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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: 268
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: 105
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: 197
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: 418
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: 47
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: 787
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: 32
I agree w/Bob read your contract

Posts: 105
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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Posts: 8

Also it should be mentioned here that almost all 'car' rental 'agreements' state specifically that the 'insurance policy' including for the towing that you get with the rental vehicle does not cover you if you drive on a "CLOSED ROAD".... ...Or, drive "Recklessly"; whatever that means legally I don't know, I am not a lawyer, but driving on a "CLOSED ROAD" would likely be considered by the 'insurers' and be included somewhere in the fine-print on the 'contract", as not being covered.

 Technically, both South and North pass Saline Valley road are 'officially' "CLOSED". It is even in 'print' on the NPS website.

Here is what was posted today on the NPS website:

Unpaved/Backcountry Roads:

The standard conditions of backcountry roads vary from 2wd to extreme 4x4 routes. Many roads are very remote and road conditions can change without notice. For more backcountry road information and conditions, please visit Death Valley Road Conditions on Facebook.

  • Mosaic Canyon Road: CLOSED until 6/30/19 due to road construction.
  • Titus Canyon Road: CLOSED due to storm damage.
  • North Eureka Valley Road: CLOSED

  • South Pass and North Pass into Saline Valley: CLOSED due to storm damage and rockfall.
  • Skidoo Road & Aguereberry Point Road: CLOSED due to Emigrant Canyon Road closure.

Here is the URL to the NPS web page with that info.

 Also, FWIW, even if the rental car has not been 'properly maintained' and the car / vehicle breaks down on a "CLOSED ROAD" you in all likelihood will have to pay the whole cost for towing and repair/s, and maybe even more for loss of use/time and 'resale capital loss' if the company really wants to push for maximum.

 Just drive slow and be very careful, and as previously mentioned, be sure you have at least one 'full size' spare tire that is fully pressurized and accessible. Also there actually is the jack and lug wrench.

Good idea to have a couple of 10" to 14" long 2x6 boards for the jack (to use between jack and ground) in case you are somewhere where the ground is soft or need to have more lifting space to raise the vehicle enough. Maybe a shovel and at least a rock pick or other digging pick.

If you are careful and take it easy on the vehicle, stay on the roads and not go off the main roads, you will likely be just fine without any major driving/vehicle problems.



Posts: 105
A clarification regarding as to what constitutes "offroad:"

Rental car contracts often state that driving on a non-paved road voids the contract, specifically in regards to tire damage, towing, and repair. In that (very specific) sense, gravel and dirt roads are considered to be "offroad."

I'm aware of at least one unfortunate renter who damaged the car somewhere on Saline Valley Blvd., and managed to limp out to Darwin, from where he phoned the rental office.

And, after the car was towed in, was informed that he was out of luck, as it was determined - somehow - that the damage could not have occurred on pavement. He appealed, to whomever you appeal those sort of decisions to, and lost...

Posts: 147
my mantra is "easy does it does less damage"
Waucoba-Saline is a mapped county road so is not off-road, gravel is normal surface.
the bat road this weekend was in the smoothest condition I can remember, but drag your rig back to the county road if you need help from the rental company
bob from tahoe
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