Moving to the Centennial state comes with a lot of thrills, and a lot of challenges. One of the more unexpected things to think about is how much stress mountain and high-altitude driving can put on your vehicle. Colorado has some of the most varied driving terrains in the country and it can take its toll on vehicles. Even advanced transmission can be tested in the varying conditions found in Colorado and extra care should be considered for those looking to do a lot of driving.


Even the most physically undemanding jobs require people to drive around sometime. From writing code in Denver to, everyone has to drive around sometime. For those looking to do any amount of driving in this beautiful state, there are some things potential drivers should know.

Things To Check Beforehand

Before heading to Colorado or even before doing any mountain driving, there are some things you should check on your car. First and foremost, you should check your transmission. Transmissions are often stressed by the highly varied conditions in Colorado and checking your transmission fluid at your local transmission shop is critical to ensuring a smooth drive.


If the transmission is low, flush or fill it. While you’re there, check your other fluids, especially wiper and brake fluid. The cold of Colorado can put stressors on your brake lines, requiring them to be checked more often. Wiper fluid, while often thought innocuous, is fairly essential. The snow that permeates often in Colorado can leave large deposits of dirt and debris on your windshield that can be difficult to clean otherwise.


Tires and brakes are other frequent sources of checking. Colorado’s mountainous terrain means drivers will often be using their brakes to control their rates of descent, which can put much stress on any driver’s brakes. Check them often and get them replaced as needed. Lastly, tires may not last long depending on where you are driving. Snow and rocky terrain can eat through tire treads and even moderately worn tires can pose risks as they cannot grab onto the roads during difficult weather as well.

Driving In The Mountains

Mountain driving comes with its own unique challenges and Colorado, being a significant part of the Rocky Mountains, will be rife with mountainous driving for those traveling within the state. As stated earlier, mountain driving can put a heavy toll on your car’s transmission and cause small problems to gradually worsen.


Using lower gears on mountain roads can reduce this wear and tear and avoid problems later. Lower gears give a little bit more power when climbing and help maintain speed so that you are not variably speeding up and slowing down. Not only does this put less stress on your transmission, but the lower speed means you can ease up on your brakes as well.

Driving At High Altitude

Normally altitude doesn’t have much effect on cars. However, driving in Colorado means having to frequently change altitude, which can have effects on tire pressure if done often enough.


As you climb in elevation, tire pressure decreases. This can impact your tires in multiple ways, including:

  • Causing uneven tread wear in your tires
  • Increasing the chances of a tire blowout
  • Lowering your fuel economy
  • Reducing the power of your vehicle to handle turning


High altitude can also affect how well your engine runs. Engines work by combining air with fuel, using explosive combustion to drive energy into your vehicle and propel it down the road. However, the higher you go, the less air there is. 


For every 1,000 feet of altitude, your engine will lose about 3% of its horsepower. If you push your engine as you do driving in the city, it can spell real trouble and put a lot of stress on it. The more strained the engine, the more likely it is to suffer a major break.

Winter Driving

Snow is a constant part of Colorado weather, even in the summer in some parts of the state. Even still, Colorado has erratic weather patterns that could turn from a sunny, bright day to a winter storm in a short time. Snowy weather accounted for 60% of all inclement weather crashes in Colorado from 2005-2019, making it a huge issue for drivers.


While winter driving does not often put many added stressors on your vehicle, all of the previously mentioned issues certainly become compounded when in the snow. Snow will test not only your car’s brakes and tire treads but its transmission and other fluids as well. The cold can slow the movement of fluids throughout your car, making it seem sluggish and unresponsive at times.


This is why taking the time to warm your car in the morning can be so beneficial, as it allows the fluids in your car time to warm and flow better. Additionally, tire chains may be a worthwhile investment for larger vehicles, as they can much-needed traction, especially when carrying heavy attachments or cargo.



All in all, Colorado is a beautiful state, with plenty to do. The state has plenty to offer for those willing to travel to it, but this can often put them at risk. While Colorado has many driving challenges associated with it, a little precaution can go a long way. Knowing just how Colorado’s terrain can test your vehicle is the first step to traveling safely.