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MacGyver Challenge: Death Valley Blowout

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MacGyver Challenge: Death Valley Blowout

Think you could MacGyver your way out of a dangerous situation? Solve this emergency scenario in a creative way and your solution could be featured in the next issue of Make: magazine! Submit your answer down below by June 30. 

Written by MacGyver TV creator Lee David Zlotoff and his partner in predicaments, Rhett Allain, here’s the new challenge: Death Valley Blowout! Share your best solutions for a chance to be in the magazine and win some Make: goodies.

Lee Z wrote the popular MakeShift challenge in Make: magazine from 2005 to 2011. Now we’re bringing Mac back to help you think — and make — your way out of natural disasters, power failures, and other emergencies. There seem to be a lot of them these days. As Lee wrote in Make: Volume 82, “We are all MacGyvers now.”

Death Valley Blowout!

The Scenario

You borrowed a friend’s 2000 Ford Ranger pickup truck to help you move, and you’re on your way to return it, which requires a drive through one of the most barren and inhospitable — not to mention hottest — places on the planet: Death Valley, California. It’s August and at 9 am in the morning the temperature’s already over 90 degrees, when the truck’s right rear tire blows and, by the time you pull over, is a shredded mess. Lucky for you, there’s a spare and a lug nut wrench. But you quickly discover there’s no jack!  You’ve got no cell signal out here, so calling for help is out. And it could be hours — or days — before another car comes by. There’s nothing at all in the surrounding landscape that you can use to lift the truck high enough to get the spare on. 

The Challenge

In a few hours the thermometer is going to hit 120 degrees or more. So, using whatever you have in the truck, how are you going to replace the tire before the truck is too hot to touch and you become another sad statistic that helped give this place its name?

What You’ve Got
And it’s all you’ve got:

  • 2×2-foot sheet of old plywood
  • 6-foot light duty chain
  • Road flares
  • Deflated yoga ball. Yoga mat, bungee exercise cords
  • Soccer bag with shoes, shin guards, extra clothes, folding ball rebounder, 1 soccer ball, ball pump, running drag chute
  • The terrain has light brush and mostly just dirt. There are some rocks around, but the biggest one is the size of a basketball.
  • Garden hose (but no extra water)

 Share your best solutions below for a chance to be in the magazine.

10 thoughts on “MacGyver Challenge: Death Valley Blowout

  1. Adam Gugliciello says:

    I feel like the easiest thing to do is to drive the injured truck such that the axle is over the pumpkin sized rock, and dig a shallow angular trench where the blown tire will be, drive the truck so that it finds the injured tire in the trench i’ve dug into the ground and the axle end up on the rock (after I’ve broken out the lugs), swap the tire in the trench, button back up, drive back out of the trench, tighten lugs on solid ground. I suspect there’s a roadside drainage trench dug so that I don’t need to do a ton of digging, so I move said pumpkin sized rock such that I can essentially drive the truck off the road on that side and over the rock, (depending on how much I like my friend, I will spend extra time adding a cleat ontop of the rock to catch the falling axle and make it easier to drive off of.). If the ground alongside the road is too hard to dig out by hand (using the sheet of plywood or a shinguard), I can use the garden hose to pull some of the coolant out of the radiator to soften the ground some.

  2. Phelps says:

    Adam is on the right track, but missed a crucial part. Drive over the pumpkin sized rock so that there are 4-6 inches between it and a jackpoint (axel, frame, etc.) Deflate the soccer ball, put it in the gap, and then inflate it, so that it works as a jack. This makes sure that you can deflate the ball when you are done with the tire change to drive the truck over the rock.

  3. Hrvoje says:

    My first thought is that I should move all weight from the right rear side of the car to the opposite, front left side. The right rear tire should be loose enough for me to dig the dirt under it. I will use a wrench or plywood piece (I can break it into a “digging” shape). Then I’ll change the tire. Voila.
    The car will never be lifted. There is enough weight around (in the car and in the surroundings).
    Potential problem: hardness of dirt. Didn’t being in such a desert.

  4. al says:

    Went to Death Valley a while back (1980 ish) and stayed at the cheap hotel. Death Valley Inn i think. Met a guy on the road crew and he said if you get a flat and can’t change it, Get on top of he car and wait. it’s noticeably cooler. The cops run the length of the road twice a day to look for breakdowns, and they will either help with the tire or drive you to someplace safe. I asked how they kept the road from melting. He said they had special asphalt with a much higher softening point, but it still took a lot of work to keep them smooth.

  5. swordfishBob says:

    Add to Hrvoje’s thoughts, drive so the right-front and/or back left wheels are on rocks, reducing load on back right.
    Add to the soccer ball plan to use plywood between ball and axle, to distribute the load on the ball. Put yoga mat under the ball if the ground has sharp stones.

  6. Warren Withrow says:

    Remove everything from the bed. Remove the tailgate which doesn’t require tools and fill the soccer bag full of rocks. Place the tailgate in front of the front right tire with the soccer bag underneath the tailgate in the center propping it up as a ramp. Drive up onto the tailgate to just past the fulcrum where the weight of the front of the truck should cause the back of the tailgate to lift and push up on the frame just aft of the longitudinal center of gravity lifting the back tire off the ground. If this isn’t enough, pile rocks on the hood until it lifts off because no friend lends out a vehicle without a jack.

