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Oct 11 2017

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Product review – fridge, drawers, and more

Now that I’m home, it’s time to review how everything handled while I was away. Remember – this is my experience of the products I used, and yours might be different. I am not sponsored by any of these companies, and none of them have paid me anything, although Doc works for free (for me at least).

Fridge – Bushman’s (high top, no collar)

In the Suzuki I have to take the collar off the Bushman’s fridge otherwise it’s too tall for the car, so I can only use two baskets rather than my usual three. That means getting the temperature right so that it doesn’t freeze my vegetables is more of a juggling act. But it can be done. Set at around 1o the fridge keeps the things in the bottom frozen, while not freezing the lettuce & other vegetables in the top basket. And I can still store a wine bottle upright in it. It’s still my favourite fridge!

Titan drawers & fridge slide

I don’t like the metal drawers as much as the wooden ones we have in the Cruiser. The slides at the sides of the metal drawers decrease the amount of storage space you have, and they squeak! The bolt that holds the fridge slide in place kept coming loose with the vibration/bouncing of the car, which isn’t good when you’re travelling off road. As the bolt didn’t hold it in place, the fridge slid back & forth wildly, so I had to fold up my pillow and jam it between the fridge & the back door of the car to keep it still. Before my next big trip I will replace the metal drawers with custom wooden ones.

Roof basket

Doc custom made a roof basket for the Suzuki so that I could carry extra fuel, and still open the roof of the car. It was fabulous! When I left home it was a bit cool, but because Doc had gone to so much trouble I felt I had to drive with the roof open, just because I could. That only lasted an hour before I got too cold. In the Simpson Desert though, I travelled every day with the roof open and could hear and smell the desert. There’s less wind in my hair, so less hair in my face, with the roof open than with the windows down, so it was perfect. And the basket held the extra fuel firmly in place – well after I tied the jerry cans in properly, but that’s another story.

Doc thinks I need to expand on this because I haven’t emphasised the custom aspect of the roof basket enough.

The basket itself was cut down from one that was made for a medium sized 4WD. Doc shortened it, then welded & strengthened it. He fabricated a frame to fit the Suzuki, which mounts behind the doors at the front and alongside the rear door at the back. It even has a bit at the side to mount the awning. It is all painted black to match the roof of the car. It is very impressive, and very strong. It did not shift a centimetre during the trip, nor did any of it come loose.

If anybody wants a custom made roof basket I will act as his agent. He also made the drawers we have in the Cruiser, and the charging station in the Suzuki.

Custom Charging Station

When I travel I have a lot that needs to be recharged, some of it daily.

I take a mobile telephone, sat phone, digital camera, 2 GoPros, video camera, and tablet. I also have rechargeable batteries for my flash and torches. My charging station sits behind the passenger seat and is connected to the second battery. It has 4 USB ports, 1 cigarette lighter port, and an inverter with power plug. All those things can be used at once, while the car is going or overnight. And it is always within easy reach.

Doc custom made it to fit.

Adventure Kings Rear Awning

Having the roof basket means that I can now have an awning even though the car is a soft top. Being so small most awnings are too big for the car, though rear awnings, made to go out the back of a larger 4WD are the perfect size. At 1.4m long Doc was concerned that I wouldn’t get enough shade. He needn’t have worried. The awning suited the car perfectly, and created enough shade for me on my own, though I wouldn’t have wanted to get too many people under there.

I was worried that the roof basket and awning might add too much weight, but the car seemed to handle it ok, with only a small increase in fuel consumption.

Adventure Kings Escape Swag

My new swag has a lot more room than in my old swag so that I could move or roll over in bed without hitting the canvas top or sides. And I could easily get dressed and undressed in the swag if there were other people around. I particularly like that the cover rolls down from the end where your head is rather than up the side, so that when it’s open you have an uninterrupted view of the night sky.

Being of a lighter material than my old swag it was also a lot easier to roll up even with a doona and sleeping bag inside, and even though it was bigger, when rolled up it fitted better in the car.

The only problem was that when it did get really cold a few nights I was cold in the swag. Zipping the cover up completely didn’t help, nor were my hot water bottle & thermal bed socks enough! Fortunately that was only a couple of nights, and a few nights in the desert I even slept without a hot water bottle. Great for warm weather, but I wouldn’t recommend it for cold winter camping.

The car

The Suzuki Vitara gave me a lot of trouble this trip, but paradoxically performed better than expected.

Because of an overheating issue I had to replace the whole cooling system before I left home. That seemed to fix the problem, until I’d travelled 400k when it started again. I ended up replacing the head gasket when I got to Adelaide and after that I had no more trouble. With all of that I lost almost 2 weeks travel time, so had to cut out some of the things I wanted to see and do either side of the Simpson.

Driving along the sand through the desert was easy, and I just rolled along at not much more than walking pace most of the way. But the dunes gave me some trouble, and I had to dig myself out when I got bogged a few times. Being a car made for sand I thought things should have been much easier.

Then I got as far as Nyngan on my last leg home when the universal joint on the rear drive shaft gave way, and I had to call Doc to come and rescue me. One of the rear shocks also broke.

And that’s when I discovered why I had problems in the desert.

The circlip that holds the front drive shaft in place when it locks into 4WD, didn’t. For some reason the circlip slipped out, so the car didn’t lock into 4WD. That meant I travelled through the Simpson Desert in 2WD. That was a great performance by the car, but did put a lot of stress on it, hence the broken universal joint & rear shock.

When I got home I had to get a new tail shaft custom made, replace both rear shocks, and get new free wheeling hubs. Not to mention welding and strengthening the floor where the tailshaft had ripped a hole in it when it let go. And two new circlips. (Note: When I say I had to do all this, I mean Doc. But I helped and learned.)

All that trouble, and expense, because of one little circlip!

On the Brightside – I’ve learned a lot more about my car, and what to look for and how to fix it if something goes wrong.

 

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