Organising A trip North for the Dry Season

As many of you know, I am passionate about supporting locally owned & operated family business. So when it came time to get some advice on preparing your 4WD for a decent stint in Northern Australia this coming Dry Season (The winter period), I sat down with the Hedges Family from TJM Maroochydore.

History:

Before we start, I thought I would give you all a little bit of history on the Hedges. Jeff & his wife leanne came from the bush – just outside of Toowoomba. They bought their family up in Towoomba in the early years & it was Fraser Island where they had many of their Family camping trips. Jeff said, “We would knock off work Friday night & have the car ready. We’d leave in early Saturday morning in the dark & we would be ready for the barge at Rainbow beach as the sun came up. The weekend was ours to enjoy. It was a long way to go, but the family just loved it so much.”

Now living on the Sunshine Coast, Jeff & Leanne & their son & daughter in law Scott & Mandy have owned & operated TJM Maroochydore for 14 years. They still absolutely love camping & love a good 4WD trip. In fact Scott & Mandy are off for their 2nd trip to the Gulf this July School holidays. And Jeff & Leanne are doing the Savannah Way in April. Good luck & have a ball guys!

Great Advice

When I sat down with the family & we started to talk, there was no end to what could or could not go wrong on a trip to the likes of The Cape. Jeff made it very clear, that even the best made cars now days can still have things go wrong & as he said “At the worst possible time & place!”. He mentioned that the cost to locate & transport a broken down vehicle, find yourself accommodation & the loss of time wasted sitting around when something goes wrong….  would blow your mind (& budget!).

This leads us to Car Preparation & that’s what I wanted to talk about today. Scott mentioned that it is having your car inspected & prepared that is vital. His wife Mandy was all about safety & knowing that she & her young family were safe at all times no matter where they were.

There was some general agreement amongst them all on some basics:

  • Comprehensive Safety inspection.
  • Healthy Tyres.
  • Spare Parts to Carry.

Safety Inspection.

This was an interesting topic with the Hedges family.

Jeff Hedges: was all about inspecting suspension. The amount of work our suspension does on a daily basis, means it is worked incredibly hard on & off the road. But it is not until you get to a place like the Cape & those relentless corrugations come into play that you realise how important checking your suspension is. “It is a sight to see & feel”. Jeff mentioned. He went on to tell me how amazing the vibration through the car is & it can go on for hours!

Scott Hedges:  Was all about Servicing your 4WD. Believe it or not, so many people do their own servicing & miss the basics. It’s a long way between towns in some places up north & it is the basics you want to get right.

Mandy Hedges: Had a great left field comment. Mandy let me know that one of the least looked at items was the Air conditioner. She hears of so many people getting into remote areas & the air conditioned fails & needs re-gassing. With kids in the car, she said it would be unbearable up north with out air con.

Tyres

When we got talking about tyres I learnt some interesting facts. For example, I had no idea that Australia is largely used as a world wide testing ground for so many of the brands. Jeff went on to explain that it was due to our contrasting conditions & vastly different terrains that makes Australia so popular to tyre companies for testing. I guess when you think about it, we have snow in the southern states in winter, corrugations in the northern states (depending on when roads have been graded etc..), the sandy desert of central Australia & the the sharp shale/rocky roads in parts of the outback. It just makes sense.

In Jeffs opinion, he would always play the, “Better to be safe than sorry”, option & put on new tyres. Half worn tyres are simply a NO NO! It’s the safety of your family in the car, you don’t need to be worried about old tyres. He also said they have a duty of care when it comes to tyres & fitting them. He will not allow a tyre older than 6-7 years of age be used as a spare, they have an unwritten used by date now days.

Spare Parts

Where do you stop & start here was the question on my mind? It’s a real trade off between making sure you have some back up spare parts, having the room to store them & then of course carrying too many because we are worried “We might just need that one day” (How many of those spares could there be… endless!) In a nut shell it got back to the basics. It was spare air cleaners, radiator hoses & the famous old fuel filter that topped the list. Jeff made it very clear that the fuel in the outback (or remote areas in general) isn’t always as fresh as we’d like. It can be often stored in extremely hot climates which isn’t always good for fuel & often for long periods of time. The heat isn’t so much an issue as it is more often than not stored underground with more consistent temperatures, but it is the mix of old or stale fuel & for longer periods of time that can bring us all unstuck.

They all left me with some good last minute advice:

Jeff Hedges: One of the things we often see on the side of the roads or up in trees are bash plates from under cars. The factory fitted bash plates are often quite thin & some even made of plastic. They tear out easy & sometimes they are small, therefore protect little of the underbody. Jeff siad that 3mm think, oversized bash plates are not a bad optional extra to look at fitting to your vehicle.

Scott Hedges: Scott’s advice had nothing to do with gear & all too do with support. “It’s an uneasy remote place in the middle fo the Australian Outback Jarrod, my advice would be to tag along in groups.” he said. Support from each other not only gives you confidence – many hands make light work if trouble should also appear.

Mandy Hedges: Mandy said that the dust drove her mad. She made a great point of sitting well back behind the person in front. Being up close in the bull dust from the leading car just doesn’t make sense… it’s dangerous, it gets tinto everything & it’s not a race!

So there you go everyone, there are some real basics. As you can imagine, this page could go on for a long long time. But above are some basics & I really appreciate the information form Jeff & Leanne – Scott & Mandy. If there is anything you need to know about getting your 4WD ready, make sure you contact the crew at TJM Maroochydore. Let them know you read my little story here & say hello to them for me.

By the way, any questions you might have (Click Here) & you will get one of the TJM maroochydore crew on email. Jeff sent through some images below of their past trip, make sure you check them out!

tjm

 

Thanks guys.

 

Happy Camping!

Jarrod

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