So you have finally decided to go to a hill station and you are going to drive. First thing that you need is the CONFIDENCE in yourself. Everybody drives on the hills for the first time and you are no exception. Go for it. Have faith on yourself and your lovely car.
Which Car? Naturally you will take your own car. You can’t borrow because it is doubtful that somebody known to you will take that risk and secondly you will not be at ease on steering in a new [read other] car. So forget SUVs, 4*4 drives, off road cars if you don’t have them. Remember, locals mostly use small cars like Alto, Eon etc on hills. Your own car is the best unless it is old and unreliable.
Getting your car ready: Get your car serviced one week in advance. Tell the service personal that you are driving to the hills and he should ensure optimum gear oil, engine oil, coolant and water in water tank. Also ask him to check the filters, brake pads, fan belt, wiper blades and nozzles, all the lights and indicators, battery, wheels, spares etc. Check for the tyre grooves and air pressure in them.
Make sure that at least one of the fellow passengers can drive. If not then at least one of them should be mature enough to help you to maneuver out in difficult situations on the road. Also make certain that your car is not overcrowded nor it is over luggage.
On the way: Throughout, keep yourself busy with small sips of water or cold drink and occasional munching of chips etc. This will keep you fresh and alert all the time. Drive with patience, enjoy the songs, the weather, the scenery but never loose your concentration off the road.
Brakes, Clutch and Gears: Use gears judiciously and don’t be over cautious. Ensure your car does not stall. Don’t let your car slow down too much before you down the gear. If you are using AMT be prepared to use manual gears if the incline is too steep. If the incline is long and gradual use 2nd or 3rd gear if convenient. Do not unnecessarily heat up your car by driving long in 1st gear.
As for the inclines, never be afraid of them. Looks can be deceptive but every incline can be maneuvered if dealt wisely. For this you need to be the master at driving your own car.
Patience is the key. Use hand brakes if you are used to it. In case of starting off on an incline, take time to release clutch and when you feel the car is on roll release it. Only if the above process does not work try the hand brake. Remember hand brakes work the same way as the lower one.
Never speed up even if you get lonely stretches. Give pass to the speeding vehicles and use indicators judiciously. Use horns on each turn and if visibility is blocked on a hair pin turn mentally be prepared for an oncoming vehicle. Take small breaks after every hour or so.
While climbing downhill, use brakes only when needed instead use gears for braking [I hope you understand]. Excessive braking is very dangerous especially going downhill. Above all, maintain your cool. In extreme cases when you are left helpless in maneuvering a tough stretch, never hesitate to ask for help from local driver [If there is one around].
Finally, have faith in GOD because in the hills it is all faith!!! Will talk about high altitude drives in my next blog