How Would You Rate Your Winter Driving Skills?

Some of us are forced to drive to be at work, especially in a situation where we are open 24/7/365.  My skills are fine, it is the nuts who stop going up a hill in snow and ice ....intentionally swerve into the slush on the road...drive 55 mph in a 45 zone while it is sleeting/snowing...that worry me.  Some of these idiots should not be driving in the sunshine, little alone being out in the weather. Saw a lady yesterday morning, attempting to drive up an icy hill while talking on the cellphone.  She spun out, got crossways of the road, and blocked traffic both ways.

Driving on ice or snow is worse now than years ago because of the front wheel drive cars.  They get such good traction that people think they can stop that good and they can't.  Also, when a front wheel drive car starts to skid, they don't respond like rear drive cars.  The traditional way to stop the skid don't work.  It's really better to shift into neutral and try to steer out of it or around it.

I rated my winter driving skills as good and they are.  I spent a lotta years as a commercial driver in the northeast.  (You haven't truly lived until you've done 40-foot wide donuts in an empty bus in a big snowy parking lot!)

  I also rode a motorcycle through 11 New England winters. Practiced riding an old Honda CB450 on a frozen pond-spent a lotta time sliding on my ass with a very dented, pizzed-off bike chasing me until I got the hang of riding on ice and snow with street tires.  

The local cops used to ask *me* what the roads were like during a storm.

 

Teyates and JT nailed it. Unless you got a necker knob on yer steering wheel and know how to use it-put the dang phone down and use both hands and pay attention to stuff.

   Don't be afraid to slide around a bit.  All we had to do for five to six months a year up north was practice finding out what a car/truck *won't* do in a snow-covered parking lot. It was great fun and we learned just how much we could get outta our vehicles in slick conditions.

 

  Front wheel drive?  I don't like it. Even the 'traction control' that works with the ABS is crap useless.  All it does is pulse the brake on the wheel that doesn't have traction-which is OK if you're stopping but not OK if you're climbing a hill. You don't want to slow down atall when you're climbing a slick hill. You want full-tilt-boogie. Momentum is your friend.

I usually pull the ABS fuse out when driving in snow (it also controls the 'traction control') and ignore the ABS warning light on the dash. I want my brakes to do exactly what my foot tells them to do instead of what a module that can't see the truck coming at the bottom of a hill tells them to do. ABS is for dry pavement-not slick pavement.

In fact, in a very short time of the 'traction control' or ABS kickin on-if traction can't be found-the ABS/TC system will eventually give up in frustration because the brakes begin to overheat.

Come nice weather, I put the fuse back in and the light goes out. No harm, no foul.

 

  Another reason FWD sucks when hillclimbing is a vehicle's weight naturally transfers to the rear wheels when going uphill. Onto the non-driven wheels where it does no good-taking downforce off of the driven wheels in the front where it's needed.

  The cure, I found is to turn the FWD car around backwards, turn the BS 'traction control' OFF and gently climb the hill n reverse so the downforce is on the driven wheels.

 

Unless you're driving in a foot of dry powder snow (when it so cold the snow actually provides traction, like sand-it crunches under the wheels)-Four wheel drive is also next to useless. Driving in wet snow is akin to operating a boat. I'd rather have two steerable, non-driven wheels that provide some friction and act kinda like rudders instead of all four wheels spinning wildly.

  

The other best way to get where you're going in snow and ice is to allow yourself extra time for dealing with the conditions and just pick a flatter route.

 

Also, Alabamians.......Not tryin' ta be too picky.....but if ya have a manual transmission....learn how and when to shift gears.

  SRSLY.  If i had a nickel for everybody that came around the turn at the bottom of the hill I live on and stalled *repeatedly* trying to climb the hill *even in dry conditions*, I'd have a sock fulla nickels from the last four and a half years.

 

Do not try to turn a sharp corner uphill in third gear.  You will bog out and stall, and then you will have to start out on the hill in first gear. Most of you from what I've seen firsthand truly suck at this...

 

The clutch's friction point is different starting on a hill and you have to ride the clutch longer at that point until you get rolling fast enough to let the clutch engage fully-otherwise you're going to do what I see everybody do and buck three or four times and stall out again and then have to roll all the way back down the hill and try again in low gear.

