Coming ‘round the mountain sure sounds like fun, but the fact is that traveling steep slopes on narrow mountain roads can be challenging for motorists and their vehicles. However, with some sure-footed driving skills, you’ll be prepared to navigate through mountain ranges without worry.
Steep uphill and downhill grades can put an extra strain on your vehicle’s main components, from your engine to your brakes. Fortunately, you can steer smartly through mountain passes by taking certain precautions in different driving situations.
Climbing steep mountain roads can make your engine overheat, so according to the website for the City of Colorado Springs, which is in the southern region of the Rockies, it’s important to take steps to make sure your engine stays cool:
If your car starts to run hot, find a safe place to stop so it can cool down before continuing your climb, the National Park Service suggests. Use pull-off areas whenever possible, but if stopping on the road is unavoidable, look for a straightaway or another spot where approaching motorists will be able to see you clearly. Running water over your radiator core will also help lower the engine temperature, according to the City of Colorado Springs. Never remove your radiator cap until the engine is cool, and check your owner’s manual for insights on how to cool your engine down, or what type of coolant to add if needed.
When you decide it’s time for your downhill descent, use your engine and transmission to slow the car down instead of the brakes. Shift into “2” or “L” if your vehicle has an automatic transmission, and stay in a lower gear if it’s a manual. This will allow the slowing power from your engine to slow the car down. When you do need to use your brakes, apply them firmly to slow the car quickly, since riding your brakes could cause them to overheat and fail. Once you’re on level ground, shift back into drive and use your brakes normally.
Winding mountain roads can be narrow, with dramatic curves that make it difficult to see what’s around the next bend. As a result, it’s important to take some extra precaution:
While GPS is a helpful tool in most situations, small roads in remote mountain ranges may not be well-represented, which means you could end up headed in the wrong direction or toward a dead end. Take the time to map your route the old-fashioned way, with a paper map, especially if you’re piloting a big, cumbersome RV or towing a trailer. Most maps will show which roads are steeply graded, which will allow you to chart out the least difficult path.
Whether you’re trekking through the Rockies or headed to the Appalachian Trail, using some common sense and knowing your vehicle’s limits will help keep you safe on our nation’s majestic mountain motorways.