like ozi does
mate ozis knowledge is first class yours is just bleep e as you have none
the post of ozis has information and something to read that is current
now publican cry baby ride off into the nite and stick your head in a bucket of bleep e
FollowupID: 6317

Follow Up By: Glen - Thursday, Jan 16, 2003 at 21:34

Thursday, Jan 16, 2003 at 21:34
It seems that Ozi has to give his opinion on everything even when he does not even have one. What a joy he would be to camp next too!!!!!.
FollowupID: 6318

Follow Up By: Blitzdriver - Thursday, Jan 16, 2003 at 21:45

Thursday, Jan 16, 2003 at 21:45
one dummy and then more jump into the bucket of bleep e
glen where have you helped people you would not be able to fool
you dummy go and see how many messages have no ozi replies
you wet dummys always follow like sheep unable to think or say anything good practical things to damb dumb useles bleep e
FollowupID: 6322

Follow Up By: Oziexplorer - Thursday, Jan 16, 2003 at 22:01

Thursday, Jan 16, 2003 at 22:01
Blitzdriver as you can see they help nobody and have no knowledge to offer anywhere here. People can see these type for what they are.
I would prefer you did not bother about the noise because nobody really cares about the jealous jerks.
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Follow Up By: Glen - Thursday, Jan 16, 2003 at 22:14

Thursday, Jan 16, 2003 at 22:14
Blitzdriveris english your second language.........leave it at that.
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Follow Up By: Ray - Thursday, Jan 16, 2003 at 22:50

Thursday, Jan 16, 2003 at 22:50
Hey Ozi, I've got no knowledge and can't help much either, I come here to learn. Don't lump all of us dummys together.
FollowupID: 6336

Follow Up By: Oziexplorer - Thursday, Jan 16, 2003 at 22:57

Thursday, Jan 16, 2003 at 22:57
Ray you are polite, so you cannot be dumb.

We all learn something every day hopefully.

We are all here for a short time, so lets at least make it a good enjoyable time.
FollowupID: 6338

Follow Up By: Blitzdriver - Friday, Jan 17, 2003 at 21:11

Friday, Jan 17, 2003 at 21:11
publican and glen see you dummy post no help to others today
look my english not always the best but i can help you as i am senior professor at monash for orthodontist training for australia
what help you give me besides are gutter clowns and take my taxes from the centrelink
glen you have a problem with the english i am happy to come and visit you to see your problem
ozi mate you true good blue aussie to help people
FollowupID: 6388

Reply By: Graham - Thursday, Jan 16, 2003 at 19:07

Thursday, Jan 16, 2003 at 19:07
Most well made onroad vans can be taken along dirt roads, but as the road gets rougher you must go slower and slower......In bad pot hole, corrugated roads you may not get above 20kph.....others no problem at 80plus... speed is a killer of vehciles and vans on rough roads. On the Oodnadatta track a couple of years ago I saw lot of the vans having problems bcause of the speed they were being towed over the rock strewn roads.. Prepare the van properly with good light truck tyres, as big a size and ply as you can get to fit the rims, good wheel brgs, (and carry spares) and take it easy. Have a good trip.
AnswerID: 11397

Follow Up By: Michael - Thursday, Jan 16, 2003 at 19:44

Thursday, Jan 16, 2003 at 19:44
Good advise Graham, One other thing concerns me, is the quality of the springs in some of those lightweight vans, some only have a front eye and a the rear of the springs just rubs on the chassis. I have seen heaps of that type of spring break right in the middle through the centre bolt. I would fit a decent set of springs at least or carry two brand new spring assemblies and a couple of spare centre bolts. The biggest wheels as you suggested, and if not already done, move the axle to the underneath side of the spring. To me a road van on the "track" is a little scary. Cheers Michael.
FollowupID: 6310

Follow Up By: Graham - Thursday, Jan 16, 2003 at 21:19

Thursday, Jan 16, 2003 at 21:19
Good point Michael....moving the axle tounder the spring give much more ground clearnce to doge those rocks..... As for the springs, I ageee they do break but again if van is not overloaded nor towed to fast shouldn't really be a problem, and if one does break and you dont have a spare, use a strong length of wood wired to the axle and spring until repairs can be carried out.

