Planning a trip to the mountains this summer? Mountaintop trips give you a spectacular view, but getting there means you have to adjust your driving. Here are a few essential tips for safely driving up and down those winding mountainous roads.
Take It Slow . . . Very Slow
The best piece of mountain driving advice can be summed up in a few words – go slow. Gravitational pull paired with steep, certain death cliffsides means speeding down a mountain is much more risky than going the same speed on a straight road. The rule of thumb is to never go down the mountainside faster than you can go up it. And always, always adhere to the speed limit signs, especially around corners.
Check the Brakes, Brake Fluid and Tires Before You Take Off
Needless to say, your brakes are going to get a workout during a mountain drive. If your brake fluid is old or the level is inadequate the fluid will heat more quickly. When brake fluid overheats it impacts the effectiveness of your brakes. Going down a mountain isn’t when you want to figure this out.
Before you hit a mountain trail check your brakes, brake fluid and tires. Tires are extremely important because you want them to be able to grip the surface. If the tread is showing signs of excessive wear replace them before the trip.
Downshift on Steep Upgrades and Downgrades
There’s a good chance all of you automatic drivers have never explored the gears outside of park, reverse and drive. During a roadtrip through the mountains you’ll become familiar with the low (L), first (1) and second (2) gears.
Going up steep inclines
When you’re faced with a steep incline shift into low gear. If not, you could potentially overheat the engine. The low gear maximizes power while minimizing speed, which is why vehicles crawl safely up steep hills. If your vehicle does start running hot turn off the AC.
Going down steep declines
Nudge the brakes to slow the acceleration then shift into second gear before beginning your descent. Gently apply the brakes and then let go until you reach a safe speed so you don’t burn out the braking system (a trucker technique called pulse braking). If you need to slow down more apply the brakes, let go and shift into first gear.
When you hit flat land put the vehicle back into the drive position.
Use the Designated Pit Stops If You’re Slowing Down Traffic
On mountain roads there aren’t many places to safely pass slower drivers. Taking in the scenery or being smart and driving slow is totally acceptable, but if three or more vehicles stack up behind you pull over at the next designated stop, stretch your legs and let the traffic pass.
Keep an Eye on the Weather
Inexperienced mountain drivers shouldn’t test their skills during questionable weather. Navigating the narrow roads, winding paths and elevation changes is enough of a challenge. Avoid taking to the mountain anytime there’s a chance of rain, fog, heavy winds or snow since weather conditions can change quickly at a higher altitude.
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