What to do if car dies on the playa?

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What to do if car dies on the playa?

Postby lefty » Tue Jun 21, 2011 2:49 pm

My big fear every year is what to do if our ride breaks down. I'm sure this happens a lot due to the climate, but what do you do if it happens? Obviously there is no cel phone reception out there. Also, does anybody have advice on how to playa-proof your car (within reason and practicality of course)?
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Postby Major Krash » Tue Jun 21, 2011 2:55 pm

fix it?
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Postby illy dilly » Tue Jun 21, 2011 2:57 pm

Major Krash wrote:fix it?

Pretty much
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Postby Ugly Dougly » Tue Jun 21, 2011 3:02 pm

You realize, lefty, if you are in the desert during Burning Man, you'll be surrounded by thousands of the craziest people you'd ever hope to meet.

So they will ask you why you didn't get your car checked out before the trip and display radical self-reliance, then eat you alive, THEN fix your car and make it into a mutant vehicle.

Welcome home!
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Postby Mojojita » Tue Jun 21, 2011 3:06 pm

My credit card started to melt just thinking of having to call out Bruno's to get towed off the playa.
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Postby Savannah » Tue Jun 21, 2011 3:15 pm

Hi Lefty. The 2010 Survival Guide pdf has on page 14 some vehicle maintenance tips and 6 things to have your local mechanic inspect before you leave. Read or download (easier, & has the right page #):
http://www.burningman.com/preparation/e ... index.html

I'm also oddly thrilled to find mention of tow trucks in the 2010 AfterBurn report. Eta: For lock-outs, looks like a collaboration between ESD, Playa Info & AAA, with AAA doing tows.
http://afterburn.burningman.com/10/play ... gency.html

Kinda promising, and just very neat in general. But I have also seen Burners help each other out automotively more often than not.
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Postby ConnieH » Tue Jun 21, 2011 3:29 pm

It's happened to me twice - the first time was in exodus and I was able to *almost* get a signal to my insurance company for a tow truck, but couldn't stay connected. Several people offered help, one knew just where to tap my alternator with a hammer, another was kind enough to let my battery charge off his for about 30 minutes (he got our undying gratitude and all the beer we had left and lots of hugs). Had they not helped us, we were planning to hitch a ride to Gerlach and call a tow company.

The next year (after having my alternator tested and car completely checked out by my mechanic) the damn thing wouldn't start when we were ready to leave. We set it up on a charger, wouldn't charge. Whap whap with the hammer on the alternator, it charged up and we were off, thanks to campmates who offered assistance.

It's hard to tell what will go wrong, and my mechanic was pretty perplexed when I reported the second alternator failure, he spent 2 days testing it before he got it to repeat the problem - he then replaced it and the battery. Have your car fully checked out, try starting it mid-week or at least a few hours before you plan to leave the playa, don't run your a/c, and if your car suddenly loses electrical then dies, it could be dust in your alternator - bring a hammer and jumper cables ;-) It's impossible to prepare for everything, but don't worry, even though it seems like you are in the middle of nowhere, you really aren't - you could walk to Gerlach if you had to and call a tow truck (bring a credit card!!).
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Postby Elderberry » Tue Jun 21, 2011 3:51 pm

The rental company where we get our truck from has a special instruction sheet of what they want you to do with the truck when on the playa. One of the things they say is to start it every day and run it for ten minutes. Turns out that has a side benefit in that if you move the truck a few feet forward or back each time you start it, it helps prevent those black tire scars from forming and there's less raking to do when you're ready to leave.
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Postby percussivepaul » Tue Jun 21, 2011 4:29 pm

I found out last year what happens if you lose your car keys on the playa -- Charlie the locksmith from Lovelock will come make you a new set, and charge you a pretty reasonable fee. And if you are locked out, various tool-bearing Rangers may come around and bust into your car for free. There is a system for this. There is also a car key basket at Playa Info lost-and-found that had at least 30 sets of keys in it, and I would know, having checked it like four times.

