If you live in Seattle long enough, you’re going to eventually have to learn how to drive in the mountains. It can be a daunting experience, and nobody knows better than your auto body shop that a minor slip up on a level road can easily translate to a catastrophe on a winding mountain path. We want you to stay safe up there, so bear these tips in mind whenever the call of the wild brings you and your vehicle up to where the air starts to thin.
First and foremost, properly maintaining and preparing your car is all the more important for mountain driving. You want to pay particular attention to the brakes, tires, radiator, and suspension. Depending on where you’re going, it may also pay to keep your snow chains handy and otherwise prepare yourself for cold conditions.
Care should be taken when navigating the steep grades and sharp turns of mountain roads. Your car behaves differently than it would on a level street, so be prepared for this if you’re unaccustomed to mountains. Pay attention to your transmission; find a gear that feels comfortable and try to keep it there if you can. When going downhill, try to control your speed with the transmission instead of freewheeling or riding the brakes. This will afford you the best control over your vehicle, and keep your brakes from wearing out too fast.
Also, be aware of your engine’s temperature. If it begins to overheat, do not make the mistake of turning on the air conditioner. The A/C actually creates more heat than it cools, and all this heat goes into the engine. Turn off the A/C if it is on. Turn on the heater if you can stand to.