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Posts: 44
Paul and SMH, great detailed posts! I agree also, there is a sweet spot as far as speed, depending on conditions of the road as well as the vehicle.

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Posts: 8
Paul, I am not so sure about the karma aspect of it one way or the other but:
"Smaller than 15 inch tires shouldn’t be out there. P series tires shouldn’t be out there. Only a decent vehicle, good ground clearance, and correct tires. Only thing that should be out there."

I guess if you're speaking using very generalized terminology; I agree that would be the general rule of thumb to go by for the vast majority of drivers today.

But as an all-out statement of should or shouldn't for everybody, IMHO, is too restrictive.

As I have stated before, I have been out there with Volkswagen rabbit pickup truck and Volkswagen rabbit hatchback. Both had 13 inch wheels and passenger (P) type tires. Both were loaded close to the maximum gross vehicle weight rating. And I was driving a lot of the road (S and N Passes) between 10 and 25 mph; (the "sweet spot" speed differs from vehicle to vehicle because some things like suspension, tire diameter and wheelbase, etc.).

FWIW, FYI, I have decades of experience driving on seasonal, steep grade, dirt and gravel roads.
I started driving when I was too young to have a driver license (I had a "Junior Permit" when I was 15, but was driving on private roads from age 13), I learned how to drive on dirt, gravel and sometimes mud of varying types on those private roads and occasionally used Jeep trails with only 2wd pickup trucks and even with a Volkswagen bug!
Sometimes in some places, particularly the narrow and sharp turns on Jeep trails and makeshift driveways, the Volkswagen bug frequently fared better than some of the 2wd pickup trucks did. Particularly the 1/2 ton long wheel base 2wd pickups with minimal tires, even though the 2wd pickup trucks had a good amount of weight in the bed for traction.

Anyway, compared to the average driver I had more experience by the time I was 18 on unpaved dirt, gravel, muddy, country back roads like saline Valley Road and the like then do the vast majority of drivers on the road today.

That being said; I'm sure an inexperienced driver on such roads, any time of day, but, particularly at night, driving in the same conditions I was driving in without an 'experienced' knowledgeable  guide, would have a high likelihood of experiencing: flat tire/s, or a blown shock absorber, maybe failure of  a sway bar link bushing, or a rock getting 'flung' into an the area between axle boot and control arm and tear the boot exposing the CV joint to the sand, dust and whatever else.
Also, at high risk of experiencing a spin-out or at least major fishtail/drift 'incident' and potential of serious accident or going off the road and getting stuck and causing flat tire/s... ...Also, because of the low ground clearance (of VW Rabbit and other like vehicles with 13" wheels, etc.), are very susceptible to a rock damaging or penetrating through the engine's oil pan.

I took my time (at least that is what I thought at then anyway) and knew where to place the tracking of the Volkswagen Rabbits.
Also, the 1st and 2nd time I drove into Saline Valley I went with somebody that had been driving Saline Valley Road since the late 1960s. It was the mid-1990s the 1st time I visited SV. My friend who 'guided' me had approximately 30 years of experience driving Saline Valley Road at that time.

Oh did I mention I was 'shade-tree' auto mechanic for 30+ years?
Anyway, I always thoroughly inspect any vehicle I go into a remote area with, particularly Back Country Byways, National Forest roads, and other such long and rough remote area roads.

Most drivers don't have the no-how for spotting and taking into consideration various vehicle particulars if/when "inspecting", nor do they have the decades of experience living and driving on such roads.

All that being said, It's difficult to emphasize enough that "knowing" there are times and places where parking, getting out and walking to check on road conditions ahead; IE: checking for where potential 'impassable' point ahead may be, or if/where the next doable turnaround location is, etc., and, of course, KNOWING when to actually do any and/or all of those BEFORE committing and getting stuck (IE: stranded vehicle) and, even when it is 'inconvenient' to do it anyway... ...and doing it over again multiple times when prudent to do so.
Or alternatively, when in doubt, feel too 'inconvenienced', not confident, or whatever else, knowing when to just turn around and go back BEFORE going any further is oftentimes best.

I am speaking from 1st hand experience of not doing those things in past [eek][wink].

paul belanger

Posts: 257

Extremely valid points.

Bad Karma to take rental vehicles into the Saline Valley. In spirit, the rental company would never want their vehicles down there. We went three years without going to Saline, very recently, as I was not willing to rent a vehicle and take it down there. My own vehicles were not in shape to get there for three years. Money problems. Check the pricing on renting a real 4x4, truck or jeep. Once they know you’re going to take the rental to the Saline Valley, the price structure changes somewhat.

Smaller than 15 inch tires shouldn’t be out there. P series tires shouldn’t be out there. Only a decent vehicle, good ground clearance, and correct tires. Only thing that should be out there.

