Re: When last did you change a wheel next to the road?
On a tour of Namibia in Jan/Feb this year we took the alternative route from Opuwo to Sesfontein. That is the D3705 via Kaoko Otavi and Robbies Pass, instead of using the C34/D3704.
All was going well but the road was very deserted and one could see it was not in regular use. We took the fork to the right into the gorge where Robbies Pass starts and my charges and I stopped to look at the dry waterfall in the river. It must be spectacular when it has water falling down it.
We managed the first river crossing and it was getting late, with the GPS indicating we would reach Sesfontein ever later. When we started on this road, the ETA was at 14h30. By the time we had done the first river crossing the ETA was 18h00!
Then disaster struck! Crawling down a steep incline in 1st gear LR, Phil panicked and hit the clutch of the Hired Nissan Hardbody 4x4. The Nissan single cab lunged forward and hit a rock, puncturing the sump! We had no option but to leave it right there in the pass and load Phil and Beth into the Patrol, with just the minimum of luggage (basically an overnight bag each, as space in my vehicle was limited even after we transferred the charcoal, chairs and a few other things off the back seat, into their vehicle).
About 500 m along I got a flat tyre. We changed the RR tyre and fitted the spare, using the HL jack, but it still took some time as the vehicle and jack were not too stable perched on the rocks. The tyre had about a 15 mm cut right on the shoulder.The river bed was littered with large rocks, most on them very sharp! The rest of the 3,5 km was basically driving in the riverbed itself and the going was really slow and tedious and I now had no spare either.
Who of you guys know Robbies Pass (co-ords S18 39.256 and E13 31.502)? What a track that is!!! It is not for the feint hearted, that is for sure. Fortunately my Patrol has a 50mm raised suspension and was fitted with slightly bigger (than standard) 265/70 x 17 tyres, which also helped. I only scraped the chassis twice!!
We got to Sesfontein at around 19h30, it was dusk already. Phil and Beth booked into the Sesfontein Lodge and I camped at Camp Zebra. It was actually quite cheap to camp there and the amenities were a bit primitive but clean and the water was hot.
We phoned the 4x4 hire company and asked them to send a replacement vehicle and come and recover the stranded one. It told them what had happened and told them to bring a replacement sump (only the lower tin part of the sump), spanners and 5lt of oil!
The next morning at 08h00 we were at the "Auto Centre" in Sesfontein, a shack where they sold second hand tyres, but at least they had the correct fitting machines. They confirmed the tyre too damaged to even patch from the inside. They had a few 265/65 x 17 tyres although I actually needed a 265/70 x 17 tyre. They wanted N$1300 per tyre, about 60% worn, but I managed to get them down to N$1100 for a Pirelli tyre. Then we were off , back to Robbie's Pass, to collect the luggage left behind the previous day. We were on our way north towards Opuwo on the better D3704 to retrace our steps from Kaoko Otavi as I did not want to do the whole pass again! It was a bit further (120 km further!) but I judged it would be quicker.
Travelling along the D3704/C43 I was surprised to see that the Otjomatemba Pass has actually been tarred (about 5km long) although the rest of that road was dirt with lots of sharp stones. About 90km into this 112km long road, I went around a corner and felt the rear end of the vehicle was a bit loose on the road. I stopped and found that the LR wheel was in shreds, a total write-off.... We again hauled out the HL jack and put the Pirelli on there. I know it was actually too small and was essentially a on-road tyre as opposed to the Goodyear Duratrac MTRs, but what could I do?
We now decided that we HAD to go to Opuwo, as I was again without a spare. We hoped to get something in the correct size there.
About 20km along, just as we got to the intersection with the D3707, I again heard a funny noise, like I was driving over ripples in the road. I stopped and the RR tyre was about 80% flat and the sidewall looked all wavy. It was obviously severely damaged and we had no spare. I had now lost 3 of the Goodyear Wrangler Duratrac tyres in less than 24 hours (of which one was virtually brand new)! AND THEY ARE NOT EXACTLY CHEAP EITHER!!!!
Now desperate, I pumped up the tyre and it actually took air, but I could hear the hissing of escaping air. It gave me some hope! We were still about 30km from Opuwo, maybe I could pump it, drive, stop, pump it again and so reach Opuwo. This was quickly proven not to be an option, as the tyre went flat in about 2 minutes after pumping it. And if I drove it when half flat, it would be totally destroyed in about 1 km at most!! Then we would be totally buggered......
I again jacked the Patrol up. More disaster! Two of the wheel studs had broken off! The one was missing and the second one broke as I put the wheel spanner to it. Fortunately it was not two next to each other, there was one "healthy" stud between the two broken ones. All the other nuts were loose, finger tight at most. In our haste the previous afternoon when fitting the spare, I must have forgotten to tighten the wheel nuts properly.
I again pumped the tyre up and we soon found a hole on the tread of the tyre. But when I put the reamer in to clean the hole before plugging it, I noticed it was quite big. I put two plugs onto the plugging tool and this managed to bock the hole. We pumped the tyre to about 2 bar and it was not leaking, but the sidewall looked really sick and I was worried we may not reach Opuwo. I adjusted the driver's side mirror so I could see the tyre and we drove off at 60 kph, watching the tyre in the mirror intently all the time! Fortunately we managed to reach our destination and the tyre had not even gone flat!