On the last few days of the event, Charlie is let in to the playa to offer his services, as are several tow truck operators. Those who are desperate can get a tow to Reno. However, I heard the fee was something like $1000; pretty rough. If you are worried about your car, try to get some roadside assistance that includes towing set up in advance so you have the option of calling them to arrange a tow. If you need to call, you can easily hitch to Gerlach during Exodus, though it is much harder to hitch back and the BLM rangers may threaten you with a ticket -- I also found this out.
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Postby Trishntek » Tue Jun 21, 2011 4:39 pm

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Postby theCryptofishist » Tue Jun 21, 2011 4:53 pm

The tow to Reno was $200 in 2002 or early 2003. It was a few weeks/months after the burn so it might have been cheaper than it would be that first couple of days.
That's one reason I take off most of the week after a burn--you don't know what's going to happen. And yes, credit cards or other methods of almost cash--or even cash itself--are going to come in handy.
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Postby Playa+Tom » Tue Jun 21, 2011 5:29 pm

When I flag traffic for Exodus there is a steady stream of tow trucks of all sizes entering the city. If you have the cash or an AAA card you have no problem.
Before you leave home make sure your vehicle is in shape for the trip, on playa start it every few days, check the tires and the coolant and you should be good.
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Postby Packoderm » Tue Jun 21, 2011 5:55 pm

I have a Good Sam Club card for my motorhome ($99 per year). I'll give them a call to be sure that they will take care of me if I break down on the playa. I'm mainly worried about getting there. If I break down, I doubt Good Sam will tow me to the camp site.

The easiest way to make sure this doesn't happen to you is to be sufficiently rich to be able to buy a newer model, reliable vehicle. Those of more modest means are living dangerously every minute.
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Postby AntiM » Tue Jun 21, 2011 6:28 pm

I have AAA with RV+. That would cover a tow with the fully loaded trailer too. well worth the money, and I can get a tow for ANY vehicle I am in. I don't even drive and I carry the AAA card! A very good investment.
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Postby elKay » Tue Jun 21, 2011 6:47 pm

My fear is running out of gas. Are there many gas stations between Reno and BRC? I have been wondering if I should bring a can of gasoline.
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Postby AntiM » Tue Jun 21, 2011 6:58 pm

Nixon and Gerlach. Empire is up in the air.
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Postby mudpuppy000 » Tue Jun 21, 2011 7:05 pm

elKay wrote:My fear is running out of gas. Are there many gas stations between Reno and BRC? I have been wondering if I should bring a can of gasoline.


What kind of mileage do you get? Gerlach is probably going to be super crowded but Nixon was an easy fill up last year.
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Postby elKay » Tue Jun 21, 2011 7:12 pm

I dunno? We have little practice pulling the trailer and none with all of the gear and water. Probably be lucky to get 10 or 11 miles per gallon. Nixon is the answer though. Thank you!
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Postby Major Krash » Tue Jun 21, 2011 7:13 pm

I have had two breakdowns...one I fixed (mostly by myself, but a little help from others). Interestingly, while fixing my rig, another Burner's rig died in exodus nearby and I helped push it out of line, then helped him fix his rig.

Second time, I fixed it just enough to get to Gerlach (blown radiator), rented Bruno's last room (for a shower and nap), called a tow truck from Reno, and $800 later was in Reno at the Hyatt (F250, trailer, and art car). Next morning refilled the now empty radiator using the Hyatt's hose (bell hops rock) just enough to drive it 4 blocks to the repair shop, then drove home (24 hours late and ~$1200 poorer).

And yes, one should always have ~90 miles of spare gas/diesel in cans (get you from BRC to Fernley)
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Postby Minxy » Tue Jun 21, 2011 7:15 pm

elKay wrote:My fear is running out of gas. Are there many gas stations between Reno and BRC? I have been wondering if I should bring a can of gasoline.


There is gas in Wadsworth and Gerlach. We always fill up on our way INTO BRC to avoid hassles on the way out. :)
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Postby Elderberry » Tue Jun 21, 2011 7:28 pm

Minxy wrote:
elKay wrote:My fear is running out of gas. Are there many gas stations between Reno and BRC? I have been wondering if I should bring a can of gasoline.


