Heading for the Hills!

Heading for the Hills!

We’re so fortunate to live in Beautiful British Columbia. From boating and championship golfing to trophy lake fishing, skiing, snowboarding and just about everything else in between, BC offers a four seasons playground unmatched anywhere else in the world.

And while here on the Lower Mainland, driving our traffic-filled roads through those four seasons isn’t always a breeze, once we venture into the mountains, driving takes on a whole new set of challenges!

If you’re planning a road trip this Summer that will take you through the mountain passes, here are a few tips to keep you safe and keep your trip on track!

Pre-check your vehicle before you leave.

Yes, this seems obvious, but it’s amazing how many people neglect to check their coolant, engine oil, tire pressures, etc before embarking on a long road trip. Also, check things like your lights (headlights, tail light, blinkers, etc.), and that includes your high beams. There’s nothing worse than finding yourself navigating winding mountain roads in the dark with only one headlight! Also, check those windshield wipers and your wiper fluid level! Wipers are things we take for granted and only use when it rains. For that reason, we often forget to change our blades or top up our wiper fluid until it’s too late! A road trip is a great time to throw on some new blades and fill that windshield wiper fluid reservoir!

Prepare a roadside emergency kit.

No matter how prepared you are, you never know when trouble will strike. It may not even be a breakdown of your own vehicle that causes you to be stuck in the mountains, it may be a road hazard such as a land slide or semi-truck jack-knifed. Having the necessities you need to keep yourself and your passengers safe and endure being stranded on the road for a prolonged period is essential. First off, before taking off on your road trip, grab a few extra bottles of water and a few extra snacks. Bring a little more than you need for the drive. If you should suddenly find yourself stranded on the roadside for a dew hours or more, especially if it’s hot outside, it’s good to have a little extra hydration and some energy food to keep you company! Also, never leave home without a good emergency roadside kit packed away in your vehicle somewhere. Here’s a great video put together by Big O Tires’ own Canadian rally driver, Mark Jennings-Bates with some great tips on what to include in your kit! https://youtu.be/Y35-AW4dpcs?si=Af1tNazApKahTWmA

Fill up your tank

Again, an obvious one, but it’s not uncommon for people to leave on a road trip with a partially full tank, assuming they’ll fill up “along the way”, only to suddenly hit a detour that unexpectedly sends them hundreds of kilometres out of their way with no gas station access!

Check the weather

Weather in BC changes frequently, especially in the mountains. It’s always a good idea before a road trip to check the most recent weather forecasts. Also, it’s not a bad idea to check on the latest wildfire news. As we’ve all experienced in recent years, wildfires are an inevitable summer hazard in BC, and they can spark anywhere at any time. It’s not uncommon to take off into the mountains only to discover a wildfire that ignited after you pulled out of your driveway that now blocks the path to your destination. Download the BC wildfire app to stay informed and keep up with the latest wildfire news!

Watch for potholes!

Mountain roads take a real beating over winter. The freezing and thawing, especially at the higher levels, can do a number on that asphalt! Cracks, potholes and uneven surfaces are not uncommon on mountain roads coming into Spring and Summer. And while road crews are always out making fixes and repairs, there’s no guarantee they can fix everything before you head out on your trip. So keep those eyes peeled and be prepared for unexpected road hazards to pop up out of nowhere!

Gear down!

Obviously, mountain roads have their ups and downs, literally. One of the challenges of driving steep mountain roads is the stress those climbs and descents can put on your transmission and your brakes. Many modern vehicles today come with a feature that will automatically adjust your gears for ‘uphill’ and ‘downhill’ driving. But not all vehicles have this, and not all vehicles that have this feature have the feature enabled. So, when driving up and down steep hills, ease the stress on your transmission and gear down whenever possible, especially on steep descents… avoid riding those brakes!

Hot is cool!

Hot Summer days and long, uphill highway stretches, especially if you’re pulling something heavy like an RV trailer, can push your engine to the max! Engine and transmission temps can climb rapidly and wind up in the red before you know it! If you start to see the heat rising on your temperature gauge, you can help the situation by turning off your AC inside the vehicle! This focuses more of the vehicle’s cooling ability to cooling your engine. In extreme situations, even turning on the heat in your vehicle will help bring the needle on that temp gauge down a little bit, maybe just enough to help you reach the apex of that hill before having your vehicle overheat!

Use that parking brake!

Stopping for rest breaks and to marvel at the spectacular mountain vistas is a must when cruising through the mountain passes. But frequently, those stops can be on inclines. Don’t forget when you park to use a washroom or take in the view, apply that parking brake!

Drive safe!

Mountain driving presents a host of challenges not often found on ‘flat land’ roads. First off, there’s the wildlife. Deer, coyotes, bears and every other type of wildlife you can imagine cross roadways at any time, and often suddenly. Whenever driving, especially around sunrise and sunset, keep your eyes open for unexpected encounters with wildlife! Other drivers can often be a hazard on mountain passes too. All too often we encounter that driver behind us who just can’t get to where they’re going, fast enough. In those cases, let them pass. If they try to pass coming up to a blind corner (always a BAD idea), slow down a bit. This way, you create a little more of an escape route in front of you should they need to zip back into your lane quickly without causing an accident that might involve multiple vehicles, including your own!

Hopefully, these tips will make your Summer mountain driving a breeze and help you get out and make the most of what a British Columbia Summer has to offer!

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