Prepare Your Car for Driving Through the Desert

While North America isn’t home to vast expanses of sand like the Sahara, the United States and Mexico both have intense desert landscapes that can occasionally become perilous. The Mojave Desert of California is one well-known “official” desert, but states like Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, and Texas all see people driving through their desert-like stretches too. In any extreme landscape, travelers should take safety precautions, so whether you are visiting national parks and ghost towns or just driving through the desert to get from A to B, you should prepare your car for the journey across desolate open space.

Prepare your car with preventive auto maintenance.

Obviously, regularly scheduled vehicle maintenance is important, but it becomes crucial when you know you’re driving through the desert – where summer temperatures can reach into the 110s and 120s. You should proactively address any potential engine concerns and make sure that your engine is in solid shape, paying special attention to your hoses, fluids, and tires.

If you normally go to a quick lube establishment, explain to the technician that you are putting your vehicle under extra stress by driving through the desert and that you want to prepare your car for a safe journey. They can inspect your hoses for wear and use their trained eyes to see trouble spots. This may also be a good time to increase your usual service level and have them flush your coolant system. Go beyond the basic oil change for the extra peace of mind.

Tire safety is also critical. Because desert roads are less frequently patrolled and because people often want to get back to civilization faster, they end up driving through the desert at high speeds. Combine this high speed with high temperatures, and you create conditions favorable to tire failure. Ensure that your tires have adequate tread, that your spare is properly inflated, and that your jack is adequate. If you end up having to change a tire in the middle of the desert, you’ll want to minimize the time you’re exposed to the elements, so an easy-to-use jack (a hydraulic one) makes a difference.

Pack your car with helpful supplies BEFORE driving through the desert.

In addition to extra oil and coolant, you should prepare your car with some supplies, including:
�· Several gallons of water, preferably in a cooler with some ice.
�· Windshield washer fluid, as deserts are dusty places.
�· Blankets, as the temperature can drop dramatically and sometimes goes below freezing in off-months.
�· Non-perishable food, just in case you do break down.
�· Maps of your route and the surrounding area.
�· A flashlight.

There are often 50 miles or more between basic services on stretches of desert road, so be prepared. You may not use the extra supplies unless something goes wrong, but if your car does falter, the food and water become indispensable.

Other suggestions for driving through the desert:

Ã?· Check with your cell phone company to see what their coverage is like in the desert area through which you’re driving. Be sure to have your charger with you, as a dead phone battery won’t help in the middle of nowhere.
�· Check proactively with your provider of roadside assistance, be it AAA, your insurance company, your auto manufacturer, or another entity. Ensure that your full route is included in their coverage area.
Ã?· Plan a route and stick to it. Make sure to phone a friend or family member before you start driving through the desert, and then call them when you’ve cleared into a more temperate area.
�· Wear layers. The temperature can change readily in a matter of hours.
�· Some desert areas are actually prone to flash floods, even though it seems counterintuitive. Signs usually warn drivers about these areas, so stay extra alert if the skies begin to look ominous in these zones.

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