Overweight Camper, mechanical and chassis breakdown

Submitted: Tuesday, Feb 23, 2010 at 13:25
ThreadID: 76258 Views:4646 Replies:6 FollowUps:11
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G'day everyone,
We're from overseas and this is our first post here, although we've been reading the forum for the last 8 months while travelling around your beautiful country.
We bought a 4WD motorhome from Apollo Motorhomes in Brisbane, consisting of a Toyota Hilux 3.0D with a slide-on on the back.
The problems began 10 days ago, when our fifth gear sounded strange as we were not accelerating. We drove to the Toyota dealership, learnt that it was about to blow and found out why on this forum, thanks to everyone who posted about towing in 5th gear !
We're not technically towing, but we learnt at that occasion, on a weighbridge, that our fully loaded vehicle was 10kgs (ten) below GVM, but without us inside, another 150kgs making us really overweight... And we're not carrying any extraordinary stuff, having flown in on an economy fare.
Figures are : GVM 2730kgs, actual weight 2720kgs, gently distributed so that no axle is overweight though...
Back to the garage for changing the gearbox (our decision, rather than stripping the old one down and replace only parts), and the mechanics discover that our chassis is cracked, presumably due to the weight as well.
This is becoming really costly and we'd like to know if anything's possible against Apollo in such a case ?
Most of all, will we be able to sell a vehicle with a chassis repaired, does that sound good to you ? (in Europe it won't, but maybe this is common on 4WD here ?)
Thanks for your advice and keep travelling !
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Reply By: Tenpounder (SA) - Tuesday, Feb 23, 2010 at 13:50

Tuesday, Feb 23, 2010 at 13:50
Hi there. Quite a few questions here! I assume the unit was ex hire, not new. How long ago did you purchase it? What distance have you travelled since then? If it is reasonable to conclude that the damage to the gearbox and chassis were present at purchase, then the law may well provide a 'fitness for purpose' remedy under the legislation (State and Commonwealth).
If the unit before your personal effects are included is close to GVM then you may also have some redress, but it'd be long odds.
The bottom line? I'm not a lawyer, but if you can reasonably argue that the unit was new enough when you bought it to expect it to be in good working order AND if you can reasonably argue that the use you have put the vehicle to would not have caused the failures in transmission plus the chassis cracking, then you may have a basis, but it all depends on making a case of pre-existing faults, bearing in mind that selling an unroadworthy vehicle is generally not regarded too kindly in Oz.
AnswerID: 405575

Follow Up By: Polyarnyj - Tuesday, Feb 23, 2010 at 15:34

Tuesday, Feb 23, 2010 at 15:34
Hi Chris,
Thanks for your answer, and here are the facts.
It's an ex-rental motorhome built in 05 on a Hilux built 04, with 205000kms on the clock when we got it 7 months ago.
It has now 230000kms and we mainly used it on highways, I'd say less than 2000kms on dirt and probably around 200kms on more rough tracks, but nothing like a real 4WD track because the slide-on comes pretty close to the ground at the back...
We'd like to get some advice from a lawyer or consumer who has already gone through this kind of thing, to find out what the outcome could be.
We have a quite detailed journal of our errands in the country (mainly towns where we filled up the tank and all the places visited on pictures) so we could show that we've not been 4-wheel driving on extra-rough tracks all the way.
But making the case of pre-existing faults would seem a long way to go, with experts and counter-experts, am I right ?
Thanks again for your help,
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Follow Up By: Tenpounder (SA) - Tuesday, Feb 23, 2010 at 16:06

Tuesday, Feb 23, 2010 at 16:06
Hi there. It occurs to me that you may have access to a motoring organisation's legal people. For instance, as a member of the RAA in SA, I can talk to their legal advisers in brief for free, and then options may emerge. I must agree that establishing the proximate cause of either major defect can't be easy.
I am sure a lawyer would tell you the 25,000 km you have done will muddy the legal waters, not to mention the 2,000 km on dirt.
No one (least of all Toyota) will be keen to admit that 5th gear is a no-no.
But are the chassis loads imposed by the body consistent with Toyota's specs? If not, could this have caused the cracks? Yes, this is a possible course, but, like you say, its along way to go.
Sorry, but I agree with your implied bottom line.
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Reply By: Rockape - Tuesday, Feb 23, 2010 at 14:04

Tuesday, Feb 23, 2010 at 14:04
Sorry to hear about your problems.

Many vehicles have their chassis plated and if done properly there is no problem at all and no more cracking should occur. If the plating is done to an engineers specs then you may be able to upgrade the compliance to a greater GVM.

You will do no harm talking to Apollo and see what their response is, they may tell you to go take a running jump or they may hopefully offer some compensation.

