Mountain driving can be both daunting and rewarding, with great views of pristine mountain ranges and the beautiful landscapes that surround them, such as Yellowstone National Park! However, there are several factors to mountain driving that will alter the way your car performs, as well as the way you will drive when heading up and down mountain roads. Here are some useful mountain driving tips and cautions to consider before heading off on a mountain road trip!
Give Your Car A Total Tune-up
Making sure that all of your car’s systems are in great working order is the most important precaution you can take before setting out on a mountain drive! Be sure that you have your heating and cooling system, exhaust, windshield wipers, and fluid levels and lines checked thoroughly. It is especially important to have your brake system checked, as properly functioning brakes are important to have on a mountain road! Ask your mechanic about using a higher-quality fuel while on your trip, as it could increase your engine efficiency if it is appropriate for your vehicle. Also be sure to check the tread on your tires to ensure you’ll have optimal handling in any conditions.
Practice Proper Road Etiquette
Of course normal rules of the road still apply to mountain driving, however there are a few more guidelines that are necessary for safe mountain driving! Although it will be tempting to do and might make you feel more secure, never ride the center line of a mountain road. It can prove dangerous if heading around a corner of a two-way road, especially if an oncoming driver is also riding the line. It can also lead to over-correcting when getting back in your lane, which can cause you to drift into another lane or turn sharply into the side of the road.
It is also good practice to let vehicles heading uphill have the right of way. Going uphill is more difficult for vehicles to handle than going downhill, so it is expected for descending drivers to slow down and get out of the way of ascending drivers. It is also expected that slow drivers should pull off the road if there are three or more vehicles behind them. Of course you will want to slow down and enjoy the scenery, and it is expected from other drivers. However, if more than three cars are behind you, pull off onto the first safe spot you see and let the drivers pass! In some states, it is a ticketable offense to block traffic for more than three cars, so be sure to check and be courteous of other drivers!
Your vehicle will not perform the same in higher altitudes as it does in lower ones, as it loses horsepower the higher you go. This is something to take into account on both the ascent and descent! When going uphill, downshift to a lower gear, which will prevent your engine from overworking itself by giving too much power. You will also want to downshift when heading downhill, which will allow the engine to aid in braking, and will prevent your brakes from overheating.
Watch Your Temperatures
The downside of mountain driving is how easy it is to overheat your vehicle’s systems. Trying to power uphill at higher altitudes will cause your engine to overheat. After putting your vehicle into a lower gear, be sure to watch your temperature gauge to ensure that it stays in the safe range. If it starts to overheat, turn off your air conditioning to help lower the temperature. If that doesn’t work, pull over to allow the temp to drop before continuing. Don’t turn off your engine; keep it running! Turn on the heat if you can bear it, as it will help to lower the temp faster.
When going downhill, it is important to avoid riding your brakes to maintain a slower speed. Constant use of the brakes will cause them to overheat and diminish their ability to function correctly. The last place you want your brakes to fail is the downhill slope of a mountain!
Always Be Prepared
It is important to think ahead when you are going to embark on a trip up a mountain! Be sure to bring along plenty of extra water, as dehydration can lead to altitude sickness. You should also pack some snacks, blankets, flashlights, a first aid kit, and other emergency items in case your car breaks down or you become stranded. Always make sure that you have a full gas tank before you start your ascent, as you never know what can happen and you don’t want to run out of gas!
It is also necessary to check the weather forecast for the area prior to setting out. If you are out and the weather turns, be sure to stay vigilant and proceed with caution. Always be sure that your lights are turned on, and be aware of the actions of other drivers. If you anticipate heavy snowfall, be sure to pack an ice scraper, broom, and anything else that could help get you out if you become stuck. If your car stalls in a snow storm, be sure to stay with your car as it will be more visible than a person on the side of the road.
Don’t Overdo It
Traveling along mountain roads is much more taxing that driving on flat terrain, so it is important to take frequent breaks. This will help to keep your mind sharp and will keep fatigue from influencing the way you drive. It is recommended to drive no more than 6 hours a day when mountain driving to keep the stress down, so keep that in mind!
Although mountain travel can be challenging, the beautiful views make it an experience well worth having! As long as you follow these mountain driving tips and cautions, you should have a safe and successful journey! Do you have any other tips for safe mountain driving? Share them with us in the comments section!