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Discussion Starter #1
Curious how many folks have taken their Bolts on unpaved (rough) roads and what experiences they have.

I took what I thought would be a nice shortcut along a winding mountain road yesterday on the way back from Mendocino, and ended up doing more than 10 miles on a dirt road with several of rough spots. Nothing terrible, but I was acutely aware of the lack of a spare tire (and the lack of cell service the whole way). Fortunately there weren't too many ruts and everything worked out fine. I do have a patch kit and a jack, but somehow those felt rather inadequate.

My previous cars (and they were all regular sedans - lowish clearance, only one had AWD) have been up some pretty awful roads and I never really sweated it. I figured the Bolt has another inch or two of clearance which, but puttering along yesterday for almost an hour hearing the pebbles and stones ricochet off the tires and underbody has me rethinking that plan. A long time back I considered getting a full-sized spare for the Bolt, but the cost plus giving up a chunk of the hatch is rather annoying. And in truth, I think I've had four flats in 20 years of driving, 3 of them due mainly to overworn tires.

The other thing I noticed was that efficiency on unpaved roads is terrible - I think I got <2.5 miles/kWH despite going 15-20mph most of the way.
 

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I drove my Bolt EV over the Mendocino range a couple years back, and I do a decent amount of driving in, through, and around the Mendocino National Forest. The Bolt EV handles it fine. Better than most other sedans would thanks to its short wheelbase, which amplifies its ground clearance. Yes, a spare might be warranted, especially if you're driving over the sharp detritus that we can have on some of those mountain roads, but a spare would be warranted in most vehicles. Regardless, I've never had any issues straddling 1' to 2' deep washouts and driving up 10% grades on loose gravel roads.

The noise can be a bit disconcerting because the Bolt EV emits almost no sound on these roads, so every rock that bounces off the steel underbelly produces a sound. In some ways, though, it doesn't sound that much different than our old open-top 1941 Willys Jeep did (thanks to a super quiet 4 cylinder and zero chassis sound dampening). And yes, your efficiency will take a hit because driving on dirt and especially loose gravel results in very high rolling resistance. What's worse is I've noticed it impacts the amount of energy available for regenerative braking as well.

In the end, I have no reservations about "off roading" the Bolt EV as some people call it. To me, these are just roads, and I only worry if I happen to get tracked onto 4x4 trails. At that point, I simply use an abundance of caution if I must go down that trail. As with everything, use your best judgment, and you should be fine.
 

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I live 1.7 miles down a gravel road. No potholes, but quite crowned to help water runoff. No problems with the Bolt and no rattles, but do have what sounds like a harmonic vibration whenever driving on gravel. It's a sound that I've yet been able to pinpoint. It does better than my previous vehicle, an '08 'vette where the air dam had 2.5" clearance and I hit metal at 4".
 

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We tried a mountain road in the Sandia Mts NM. Big rocks as well as ruts. We lost our nerve and turned around. Love the car but will stay on pavement or at least well maintained dirt.
 

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I just got back from Point Reyes driving out toward the lighthouse. The road was pretty rough from construction, and at one point I bottomed out with a nasty crunch on what I had deemed to be a mild looking pothole. IMO it's unsuitable for off-road, but will handle a road in poor condition as long as there are no major potholes and bumps.
 

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It’s all about the speed you are driving. Don't forget the fact that the Bolt EV has a short wheelbase so it bounces while running through a lunar terrain... so better slow your speed or you will not like it.
 

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I live a mile down a gravel road and drive down other gravel roads all the time. I've only had the car since March but it's fine with pretty good clearance for a car. The worst thing is that gravel roads eat tires and these tires are pretty expensive and here the dust is tremendous but the car doesn't leak dust, which it shouldn't but I'm always a little worried about that because finding and fixing it would be difficult, if not impossible. We have good cell service except in a few canyons, which I can still walk out of if I had to, so I don't worry too much about being stranded but the lack of a spare definitely increases that possibility considerably.
 

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There are a lot of dirt roads in my vicinity. Most would be OK for a Bolt after having been graded and DRY. However, a good deal of the year there's snow, mud, puddles, and ruts to deal with. 4WD with locking rear differential territory. Not counting the 2 track roads through forest which are worse yet.
 

