Owning a car gives you the liberty to travel far and wide across various terrains. Both familiar and unfamiliar. However, it is vital to inspect and prepare your vehicle for the type of terrain you plan to travel. Different terrains put your car through a lot and demand special care.

Plains

 

Driving in plains is the most common and the less worrisome from the rest. However, driving skills are put to test in these conditions as they are accessed by the majority of motorists on a regular basis which makes this terrain overcrowded. Plains, meaning city and highway these roads demand a completely different approach.

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City

  • Stick to a lane, left or middle lane to be accompanied by slower drivers
  • Watch out for pedestrians at crossings, they have the right on these crossings
  • Keep a safe distance from taxis & autos, common obstacles in Metros, who make sudden swerves
  • Change lanes in 3-5 seconds, look at wing mirrors and over your shoulder for blind spots
  • At the signal shift to neutral and disengage the clutch to save fuel and clutch wear

 

Highway

  • Check the basics like tyre pressure, breaks and fluid levels, rest well before long drives
  • Understand your own limitations and that of your car
  • Wear the seat belts, only then can the airbags save you
  • Choose to drive during the day over driving at night and look far ahead
  • Drive with a/c on. This improves mileage by reducing air drag, and switch to fresh air mode every 60 mins

 

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Wet terrain

Rain is always fun so is driving in rain. It is safe and fun on wet terrain if you keep these basics in mind. The risk of hydroplaning is higher during rain as the traction is lost by the thin layer of water between the tyres and tarmac.

  • Turn on the headlamps, wipers to clear the water and slush from the tails splashes of the cars ahead of you, and stay focused
  • Beware of hydroplaning, no instant acceleration or braking. If you hydroplane let go of the pedal and steer straight till you regain control
  • Turn off Cruise control as it may cause you to lose control. If you hydroplane while on cruise control, your car will accelerate rapidly
  • Keep it slow and steady, speed limit signs are for normal conditions. It is not the case during downpours, go easy on the pedal and give yourself more time to reach the destination
  • Don’t wade through flooded streets or roads, you may risk damaging your car beyond a point of repair. Analyse the depth and make sure the water level isn’t above the tyre

Gravel

Going off the beaten track is always fun due to various reasons like an empty road, freedom to speed and push you and your vehicle to the limits. While driving on gravel, keep in mind the abuse your vehicle would have to undergo. Driving on gravel without practicing safety precautions can prove fatal.

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  • Don’t accelerate or brake hard as this may cause your car to spin out due to gravel shifting. Most rollovers happen in gravel tracks
  • Don’t over-speed as you may not have enough traction to bring it to a halt as it is a loosely packed surface you are driving upon
  • With dust and debris flying toward the car it would be best to keep a safe distance from other cars while travelling in packs. Would save you a paint job and a windscreen replacement
  • Drive at a constant speed and brake moderately. Don’t turn while braking to avoid rolling over
  • Pay attention to the track, mind the potholes and ruts. If you drive through anything too deep, you may end up being parked on your chassis instead of the rubber

Snow

Yes, we don’t get a whole lot or any of this down the Southern peninsula. What if you were planning a road trip to Rohtang or Darjeeling for Christmas? Here are some tips to help you manoeuvre this terrain safely.

  • Always remember, snow is slippery as it is made of both ice and mud. Use the traction control and AWD if you have them
  • Slow and steady is the key. No cruise control, avoid sharp turns, slamming on the brakes and quick acceleration to keep you from sliding out
  • Black ice. This is a patch of ice on the road which will aid in spinning out or sliding off the road. Avoid this slick patch, if you have to drive over it be sure to take it slow, really slow.
  • Don’t plough through snow as this may cosmetically damage your car. If you still plan on doing it, at least scout the snow-laden track to access the depth of snow and any trenches or ruts
  • For better traction, you could wrap the tyres with snow chains or traction aids. Prepare for the worst keep a survival kit handy

Sand

Unlike the previous terrain, we Indians are certain to drive on sand given the geographic location and boasting one of the longest coastlines measuring about 7,617 km. Driving on hard-packed beach sand like the one in Muzhappilangad, Kerala or stretches along the ECR in Tamil Nadu, is a piece of cake.

  • Deflate the tyres of any type of vehicle. Drop it to 12-15 psi is ideal, even lower if you have narrow tyres. Increasing tyre’s footprint allows it to float on sand instead of digging a trench
  • Inflate as soon as you are back on the pavement or tarmac. Driving even a few kilometres to inflate is fatal. Call RSA or get one of the tyre inflator accessories to avoid the wait and charges
  • While on sand avoid stepping on the accelerator, slamming the brakes or sharp cornering. Going straight takes a lot lesser pus as compared to turning
  • Keep wooden planks, floor mats or branches handy to get you moving again for when you get stuck. Wetting the sand helps keep the grains together enough to lift off the tyre
  • Most importantly, once stuck don’t accelerate digging your tyres to a sandy grave, gently backup and get assistance to move ahead

 

Hilly Terrain

Offering a palette of seven distinct mountain ranges from the Western Ghats to the Himalayas, the Indian mountains are just as legendary as they are diverse. Picking the right type of vehicle or planning a trip with your car and prepping it makes for an interesting road trip. If you think breath-taking, think 4X4. For the rest, here are a few tips to help make your drive safe and enjoyable.

 

  • Don’t get distracted by the scenery, if you would like to enjoy a scenery, stop the car where it is safe to do so. Walk a bit, take a photo or take in the scenery and drive again
  • Stick to your lane, give way to vehicles driving uphill as it is demanding compared to going downhill with gravity on your side

Keeping these tips in mind can reduce the potential for an accident, but practice safe driving habits at all times.

Extreme Off-roading

It is a sad fact that most 4WDs never get off the beaten track nowadays as their overprotective owners shy away from a little mud on the tyres. What is the fun of having a 4WD if it isn’t used for what it was meant to? Hold on, I’ll soon come back with a blog on how to safely experience fun things, like Dune Bashing, Rock Crawling and River crossing with your 4X4. Until then, happy motoring 🙂