Tips for Safe Mountain Driving in California

Driving in the mountains of California can be a picturesque and exhilarating experience, but it can also be a dangerous and tiring, especially if you’re not use to traveling this kind of terrain. Before you gas up your California car rental and head for the hills, make sure you take some time to properly prepare for your journey. Here are ten helpful tips to make any mountain drive more enjoyable in your California car rental.

1) Check Your Fluid Levels

While we check the fluid levels of all of our California car rentals before handing the keys over to our customers, leaks can and do occur. As such, it’s important that you double check your brake and transmission fluids before heading off on your journey. Frequent brake use on mountain roads can overheat the fluid and you can lose braking efficiency, especially if your fluid levels are low to begin with.

2) Pay Attention to You Speed

You should never go down a mountain road any faster than you can go up it. Take your foot of the gas and let your vehicle coast naturally down the incline. Try to keep your foot off the brake pedal in your California car rental as well. As hard as it might be, resist the temptation to zoom down the hill at a breakneck speed.

3) Avoid Using Your Air Conditioning

When traveling on steep upgrades in your California car rental keep a close eye on the temperature gauge in your vehicle. Turning the air conditioning off will help to reduce the amount of stress on the vehicle. If you notice that the engine is working hard and beginning to overheat, pull off the road in a safe place and sit with your California car rental in a fast idle. DO NOT turn off the engine, and never, EVER remove the hot radiator cap. Another way to cool the engine is to turn on the heater in your California car rental, however that can often make for an uncomfortable drive.

 4) Try Not to Hug the Center Line

Most mountain roads in California are narrower than the lanes of a freeway or Interstate. While you might feel a bit anxious driving next to a mountain drop-off, try not to hug the center line of these roadways. If you are hugging the line, and another center-hugging car comes at you in the opposite direction, you may jerk and overcorrect your vehicle, creating a potentially hazardous situation.

5) Cars That Are Traveling Uphill Are Awarded the Right of Way

If you’re going to pass a vehicle on a mountain road, remember to be extra cautious. Allow plenty of time for passing vehicles to make it back into their lane. It’s also important to note that your California car rental may not perform as well at 10,000 as it does at sea level. Higher elevations have a tendency to diminish your vehicle’s horsepower.

6) It’s Ok to Slow Down

It’s ok to be cautious when driving up or down a mountain road. Just be sure to keep an eye on the traffic behind you. If the line of vehicles behind your California car rental ever grows to more than three, look for a designated pullout and let the traffic past. This is actually a law in California; if you fail to pullover and let the traffic pass, you could be issued a ticket.

7) Take Extra Caution on Unpaved Roads

If you’re planning to traverse unpaved mountain roads in your California car rental, be smart. Check the local weather report and review road conditions that may impact your drive. Unpaved surfaces provide significantly less traction. As such, it’s important that you slow down and take curves on a wider arc that you normally would on a paved road. Before you leave, make sure that someone knows where you’re going in your California car rental. Remember to check in with this contact when you return home.

8) Pack Extra Drinking Water

The human body reacts differently to higher elevations. Insufficient hydration can often lead o the onset of altitude sickness, which can impact your ability to stay alert behind the wheel. Remember to drink lots of fluids before you hit the road and always pack some extra bottles of water in your California car rental.

9) Keep an Eye on the Sky

Weather conditions can change at a drop of a hat in California, especially when you’re traveling on a mountain road. If the weather deteriorates to fog, rain, wind, or now, slow down. Be more observant, and demonstrate extra road courtesy. If another driver appears to be in a hurry, look for a safe place to pull to the shoulder and let them pass – it could be an emergency. It’s also a good idea to include some emergency items in the truck of your California car rental. This could include a flashlight, a hand towel, a road flares, and a first aid kit. If your vehicle stalls, stay with it and call for help or wave down a vehicle if cell reception is spotting.

10) Take a Break

Navigating mountain roads in your California car rental can be tiring. If you’re feeling a bit drowsy, take a break. Limit your travel time when your trip involves challenges roads.

What are some of your favorite mountain roads to drive on in California? Share your suggestions in the comments.