On the open road, driving a tall, roomy pickup truck is both liberating and exhilarating. However, take that same commanding pickup into the big city with its traffic-packed thoroughfares, tight parking spots, and pedestrians popping out of nowhere and a driver can feel downright claustrophobic.
It might be an concrete jungle out there, but with a little know-how anyone can feel comfortable maneuvering even the biggest full-size pickup through crowded city streets. Here are a few choice tips from the pros.
1. Keep your eyes on the road ahead. "In a pickup, you sit higher than in a normal passenger car," says Steve Mazor, principal automotive engineer for the Automobile Club of Southern California. "Use that to your advantage. Your peripheral vision will keep track of the vehicles directly in front of you, so look down the road to get an idea of what's happening up ahead. That way, you'll have more time to react to potentially dangerous traffic situations."
2. Follow the line. Corners come up fast in the city, and with parked cars and pedestrians on all sides, they can be pretty treacherous for a pickup. Look through the turn to where you want to end up, then ease into the turn by gently rotating your steering wheel. Keep your eyes on where you want to go rather than on the road immediately in front of you, and your vehicle should follow a smooth arc around the corner. Further, Terry Cook, a Ford driver in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, advises that it's best to accelerate only after passing through the apex of the turn to help avoid skidding.
3. Leave room to stop. "A big pickup takes longer to stop and isn't as responsive as a passenger car," says Matt Stone, executive editor of Motor Trend magazine. "That's crucial to remember when driving in stop-and-go traffic. Allow more distance between you and the vehicle ahead so if someone cuts you off or you have to swerve, you've got more time and room to maneuver."
4. Use your mirrors. "If you've got power exterior mirrors, move the right mirror down when you're backing up," says Stone. "Seeing the curb or any obstructions to the rear can be a real help when you're trying to park a big vehicle on a tight city street." When it comes to mirrors and city driving, Mazor has some additional advice: "Move the outside mirrors further out than you're probably used to far enough that you can't see your own vehicle's reflection anymore. That'll give you a better idea of the vehicles around you and greatly reduce your blind spots."
5. Don't lock 'em up. You'll use your brakes a lot in the city. And with the unexpected around every corner, you may come down on them with a heavy foot. But an unloaded pickup truck has more weight in front than in back &ndash so if you're driving an older pickup that doesn't have an anti-lock braking system (ABS), it's easy to lock-up the rear brakes in a panic stop. "With locked rear brakes, a pickup can spin," says Mazor, "so you should always keep a feel for the brakes. That way, you can apply them as smoothly and evenly as possible." Most modern pickups (and all Ford F-150 models) are equipped with ABS. Even if you slam on the brakes you can still steer with ABS.