There is fortunately a Fitment Centre right next to the OK in Opuwo and I went in there hoping to maybe get 2 General Grabbers or something similar in a 265/65 x 17. I did not have any hope for 265/70 x 17s at all, but eventually my luck had changed, They had 2 Federal Couragia 265/70 x 70 MTRs!!! Just what I actually needed. But there was a snag! They were N$ 3680 each and their credit card machine only took Petrol Cards, not normal credit or debit cards. They tried my Debit and Credit cards, but it did not work! My daily ATM cash withdrawal limit on my Debit Card is R5000. I managed to get them down to R3400 per tyre, but I was still N$1800 short. I used my Credit card for the first time ever to draw cash and did not know what the cash withdrawal limit was. Fortunately its limit was enough to give me the balance of what I needed. With the new tyres fitted, we went off to collect the rest of my charges' luggage and also my things from their stranded hired 4x4.
Just about 3 km out of Kaoko Otavi, the heavens opened up and the road / track became really muddy and slippery, even the MTR tyres battled to cope. We decided it was too risky to not continue alone (WITH NO-ONE KNOWING WHERE WE ARE) and so weturned back to Kaoko Otavi and on to the the D3704 to Sesfontein. We got to Sesfontein around 18h00, not achieving anything,but loosing two more tyres in the process. The 4x4 hire company had in the meantime contacted Beth, who had stayed at the Sesfontein Lodge. This was done to give us space to bring all their possessions back, but also to stay where she had cellphone reception.
They were not very happy, they said to her we were not on an official road, but they sent a replacement vehicle nevertheless (on a flatbed) and also sent a mechanic along. They eventually arrived from Windhoek 36 hrs after we called for a replacement.
The next morning we were to leave at 06h00 to enter the canyon from the south this time, as we were not in the mood to go back on the D3704 road where we had lost two tyres the day before. As we left Sesfontein, we passed a Flatbed with a 4x4 on the back and realised it was the replacement vehicle for us. They sent the mechanic along in a Land Cruiser with another sump, spanners, oil, and all the hardware required to repair the vehicle stuck in Robbie's Pass so they could drive it out (north, the way we had driven it into the gorge).
We went on while they dropped the replacement 4x4 vehicle at the Lodge and they also left the flatbed there and then followed us into the pass. The 76km to our destination took us 3 hours. I dropped Phil and Beth at the start of the gorge and they walked in. I would follow, building the road as I went in. I would walk until I got to a point where I could turn around, and then walked back to my vehicle, building the road as I went back (much wiser idea than loosing a tyre again). I got them about 300m from the stricken vehicle, they managed to each carry their bags (they travelled light, each only had one biggish bag) and my loose stuff, like my folding chair and the 2 way radio and antenna that I had made available to them for the trip. They left the charcoal, tinned food, potatoes and the meat in the freezer for the guys fetching the vehicle as they did not have food with them.
We met the recovery team about 1 km after our turnaround point and they berated us for trying to take the hire vehicle along that road. To be fair, it was a marked route with a route number, and where we picked up the trouble, we had already decided to turn around once we got the Nissan Hardbody to the bottom of the incline where the unfortunate incident occurred. We never got the chance! The sump and the rock prevented us from turning around.
Once back in Jhb I did give them hell though for renting out a 4x4 that they knew was going to Namibia, without it being fitted with any form of sump protection and without a front recovery point!! The vehicle was also fitted with the ridiculously small 205 x 15 tyres. The tyres, in my estimation, should have been at least 245/70 x 15s
We continued the trip on that Friday, we went as far as Henties, Walvis, Soussusvlei etc, and the Monday, on our way back to Windhoek, the Flatbed with the Hardbody on the back and the Land Cruiser following it, went past us, going south back to SA! So obviously they managed to replace the punctured sump and drove the vehicle out of Robbie's Pass, back to Kaoko Otavi and Sesfontein.
We came back via the Trans Kalahari Highway and once I got home I discovered that the RF tyre was actually also damaged beyond repair. Besides the damage to the mag rims (inflicted in the pass, while traversing the riverbed and rocks) I managed to "peel" a piece of the sidewall rubber (about 40mm x 60 mm in size) from the canvas. It was still attached on the one side and the rim and the inflated tyre kept it in place, but once I deflated the tyre to put on two new MTRs to match the two Federal MTRs, it was discovered.
I had a brand new Cooper STT as a spare on my Pathfinder and I managed to buy one more (the last Cooper STT in 265/70 x 17 in Gauteng) from TWT in Bruma (they found it in Krugersdorp and fetched it there for me). So I had 4 new MTRs back on the vehicle with the Goodyear Duratrac (from the LF) as a spare. The only problem is that now I do not have a spare MTR for the Pathfinder, as I do not feel I can trust the damaged Duratrac, although the rubber does not add much strength to the sidewall. the strength is apparently in the canvass (which in that case seems undamaged). But who knows it that is actually the case.
So there you have it, three (forced) tyre changes in less than 24 hours
Last edited by mvcoller; 2017/03/23 at 11:16 PM.
Malcolm van Coller - retired but remained living in Johannesburg (love it here, can find everything you want and need here in Jhb)
2011 Nissan Pathfinder 2,5 CDi LE Manual (Standard Traction Control plus Front Diff Locker)
2008 Nissan Patrol 3.0 TDi GL
2003 Bushwakka Shorti with RTT (extra luggage space for customers) on Guiding trips.
Ex 1999 Nissan Terrano 2.7 TDi (Limited Slip Diffs Front and Rear) with Jurgens RTT for Guiding trips
Ex 2011 Conqueror Supra II for personal camping
Ex 1995 GQ Patrol GLX 3 speed Auto (disaster that box was!) - Lexus V8 transplant
Ex 1984 Nissan Safari (Poelies Vehn) 2.8 Stationwagon with 5 speed conversion, rusted like it was paid to rust!
Ex 1995 Sani 3.0 V6 Exec
Ex 1994 Venture 2200 with lock diff (Company vehicle) that whet my appetite for overlanding.
Many 4x4s in National Service (Landies, Jeeps, Willys, Bedfords, Unimogs and Buffels)