FollowupID: 6316

Reply By: Andy - Thursday, Jan 16, 2003 at 21:46

Thursday, Jan 16, 2003 at 21:46

The track Marla to Oodnadatta may be managable just. The section Oodnadatta to William creek is 4WD only - it is only about 200k but as bad as it comes. The issue would not be any, but how much damage. William Creek to Marree probably managable. Marree to Birdsville shold be managable but without pleasure. From Birdsville which ever way will again be testing until you reach a bituminised development road.

We did the run a few months ago & there were a few onroad vans, not us, in Innaminka & quite a few in Birdsville for the races. Personally with an onroad van I would avoid the Oodnadatta - William Creek section, carry a couple of spares, foam up the fridge etc & just go quietly - a bit of prayer may not go astray.

AnswerID: 11410

Reply By: Phil G - Thursday, Jan 16, 2003 at 21:53

Thursday, Jan 16, 2003 at 21:53
I agree with the advice about the springs, bearings and tyres.

Fix all that and then your axle will be the weakest link!! Unfortunately broken springs and axles are common on these roads, but often the result of overloading, speed and too much tyre pressure.

The Birdsville Tarck is very well maintained, but with the large amount of traffic, the top surface disappears leaving all those sharp rocks.

I'd suggest you can do it with a good on road van, but keep the speed down, and lower the tyre pressures to about 23 psi. This will take a lot of the stress off the suspension and the van and also makes punctures less likely.

Phil G
AnswerID: 11411

Follow Up By: Phil G - Thursday, Jan 16, 2003 at 22:12

Thursday, Jan 16, 2003 at 22:12
Forgot to add that the Oodnadatta Track can be considerably rougher than the Birdsville track - its well maintained but has a lot more stone - a lot tougher on tyres. My recommendation about low tyre pressures comes from Adam Plate at the Pink Roadhouse at Oodnadatta - he knows what he's talking about and hates having to fix punctures!

FollowupID: 6329

Follow Up By: Exploroz Team - David - Friday, Jan 17, 2003 at 02:30

Friday, Jan 17, 2003 at 02:30
I know this can open up a can of worms but I have to agree 110% with Ray on the tyre pressures. We are also very good friends with Theo from Birdsville Auto and he will swear that lower is better. I must say that since we have had dealings with Coopers head office (who also swear on lower pressures) and we did in fact lower our pressures we have not had one single problem with our tyres in over 15 thousand kms off road. As soon as we hit the dirt (any dirt mind you) I jump out of the truck loaded or unloaded and down to 26 they go.

Good advice Ray.

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Follow Up By: Phil G - Friday, Jan 17, 2003 at 12:46

Friday, Jan 17, 2003 at 12:46

Last year I ran a club trip. Had 8 vehicles go from Nullabor to Cook to Vokes Hill and the follow the Anne Beadell to Coober Pedy, then we had 12 vehicles cross the Simpson and then back to Adelaide. All vehicles ran low pressures as soon as they were off the bitumen, didn't speed or overload vehicles. We had one puncture between all those vehicles (mulga stake), and no mechanical or suspension problems. Its now 4 years since I've had a puncture.

Phil (AKA Ray!!!!)
FollowupID: 6367

Reply By: Stevo - Friday, Jan 17, 2003 at 08:34

Friday, Jan 17, 2003 at 08:34
you could also contact Graeme Wallis from Transport SA's Northern Region.
He's responsible for the northern roads and will be able to tell you the status of the grader gangs. Ph 0886 485231
AnswerID: 11420

Reply By: John - Friday, Jan 17, 2003 at 11:09

Friday, Jan 17, 2003 at 11:09
Thanks all for the feedback. I was a bit concerned after posting that nobody was going to respond. Sorry that it caused a personal attack earlier. Hearing about the Oodnadatta Track conditions have got me a bit concerned about the onroad 11ft pop top option. The one I was considering was 15-20 yrs old, already has the springs above the axle and LT tyres. I haven't looked too closely at it yet until I got some opinions from people who have done the trip. My Patrol is up to the task but I didn't want to take a $3000 van which is damn quick to setup and pack up but a major burden because it keeps falling apart and is worth nothing at the end of the day. I think I'm convinced to now decide on a camper trailer or just the tent. By the way, once we get to Oodnadatta from Maree, we will be heading SW to Coober Pedy via Mt Barry. Is this track similar to the Oodnadatta.
AnswerID: 11426

Follow Up By: Phil G - Friday, Jan 17, 2003 at 21:40

Friday, Jan 17, 2003 at 21:40

Wise decision. I think the van would ruin your holiday. Camper trailer needs to be a proper offroad one. Just need to make sure it has a screen to stop the stones being deflected off the trailer and onto the vehicle's back windows. Hiring one is an option. The road via Mt Barry (and Painted Desert) to Coober Pedy is is better condition - a little less stone and well graded - suitable for 2wds.Painted Desert at sunset can be stunning.

