Since most of my existing info went up in flames when www.expeditioncampers.com was recently hacked, I thought I would start this thread.
My expedition camper, called OutbacKamper, was inspired by Turtle IV and Weekend Warrior (www.turtlexpedition.com) and the original Earthroamer (www.Earthroamer.co).
It started as a used 2003 Ford F-350, crew cab, short box, Diesel (7.3), 4x4 with 30,000km, and a new 2004 4wheel Campers "Hawk" shell model camper.
Items added or changed, in roughly chronological order:
-Tires changed to BFG at (5X 295/75-16)
-Remote start and immobilizer
-Carpet replaced by vinyl floor, and sound deadener added (B-quiet)
-Front bumper replaced with Ute Ltd bullbar
-Hella 4000 lights added (1 spot, 1 euro)
-Camper added, including internal tiedowns and wiring to charge aux camper battery
-custom interior centre console for switches and pressure gauge
-custom aluminum bracket for Viair 450 compressor (mounted infront of right side wheel well)
-Espar D-5 diesel heater c/w remote, timer and quick disconnects in truck box
-Aerotanks 55 gallon replacement fuel tank
-The following 5 mods were all done, in two separate sessions, by a company called Sport Trucks Unlimited in Langley, BC. They did great work and I have not had one problem with anything they did:
---ARB front and rear lockers + new bearings
---install air compressor, air tank and lines
---Warn 12000M winch
---Ford X-Springs (front springs from an F450)
-rear bench seat removed and custom rear cargo patform and single seat installed
-Bilstein gas shocks
-Edge 2" mini spring pack (front)
-2" blocks (rear)
-Pre-pump fuel filter
-Rear cargo carrier added (removed after testing to save weight)
-small step / cargo platform added to rear bumper
-Roof rack (for 2nd spare tire, parts box, shovel, 3x Pelican 1600 cases, and 2 tracton mats) using custom aluminum frame to support Yakima load warrior that was too heavy for camper roof.
-plywood cabinets and countertops, with arborite finish
-2nd Optima blue top, deep cycle battery
-sink, water tank, pump, hot water heater, outside shower and fan coil (heater)
-Engel 45l , 12 volt/120volt fridge/freezer
-Upholstered cushions in seat/side bed area
-custom storage boxes for camping gear, stove, etc.
-custom hi-lift jack bracket added
-75 watt BP solar panel and control panel
How it all worked (or didn't work):
Truck: The truck has done (as of Jan 2006) 30,000km in Australia (75,000km total) of that approx 10,000km was on dirt roads and tracks (some of them VERY corrogated) and about 1,000km on trails. Overall the truck has been very reliable and I have been very pleased. The following problems occured:
1) Rear u-joint. This problem occured (intermittant driveline vibration) shortly before the trip, but I did not have time to diagnose and fix it prior to shipping. I think it would have been under warranty too. I took a spare u-joint in my luggage ( I am surprised that customs let it thru because it showed up on the x-ray) and changed it in Sydney.
2) Tires: The tires (BFG at's) had 15,000km on them when I shipped the truck. I had considered replacing them, and keeping them for use after the trip, but decided against it, since they were in good shape. However I had my doubts that they would last the whole trip. After Cape York one tire was toast ( 6" split ) and the other 3 were really torn up from all the sharp rocks. I reluctantly decided that I should replace them all. I decided on Goodyear MTR's since I was under the impression that these were a tougher tire and would stand up to the harsh rocky dirt roads. This meant changing to 285's since the shop refussed to mount 295's on my stock 7" wheels. Although I never buy extended warranties, I decided to take the road hazard warranty offered by Beaurepairers (Aussie tire shop) for $16 per tire. The warranty was a great deal since I have now got 2 new tires and 2 repairs all under warranty. Those mtr's weren't so tough after all! There is a reason all those Aussie trucks have 2 spare tires when in the outback!
3) Batteries: Both stock batteries failed (replaced at approx 68,000km). The technician at the battery store said that they see lots of battery failure due to all the corrogations, they just don't last long when subjected to so many vibrations. I wish I could have found Optimas, but none were available in Esperance, WA (population approx 10,000).