  Don't be afraid to let the engine sing in first gear when climbing. That means the transmission is doing it's job. Don't try to upshift on a steep hill unless you got the revs and speed to use the next gear-otherwise you'll repeat the above procedure with the bucking and stalling. If you know how to tach-shift without the clutch using the gear lash-you got it made.

  You might only be doing 15-20 MPH all the way up the hill, but you'll still be moving forward which is a good thing.

The minute you disengage the clutch, the engine isn't pulling anymore and gravity will take over and you will need to jam it back down into the previous gear again (if you don't stall out).

 

Downshift *before* starting the climb. Low gears are there for a reason. 

 

If you DO end up stopping or spinning out-take a second and assess the situation. Look at your options. 

Use the hill to your advantage. Can ya back down into a driveway so you can turn around and go back down the hill?

  Are you in a hazardous spot? Will someone coming around a blind turn hit you because they can't stop? (Best to just park it in the ditch and call a wrecker then-get it off the road if there's nowhere to go.)

 

Driving in snow is all about straight lines. 'Cuz that's mostly all there is. That and forward momentum.  Turning is not always an option. Snow doesn't like drastic, sudden direction changes and stuff going in any direction tends to want to continue going in that direction (in a straight line) until some force (friction) or an immovable object in your path changes that direction.

  

Last but not least, if you don't think you can handle slick roads-Like others have said here....Just stay home until it melts.

 

 

WNY

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Yup, Gus.  I have a '94 Dodge 2WD truck with rear wheel antilock. No 'off switch.'   Pulling the fuse turns on the ABS/TC warning light on the dash, but the brakes just work like normal, non-ABS brakes w/o the fuse.

It does the system no harm to do this on older vehicles, but on newer ones it may set a trouble code that has to be cleared-that's why nowadays newer vehicles have the 'TC off' switch so you can disable this feature with no ill effects and not compromise the ABS system or set a code.

I have an 87 Toyota 4wd that is soo much fun. I keep it in 2wd and trick big time until I get in a ditch. then simply put it in 4wd and pull out. Back in the late 90's we had an ice storm that kept ice on the roads for several days. there was a few people who got tired of me having so much fun that they quit riding with me. Can you image that?

I have lived in areas where it was essential to learn to drive in snow and ice conditions and after a time  I learned the basic techniques.  My policy, though, remains simple--DO NOT drive in snow and ice unless it is absolutely necessary on an emergency basis.

 

In the late 1970s, I had a speaking engagement at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia.  I left the Washington D.C. area early in the morning to drive there.  Snow had begun falling when I left, and was forecast to continue, though  not expected to produce large accumulations.  I was driving a rented Ford Maverick (one of Ford's notable dudmobiles of that era) equipped with studded snow tires--not as good as chains, but better by far than nothing.  To get where I was going, I had to cross the eastern portion of the Shenandoah mountains in order to access Interstate 81.  Snow started coming down very heavily shortly after I began the ascent, but I pressed on anyway, which was not very smart.  Soon I realized just how "not very smart" this decision was, since I saw that there were NO car tracks in the snow coming from the other side of the mountain.  I saw no other vehicles until I had descended the mountain on the west slope.  With a lot of luck and my journeyman skills in snow driving I was able to make it with but a single spin-out, which ended with my front bumper only inches from a guard rail. I actually got to the university on time, since conditions on Interstate 81 were fairly decent. My university contacts were astonished that I had actually shown up.  The next day it warmed up and most of the snow melted and driving back was no problem.

 

Without those studded snow tires (now not legal anywhere), I probably  would not have made it. Nevertheless, the decision to proceed was truly unwise, though it proved very educational.  The experience forever altered my attitude about driving in snow and ice conditions.  

 

Contendah,

I don't know if I am more impressed with your grandiose description and superior driving skills, or the fact that you admitted to driving a Maverick.  I hated those cars.  My grandmother had one, dark blue, and it was truly one of Ford's worst automobiles.

