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Make Like MacGyver: snapped brakes on the Gibb River Road   

April 17, 2018
 Make Like MacGyver: snapped brakes on the Gibb River Road

The Gibb River Road is a 660km stretch of extremely corrugated dirt road in the Kimberley, WA. Until the Gibb, we had been quite happy about our 4WD-camper trailer combo and its ability to handle the toughest of off-road conditions. But no-one comes off the Gibb unscathed, and we were no exception. At night we sat around campfires chatting with other travelling families – all just naturally bonding by talking about what had broken or rattled off each of our cars that day. We had some minor issues – losing a d-shackle for the safety chain, pulverising the Anderson plug, the trailer brakes lead falling off, our entire camper trailer and car filling with red dirt. And then there was the not so minor issue.

After tackling the worst of the corrugations up to Mitchell Falls, we pulled into a cattle station because a mysterious light was flashing. Which the manual alarmingly revealed to be a brakes symbol. Argh! We need those! The initial hubby diagnosis was that we just needed to top up the brake fluid. Phew – easy. So we bought two bottles from the scantily stocked station store, filled it up and went to leave. Except the mystery light kept flashing and the brake fluid just streamed out under the car. Then the hubby got under the car and saw the line thingy that makes the brakes work (yes – I am getting highly technical here) had snapped. Eek.

We were stuck at the station overnight while the learning-on-the-job bush mechanic hubby got the inner tube from our kid’s bike, and duct taped and cable tied the hell out of it around the broken brake line. We needed more brake fluid, but it turned out a pair of boofheads had bought the last two bottles and poured it straight through a broken brake line. Oops.


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So, with my cutest offspring in tow, the kid and I turned on maximum charm/desperation/sobbing to beg the station owner for more brake fluid. It was all very undignified. But productive. He very reluctantly sold us some of his personal stash, while muttering “Whaddya need brakes for anyway”. Damn us city folk and our wimpy preferences for being able to, you know, stop. But bless him and his surly generosity. It got us through, only just and very slowly, another 150kms to the mechanic half way along the Gibb (who unsurprisingly does a ROARING trade). Duct tape combined with MacGyver hubby skills combined with remote outback kindness topped off with cute kid tears saved our skins, and we managed to limp into Broome – dirty, weary and battle-scarred. But thankfully, with functioning brakes.


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