4) Roof rack: The two Yakima bars on the cab of the truck have vibrated loose several times. Adding 3M two sided tape under the pads and hose clamps onto the cross bars has helped greatly, but they still require occasional tightening. I should have installed tracks onto the truck roof.
5) Compressor mount: The custom made bracket that I installed to mount the compressor on has completely let go. It was attached to the truck box with 4 large stainless steel self drilling screws, but that was obviously not enough. I have not fixed this since I need to remove the camper first and my camper jacks are in Sydney. The good news is that the compressor is still working even after about 10,000km of sitting loosly between the truck box and camper.
6) Rear shock mounts: I was convinced that the butchered rear shock mounts would not hold up. So much so that I am carrying spares, however they are working fine. Big-O tires installed my 2" lift and rather that rotating the rear shock mounting brackets on the axle as recommended by the company that supplied the lift, they welded on an extra shackle like extension to the brackets. Because of poor timing on my part I did not have time to fix this prior to shipping. Also I should have just bought the longer rear shocks
Camper (not including camper mods):
I am generally please with the 4wheel camper, considering the abuse it has suffered, but it has had some problems:
1) Camper tie downs: The turnbuckles that secure the camper have a tendancy to work loose over rough terrain. previous to the Australia trip, this ment checking them regularly and tightening slightly, when necessary. However on the Old Telegraph Road (Cape York) the roads were so rough that 3 of the 4 tie downs came off completely within a few hours and the forth was loose. To make matters worse the camper was sitting on top of one of the tiedowns and had shifted enough to be pushing against the compressoor (in the truck box). I managed to lift one corner of the camper with the Hi-Lift jack and remove the turnbuckle from under the camper, however I could not shift the camper the 2" required to realign it properly. When back in Cairns I found a company with an overhead hoist who could lift one end of the camper at a time inorder to realign it. They also drilled a hole in each turnbuckle for a safety wire, and i added an extra nut at each thread inorder to lock it in place. Since these modifications were completed the camper has never moved and the turnbuckles are not loosened no matter how rough the track.
2) Rear window: The window in the rear door of the camper is very poorly made, it is held in by a weak plastic frame and 2 very small plastic tabs. On the way back from Cape York these plastic tabs broke and the glass shifted down several inches allowing large volumes of red dust to enter the camper. Luckily the glass did not break, so a quick repair with duct tape worked until I could silicone the glass in place once we reached Cairns.
3) Fasteners: Several screws holding the roof tie down clamps have broken off, the staples that hold a lot of interior trim have come loose, and several screws holding interior curtain ties etc have pulled out.
4) Aluminum cracks: There are a few small stress cracks starting to show in the siding around windows mainly. I am also thinking that there may be some cracks in the frame as well, but have no way to check at the moment.
5) Rear porch light: The rear porch light has failed, been replaced and failed again. I have given up repairing it.
6) Rear grab handle: the rear grab handle is screwed into the camper frame, but these screws regularly work loose. It needs to be bolted thru the frame.
7) Marinco plug: The plug that connects the camper to the truck is wearing very quickly and works loose occasionally, it is now possible to accidentally reverse the polarity of the connection. A different type of plug is required.
8) Rear back-up light: One rear light worked loose, again because of the vibrations, but this was easily repaired in the field.
All the above may lead you to think that the camper is falling apart, however considering what it has been through, I am reasonable happy with it. It has withstood cyclone strength winds and thousands of km's of very rough corrogations that have literally shaken some vehicles and trailers to pieces. It has never leaked and the interior has been relatively dust free (with the brief exception of #2 above).
Camper Modifications: I did have a few minor problems with the interior mods:
1) Water pump: the water pump had a loose connestion , due to all the vibration.
2) Several screws have worked loose, again mainly from vibrartion. Easily fixed
3) The electrical connections to the second Optima battery worked loose due to vibration, again easily fixed.
Generally vibration is the number one enemy on Australian Outback trips. Every screw connection that is capable of working loose seems to do so sooner or latter. If I did it again I would use fewer screws and more bolts and every bolt would have two nuts and lock-tite.