Sorry, RP, but I am not a big fan of the Maverick.  The only car during that period that I could think of that was as bad was the Ford Mustang II, although they did come in some interesting colors....haha

Ya, the Maverick (And it's Mercury cousin, the Comet) and the Rustang II were POS right off the assembly line, but stiffen the pan, add some traction bars and drop a 302 V8 into either one of 'em and ya got quite a hand grenade. I had a '69 Nova with a 350/350 combo in it once that I used to drag race....One night a guy pulled up next to me in a black '71 Pinto of all things with dark tinted windows. Wanted to race. 

  'Cept the Pinto looked odd sitting there in the dark. Little too long and jacked up with a big bulge in the hood. It had a *very* lumpy, unstable idle and when he revved it just once, the whole car torqued over noticeably.

 

Needless to say I declined the challenge.  I'll not say I got beat by a Pinto. 

 

The guy pulled over to the side and the whole car body lifted up in front to reveal the dragster underneath. (Pro/street funny car).

 

That was a close one.

 

Nah, mad....That wasn't me. This was two decades ago bak in CT and I had a Mercury Comet. Bone stock right down to the dog dish hubcaps.

 

I LOVE to drive in the snow. Any situation that challenges my driving skills is recreational for me.

 

 

Originally Posted by teyates:

Contendah,

I don't know if I am more impressed with your grandiose description and superior driving skills, or the fact that you admitted to driving a Maverick.  I hated those cars.  My grandmother had one, dark blue, and it was truly one of Ford's worst automobiles.

Sorry, RP, but I am not a big fan of the Maverick.  The only car during that period that I could think of that was as bad was the Ford Mustang II, although they did come in some interesting colors....haha

___

I don't know how you could have concluded that I claimed "superior driving skills".  In claiming "journeyman 'level" skills, I had no intention to claim any kind of superiority.  A journeyman-level practitioner is not ordinarily considered to have "superior" skills, whatever the craft, but merely to have achieved some level of competence.

 

As to the Maverick, that was not what I chose, but was what Hertz provided, probably dictated by their contract with the gummint.  Yes, I "admitted" driving the thing, but that does not in any way imply any kind of approval of that model.  I was just reporting a fact.  Full disclosure, however, compels me to admit that at the time I was the unfortunate owner of a Pinto, not one of the jewels in Ford's crown.

 

As to the Mustang II, I agree.  A fellow car-pooler drove one of those and it had as little rear seat room as any car on the road.  After a 20-minute commute, I was all but crippled after sitting in the rear behind the long-legged driver.

 

I am a bit puzzled by  your characterization of my description as "grandiose"  You  seem to have intended some snarkiness there. My dictionary (American Heritage) defines that term as "[c]haracterized  by greatness of scope or intent; grand."  I re-read my post and in all candor and with due modesty, I must say that it appears to me to be no more than a straightforward accounting of the facts, scarcely anything of "greatness of scope or intent" or  "grand."  Perhaps you could apply your skills as a literary critic and provide a bit more detail as to your conclusion.

I am one of those people that think "challenging my driving skills" is for the track.  Not to say that I have not reached triple digits a few times in the past on my motorcycle.  And I have to agree that driving in the snow is kind of fun, except for the dumbass that thinks their four wheel drive is the cure all.

Originally Posted by mad American:

I am one of those people that think "challenging my driving skills" is for the track.  Not to say that I have not reached triple digits a few times in the past on my motorcycle.  And I have to agree that driving in the snow is kind of fun, except for the dumbass that thinks their four wheel drive is the cure all.

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Yup. The track is cool, but tracks are sanitary environments. Yer only challenging your ability to overcome (or use) centrifugal force. Ya only run on good, dry days and there's very few variables in the equation.  What ya train for on the track doesn't prepare ya for what happens in real life on public roads.  I used to love tearing up Lime Rock on a nice weekend for 'run what ya brung' day but once you've been around the track once-the decisions ya hafta make are predictable dictated only by your speed.

 

 On the track ya learn how to go fast. On the roads ya learn essential survival skills. How to survive vehicular combat and mayhem. Stuff that just doesn't happen on the track.  Most folks never know what's gonna happen next.  

 

Those of us who've played in traffic in all kinds of weather usually have a pretty good idea what's gonna happen and what people are gonna do and what to do about it.

 

Those are the skills I'm talking about. The ones that keep ya alive and where yer going on the same roads Honey Boo Boo'll be driving on.

 

 

  

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