There is gas in Wadsworth and Gerlach. We always fill up on our way INTO BRC to avoid hassles on the way out. :)

Yup, good idea. We do too.
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Postby Trishntek » Tue Jun 21, 2011 7:40 pm

We encourage our camp mates to bring extra gas and we also bring 20 gallons extra ourselves. You never know,,,,,

We also have a small air compressor,,,, good thing too,,, one of our camp mates had a flat and no spare. It's good for blowing dust out of electronics too.

Our solar array offers an abundance of power for jump starts.

Tools are my source of security for many minor repairs.

Extra fuses and light bulbs are another handy thing to have.

If your rig tends to overheat, remember to run the heater in the cab to help cool the engine. Miserable I know, but could save you a bigger pain.

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Postby Major Krash » Tue Jun 21, 2011 8:23 pm

Trishntek wrote:...If your rig tends to overheat, remember to run the heater in the cab to help cool the engine. Miserable I know, but could save you a bigger pain....


Knowing this trick was one thing that helped me get to Gerlach....that and ~10 gallons or so of water I had left over along with some sheet metal, snips, a few wedges of wood, an old rag, and some radiator sealant...got about 2-3 miles per refill between boil-overs (mechanic in Reno was actualy impressed by my expedient radiator repair - he said it actually held quite a bit of pressure before leaking when he tested it!)
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Postby graidawg » Tue Jun 21, 2011 10:35 pm

if your car dies bury it. poor thing

my last car should have had DNR tag on it
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Postby teardropper » Wed Jun 22, 2011 4:04 am

I do regular maintenance. I only use my motorhome for Burning Man. Fourth of Juplaya, maybe. I'm not much of a truck mechanic so it goes to my trusted shop. He looks for things. I want him to look at things when it's on the hoist. And belts, hoses, seals. He kind of knows what I want now and it may not be totally worth it... but I think it's the only way to prevent the dreaded break down. I have great tow insurance, for all my rides, but Black Rock City is 'off-road'. I'd get off-road insurance if I could.
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Postby AntiM » Wed Jun 22, 2011 6:14 am

We have one of those boost packs with an air compressor built in. Love it.
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Postby ConnieH » Wed Jun 22, 2011 8:23 am

A can of Fix-a-Flat has saved me many times off-playa, haven't needed it on-playa thankfully, but always carry a can just in case of a slow leak. A decent spare tire (full size, not a donut) is also a good idea - driving on a donut to Reno would suck.
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Postby skibear » Wed Jun 22, 2011 8:44 am

teardropper wrote: Black Rock City is 'off-road'. I'd get off-road insurance if I could.


Tire problems in the desert near Saline Valley Hot Springs (in Death Valley) had me head scratching. I had one flat I could handle but the second flat occured 2/3 of the way out by the 50 mile dirt South pass route.

I could contact Millers towing which would charge $1000 or more since it was off road or drive on it anyway.

I decided to drive on the shredded tire very slowly at 5mph to the paved
road where I could get a covered AAA tow to Millers anyway.

With one tire fixed in Lone Pine, I drove to Reno to visit a tire dealer.
The dealer had never seen a tire shredded so bad (only 1 inch left on a rim), LOL, but they found the rim reuseable since I drove very slow.


Connie, Driving on a "donut spare" to Reno would not be too bad since
they allow 50 mph or higher and exit traffic would be slow anyway as
far as Wadesworth. Lone Pine to Reno was a lot further!
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Postby Bounce530 » Wed Jun 22, 2011 8:54 am

I remember hearing on BMIR that a camp was looking for somebody who knew something about those breathalyzer things that are installed on habitual DUI drivers cars..apparently, the battery died in a car that had one installed and the breathalyzer needed to be reset before the car would start again...never heard the outcome of that story.
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Postby Minxy » Wed Jun 22, 2011 9:33 am

Bounce530 wrote:I remember hearing on BMIR that a camp was looking for somebody who knew something about those breathalyzer things that are installed on habitual DUI drivers cars..apparently, the battery died in a car that had one installed and the breathalyzer needed to be reset before the car would start again...never heard the outcome of that story.


Oh, man, would that be a god awful mess. I hate those machines. I've heard stories of those machines being bad news. One woman came out to her car in the morning to go to work and her machine malfunctioned so it wouldn't let the car start. Not only did she miss work but SHE had to pay for someone to come out, tow the car and pay for the repair of the machine. Screwed up, IMO.
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