Let’s talk about dirt.
In Fairbanks we make it through seven months of ice and snow and then come Spring and the Mud Season.
Vehicles are never able to relax in this climate. Mud seems innocuous enough compared with ice and -40F, but to suspension, brakes and wheels, it’s just the next pestilence to navigate. Once things dry up, we are into Summer! Surely it must be the easy season for vehicles?
Nope. Dirt is a surprising vandal.
If you drive most major dirt roads in Alaska, your vehicle will experience an “involuntary undercoating” process which has a major effect on both drive-ability and repair.
Calcium Chloride, a dust suppressant used by maintenance crews, mixes with fine silt creating a glue-like substance which adheres to every surface under the vehicle. Calcium Chloride is effective in road maintenance because it reduces trenches and erosion under wet conditions and helps the road surface become hard and stable.
However, for your vehicle, driving on these roads has the same result as spraying the underside with pavement!
The photo in this blog is a rim coated inside with the Calcium Chloride and road-surface mixture, which makes the wheel wildly out of balance. You know when this has happened because being behind the wheel of your CRV feels like driving a load of towels wadded up in the spin cycle.
This isn’t to say that we are advocating sticking to the pavement! You can get to Walmart and Anchorage on pavement, but getting your canoe in the water or even a lottery view of Denali requires dirt driving.
Brakes, CV boots, suspension parts—basically every moving part on a vehicle experiences wear and possible deterioration when accumulated debris is allowed to wedge and plug areas dependent on flexibility.
Take something as simple and inexpensive as an air filter! When these become dirty or plugged with Tanana silt, they effect engine performance. This condition also can lead to silt entering the engine causing years of wear in moments.
If you drive on dirt, schedule an inspection following a dirt road-trip. Safe and Happy Travels!