The Pilbara - “Hang on Guys, I’ve got a little problem with my trailer” (More bush welding!)

Saturday, Jul 03, 2010 at 00:00


Saturday 3rd July, 2010
8 km west of the creek (Last nights camp)

“Hang on Guys, I’ve got a little problem with my trailer”

At a bit before 8:00 a.m. this morning, we were all set for departure when Scott, in possibly one of the greatest understatements in the history of outback exploration, indicated he may have a bit of an issue with the trailer. A bit of a problem my arse!! Closer inspection revealed that the trailer had almost fallen in half just in front of the wheels and corresponding with where the reinforcing angle used to mount the spring brackets met the drawbar. Because these trailers were expected to take a pounding across the corrugations of outback tracks as well as the wilds of the unmapped deserts, when we built them we ensured that the spring mounts were mounted to a solid piece of angle iron. This angle iron was then welded to the main side rails (frame) of the trailer. This was to provide reinforcing for the mounts and ensure that it wasn’t the main frame of the trailer that was being constantly pounded by the spring mounts and in particular, the front mounts. Unfortunately for Scott, that small area of exposed main frame between the end of the angle iron and the point where the ‘A’ frame was welded to the main rail, was now cracked through with a 4 mm gap in some places. The initial construction material of 50x50 RHS was also perceived to be a problem prompting me to replace the main frame with 50 by 80 box section. Scott’s trailer was still the original 50x50. As a result the frame of the trailer had sagged in the middle and had a distinct banana shape to it. Off came the quad and everything on the trailer and out came my tools, welding equipment and batteries. The games were about to commence.

Because we needed to do a fair bit of welding with a good consistent penetration, we opted to use the portable MIG (Ready-welder) which we had had some issues in the wire feed initially but got going after a while giving a good, penetrating weld. Naturally there had to be a fight to the death between JW and Scotty to see who’s turn it was to use the welder. The remaining three of us simply adjudicated this gladiatorial contest. With Scottie safely unconscious, JW was first to get his hands on the Ready Welder. It’s always good to travel with enough skilled people that straws have to be drawn to see who gets to play with the toys/tools first !)

Firstly, with the trailer still connected to the car and the wheels on, hydraulic bottle jacks were placed under the drawbar a short distance in front of the damaged areas. The trailer was then jacked up on both sides to both straighten the trailer and to close the cracks up as far as possible. From our steel supplies, plates were cut to join front drawer bar to front spring mount. These were shaped accordingly over the towbar with an engineers hammer by Michael J. The side and underneath of the cracked frame was them welded closed and ground flat with a grinder and the two reinforcing plates fitted to the frame both internally and externally along the frame. The plates were designed to reinforce the damaged area and to strengthen the frame by joining the front mounts to the thicker draw bar section of RHS (50 x 80 Box RHS used in the drawer bar). A further triangle of steel was fitted behind the guard. All the surface cracks in the top sections of the thin 3mm box section were then welded. It took a few hours but this was largely due to the trial and error involved. The repairs to the right hand side were completed by lunch time. After lunch, the process was repeated on the other side of the trailer and went much more smoothly.

By late afternoon, threatening clouds were closing in so we decided to evacuate the creek bed for higher ground sadly abandoning the great pile of firewood Suze and I had collected in the interim. At 4:00 p.m. we pulled out, Scott’s trailer intact and straight framed once again, and heading down the road some eight kilometres found a spot in an old gravel pit just as the rain began to fall. Dinner was a snappy affair around a good fire. There are only light showers falling at this stage with plenty of grey clouds shrouding the surrounding hills.

''We knew from the experience of well-known travelers that the
trip would doubtless be attended with much hardship.''
Richard Maurice - 1903
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