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Don't delay on your 4x4 preparations

By Dean Mellor, 06 May 2018 Opinion

4x4 preparations

Air-con issues stifle a cross-country family trip for resident adviser.

YOU’D think a bloke who’s been writing stories about 4x4 trip preparation for nigh on 25 years would be pretty good at trip preparation.

At least that’s what I was thinking as I piloted my Defender along the Barrier Highway towards Cobar – without air-conditioning – as the mercury nudged 38 degrees outside.

I had both window vents open and both front windows wound down, and being in my happy place I was actually quite enjoying the warm breeze. However, I have to admit there was a hell of a lot of heat coming through the floor, with absolutely no insulation between vehicle occupants and the engine, gearbox and transfer case.

I knew my passengers were both wrecked after what had been a long and noisy day in the old Landy. There’s no sound insulation, either, so the constant drone of the engine and driveline is incessantly intrusive, like an annoying, omnipresent being. Oh, and the wind noise is best described as “next level”.

But Renata and Delilah continued to smile ... probably for my benefit rather than a feeling of joy or comfort. Either that or they were already daydreaming about the pool they’d soon be soaking in when we reached Cobar.

Ironically, my Defender is fitted with a great bloody big air-conditioning system that hangs down beneath the dash, but it’s buggered. I had intended to have it fixed before we left for the Eldee Easter Festival but I simply ran out of time. And, anyway, I thought there’s not much chance of it being too hot this time of the year. How wrong was I?

I had a long list of things to do before we packed and headed off: I had to send the Defender off for a service, fit a new steering guard, rewire the driving lights, build a storage system in the cargo area, fit a new head unit and some rear speakers, and, possibly of most importance, fix a niggling problem with my old Engel fridge that saw it switch off intermittently when bumping over rough roads.

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I found a spare afternoon to rewire the driving lights, plugging the loom into the driver’s side headlight and re-routing the wires across the engine bay and through the bulkhead to the cabin. Then, a week before ETD, I dropped off my Engel at the local service centre before I took the Defender to the blokes at Roving Mechanical to sort out the service.

While there, they also replaced the rear brakes and fitted an APT steering guard. Unfortunately, I hadn’t left them with enough time to locate and fix the air-conditioning fault.

Running out of time I had a local automotive sound-system mob fit a new head unit and some speakers in the rear. They shall remain unnamed as they did such a crook job and I really can’t think of anything nice to say about them.

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With two days left I dropped the Defender off at the local air-conditioning specialist who found the fault to be a hole in the condenser, caused by the bonnet catch, which had been rubbing on it. There was simply no time left to have it fixed before we left.

I checked the forecast for Cobar on the Thursday before Easter and was shocked to see the temperature was going to peak late in the afternoon in NSW’s central west just as we’d be driving through it.

I kept that information to myself as I set about sorting the cargo area and relocating the rear speakers, which took about half a day. Then I received the best news I’d heard all week: the Engel was fixed and ready to go, and it only cost 45 bucks. At least we’d have cold water for the trip, and cold beer at the end of the day.

As expected, Day One was a real struggle, with 800-odd clicks in stifling heat. But for the rest of the trip the weather was quite mild. Nevertheless, I learnt a very valuable lesson during Easter 2018: practice what you preach.