Summer driving in Colorado can be very challenging at times. It is so important that we don’t forget what we learned about driving downhill on our steep mountain roads. Heavy commercial trucks aren’t the only drivers that will experience burning brakes if they’re not careful. We all need to drive in such a way that we aren’t relying on our brakes too much. I see it all the time coming home from a mountain trip. Drivers with their brakes lights flashing on and off all the way down the mountain. Whether you are a long-time mountain driver or have recently moved to Colorado, it’s important to know how to drive safely in the mountains. Two things are especially critical: brakes and tires.
The brakes on automatic transmission, late-models sedans weren’t built to handle the constant braking required on the 7 to 8 percent grades of mountain passes. This is the time to use your car’s transmission to keep your speed low enough to maneuver the hairpin curves that you’ll encounter during mountain driving and prevent those burning brakes. Before heading downhill, shift into second gear. Don’t shift into neutral.
Using your transmission to avoid overheating your brakes on winding mountain roads is smart, but also has its challenges. In summer, driving in second gear, will cause your car’s engine to reach higher RPMs and hotter temperatures. So if you haven’t checked your coolant level, or changed it since winter, you should do it now or you might overheat.
Another thing to consider is under-inflated tires. This will give you less control on the road, and that is never a good idea, especially on a road with no guardrail and a thousand foot drop below. So check your tire pressure before you leave home. Also tires without tread can cause problems, especially if you’re towing a load. The tread helps your tires grab the road and turn rather than spin.
Be aware of gravel and rocks on the road. Gravel will cause you to slide and perhaps lose control. Rocks large enough to cripple your car can roll onto the road, so stay alert and free from distractions while you’re driving. Wildlife is also a concern when you’re driving in the Colorado mountains. They can dart into traffic in a moments notice. So have your brakes and tires checked out before you hit the road.