As one acquaints oneself with the Saline Valley Road I think it’s reasonable to say that it’s OK to go 35 miles an hour on the washboard. And you need to be aware there are other dangers besides washboard out there.

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Posts: 8
Yes, Paul, I do agree that there is a "sweet spot".[thumb]

After 35 years of driving in and out of saline Valley, I'm sure anyone would know most of the places to watch out for the existing road hazards and be aware of locations where potential intermittent road hazard spots would be.
invariably, the vast majority of people that go to the the springs these days, (including myself) do not know the road as well as someone who has gone there many times in the past 35 years.

[cool]Not at all flaming because I know what you said is fact-based...

...As a reminder; the person who started the thread posed the original question about flat tires and also stated that they were going to rent a "RAV4 rental car" for the trip.

Also FWIW, IMHO, the tire size should be at least 15 inch wheel size tires.
Of course, most LT truck tires are 15 inch or larger.
There are 14 inch wheel all terrain LT tires available but not very many.

My old 78' Toyota Chinook 2wd mini camper has 14 inch all-terrain LT tires on front, (15" won't fit within wheel-well or firewall clearance), 15 inch all-terrain LT tires on rear, extra leaf springs on rear for higher rear bumper clearance with full load. I also added aftermarket 'lunchbox locker' type differential and it was re-geared to 4.56:1 gear ratio. 

I modified it specifically for desert roads like Saline Valley and Mojave High-Desert back roads.
I have taken it to SV springs twice, and West end of Bradshaw Trail from Wilie's Well Rd Bradshaw Trail Intersection to Niland, CA. No flat tires and rear bumper is still intact and in good condition.[biggrin]

Also, the difference between the 14 inch wheel size all terrain LT and street/highway LT was quite noticeable. It made a significant difference on all roads, paved, dirt, gravel, 'super-slab', wet and dry weather. The all terrain LT tires with wider footprint, more robust sidewall and more flexibility made a surprisingly large improvement on all road types and weather conditions.

paul belanger

Posts: 257
Well, here you go... I’m gonna be the fly in the ketchup. I believe if you drive 10-15 miles an hour on that washboard, all you do is give your truck or vehicle three solid hours of hard shaking. There’s a sweet spot at about 35 to 37 miles an hour where it will go over the top of the washboard, and be just fine. It has to be an adequate truck and I’m talking about a capable four-wheel-drive vehicle with LT heavy duty series tires. It will be OK. I’ve been going to Saline for 35 years and I’ve always driven 30 to 35 miles an hour on the washboard. Never got a flat on the washboard. Did have a P series tire problem and got a bunch of flats in a brand new truck. Other than that no problems. Again, with a very capable four-wheel-drive truck, and the correct tires.

( I know I’m going to get flamed by people who, might just agree with me, but don’t believe I should be voicing these opinions on this forum.)

Posts: 95
20-25 mph should be as fast as anyone with any kind of tires should be driving on Saline Valley Blvd. I've been to the Springs maybe 200 times, and have never had any tire problems. Gets a little boring going that slow, maybe, but changing tires is a lot MORE boring...

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Posts: 8
"They were driving 15-20 mph the whole way.  Even so, they got another flat before they reached Whippoorwill Canyon.  This time it was more than a puncture, and even with 2 plugs in it, it wouldn't seal completely."

I am not the least bit surprised. 15 - 20 MPH is maximum (15 MPH) and 5 MPH above my recommendations as I said previously.

5 to 10 MPH with "P" (passenger tires) is more reasonable, whereas 10 MPH is pushing it in some spots.

15 to 20 MPH with "P" rated tires is asking; no, begging for flat tires on either N or S Pass.

The difference in Kinetic energy between 5 MPH and 20 MPH is:
@ 20 MPH there is 16 times more Kinetic energy the tire/s have on them than @ 5 MPH.

In other words; the difference is that you are at least 16 times more likely to get a flat tire going 20 MPH as you are going 5 MPH on any road where getting a flat tire from a rock is a real possibility, (fairly common, like S or N Pass Roads going into and out of SV).

Also, as mentioned by someone else here is that vehicle suspension is also subject to same 'velocity' factors.

That being said there are tolerance thresholds that can not be exceeded without doing damage to vehicle.

Washboard roads have a 'sneaky' way of pushing the threshold limits of vehicles' suspension past its design limitations. The average driver has little to no awareness of that, even after the 'mechanical failure'... ...IE: Very common to blame it on the vehicle, tire/s, shock absorbers. etc., when it in fact is more commonly a lack of driver awareness of road/driving/vehicle conditions and, statistically speaking, most often the results of driving too fast (to high a velocity).

Also some drivers just don't place the vehicle's wheels in the best choice of options.

A sharp piece of shale or obsidian can slice a side-wall or puncture through a tread of any pneumatic tire at any speed even under 1 MPH.

There are more things than rocks that are there that could cause a flat tire.

Be safe and enjoy the Springs!

