A new quarter panel for the Dmax (yes, I smashed it)

I detest panel damage, and when I wrecked the quarter panel on our relatively new Isuzu Dmax, I was pretty annoyed with myself.

They say things happen in 3’s, and in this case, I was just about over it. We’d had one of the worst nights, camped at Sandy Billabong in Kakadu National Park, with Oliver teething and wanting to scratch sand fly and mosquito bites. He’d been fussing for some time, and we were up at 4AM trying to get him to sleep some more.

We got up at around 6:30AM, had some food and jumped in the car, heading out to do the Yellow Water Cruise. A fantastic couple of hours were spent on the boat, and then we decided to head back to camp, and pack the soft floor camper trailer up in the middle of the day and move further south, to Maguk.

Kakadu boat cruise
A fantastic few hours on the Yellow Water Boat Cruise

This would save us driving 85km there and back, as we were heading that way anyway. 33 minutes was all it took to pack everything up in the camper, and we were hitched and driving out in 39. Needless to say, we were pretty tired; working in the heat in the dry season up north isn’t much fun.

Arriving at Maguk Camp ground at around 2PM, we pulled in to have a late lunch and work out where to stay. I was pretty worn out, and Sarah was feeling sick, but I ignored the feeling and kept plodding along. There’s not much you can do when its just you, your pregnant wife and a toddler!

I found a neat camp site with heaps of shade, and a fire pit nearby, and carefully navigated the Dmax into place, dodging the trees and guard rails. Unhooking the camper, I struggled and pushed the drawbar across, so it would set up as best as possible.

Happy with how it was sitting, and with Sarah following Oliver down the road, I jumped back into the Dmax, and drove forward a bit, starting to swing to the left, at a turtle speed. Bang. You have got to be kidding me. I backed up, as Sarah ran over, and got out to inspect the damage.

The metal railing had been much further forward than I’d remembered, and when I swung across the 30cm bit sticking out had gone inside the wheel arch, behind the tyre and smashed the panel.

Dmax damaged panel
A nicely dented quarter panel

I was absolutely shattered. 6 weeks into our 12 week trip, and this was the 3rd ‘accident’. I backed into a car in Broome; totally my fault through not paying attention. Then a couple of weeks later, even while watching the reverse camera and mirrors like a hawk, I reversed into a tree, doing a fair bit of damage.

Fuel filler damage
The canopy moved forward, pushing the fuel filler into the cab

I later found out the reverse camera didn’t cover the far corner of the tray, and the tree was growing sideways where I hit it, so I’d never have seen it anyway.

Now this. I sat on the railing, hands on head and wished I’d been a bit more careful. Why couldn’t I have walked past that side of the car, and paid a bit more attention? I even drove out further to make sure I cleared it, just was way out on my estimations. The unlucky thing was had it have been at any other point, the bull bar or tyre would have hit it first, but no, I had to pick the piece of pipe that stuck out further and that had to be right in the wrong position.

To make things even worse, Sarah’s door wouldn’t open, as it touched the panel that was bent inwards.

Feeling defeated, I set the camper trailer up, with not much said between Sarah and I. I then proceeded to pull the tools out, and unbolt the lining of the guard, to see what could be done about getting the door to open and close.

I’ve never had much to do with panel work before, and was pleased to see that the front quarter panel is only bolted in place with about 6 bolts.

A bit of plier work, some strong pulls on the panel to get it out of the way and I was in luck; the door opened and closed. Even better, was no other damage was done to anything else; just the quarter panel needed replacing and it’d be as good as new.

A bit later, I’d put some bigger washers on the mud flap and bolted it all back together. It didn’t look great, but it was as good as it was going to get.

I figured there was no point doing anything about it until Perth, much like the other accident, so left it as it was.

Maguk Camping
Our camp site at Maguk (with the offending rail near the Dmax!

The excess I nominated with Club 4×4 is $850, and I’d already paid one for the Broome accident, and would be paying another for the Katherine Tree accident too. I figured I’d try and replace the panel myself, without an insurance claim, and if it could be done for under $850 I’d be way ahead anyway.

The more claims you make, the more your premiums sky rocket, so it was a win win. In Perth, I scored a second hand panel for $300 (one of the reasons that white vehicles are best – easy to get panels etc) and bolted it up in under 2 hours.

Travelling Australia is amazing, but things can, and do go wrong, and you just have to roll with the punches. Looking back, we probably pushed ourselves too hard, and with Sarah being pregnant and having a soft floor camper trailer it made life harder than it needed to be. 

What’s gone wrong when you’ve been travelling? How did you deal with it?

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