SAFETY FIRST – PREPARE YOUR VEHICLE…
These roads present serious challenges and need to be treated with the greatest of respect, in terms of driving them and in preparation of your vehicle.
It is essential that your vehicle is in sound mechanical condition before attempting any of the following drives, all of which will prove challenging for the car/motorcycle as well as the driver… and lives could well depend on the state of the vehicle…
- BRAKE FLUID
In particular the brakes should be checked and it needs to be borne in mind that as it ages, conventional glycol-based brake fluid absorbs moisture from the atmosphere, which can result in localised boiling of the water content within the fluid, during long descents. This in turn can result in catastrophic brake failure… If the brake fluid in your vehicle is more than two years old, before you set off have it renewed or at least checked for moisture content (do-it-yourself tester kits are readily available and inexpensive).
- BRAKE PADS AND DISCS
Note too that frightening ‘brake fade’ (requiring ever-heavier pedal pressure to slow or stop) can occur through the friction-induced overheating of hard-worked brake pads and discs (also brake shoes and drums), even if the brake fluid is stable. It’s worth considering fitting brake pads and shoes with heavier-duty characteristics for use in such arduous conditions.
Your vehicle’s tyres, steering and suspension systems also need to be in excellent condition – especially as some of the mountain roads included here have rough and slippery surfaces in places. Make sure that your tyres are inflated to the correct pressures too.
Ensure too that your engine is in good condition, with clean oil and coolant, maintained at the correct levels. Note that anti-freeze mixture acts as a summer coolant, as well as preventing ice damage in an engine in winter, and should be used all year round (its use effectively raises the boiling point of the coolant by a few degrees, and this can be very helpful on long, tough ascents).
- COOLING SYSTEM COMPONENTS
The cooling system itself (including the radiator, hoses, water pump and thermostat) needs to be at its best too, for otherwise long, hard climbs will take their toll and cooling system deficiencies could easily result in terminal overheating and a wrecked engine.
All such nasties are easily prevented by a little forethought and work in terms of checking and rectification work carried out before you depart from the U.K. (and re-checking under the bonnet just before you set off at the start of each drive on these challenging mountain routes…).