Outback Travel Australia Blog

Allan Whiting's thoughts on 4WD issues and other topics of interest....

Let's slow down the electronic race

Allan Whiting - Thursday, February 20, 2014

We all have our favourite electronics-failure horror stories and here at Outback Travel Australia we've had our fair share of dramas, with our own vehicles and with road-test machinery.

Self-locking 4WDs are great fun: we had to use a two-metre length of eight-gauge fencing wire to tease up a door lock button in a Jeep, after it self-locked with the key in the ignition. We forced the wire through a gap between the tailgate glass and its frame.

That couldn't work for the poor bloke who lost his Discovery key at Purni Bore in the Simpson Desert. After a search for the key turned up nothing, he needed a tilt-tray to get the vehicle to a Land Rover dealer and there aren't many of them in the bush anymore. Cost thousands and ruined his holiday.

We had drama with our own Discovery 3 and when we sold it we warned the new owner what he might face. Its favourite trick was losing power on one particular hill near our home. After a stop and engine restart it was fine again. It did this from new; Land Rover couldn't fix it and refused warranty on the problem after 100,000km.

There were other issues too, like the time the remote locking stopped working. The cause was flooding of the roof-lining-mounted sensor when the sunroof rain gutter drains blocked with dust. Land Rover fixed it, but an hour later, after rain, the new sensor died. Then they removed the blocked non-return valves at the base of the sunroof drain tubes - why not take the damn things out in the first place?

Let's not pick only on Land Rover. Lose both keys of a modern vehicle and you can be up for a new computer, as well as a set of keys. Pencil in hundreds, if not thousands of dollars for this exercise.

Our mate has a Mercedes-Benz ML and his horn stopped working. (The horn in the car.) No problem, said the dealer: just give us a couple of grand and we'll put on a nice new steering wheel! The horn failure can't be fixed any other way.

Get a dose of dodgy fuel in the tank of a modern, electronically-injected diesel 4WD and you'll not only be stranded, but up for thousands of dollars in repair bills that won't be covered by warranty.

Trigger an airbag release by hitting a 'roo and your vehicle will most likely be immobilised, where it is.

For those of us who venture into the semi-unknown the quirks of vehicle electronics are no joke. We think it's gone too far, too soon and some system redundancy or safeguards against a stranding need to be incorporated.

We're sure you all have electronics horror stories and if you want to share them, let us know.


Ken Russ commented on 03-Mar-2014 08:51 AM
Hi Alan
Funny thing you should talk about electronics in Land rovers. When land rover brought their fabulous new Land rover Discovery system to Australia they took it up the cape to prove just how damn fine and good the system was. Of course being Land rover the door seals didn't work any better than on the old series I and II so you should have a talk to the old fella at Bramwell junction about the day they rescued everyone of these you beaut new Discoveries from the middle of the Pascoe. Not only did the door seals not work but the buff heads mounted the ECM under the seat. Apparently, when you flood an ECM module funny things happen, like nothing works.
I can't recall reading about this in any magazine or brochure either.
Anonymous commented on 03-Mar-2014 10:55 PM
I keep a spare set of keys in a lock box fitted to the chassis of the Disco. Put the keys in a small snap seal plastic bag to keep water or dust from adversely affecting the electronics of the ignition key. Don't forget the combination of the lock box.

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