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Three tips to consider before driving into the wilderness

Driving.ca logo Driving.ca 2018-07-19 Brian Turner
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Our great, seasonal weather makes for very predictable travel patterns. Every summer, we take to the roads — and often backroads — of our expansive land to decompress, enjoy some well-deserved rest and relaxation, and of course, make some great memories. But the last thing we want is some major vehicle damage or breakdown that can quickly turn any getaway into a disaster not-to-be-spoken-of for many years to come.

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Of course, every seasoned driver knows the limits of their vehicle and how to take care of it, but if you’re setting off along the roads less travelled in a new or new-to-you ride, keep these tips in mind to ensure a happy ending.

Know your ground clearance. Familiar cottage and camp roads can become unknown risks when heading out in a vehicle that’s never taken that trail before. Modern undercarriages carry a lot of components and parts that don’t necessarily like to be scrubbed by rocks, ruts, and such. And as the definition of SUV gets more and more watered down each year, knowing your ground clearance can save a lot of grief and expense, not to mention keeping you and your passengers safe. Also, it’s important to remember that if you’re towing anything, the hitch point will usually be the lowest part of the ensemble and most prone to scraping over uneven roads and surfaces.

If you’re really worried about tree branch scrapes, maybe you should leave the car at home. When you consider the acquisition cost of even the most basic vehicle these days, obsessing over scrapes and scratches is understandable. And it’s just as understandable that it’s nearly impossible to avoid some contact between your ride’s paint and nature on narrow backroads.

If you have a few travelers along for the ride, you might be able to enlist their help in keeping tree branches away from the paint for a few points of the trip. But if you have to make a choice between a hard undercarriage scrape and a few gentle forest growth brushes, take the slight branch contact anytime. A little wax or polish can make small marks disappear, but a punctured fuel tank is a lot more serious.

Critter-proof your wheels. Vehicles are a wonderful attraction to animals of every size and stripe, finding them a great place for shelter, heat and food. When parked at a cabin or cottage, make sure to remove all food, including the various wrappings and empty packaging.

If you’re venturing into an area known to experience animal intrusions into vehicles, you might want to invest in a few ounces of aromatic peppermint oil. Diluted eight-to-one with warm water and put into a spray bottle, it makes for a great repellant when spritzed under the hood and in discreet parts of the interior — but test for fabric staining first.

If you’ve noticed porcupines under your vehicle, check very carefully before starting up and heading off — these spiky critters love to gnaw through flexible brake lines and other chewables.

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