Driving down a mountain requires a different skill set than driving on flat land. Gravity plays a role in mountain driving – the steeper and longer the downgrade, the faster the vehicle goes. While it may be tempting to ride the brakes, don’t. This creates excess heat that can burn out the brakes and cause brake failure. When driving a car with automatic transmission down a mountain, use the engine to help slow the vehicle down.

Shift into second gear before starting down a mountain. Reduce speed before downshifting so you don’t damage the transmission.

Obey the posted speed limit or “Maximum Safe Speed” limit. Look for steep hill warning signs.

Maintain a safe speed for road conditions. Resist the temptation to “zoom” down the mountain.

Apply the brakes once you reach a safe speed. For example, if the safe speed is 40, gently apply the brakes when you are traveling 40 miles per hour to reduce your speed to 35 miles per hour. Release the brakes. Repeat this until you reach the bottom of the mountain. If you need to reduce speed further on a steep downgrade, apply the brakes and downshift into first gear.

Shift into drive once you are back on flat land. Use your brakes for routine slowing and stopping.


Have your mechanic inspect your car. Make sure the brakes are in good condition. Top off the brake and transmission fluids. Check the tread on the tires and make sure the tires are properly inflated. Many mountain downgrades have escape routes that are designed to help stop runaway vehicles without injuring the driver or passengers.