Come to Australia and rent a self drive camper. That was what this German couple we found on the side of the road in the middle of the Oodnadatta track did. Although they had spent hundreds of hours over the Internet planning their adventure, making international phone calls to rental companies, and asking for the best option to hire a vehicle that money could buy. For the unsuspecting tourists feeding money into our economy, this strategy for touring can raise a few questions. Like, is the rental up to a standard expected and advertised.
We came across this couple with what appeared to be a blown tire. In the outback, any kind of mechanical issue at the side of the road is a must pull over to make sure all is ok. This couple had also planned their trip from Germany to Australia for over 12 months. When they arrived in Adelaide to pick up there self drive all in one holiday and accommodation, papers were signed and away they went on route to Uluru through the outback. Now a blown tire can almost be expected out here so nothing out of the ordinary was at play until we offered to help. With some limitations in English, it was discovered that the hire company camper was not adequately equipped for the task at hand.
The jack used for changing the tire was cracked and half of the top section that lifts the car was missing. Now imagine trying to change a tire with a dangerous UN repairable jack. To make matters worse, the lever that lifts the jack was actually twisted and weakened by previous & obvious repairs and UN useable. Managing to get the tire off the car, the spare wheel then became the focus. It had been secured so tightly underneath the vehicle body that the sidewalls of the spare tire had rubbed away part of the rubber on the tire. Personally, I wouldn’t even have considered using it if it was a choice, but with only one spare and an oddball size tire there was no choice. At this point the head-shaking buy all concerned was enough to stress even the most seasoned traveller.
On further inspection I offered to check all the tire pressures as they had described the car as horrible to drive. Starting with the spare we found 60+PSI, it was off my pocket tire pressure gauges scale. Next was the good left rear tire and 50 PSI there? Moving to the front left and a reading of 42 PSI leaving the final tire being the front right and it’s reading of 29PSI. Now while I understand that some people including my Mrs never check tire pressures on there daily driver back home, but this rental was just waiting for an unsuspecting tourist. We aired down all tires to pressures conducive to the road ahead, and they followed us to the next town about 80km away with no guarantee that they would be able to obtain a spare for days of corrugated roads ahead. The tourists also explained that they had to purchase some new fuses and a light globe as camping 2 nights earlier was difficult with no lights and no running water from the onboard tank.
Although happy with what type of vehicle they had hired, the same cant be said about the maintenance of the hire vehicle. The outback can throw up some pretty bad deals if your not prepared, but spare a thought for those who travel thousands of miles just to get to Australia and then end up with a vehicle that is ill prepared at the most basic level. Unfortunately, something as simple as this can turn tourists off travelling in any country and word of mouth, internet forums and bad press will undoubtedly hurt tourism and the economy. We hear stories all the time about stranded tourists in the outback, having seen first hand what there money pays for on occasions like this, is there any wonder why.