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My county has 829 miles of dirt roads and 440 miles of paved roads. So we know dirt roads. The bolt does fine on well maintained dirt roads. I have taken it (by mistake) on a not-so-well maintained dirt roads. I wouldn't do it again, most because I was extremely nervous due to the lack of a spare tire.

My biggest gripe is that, when you drive on a dry dirt road, a LOT of dust and dirt settles on the rear hatchback.
 

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We have friends that we used to play bridge with each week, but not since the pandemic. They live about a mile down a gravel road, so we had been driving our Bolt to their home every two weeks. When I recently rotated the tires on the Bolt I checked the tires closely for any nails,screws, etc. What really surprised me was how many small pieces of gravel were lodged in the narrow tread channels. On the front tires it wasn't too bad and I only had to pry perhaps 100 tiny stones per tire. However, the rear tires were a different story with what I would estimate to be several hundred. I think the torque of the front wheel drive must serve to dislodge much of the tiny pieces of gravel, while the passive rear tires have no means to eject them. The reason I had to pry out all these tiny stones is because once they got worn down from the road surface they resembled a nail or piece of wire, etc. I used a small screw driver to do the prying. Each rear tire took 20 minutes to completely clear. If you look closely at your tread pattern you'll see how tight the tread is. When compared to the tires on my WRX the tread grooves are a great deal wider.
 

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We have friends that we used to play bridge with each week, but not since the pandemic. They live about a mile down a gravel road, so we had been driving our Bolt to their home every two weeks. When I recently rotated the tires on the Bolt I checked the tires closely for any nails,screws, etc. What really surprised me was how many small pieces of gravel were lodged in the narrow tread channels. On the front tires it wasn't too bad and I only had to pry perhaps 100 tiny stones per tire. However, the rear tires were a different story with what I would estimate to be several hundred. I think the torque of the front wheel drive must serve to dislodge much of the tiny pieces of gravel, while the passive rear tires have no means to eject them. The reason I had to pry out all these tiny stones is because once they got worn down from the road surface they resembled a nail or piece of wire, etc. I used a small screw driver to do the prying. Each rear tire took 20 minutes to completely clear. If you look closely at your tread pattern you'll see how tight the tread is. When compared to the tires on my WRX the tread grooves are a great deal wider.
I've driven on gravel roads for most of my life. Getting rocks in the tread is just a normal thing. I can't think of a single vehicle I've owned that doesn't get rocks stuck in the treads, from F-150 4x4s to my WRX and EVO. As Anakin says, "I don't like gravel! It's coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere!"
 

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Hi. I like to camp and hike at the end of dirt roads. I've always taken my two wheel drive ICE cars down pretty much anything. (Yes I have gotten stuck a few times). When I got the Bolt I looked underneath and there seems to be less that looks breakable than on an ICE car. Essentially just the battery holder and stuff around the axles/brakes.
I decided there was no reason to treat my bolt more carefully than an ICE car. Thus, I've taken my bolt on some VERY bad roads. Including fording creeks that were at least 7-8 inches deep. Where the water came up to the battery pan. I figure if one can drive in a thunderstorm downpour then short term water anywhere cannot be a real problem. It wasn't. I have banged the battery case on several rocks. At the front left corner I banged it hard enough to dent the battery case by a a mm or so. No problems. Just for reference I've attached a picture of one place I gave up. It was down the Soda Springs road from Serene Lakes to the Cedars, near Donner pass. The road took me 40 minutes to drive 6 miles. (Yes, you are right I should have walked. .. ) I was trying to drive over to the forest hill divide and back through forest hill but turned around at this creek.
I also gave half way down Ponderosa way, from Colfax down to the American river. I don't have any good pictures of the worst ruts and rocks I have managed. But I grabbed a picture of Ponderosa way off of street view. It doesn't show the depth of the ruts but they were bad.

In conclusion, I've had good luck with the Bolt on some very bad roads.

Caveats: The stock tires don't have very good traction. And, uphill on gravel the car suffers from spinning the wheels as do all front wheel drives. I've not yet had to back up anything, but close.

29761

29760
 

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Slower than walking?
Only make it half way to destination?
Dents and damage?

