Car Care, Death Valley National Park
Ok, a lot of you are probably thinking I am such a worry wart, but I cannot tell people enough to keep up the maintenance of your vehicles especially if you plan to make the trek here to DV! Make sure you bring extra water for your radiator, check your belts, tire pressure, spare tire and have plenty of gas! One good thing, there are places with car services, but they a many miles into the park. Furnance Creek and Stovepipe Wells Village
Our little VW has served us well for 4 years and over 100000 miles. It never complained and we never had any problems with it. That is until we took it to Death Valley on a hot June weather (113 F ~ 42 Celsius). After an 8 hours drive from San Francisco to the valley the engine temperature started to raise as soon as we reached the valley. We stopped and let the car cool off. It took quite some time until we were able to start again. Next day, same thing happened. We noticed the overheating always started when we had the AC on and going around 30 miles/h (due to the unpaved roads). We didn't want to stop again as it was really hot so we stopped the AC, opened the windows and started the heating in the car. It wasn't very bad to have the heat turned on, because of the open windows. Anyway, that seemed to do the trick as the temperature of the engine started going down.
If the same thing happened to you and you decide to stop, don't take off the radiator cap, let it cool for a while. When you do open it, be very careful or else you might get severe burns from the hot steam. And if you have car problems on 190 and stop, do not leave your car especially in the summer. Better try to make use of the car's shade. The highway is patrolled by officers, they'll find you.
If your car breaks down the National Park Service recommends to stay with your vehicle and wait for help. They advise against walking for help in the desert sun. If stranded, try to get out of the sun and drink plenty of water. So have enough water in the event of an emergency.
Death Valley is a vast area so make sure you have plenty of gas before you set off anywhere within the Park. There are only 4 gas stations and they are situated at Furnace Creek Ranch, Scottys Castle, Panamint Springs resort and Stovepipe Wells Village. DONT TAKE ANY CHANCES THINKING YOU´LL MAKE IT TO THE NEXT ONE!
... when you're driving through Death Valley there isn't many places to stop off.
So when you are driving through make sure that you have enoguh petrol, and your car is up to check.
There are a few signs on the way round telling you to turn your air con off to help save your car from working harder than normal and cutting out, blowing your engine etc. Also to be careful of punctures etc as the roads aren't always clear of things egttign in the way.
If you get stranded out there, then you won't be spotted straight away!
Also, another reason to take more then enough water, just incase.
Take care of your car. When going uphill, turn off the air condition even though it might get a bit warm in your car - if you don´t the engine might overheat. Also, fill up the tank before crossing Death Valley. There is a gas station at Furnace Creek, but - who knows? - they may be out of gas (as it happened to us back in 1980. We barely reached the western exit).
Elevation can be a factor to your car too. When I first went below sea level, my "check engine" light suddenly lit up. I was worried so I asked the mechanic at Furnace Creek gas station. He said he got the same question every day. There's nothing to worry about. It's simply because many older cars are not calibrated to handle elevation below sea level. He said once I go above sea level it will go away. And he was right!!
Besides the small garage in Furnace Creek gas station, the nearest town for major car repair is Beatty, Nevada, about 40 miles from Furnace Creek.
Death Valley is the largest National Park in continental USA, and it does not provide public transportation. So it's important to take good care of your car because driving is essential here. Towing your car out of Death Valley to the nearest town can run up to more than $1,000. These are the things to pay attention to...
1. Heat. In the summer don't use air conditioning and have enough water for your radiator.
2. Dirt road. This is my major complaint about the Park. Many points of interest require long drives on dirt or gravel road. The Park should spend their resource maintaining/paving the road instead of adding new, unnecessary buildings to Scottys Castle. Stay away from dirt road if you don't have a reliable, 4x4, or high-clearance vehicle.
3. Gas. There are very few gas stations inside the park, and they are expensive. Try to fill up your tank before you enter.
Did I say it already.You evaporate an unimaginable amount of water there, drink almost continuously, minimum a liter/pint per hour.
When you are in the open air, you don't notice the evaporation since you don't even sweat. But once you go back to your car, as soon as you close the door, because it is an enclosed area, you start to sweat like a pig because it's now 100% humidity in the car.
Car Trouble: In the summer, check your vehicle gauges frequently. Radiator water is available from storage tanks along the roads. If your car develops vapor lock, wrap a wet rag around the fuel pump and line to speed cooling. And if your car breaks down, stay with it!
Be careful with your car. Shut the airco off from time to time and check the water for your radiator...