The things I like on the Oodndatta track are Lake Eyre South, the bubbler springs, remains of the old Ghan, the overland telegraph, a trip out to Halligans Bay (4wd track), William Creek pub (camp out the back one night), Peake transmitter station ruins (rough 4wd track), camping at Algebuckina Waterhole near the longest bridge in SA, etc etc

Don't know where you're heading after that, but my vehicle tends to veer north from Oodnadatta to the beautiful Eringa Waterhole (Kidman's first homestead), Bloods Creek Bore, Dalhousie Springs, Mount Dare and then a reallly nice 4wd drive to Old Andado and up to the Alice via the Old Andado track. You can do all this with a good 4wd camper trailer behind a well maintained Patrol.


FollowupID: 6393

Follow Up By: John - Monday, Jan 20, 2003 at 09:40

Monday, Jan 20, 2003 at 09:40
Thanks for your comments Phil. I think I've convinced the wife regarding not getting the van. Took a printout of all of this home and let her have a read. Looked at tents again on the w'end. Just not convinced they're the way to. She hates the thought of the small overall size of the single pole touring tents and all the domes she likes has 24+ pegs...stuff that. Camper trailer gets my vote. Unless I just leave her at home.
Thanks about the comments on the Mt Barry road. Once we get to Coober Pedy, we'll be staying on the black top for the remainder to Alice, Tennant Creek, Mt Isa and back to Brissie. That is apart from day trips out of Alice - Chambers Pillar, Ruby Gap, East & West Mac ranges etc etc (without vans or trailers in tow). Saving the Old Andado / Dalhousie stuff for another trip. Maybe the Simpson next year. This is my start of a "decent trip every year" resolution. Plenty of places to go in this great place we live. Just need more time.
FollowupID: 6481

Reply By: sean - Friday, Jan 17, 2003 at 14:27

Friday, Jan 17, 2003 at 14:27
last time I took the road to Cooper Pedy it was in good nick.

I have a van and have towed it a little on the dirt, and the van has suffered mainly due to corrugations. They are simply not made to traverse corrugations no matter how bloody good the spings are or how low the tyre pressure. Some corrugations are BAD no matter how slow you go.

My van has 50psi in each tyre and any lower it looks flat, so its a bit hard to compare with a 4wd tyre that can be run at half those pressures. One of the things that broke was the fan in the rangehood, it fatigue cracked its mounting bracket.

My father cracked teh door off his van on 50 ks of badly corrugatged dirt road.

I too love my van, it does not really slow us down, is quick to set up, and offers superb accommodation - but on some trips it stays at home. I am sure I could tow it most places, but it would not last for long.


AnswerID: 11437

Follow Up By: Member - Cruiser1 - Friday, Jan 17, 2003 at 19:52

Friday, Jan 17, 2003 at 19:52
50 psi and any lower it looks flat??????????
Says it all really!
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Follow Up By: Oziexplorer - Friday, Jan 17, 2003 at 19:57

Friday, Jan 17, 2003 at 19:57
Sean if you are needing to run 50 psi, your van either has the wrong size tires and wheels, or your van is horribly overloaded or poorly engineered for the size.

50 PSI is starting to get close to like driving on solid rubber tyres.
Who recomended you put in that pressure?
FollowupID: 6385

Follow Up By: Thepublican - Friday, Jan 17, 2003 at 20:21

Friday, Jan 17, 2003 at 20:21
Typical Ozi, answer a q with a q.
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Follow Up By: Ray - Friday, Jan 17, 2003 at 23:23

Friday, Jan 17, 2003 at 23:23
I was enjoying reading this and then came across your garbage. Please sir, go away.
FollowupID: 6402

Follow Up By: Sean - Sunday, Jan 19, 2003 at 16:43

Sunday, Jan 19, 2003 at 16:43
Sorry fellas, just trying to add my humble opinion.

