Okay okay, I’ve told you about the shoes, the clothes, I’ve confessed I’m a nagging wife, that my husband has been correct (well perhaps on ONE occasion anyway), so I’m guessing for all the fella’s (or chicks who love to know about grease-y stuff) I thought I should write about the things we have done to our vehicle in order to prepare for our trip. We have always had this ‘dream’ of travelling in the back of our head, so additions have been made over a few years, when we could afford it. Also, I’m hoping that I use the correct ‘term’, please don’t get upset if I do, I am more of the ‘budget’ planner, not the ‘product’ chooser.
Every time the husband (and please know that this term is used in the most endearing manner), says to me “hey, I think we need to get something for the car”, my little budget fairy starts to cringe. You see, Corey doesn’t want for much, the occasion golf club, a carton of beer, the odd punt, but when he set his eyes on something for the car, I know it will include at least three 0’s in the price bracket. Looking back to my childhood years, to prepare for a camping trip was piling into the back of Dad’s old 1973 cruiser and heading over to Fraser Island. Dad would take on the toughest of terrain, in what we referred to as “Bull”. This cruiser did everything we ever dreamed of and more, but what modifications did it have? Nothing, it was standard, didn’t even a canopy on the back for us kids!
Anyway, since the introduction of winch challenges, outback challenges, rallies and more, not modifying your vehicle for tough terrain (aka leaving the bitumen) is a thing of the past. Even though our vehicle is far from entering such events, I feel we have prepared our vehicle to conquer what we have planned to see in Australia, bearing in mind that when towing a caravan, we are limited to where we go. The parts we don’t get to see will do another time in our life, probably with an off-road camper trailer.
Right, lets start with our vehicle,. We bought this as a wedding present to each other in 2007, it’s a Nissan Navara D40 (TOYOTA readers, you may like to read on even though I’ve said the ‘N’ word). When we bought the car, we had some extras fitted, such as:
Warn 9000lb Winch, Nissan Steel Bullbar, Nissan Snorkel & a Heavy Duty Towbar.
Those items were “necessities”. We lived in the bush and to travel on the long roads between Charters Towers and Brisbane (the inland way), we were going to encounter wildlife that felt compelled to jump in front of us, so these things, totally justifiable. Then, driving along these roads in the night, of course we had to have spotlights fitted to the bullbar, so this happened after our wedding on the Sunshine Coast.
In 2009, little Zac came along, and I found it increasingly harder to shove everything in the backseat (as we didn’t have a lockable cover for our tray). When we went on a holiday to the Sunshine Coast to see family it rained, all our luggage/pram etc was always in the back, so we pulled into ARB at Maroochydore and got a canopy, BEST thing we have ever bought for the car. We can fit SO much stuff in the back now, so this purchase, husband was right and got a big tick (I’m seeing a pattern here).
We drive a lot, always have. Since our move to North Queensland and most of our family being in South Queensland, we have done this trip numerous times. To save money, we carry our Engel fridge (stocked with drinks and food supplies) in the back (locked away with our awesome canopy). To run this effectively, husband advised that we needed a dual battery system. Ok, lets get a battery and get it all installed, all I can say is thank goodness the Father In Law is a sparky, so he assisted with this installation process! Then of course, when travelling, we also needed a UHF radio so we can maintain contact with the road trains and other travellers, we bought a GME UHF and arial as well.
As time went on, the old spotties decided to die (or crack, or something) and needed replacing, while travelling through Mackay in January 2013, husband says “I’ll just duck into ARB in Mackay as we drive through and grab a set”. He comes out with this large box big enough for a small child, Lightforce Spotties 240 blitz, he says this to me like it means something, sorry it doesn’t, I just take the receipt and ‘file’ it in the car expenses folder. When we bought the caravan, a Supreme Spirit Extender, we had to then get the electric brakes hooked up, so a Tekonsha Brake Controller was fitted into the car, this was a must so totally agreed on this expense. On the same trip, we pulled into Airlie Beach for a few days after driving through Mackay. One day husband heads over to the shops to grab some dinner, he comes back and tells me how wonderful the guys over at ARB are, and that they could fit our vehicle in to have some suspension work. ‘It will make the ride much smoother’ he suggested. We had the Old Man Emu Nitro Charger Sport Suspension fitted, I must admit, it raised the car and made the ride much nicer, thanks husband, good job.