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Posts: 204
Last October during grading North Pass finally got me on "E" rated ten ply. Big gash took three plugs. You can't be too confident here and should always be prepared. I drove home on that tire and for a week after. I was prepared. "P" rated tires are running on luck. If you insist on running on luck please don't block the road!

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Posts: 410
When I left the Springs on 4/15, I encountered a group of vehicles and people at the Bat Rock intersection.  Three young ladies in a fairly new Jeep Patriot had gotten a flat on their way out of the valley and two vehicles had already stopped to assist.  The Patriot was riding on passenger car tires and was only equipped with a donut spare.  Luckily, they had only gotten a simple puncture in the middle of the tread, so I was able to plug it so they could continue on four full size tires.  I sent them ahead out the North Pass since I was towing my trailer and I was sure they'd outrun me.  Even though I gave them a head start, I caught up with them before Willow Creek.  They were driving 15-20 mph the whole way.  Even so, they got another flat before they reached Whippoorwill Canyon.  This time it was more than a puncture, and even with 2 plugs in it, it wouldn't seal completely.  It was air it up and drive until the low pressure light came on, then repeat as needed.  They finally made it to Big Pine where they had cell service and could arrange to either fix or repair both tires and be on their way.

The tires on the Patriot were the Goodyears that Jeep equipped it with from the factory.  It's obvious that they are NOT adequate for roads like these.  Anyone who insists on using tires that are not LT (Light Truck) rated is asking for trouble, even if they're only driving 15-20 mph.

Posts: 44
It's so weird, I went for decades (especially the late 70's, 80's and early 90's in many various vehicles including a VW bug, Bronco II, VW thing, GMC truck, 55 chevy pickup, and even a rental van and never ever had even one flat, nor did anyone else that went at the same time. I also have to say that in general back then we hauled ass fast! We also never aired down. These days I am a bit slower (especially based on conditions), and have sometimes aired down, sometimes not. Always in a truck, always with truck tires and have had too many flats to even recall. The Goodyear wranglers were the worst. The Firestones were much better but I did get a flat last time about 1/4 mile from the lower spring (obviously, speed is not an issue there). In my experience, I have seen no difference with speed, or with airing down. Sometimes those sharp rocks are just 'there'. Hell, one time it was a piece of iron that was impossible to see but the front tire bounced it to where it must have been pointing straight up when my rear tire traveled over it - a nice 1" wide puncture. I think the most important rule is to be prepared. 2 spares for sure, air compressor, and plug kit! SMH, great idea about the boards to use for a jack, i never thought of that. Oh, and I blew two at the same location once, just before hitting the pavement on the North pass. That was weird.
Dana Ohanesian

Posts: 1
Regarding flat tires.  I used to get them periodically when i first visited Death Valley many years ago and drove the various dirt roads with passenger tires.  However, two things i do now to minimize this risk.  First i invested in off-road tires with triple sidewalls and with the "LT" designation as previously mention (however these are typically not available on rentals cars); secondly, i alway "air down" to about 25-28lbs.  This has greatly reduced puncture flats.  

In addition, i carry a tire repair kit and plugs ($6.88 at walmart) and a small compressor.  So if i happen to get a flat i can repair the tire in about 15 -20 minutes and be on my way.  You should never have to call Miller towing for a flat tire.  

If you are renting a vehicle i would recommend you "air down" and bring along a tire repair kit.  ...BTW one time i got three flats in the same tire driving through Goler Canyon/Wash, and was able to repair the flats with the plugs and then drive to Beatty to have the tire patched.  I got the flats because my tire pressure was at 40+lbs and my vehicle was fully loaded.  
Sam D.

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Posts: 815
I searched National and Hertz and neither defined what offroad road or gravel road are nor which road is unsuitable for the Car. So, theoretically, an attorney can argue that the rental contract did not properly define unsuitable road.

From Hertz:

RENTAL RESTRICTIONS Use: The vehicle belongs to us and you may not sub-rent, transfer or sell it.
You may not use the vehicle:
–To carry passengers for remuneration (e.g. as  a  taxi  or  car  sharing  arrangement  or similar).
–Off  road  or  on  roads  unsuitable  for  the vehicle (including racetracks).
You must not use the Car orallow it to be used:
(i)to carry passengers for remuneration;
(ii)to carry cargo for remuneration;
(iii)to tow or push any vehicle, trailer or other object;
(iv)off road or on roads unsuitable for the Car;

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Posts: 27
I agree w/Bob read your contract

Posts: 95
Wrong, Mr. Lawyer. Check your case law.


Posts: 147
as the lawyer here, gravel is nowhere defined as offroad, unless specifically mentioned in the rental contract, which I have not seen in all my many rentals, a county road is a primary road by definition
btw, north pass was physically posted as "open" this weekend at death valley road intersection and the waucoba-saline turnoff
bob from tahoe

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