Ray - whoever you are, this is the second time you have had a go at me. Garbage??? if you cant be nice, why say anything?? If my posts are gargage, then please enlighten me with the truth. I am always happy to learn and I am not going anywhere mate.........


maybe the van is poorly engineered as you suggest. Van is 16'6"
1200 kg tare (according to plate) and has singe axle 14 inch light truck tyres. About 180kg towball wt. Tyres are all new as I have just replaced originals becuase i did not trust them at being 10 years old. New tyres are rated to 900kg each at 65psi. What pressure, tyre/ wheel combination do you guys recommend. I have towed van for about 15,000ks and had one flat in that time.

Ozi, I enjoy your posts and do not have any problems having my ideas challenged, that is how I learn as I go. Its seems that I am at odds with others here 'so now I am a thinkin' and would appreciate any advise that could benefit.


FollowupID: 6443

Follow Up By: Oziexplorer - Sunday, Jan 19, 2003 at 18:36

Sunday, Jan 19, 2003 at 18:36
Sean, Ray was not having a go at you, he was commenting on the clatter and interference from the monkeys gallery. Ray is always polite. A little misunderstanding - no bother. The monkeys gallery can never help anybody, they just make a raucous and disturbance as they are clueless on everything.

Sean it is difficult on a van of that size with a single axle to get much below the tyre pressure you are running. Is that a radial tyre or a rag tyre?
180kg is pretty solid tow ball weight as well for that size.
Not a lot you can do with a single axle with 14" tyres with that sort of load on them.
If you intend keeping the van, and you have enough space in the wheel well of the caravan, you could go to a 15" wheel and a radial tyre to carry that sort of load, which would not need such high pressures.

On the last 22' caravan I had made, I put on 15" wheels and radial tyres and lighter springs with Aeon air ride springs and shock absorbers which was a big improvement over standard caravan set-up. I was doing a lot of distance at that time on the black top, but often off the main highways and needed to keep the van together. Now the kids have gone, we are going to a 17' maximum this year. We just take our 4WD which is very well fitted out to go on the bad unmade roads.
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Follow Up By: Ray - Sunday, Jan 19, 2003 at 20:14

Sunday, Jan 19, 2003 at 20:14
Sorry for the misunderstanding Sean. I was having a go at that pubilcan bloke.
FollowupID: 6449

Follow Up By: Sean - Thursday, Jan 23, 2003 at 18:42

Thursday, Jan 23, 2003 at 18:42
Ozi and Ray,

No problem. Misunderstandings are all too easy. My post was obviously a bit hasty.

FollowupID: 6696

Reply By: Member - Keith - Friday, Jan 17, 2003 at 21:24

Friday, Jan 17, 2003 at 21:24
John, You may already be aware of the potential for damage from stones that hit the front of the trailer/van and bounce back onto the rear of your precious vehicle. Rear windows are very expensive to replace. So most off raod trailers/van have a stone deflector on the A frame. Some protection over the rear window is also good insurance.
AnswerID: 11454

Follow Up By: Old Soldier - Friday, Jan 17, 2003 at 21:36

Friday, Jan 17, 2003 at 21:36
Agree 100%

mine works a charm.

enjoy the bush

FollowupID: 6392

Reply By: Foz - Monday, Jan 20, 2003 at 13:28

Monday, Jan 20, 2003 at 13:28
Been where you are thinking of going. Used an Aussie Swag camper trailer with long travel coils and Bilstein shocks. Never had a problem or puncture despite the corrugations. From Alice down the Old Andado (call in on Molly) to Dalhousie and Mt Dare, Oodnadatta, William Creek, Maree, Birdsville etc. The bit from Dalhousie to William Creek can be testing. Sound advice from others is to drop your tyre pressures to 22 front and 26 back and 26 on the trailer then take it steady. Had BF Goodrich AT` on all wheels. Had an on road old van once, they don`t like 4wd`s pulling them too much; vibration is transferred back through the coupling.
Check out the number of pegs you have to hammer in when you choose a trailer. Swag excellent in this respect.
Good luck.
AnswerID: 11573

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