Busted and Broken near Birdsville

Pat recently caught up with Sam Barnes who runs the Birdsville Roadhouse and offered some sage advice around tourers heading across the Simpson and getting stuck or breaking their 4X4s.

I recently caught up with Sam Barnes, who is now running the Birdsville Roadhouse. I’m so used to talking to people these days who talk in shadows and implied truths, that it was downright refreshing talking to Sam. He’s a straight-talking country bloke, who people go to when their 4X4 is stranded, busted or broken around Birdsville and the Simpson Desert. The Birdsville Roadhouse runs the recovery service roughly halfway into the Simpson Desert, while Mt Dare Roadhouse operated the western side.
Sam sees some nutters in his line of work, though. The ill-prepared, the blamers and the complainers. And to those, he says: “Don’t blame me, I didn’t build it, buy it or bust it”. Truer words were never spoken.
Yet there is a sense of frustration in his voice nowadays. “People don’t listen. We’ve been saying the same things for years, and people don’t listen”. The most common issues Sam sees are tyre failures due to over-inflation for rough conditions. That, and bent chassis usually caused by airbags on overladen vehicles, or towing over the dunes.
I like to think people aren’t ignoring the messages – they’re just new to the scene. And perhaps swayed by the sales spiel to throw on accessory after accessory, assuming their poor 4×4 can handle it.
So, for the uninitiated out there, dump some air out of your tyres for rocky or dirt roads. There’s no solid rule as it’s dependent on the weight of your rig, but if you were running, say 40psi on the bitumen, a drop to around 28psi would be about right. Oh, and those chassis? Think about how your manufacturer designed your vehicle. If you have leaf springs on the back of your vehicle, they have two locating points which are designed to share the load. If you go and whack a big airbag right in the middle of the chassis, and then blow it up to some ridiculous pressure (like 40psi), then it will now take all of the weight. So you’ve shifted the load to a single point on the chassis that was never designed to take it. The result? One bent chassis.
Until next time, keep the shiny side up!
Cheers, Pat Callinan

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