Have a good one

AnswerID: 405580

Follow Up By: Polyarnyj - Tuesday, Feb 23, 2010 at 15:40

Tuesday, Feb 23, 2010 at 15:40
Thanks for your answer,
The car is being repaired by a 4WD-specialists garage so I'm pretty confident the repairs will be done the right way !!
And we'll definitely speak with Apollo because they're still building those vehicles and I really feel the Hilux is too weak a base to fit that kind of slide-on on.
Or at least they should offer advice to their buyers, especially coming from overseas, because my previous car was a little European car and I had no idea about the 5th gear problem.
The weight issue is more of a problem if you can't fill the tanks, your stuff, food and drinks and yourself in the car without being overweight, and I think they should upgrade their GVM themselves.
I really do hope they will offer compensation because this would be really bad publicity.
FollowupID: 675299

Follow Up By: Top Ender - Tuesday, Feb 23, 2010 at 16:01

Tuesday, Feb 23, 2010 at 16:01
Hey Polo.

Unfortunately you will have no joy with Apollo if you bought it off them and they are not a licensed motor vehicle dealer, If these guys are just a business that sold you one of their fleet, you have then bought the car at arms length.

Buying a car at arms length is the same as buying a car from Joe Bloggs up the road, you have bought it as is were is, this is what was explained to me by the Motor Traders Association.

I bought a fleet vehicle from a business last year, the end result was a $25000 engine, this is only after I had it 4 days and 3000 km, as the car was bought at arms length I had no come back other than a very expensive court case.

Try not to let this put a downer on your trip, enjoy the rest of your stay in OZ.

FollowupID: 675307

Follow Up By: Who was that again? (Vic) - Tuesday, Feb 23, 2010 at 16:10

Tuesday, Feb 23, 2010 at 16:10
Be very careful if you are thinking of going down the legal track as is a one-way money track in most cases.

Obviously the hire company decides to sell before such bits of gear get to the expensive stage in repairs and maintenance. Yes, the Hilux probably is a bit light to carry, but didn't you say it had travelled over 200k kms? I assume that had been relatively trouble free. Apollo would consider you have been unlucky perhaps, but that would be all

Being ex-hire, I have to assume that people who hire, seldom know any speed apart from what the vehicle would do fully laden. You may only have done limited dirt travel but not the camper. Users usually go beyond what is normally accepted as good practice. They may pay a bond, but when they have gone home, the hirers find mud or rocks where they normally wouldn't be

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FollowupID: 675309

Follow Up By: Tenpounder (SA) - Tuesday, Feb 23, 2010 at 16:17

Tuesday, Feb 23, 2010 at 16:17
Sorry, Top Ender, but I don't agree. Sure, if you don't buy from a licenced used car dealer, then you don't get the protection of the relevant State used car laws. But what the MTA didn't apparently tell you is that you still have the protection of the Sale of Goods Act, plus the statutory warranties under State and Commonwealth law.
"As is where is" is really not the full picture, despite what the MTA may have chosen to tell you.
FollowupID: 675313

Follow Up By: Top Ender - Tuesday, Feb 23, 2010 at 16:24

Tuesday, Feb 23, 2010 at 16:24
My apologies it wasn't MTA it was Consumer affairs, MTA told me to seek their advise.

So I stand by my comments above, feel free to contact them and prove me wrong, My advise come from first hand information, (consumer affairs to me).
FollowupID: 675314

Follow Up By: Tenpounder (SA) - Tuesday, Feb 23, 2010 at 17:06

Tuesday, Feb 23, 2010 at 17:06
Fair enough, Top Ender, I still say buyers have the protection of the Sale of Goods Act, plus the statutory warranties under State and Commonwealth law. "As is where is" is really not the full picture, despite what Consumer Affairs may have chosen to tell you.
I am not saying you can get mileage from using the Consumer Affairs agencies (Heaven forbid!) But you can (sometimes) win through knowing the law!
FollowupID: 675329

Reply By: Best Off Road - Tuesday, Feb 23, 2010 at 17:36

Tuesday, Feb 23, 2010 at 17:36
In Australia all states have a legal avenue known as the Small Claims Tribunal. It is a court designed to allow consumers to take action for a lodgement fee of around $30. No lawyers are permitted and no costs can be awarded.

In essence all you stand to lose is $30 if unsuccessful.

