How embarrassing would it be to run out of fuel even though you still have 60+ litres of diesel in your tank? Well, we managed to do exactly that!
Before you start scratching your head, let me explain what happened. We were on our way from Kununurra to Purnululu National Park and back (in remote Western Australia), and had a bit over 800 km to cover without any petrol stations along the way. As we have two fuel tanks in the car, each capable of taking us 500+ km, we thought it wouldn’t be a problem.
So we hit the road and drove all the way there without any problems. The final 50 km into the national park was pretty corrugated, but we made it hassle free. The following 3 days were awesome – we visited a few spots within the park and saw some magnificent rock formations that you can read about here.
When we were ready to head back to civilisation, we all jumped in the car and hit the gravel road back towards Kununurra. 50 km of corrugated road lay ahead of us before we would hit paved roads again. Our first fuel tank was close to empty at this stage so I flicked the switch over to use fuel from the second tank. Nothing happened. There was no sound – the fuel gauge and valve that switched between the two tanks had decided not to work.
Crap. We stopped the car and had a look to see if we could find what the problem was. There were no loose wires or blockages… the gauge looked perfectly normal. There wasn’t much we could do to fix it, so we decided to hop back in the car and hope that the vibrations from the corrugated road would eventually encourage the valve to switch over. If it didn’t we would then stop and figure out a way to either change it manually or move the fuel from one tank to the other.
It didn’t take long… 30 km down the road we ran dry and had to stop. It was so sunny and hot that a break down was bad enough, let alone having to play around with fuel.
I got my tools out and decided that the easiest solution would be to disconnect the fuel lines to switch them manually. That way the engine would actually pick fuel from the second fuel tank instead of the first. It sounds easy, right?
Well, 30 minutes later I was still there… trying to pull the freaking hoses off. They were way too tight. With sweat dripping down my face and that sense of defeat starting to grow, all of a sudden I hear a click. What?! It sounded like the valve had decided to work. I went back in the car and checked the dashboard. Low and behold it was showing a full tank!
Our guess is that once the car cooled down a bit, the valve decided it was safe enough to work. Thank god for us! Off we went! All the way back to Kununurra without touching the fuel tank switch. First stop? The petrol station for a refill and, why not, to do some washing?
If you are wondering what the fuel valve that died looks like, here it is!