Hi, my name is Garry, and I’m writing this article to pass on some of my experiences with long road trips in outback Australia, specifically:

  • Dad’s DIY camping toilet, and tent
  • Emergency auto repairs to
    • Radiator
    • Fuel tank
    • Harmonic balancer
  • A few must-take items to get you out of trouble

DIY Camping Toilet

A chair you can convert to a camp toilet
A chair you can convert to a camp toilet

This was done by removing the seating straps of a folding, aluminum frame chair similar to the one pictured. Later after setting up camp, using electrical tape, my father attached an old toilet (without the lid) to the frame of the chair.


We had a tent for us kids, but not for Mom and Dad.

Since such a tent would not be used very much afterward, and my dad having access to all the materials needed, free of charge from his workplace (with company permission), it was a relatively simple task to go the DIY route.

The tent would be box-shaped, with a pyramid roof.

  • 1 piece of canvas for the front roof and back
  • 2 pieces for the sides
  • The roof section would overhang the walls
  • 5 poles inclining slightly taller pole to raise the roof in the center in case of rain.
  • 10 lengths of cord
  • 4 tent pegs
  • Setting up would ben a 2 man job


These would be erected first. Loop a guy rope/cord over the protruding wood screw, screwed vertically into the top of the pole.

  •  Front corner pole: One person holds the pole up while the other secures the other end of the guy rope, with a tent peg at 45º toward the other end of the intended side wall position. A second guy rope is then secured at 90º to the intended front.
  • While the pole is still being held, a third guy rope is attached to the pole. the other end of the cord is then attached to a second front corner pole and held in place while 2 mere guy ropes are secured, equal and opposite, the first 2 pegged cords.
  • These 2 poles will now stand without being held.
  • Both wall sections with eyelets in the corners and cotton tie off tapes tied to the bottom corners,  are attached to the top of each pole and tied off at the bottom.
  • Follow the same procedure for the back, only, attache the end of the wall first before attaching the guy ropes. This will ensure that the poles will be in their correct positions.
  • The roof section needs some slack, allowing the placement of a slightly longer pole, with a lid of some sort, screwed into its top, to be placed in the center of the tent.
  • Attach the third piece of canvas, with a split in the middle of the front section for a doorway.
product review image
EH holden

Emergency Repairs: when you’re in the middle of nowhere.

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Radiator – bottom of the picture. HK Holden
  • Radiator: if for whatever reason it develops a leak, a high-temperature warning light will come on. Stop the car immediately and turn off the engine.
    • Wait for it to cool (very important to avoid scolding your self), then dimp in a heaped tablespoon of pepper, and refill with water.
    • This a temporary fix and the car should only be driven at moderate revs until a more permanent fix can be affected.
  • Fuel tank: You’ll know about this when the fuel gauge starts going down noticeably quicker, of you run out of fuel unexpectedly.
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Fuel tank beneath
    • The fuel tank is located (usually) under the car to the rear.
    • Give everybody some chewing gum so as to wad up a sticky ball.
    • Clean the damaged area, and press some of it into the puncture hole, and smear the rest flat against the outside of the fuel tank.
    • It doesn’t matter if fuel is still leaking out.
    • The heat of the engine will help harden the gum.
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A similar style, harmonic balancer
  • Harmonic balancer: One time I had a harmonic balancer fall off its shaft.
    • The Harmonic balancer is a pulley wheel attached to the engine shaft at the front of the car. It is connected via fan belt, to the radiator fan and the alternator which charges the battery
    • Within the harmonic balance, there is a rubber section between the rin and the center. If it perishes, the rim will fall off and the engine will soon overheat.
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Alternator for an HK Holden
    • The alternator was detached from the tension-adjustment bracket and then reattached to the bracket with the coat hanger wire, with a rock from the side of the road wedged between the alternator and the engine to keep it in place.
    • This was done in order to get enough tension on the fan belt, so as to run the belt directly off the engine shaft.
    • 4” of slack needed to be taken up – the diameter of the harmonic balancer which used to be there
    • I drove the car for a week like that afterward; I was a university student driving from Broken Hill to Adelaide – a 300 mile/800 km trip.

Things to take with you when you’re headed to the middle of nowhere

  • Spare fuel, oil, and water
  • Spare fan belt
  • Cable ties
  • Chewing gum, and pepper
  • Adjustable spanner (at least), pliers, screwdrivers, side cutters, and a hammer
  • Everything you need for a tire change
  • A torch/flashlight and possibly a headlamp (see “What’s the best headlamp for camping?”)
  • A good first-aid kit

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