03 Apr Honey, I killed the Landcruiser!
The last week in March 2017 was to be historic for our family gap year. After 15 months on the road and nearly 6 months of that in Western Australia, we were to cross the Nullarbor Plain from WA into SA. The map on our caravan wall was going to look awesome and we were going to be well on our way home to Brisbane.
And then 20km short of Ceduna, SA (the eastern most side of the Nullarbor), Larry the Landcruiser’s gearbox groaned, then it whirred and after flicking it into neutral, Larry coasted to a halt and would not go any further. After 55,000kms of hard driving, I think I’ve killed Larry the Landcruiser!
After suffering the indignity of having Larry and the Crusader dragged the last 20kms across the Nullabor on a tow truck, we found accommodation at the local Big 4 and set about waiting for Larry’s diagnoses. After a tense 24 hrs the preliminary findings were in; Larry’s gearbox was gone and his clutch was suspect too. Then the mechanic said “Do you tow in 5th by chance?”
Now let’s put it out there right now, Larry the Landcruiser has a pretty good life – I don’t really drive Larry all that hard. For instance I seldom go above 90km/h when towing, barely over 100km/h when not towing and Larry goes to a mechanic for a checkover/service every 7,500km instead of the recommended 10,000km. All in all, he’s a pretty well looked after Landcruiser, except I do tow in 5th.
Now depending on who you speak to, towing in 5th gear isn’t a big deal, but to others, telling them is like slapping them in the face. People can take gross offence to even the thought of it. To be honest I knew of a 5th gear thing, but not the whole story – I was told not to tow uphill in 5th, but that was it. I learnt that a lot of people believe you should never tow in 5th at all. Right now I really wish I knew the whole story because we’d be considerably better off.
The final assessment on Larry’s health came on Monday, 4 days after we limped into Ceduna. The gearbox needed to be taken out and apart to properly assess the damage. That day we got some bad news, then some good news and then some more bad news. The bad news was that the gearbox was shot and needed to be replaced, however the clutch appeared OK. The mechanic said “we can get you all fixed up and on your way for only $4,500.” Yay! Only $4,500!
The 5th Gear Thing Explained
In laymans terms, which is all I’ve got because I am, well a layman, the 5th gear or overdrive gearing in most cars is pretty flimsy, whereas 4th gear is nice and strong. I could go into specifics (as I know it), but I’m likely to confuse some and discredit myself – basically put, overdrive gears aren’t as strong as 4th and below and don’t like to be stressed. If you stress them too much, they’ll break. And it’s not if they break, it’s when. Towing a 6×4 box trailer is OK, as is a tinnie or even a small camper trailer, however towing a 3.5t caravan is not. And doing this day in and day out for 450 odd days and 55,000kms is a recipe for disaster.
So there you have it, while it’s not 100% conclusive I did it, I think there is enough evidence to support a conviction. I’m going to plead this one out and hope the judge, aka the financial controller, aka the little woman, aka the love of my life, Yas, will forgive me. If it’s any consolation I feel guilty, really guilty and Yas doesn’t hold any grudges. She also encouraged me to write this blog to help other travellers avoid the innocent mistake.
After having Larry in our lives so much of the past 15 months, there is a hole where he used to be. Suddenly there are more 100 series Landcruisers on the road than ever before, and they’re all moving about freely, unlike Larry. Some are even towing caravans! And I’m jealous as hell, but it’s nothing $4500 won’t fix right!
One month on and we are back on the road again, but stay tuned, we might not be out of trouble just yet…..
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