Another occasion whilst sitting down at dinner, I get a nudge from the husband as he is reading some kind of 4wd magazine, he suggested to me that if we installed a chip we would get better fuel economy and power for towing the van. What? A What? Totally didn’t get this, but his explanation of how the something ratio with the towing something and the power drawn from the something with the fuel costs, bla bla, so we booked the vehicle in and got a Tuneit Chip fitted and something done to the Exhaust as well.
Then as the months lead up to us leaving on our trip, the trusty Nissan started making a terrible sound. Being no expert, it sounded like a fan belt that was really loose and the squeal it made when I turned the ignition on was eery. So, I booked the old girl in for her regular service and tried to find out what was making that dreadful noise. Unbeknown to us, Nissan Navara’s are renowned for blowing their timing chain when reaching 100,000kms. Guess what, that’s what was wrong with our vehicle. This would have to be the most costly exercise yet. Corey did his research and found a guy in Brisbane who specialises in making a Timing Chain upgrade kit for Navara D40s, yay! The company is called “yd25”, so he sent it up to our mechanic and it was all refitted, that set our savings back a little (000’s), but it had to be done. A few other things that we got fitted prior to embarking on our journey was an ARB tradesman rack on the canopy (to hold space cases for all my shoes, haha), and a set of Clearview Towing Mirrors. The towing mirrors would have to be an absolute must for full-time travellers, we love them. As we had planned to do a bit of dirt road travelling, we booked the vehicle into our mates at Barr’s Tyres in Charters Towers and got a set of BF Goodrich Mud Terrains. Everyone said that they would be too noisy, but I find them quite ok, and if my budget fairy has anything to say, at least they have enough tread on them for a while too.
We were off on our adventure of a lifetime, and our vehicle ready to tackle what lied ahead……… or was it????
Our first stop was the Sunshine Coast, my sister’s wedding, catching up with family and seeing all our friends. As Corey was doing some work with his brother, he decided to get an awning for the car. Off to Ironman 4×4 in Caloundra, we got an awning fitted with LED lights in it. This awning came in very handy when we drove up to Double Island Point, the shade they provide is amazing, however we had a chance to use it again. When we visited our trusty sparky Father In Law he helped Corey fit some LED reversing lights, these are amazing. I love these, I can see so well, and even when not driving, they come in handy when preparing things on the tailgate, thanks boys, I like these.
Christmas came, and as we have limited space for ‘stuff’ we decided to buy in-built DVD headrests for each other. They keep Zac occupied when driving long distances, and you can use DVDs, USB, SD cards and they have bluetooth headsets so we can’t hear whats going on in the back.
We are set, we have everything, car is READY………… but what else could possibly go wrong??
After a few days in Sydney with Corey’s sister, we travelled to Wooloogong, popped in to visit a friend then headed south to visit more family in the Jervis Bay area. As we were going over the ranges, the car was idling really oddly. Corey pulled over, but couldn’t figure out what it could possibly be. My budget fairy panic button set in and I was concerned (I immediately think how much/how long/how much). As we came to the Kiama turn off, we pulled in and we put the windows down, the smell was atrocious, and even though I’m no car lover, I knew that smell. Yep, the clutch. The one thing we hadn’t got upgraded. Here we were sitting on the side of the road waiting for NRMA to come and collect us. I was freaking out, worried that it might have done damage to engine, I totally over analyse every situation and then freak out waiting for the quotes. Once we got the vehicle towed, and was rescued by family Corey gave his trusty friend at yd25 a call, not only did this guy build the Timing Chain upgrade kit, he also specialised in Navara heavy duty clutches. What a God-send. Within days the new parts arrived at the mechanic who had been recommended. Set us back a few thousand dollars, but now our clutch tows like a road train.
Since all this has been done, touch wood, we haven’t had any problems. We get the car routinely serviced and look after it well, so hopefully it will more than see us travel around Australia, unless a big lotto win comes along we won’t be investing in a new car.
If anybody has any questions about our vehicle and things that have been done or would like to share their story with us, please send us an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Safe & happy travelling 🙂