Your definition of "good luck" is a little aggressive, but OK!
Well , not quite slower than walking. 9 miles per hour. wheeee.
But there is a point when the car can make it but the attention required makes it less than "fun"

However, by "good luck" I'm really referring to the many miles of slightly better dirt roads I've driven without problems,
and at good speeds.
E.g. from Colfax via Yankee Jim's road and Mosquito Hill road to Talbot campground beyond French Meadows.
To Wrights Lake a few times. etc.
Really I mean to say the Bolt does just as well as any other two wheel drive ICE car with the same clearance.
And the clearance (I make it 6.5") is not that bad.
People usually underestimate what two wheel drive "non-SUZ" cars can do. I always love the incredulous looks of the SUV drivers when I arrive at various trailheads. "You made it up here in THAT car?" It's not that hard. But I guess I do have 45 years of experience doing it.
 

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Well , not quite slower than walking. 9 miles per hour. wheeee.
But there is a point when the car can make it but the attention required makes it less than "fun"

However, by "good luck" I'm really referring to the many miles of slightly better dirt roads I've driven without problems,
and at good speeds.
E.g. from Colfax via Yankee Jim's road and Mosquito Hill road to Talbot campground beyond French Meadows.
To Wrights Lake a few times. etc.
Really I mean to say the Bolt does just as well as any other two wheel drive ICE car with the same clearance.
And the clearance (I make it 6.5") is not that bad.
People usually underestimate what two wheel drive "non-SUZ" cars can do. I always love the incredulous looks of the SUV drivers when I arrive at various trailheads. "You made it up here in THAT car?" It's not that hard. But I guess I do have 45 years of experience doing it.
Yup. I'm pretty much in the same boat. I got pinned to the side of a mountain road in my Volt once by a guy in a lifted F-350 4x4 (which apparently couldn't go everywhere he needed it to go because he was also hauling an ATV), and he proceeded to lecture me about not off-roading in a car. I just nodded and said sure thing, boss, rather than explaining to him that a maintained National Forest road is not "off roading" and that I'd been driving those roads since I was 15 years old (and riding on them since I could form memories).

And slowing down to navigate rough roads is definitely different than just driving. I actually enjoy doing it from time to time, but it does require a bit of concentration. I find myself laughing at some of these "off roaders" who rush up trails and get stuck in a 4x4 vehicle. If taking the time to find the right lines (and knowing what the right lines look like), people might be surprised just how many different places a car like the Bolt EV can go.

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Discussion Starter #16
Thanks for all the encouraging comments! Sounds like a lot of you do get out on some interesting roads. I'll second the comment about dust - I was amazed how much had gotten into the recesses around the hatch. But overall I guess I should do some more thinking about a good spare tire...
 

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... here the dust is tremendous but the car doesn't leak dust, which it shouldn't but I'm always a little worried about that because finding and fixing it would be difficult, if not impossible. ...
It's really nice to have an air filter in the HVAC system to screen out dust, but if you're driving in dusty conditions a lot be sure to check it every so often and replace it as needed.
 

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The Bolt rides like a car with a stiff suspension. Above normal chatter over bumps. Maybe it's the high tire pressures--40 psi is generally higher than recommended for most cars.
You look at the reviews for other e-cars, you see that the rides are similar--stiff. Maybe it's the heavy battery spread out over the undercarriage. The most expensive e-cars seem to have better reviews on the ride. Maybe the suspensions are more refined.

Anybody try lowering the tire pressures to improve the ride? I suspect the suspension needs to be refined to accommodate the undercarriage weight distribution.
 

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The Bolt rides like a car with a stiff suspension. Above normal chatter over bumps. Maybe it's the high tire pressures--40 psi is generally higher than recommended for most cars.
You look at the reviews for other e-cars, you see that the rides are similar--stiff. Maybe it's the heavy battery spread out over the undercarriage. The most expensive e-cars seem to have better reviews on the ride. Maybe the suspensions are more refined.

Anybody try lowering the tire pressures to improve the ride? I suspect the suspension needs to be refined to accommodate the undercarriage weight distribution.
The recommended tire pressure is 38 PSI, not 40. Also, the Bolt EV had a stiff rear suspension because it was tuned more for performance than other EVs in its class. That, combined with a shorter wheelbase is why the Bolt EV's ride is stiffer than others. Those are actually all good qualities when driving on rough roads.

That being said, in response to customer requests, Chevy did soften the suspension. I believe it was done for MY 2018 or 2019, but it is significantly softer than the 2017. Unfortunately, I didn't have the chance to take the 2020 Bolt EV on rougher roads when I was reviewing it, but the handling didn't seem to suffer as a result of the softer ride.
 
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