  7. Chris says:

    reposition the vehicle such that the front of the truck is off the asphalt at about 40 degrees off of parallel with the road and with the left/driver side farthest from the road. This should pitch the truck forward and roll it to the left, moving the center of gravity forward and leftward. Use shingard as spade to dig a shallow depression in front of the right front wheel. Dig a deeper depression in front of the left wheel. Place the large rock in the depression and use low gear to roll the right front wheel up onto the rock and the front left wheel into the deeper hole to increase the roll to the left and pitch to the front. Using the shin guard, clear rocks from a three foot diameter area in front of the right rear wheel. Center the plywood about 2 feet forward of the right rear wheel. Cover the plywood and the cleared area with the yoga mat. Break the lug nuts free while the wheel is immobilized. partially inflate the yoga ball with the ball pump. Once it has shape, cover the yoga ball with the drag chute to reduce friction before placing the yoga ball in the soccer bag. leaving the yoga ball connected to the ball pump, zip the yoga bag closed, except for the end of the zipper, where the hose from the pump will extend out of the bag. Empty the truck completely, including removing the rear gate. Pump the yoga ball until the wheel with the blown tire is lifted off the ground. Hopefully, that zipper held and assuming that the ball did not rupture due to localized deformation (e.g. at the edge of the Chute) friction (with the soccer bag material) or puncture (soccer bag, yoga mat and plywood should have prevented this), replace the shredded tire and rim with the spare. If “spare” only meant a spare tire and not spare tire on a rim, then ear additional MacGyver points by crumbling crumble one of the flares into the tires while it is lying side down, then stomping (dang, we left the handy corner of plywood under the yoga mat) the spare tire onto the rim. Use a second flare to ignite that powder. TV version: tire inflates and creates a perfect bead with a nice “whomp” sound. (Non-TV version: while igniting the powder, you torch the bead of the tire just enough to prevent a good seal. Consider how it might have been a better idea to fill the tire with the spare clothes from the soccer bag in order to help make the seal.). pump up the tire with the ball pump.
    Wait . . . how sturdy was that ball rebounder? Sturdy enough to have put it in a little trench with the top angled under the rear fender and 4WD’d backwards into it to lift the back of the truck?

  8. JIMMY FINKE says:

    drive on the flat tire until you reach a location for help. you will just screw up the rim for driving on it but you can purchase another one in a junk yard. EASY PEASY !!!!

  9. Joe says:

    The deflated yoga ball is the key. Inflated, it is easily capable of supporting the weight of one corner of the truck. It can be inflated using the soccer ball pump. Position it under the rocker nearest the blown tire and place the 2′ x 2′ piece of plywood on the top. Loosen the lug nuts before pumping.

  10. Daniel says:

    As it says “Road Flares”, I assume more than one. (Let’s assume three, but this also works with two.)
    I would have gone for Joe’s Yoga ball, but he said it first.

    Rescue (2WD or AWD):
    Put about a 6 inch rock in front of the blown tire, about 2 feet. Put a larger rock right after it, and one about the same size. Take the yoga mat, and fold it as many times as possible, and weigh it down between the two rocks. Place plywood on the 6 inch rock, angling toward the tire. This becomes a ramp. Pile some dirt under the ramp, to support weight better (Shin guard = shovel).

    Now, drive the 2000 Ford ranger onto the ramp, very slowly (first gear, riding on the brake). When the truck dips, your wheel is now off of the plywood and onto the two rocks (cushioned, of course). Remove the plywood from the ramp. There should be enough clearance that you can place the sheet vertically under the truck axle, on the side which is blown. The plywood should be parallel to the truck.
    Pile dirt and rocks (using your shin-shovel) on both sides of the plywood, so it forms a pyramid-shape. Compact as much as possible.

    Dig out the dirt from under the rocks the blown tire is resting on. The weight should fall onto the plywood, and the truck should drop a bit, and the axle is resting on the plywood, wheel in the air.
    Change the tire (instructions not provided), and cut off the majority of one flare, leaving a small piece, the striker, and the activator. The small piece should be around a stack of ten quarters in size. Cut a small strip about 2 inches wide out of a tee and crush the other part of the cut fuse into a powder (rocks help here). Wrap the powder in the strip of t-shirt, twisting thoroughly.
    Cut off a length of rubber hose about 2 inches longer than the flare piece, and stuff the flare piece, along with the fuse inside. Wrap that inside of the yoga ball. Wrap the whole shebang in as much clothing you can, and put it in the soccer shoe. Place the shoe inside of the tire, and seat the bead on the tire. The rubber, clothing, yoga ball. should protect the tire from the flare’s heat.

    Light the t-shirt fuse, and seat the final part of the bead. Hope it works. Watch it work.
    Next, Dig out the plywood support on the far side, using the folding rebounder as a poking stick.
    Push the truck in the unsupported direction. It will land on the tires.
    Drive away, to live another day, and scream at your friend for not having a jack.

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