A Short Guide to Road-Worthiness
Driving in the hills can be real pleasure if you just take a bit of extra care
To get your trip off to a calm and happy start, make sure you know where you are going and have a plan to get there. Tell your family and friends about your itinerary, too-it can make all the difference in an emergency.
Check ahead on weather and terrain conditions in places along your route.
It's important to factor in enough time for extra stops, predictable and unpredictable, you might need to make along the way - for your child, for food, for traffic jams caused by rallies or massive buffalo-cart convoys on a highway.
It's usually advisable to start early in the morning. Have a restful night prior to your trip. That includes at least six hours of sleep, to make sure you wake up without a trace of fatigue.
Night driving is inadvisable on Indian roads. If you must, the look out for pedestrian and cyclist on narrow roads. They are hard to see because of the high beams of oncoming vehicles.
In the winter especially, day driving is the best. Fog may engulf you after sunset and, if its's thick enough, fog lights become ineffective - sometimes you can't see even your own car bonnet.
Most petrol pumps closed down at 7 pm in the hills and along highways, so keep an eye on your fuel gauge.
Tractor-trailers and animal-drawn carts are also a hazard at night, espacially in fog; these ghostaly object suddenly appear on the road sans tail lamps.
Be considerate and dip your headlights for oncoming vehicles. The whole idea is to see and be seen !
Before retiring for the night in extremely low temperature, such as those in Ladakh, run your engine for at least 10 minutes.
Going downhill, stay off the brakes as much as possible and shiftinto a lower gear.
Remember that vehicles going uphill always have right way.
Don't hit the brakes hard, because you risk locking them.
Always engage a lower gear when going uphill before entering a curve or riding a slope, so as to get better engine compression.
Ensure that you have enough momentum as you into a curve or up a slope, and maitain it so that you don't stall midway.
Don't let the engine go into low revs, which can induce knocking, but let the momentum carry you right through the curve.
On ice, snow or wet ground, do not make the mistake of dropping into a lower gear, which will make the wheels spin all the more. It is better to go to a higher gear and keep going through.
If you hit a really skiddy patch, you might try lowering the air pressure to get better traction out of the tyres.
Be especially careful while driving in rain. Visibility can drop to a dangerously low 25 meters. Never try to move on kuccha stretches along the highwayduring a rainstrom, and turn on your windshield wipers before slogging through a big mud puddle.
Avoid using sprinklers to clean the windscreen while on high passes - the water may freeze on your windscreen.
Remember that after driving through water, braker become less effective - so maintain some extra distance between your car and the one that is just ahead of you.
Keep in mind that people in the hills are often very bad about honking their horns. Ensure, however, that you keep blowing yours so that you don't meet up with any nasty surprises round a corner.
Tips on hill driving
V-BELTS For fan and alternator.
FUSES & THICK WIRE Fuses for all electric points; think wire for faults.
TOOLS Screwdriver set, wrench, key-set , jack and jack rod, wheel spanner, knife, torch.
LEAF SPRING Main leaf springs are a must for bumpy roads, such as those in Ladakh.
TWO-CHAIN For rescues .
TUBES You may not find new tubes in smaller settlements.
SMALL SHOVEL Always helpful in snowbound areas.
WOODEN LOGS In case a leaf spring breaks in the middle of nowhere.