Good Luck,


AnswerID: 405610

Follow Up By: oz doc - Wednesday, Feb 24, 2010 at 09:35

Wednesday, Feb 24, 2010 at 09:35
Sorry Jim but I'll put my few pennies worth in here and disagree with you. Going to small claims is more complicated and expensive than you think. The actual court fee may be only $30 however there are associated fees to add to this. Lawyers are not allowed in the court itself however may be used by each party to prepare their case outside of court. Also there may be additional expense if the registrar orders mediation, or if witnesses are subpoenaed. Costs may be awarded under certain circumstances. I am going through the court system at the moment and speak from personal experience. The situation is a legal minefield. I had to get 30 minutes of legal advice just to find out which form to use to lodge the case! (If I used the incorrect form then the risk was the case could be thrown out before it started based on technicality). I feel that the only person whom wins with legal action is the lawyers. doc.
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Follow Up By: Best Off Road - Wednesday, Feb 24, 2010 at 11:20

Wednesday, Feb 24, 2010 at 11:20

Without knowing the complexities of your case it is hard for me to comment on why it is costing you so much.

I've been to the SCT seven times (with a 100% win ratio) and am in the throws of preparing number eight at the moment. This has been in both VIC and QLD over the last 25 years. I've always found it to be a simple process, but it must be said none of my claims have been particularly complex.

The rules in WA seem consistent with VIC and QLD according to


So I'm assuming your case invloves substantial money and some complexities of the law.

The details outlined in the original post seem pretty straightforward to me. I'd lob with the weighbridge certificate, a list of items carried in the Camper and plead that the unit was never adequately designed/engineered to fulfill its intended purpose.



FollowupID: 675456

Reply By: The Landy - Tuesday, Feb 23, 2010 at 18:00

Tuesday, Feb 23, 2010 at 18:00
It is unlikely you will have any recourse in this instance (but obtain your own legal advice).

Who you buy it from determines what warranty you may receive. From a motor vehicle dealer you are protected by legislation that indicates what type of warranty provisions apply.

In New South Wales it is a 3 month or 5,000km warranty for vehicles under 10 years old or 160,000 kilometres. Having done 25,000km would put you past the statutory requirements even if it was covered under the Sale of Motor Vehicles 1977 Act.

If you buy privately there is no warranty or legal redress to the seller.

Sorry to hear of your predicament though, and hope you continue to enjoy your travels……

The Landy
AnswerID: 405613

Reply By: Member - Phil G (SA) - Tuesday, Feb 23, 2010 at 23:46

Tuesday, Feb 23, 2010 at 23:46
I'm also sorry to hear of your plight.

I guess many of us are not surprised about the chassis crack - 205,000 on a well laden rental Hilux. The gearbox problem is also "expected" at that mileage with that history on an R151F gearbox.

If it was sold by a registered dealer, in Qld, with >160,000k on the clock, it would have come with a statutory 1 month/1000km warranty unless it was registered as a commercial vehicle, in which case, it has no warranty.
If it was sold privately, it would have required a safety inspection.

Since your period of ownership is well past the warranty period, you are going to be struggling to get any financial compensation - certainly not for the gearbox.

You may be able to argue that you were sold a vehicle that is above GVM with just the driver, and therefore illegal, and could not have been "roadworthy" in that condition. In the end I'd guess you just want it fixed.

If you haven't already done so, check the following links:
Qld dealer warranty and complaints
Qld safety certificate for private sale.

AnswerID: 405675

Follow Up By: Polyarnyj - Wednesday, Feb 24, 2010 at 09:39

Wednesday, Feb 24, 2010 at 09:39
Good morning everyone, and thanks for all your answers and links, which widened our ideas about the way to deal with this problem. Being from overseas, this helps a lot to know who to speak to.
We're in the process of obtaining legal advice and this doesn't seem good..., as expected I'd say.

Just for the record, the gearbox is a G52, which seems even weaker than the R-series from what I've read here...

Also, in the Toyota dealership which we've seen first, the mechanics told us that the 5th was not the right gear for our load, except doownhill or with tailwind, but once we got back to the office, the owner would not repeat that advice. Fair enough, Toyota offers cars for sale and buyers should always do their homework to find out what they need. If Apollo designs weak motorhomes to make more money (this is always the endgame) and thus buys cheap Hilux to build them, it's their responsibility, not Toyota's. The Hilux in itself seems a pretty good vehicle. All in all, we've learned a lot, and we hope this thread may help others...

Thanks also Top Ender for your answer, and I'm sorry as well to hear about your loss, which is not even comparable to mine !!

By the way, we'll get the car back later this week, and we'll be able to hit the road again probably next week, but with more knowledge about do's and dont's with our purchase !

Cheers, safe travels everyone.
FollowupID: 675436

Reply By: Member - ross m (WA) - Wednesday, Feb 24, 2010 at 00:02

Wednesday, Feb 24, 2010 at 00:02
Im surpirsed they are still buildng over loaded campers.
Just one look at those 4cyl Hilux,Navara and Triton makes you feel uneasy about their handling.

I guess nothing will happen until one rolls over like that other mob that rents the small camper vans(name escapes me)
AnswerID: 405678

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