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How to Prevent Washboard on Your Gravel Road or Driveway

3/28/2014 2:51:00 PM

Tags: gravel driveways, driveway maintenance, home improvement, Vermont, Grace Campbell

DCIM100GOPROIf you have a gravel driveway or road on your property, you have probably experienced washboard road – horizontal bumps and ruts that feel like a series of small speed bumps. Washboard makes driving on your road uncomfortable and downright dangerous, on top of causing damage to your vehicle. It can torture your suspension system, increase your maintenance costs, and make carrying tools or other materials in the bed of your truck nearly impossible. And if you're towing anything behind your vehicle, you better hope it can handle the extra strain! To save yourself and your vehicle from this nasty jolt, learn the simple trick to prevent washboard on your gravel road.

RippleThingsWhat Causes Washboard Road, Anyway?

Washboard road is a phenomenon that affects dirt and gravel roads from America to Australia and everywhere in between. It's simple physics: have you ever noticed how wind blowing over a body of water makes ripples? Or how the waves in a lake or ocean make the sand at the bottom into a washboard pattern? Or how windy, snow-covered mountains sometimes appear to have ripples? This is the same principle that causes washboard road. Vehicles moving over the gravel or dirt, especially at high speeds, move the material and eventually cause a series of uniform ripples to form. Small washboard bumps have even been known to form on steel railroad tracks after prolonged use.

How Can You Prevent Washboard?

You can prevent washboard from forming on your gravel or dirt road by following one simple rule: don't drive too fast! Studies have shown that any traffic going over about 3 mph is going to cause washboard eventually, but if you stay under 20 mph, it will form very slowly. So the key to prevent washboard (for the most part) is to stay under 20 mph.

How to Get Rid of Washboard

When washboard does develop, the easiest and most effective way to get rid of it is to grade your road with either a box scraper or road grader. A landscape rake will also work, but may take a number of passes before the washboard is fully eradicated. Grading will loosen up the gravel or dirt that has become compacted and spread it around evenly, leaving you with a smooth, even road and a comfortable ride. The best quality driveway graders use rigid teeth to dig deeply into the gravel, then use a rear leveling blade to distribute it evenly. Check out the DR Power Grader as an example. Towed behind your ATV, UTV, lawn tractor, or utility tractor, the DR makes gravel road maintenance very simple. A few passes over your road once or twice a year and washboard will be a thing of the past!

DR Power Grader

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Mary Bittle
4/12/2014 7:18:48 AM
This article claims going over 20 MPH causes it, but that's baloney, because only that one road out of several around here makes washboards, and everyone travels the same sort of speeds on all the gravel roads... if that logic were true, ALL of them would washboard, and they don't. *shrug*

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