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Desert Rescue: High And Dry

Where did I leave you? Oh yeah, comfortable at home with all your mod cons like electricity, a roof over your head and a working phone service where you can ring someone and complain when your electricity goes out for ten minutes. I wouldn’t trade with you for a second!! Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah

Where did I leave the story? Oh yeah I was about explain why I put the Pajero I’d just pulled out of the Ponton River on the back of the Beast once I had it off the rock and didn’t just let the boys drive it out. Well the main reason is because water ingestion can cause all sorts of issues and while the Pajero itself hadn’t been submerged there was a lot of parts that were submerged for a long time. We were able to check damage to some parts of the vehicle once it was free of the rock but we couldn’t check everything. There was also the possibility that starting the engine without fully checking everything could cause more damage so for the time and effort involved in putting it on the Beast’s back and giving her a lift out it just wasn’t worth the risk.

The other advantage of having the Pajero on the back of the Beast when it was on dry land was that it was easier to check over the under carriage. Rather than having to lay on the ground and inspect underneath the vehicle we could stand on our feet, just like the pit I had built in the shed. We obviously wouldn’t be able to see everything but the main point of interest was where it had been sitting on the rock and we could see that quite well.

As I said earlier there was some slight damage to the slider on the passenger side. Do I need to explain that? The slider, or rock slider, is a bit like the steps you see on the sides of high vehicles to allow people to step up into the cabin. Their main aim is to protect the body of the vehicle from rocks by taking the hit first. They are made from strong steel and mounted directly to the chassis, they can sometimes double as side steps but side steps can never double as sliders because they are usually made from weaker material and more of a cosmetic thing.

Anyway there was some damage to the slider because dragging the vehicle off the rocks bent it, but it held on to the chassis where it was mounted just as it was designed to do, and it protected the body as it was designed to do. Otherwise there didn’t appear to be any other damage, while we couldn’t see all the points where the rock pushed against the under body when it was in the water once it was out there only seemed to be a few small dings and scratches, none that required repair. The boys really were lucky, there was no doubt their attention to detail when it came to setting the Pajero up played a big part in how little damage was done but luck also played a part in it.

By the time we’d got through the inspection of the Pajero while it was up on the Beast and out of the river it was moving towards darkness, we probably only had an hour until complete darkness and thirty minutes until lights were needed. Because I could cook in the dark, and I assumed that Jarrod and Gary could given they were seasoned campers, I decided with what was remaining of the daylight I would drop the Pajero off the back of the Beast and have a quick look under the bonnet before trying to start it and see if we could get it running.

I know what you are thinking, why not just try to start the thing up on the back of the Beast and then if it doesn’t start I wouldn’t have to put it back on to tow it back to Halls Creek. Well to be honest I could have done that but firstly I had no reason to suspect the Pajero wouldn’t start, or that we couldn’t get it running. But the main reason was because working on anything while up on the tray of the Beast is something I only do if there is no other choice, it’s awkward and there is restricted movement but also because the risk of stepping wrong and falling off is not worth it.

Because the remote for the tray was wireless I was able to sit in the driver’s seat of the Pajero while Jarrod and Gary stood to one side clear of everything. I used the remote control to slide the tray backwards, then tilt it upwards until the back was touching the ground, it’s a bit of a weird feeling riding the tray like that but you kind of get used to it. When the rear of the tray connected with the ground and provided me a ramp to get down I slowly let out the winch, letting it do the majority of the work and only holding pressure on the brakes to keep things under control.

As I’ve told you before the winch on the Beast is over engineered and the SWL (Safe Working Load, not what your thinking 😛 ) is well above the size of any vehicle I could put on the back of it so while it may appear I was putting a lot of strain on the winch I was still working well within it’s limits.

Just before the front wheels were about to come off the tray and hit the dirt I let the brakes and the winch go completely which afford just enough momentum for the front of the Pajero to clear the tray. With all four wheels on the ground I applied the hand brake then climbed out of the driver’s seat and began to unhook the winch. I didn’t bother winding up the winch immediately in case there was some reason why the Pajero needed to go back on the tray.

After an inspection under the bonnet, using a hand held LED light, there was nothing broken or obvious that was going to stop the engine from starting. We checked all the terminals from the battery, we checked fan belts and we checked the oil and water just to make sure. It took us nearly half an hour to check everything and darkness was really taking over us by the time we were finished. We found a few loose connections and we disconnected a few things to make sure they weren’t full of water, and of course we checked the air filter for any signs on water ingress and found nothing obvious, so of course we expected the motor to start.

Although we expected it to start sometimes our expectations aren’t what happens and after three cranks of the ignition the diesel engine still hadn’t kicked over. With three failed attempts we did what everyone did in our situation we poked and prodded around the engine looking for something we missed and when it didn’t appear we missed anything we tried again.

Despite the three failed attempts I was still confident that the Pajero would start again, there was nothing obvious stopping it and by the sounds we were hearing she wanted to start she just didn’t seem ready. As Jarrod and I stood beside the vehicle looking into the engine bay but keeping our hands clear Gary got in the drivers seat and placed his hand on the key.

Previous Desert Rescue story here.


  1. Let’s hope Gary has the magic touch.

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