Winter driving tips and tricks

Discussion in 'Countryside Families' started by jennigrey, Dec 3, 2006.

  1. jennigrey

    jennigrey Well-Known Member Supporter

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    This is a thread for folks to post their winter driving tips, tricks, cautions, parables, educational anecdotes, hearsay and old wives tales (have I covered it all?).

    I thought it would be a good idea, especially for folks who are driving a type of vehicle that is new to them, or who have moved recently.

    My inspiration for this thread came from a discussion I had with my neighbor the other day. We were trading tales from this most recent snow and all the accompanying mayhem. This is my first winter with 4wd (woo!). I bought a set of chains for my truck. Two chains. I didn't know any better. Discovered to my dismay that by putting two chains on a 4wd vehicle you are busting yourself back down to 2wd. Don't be cheap. Buy four chains.

    Also, sat with the truck on the side of the last paved road between me and home and thought about the series of hills I had to navigate. Two chains. Four tires. Which tires to chain? Thought and thought. Finally put them on the front wheels... "For help with steering!" I reasoned. Up the first hill was fine. Down the second hill (I can see some of you wincing and shaking your heads)...

    Well, the second hill was long and had some turns. The camber was fairly level, but the trees around it were dense. Kids had been sledding on it and the sun hadn't hit it all day, due to the trees. It was a sheet of ice. I began to creep slowly down the hill... roll, brake, roll, brake, roll... slide, roll, slide...

    Slide?! Yes, slide. When you apply the brakes, if everything is as it should be, all four wheels receive the braking impulse. Any tires with chains should bite into the ice. Tires without chains will slide. In my case, pointed downhill, with chains on the front tires, the front tires bit in and the rear tires slid... SIDEWAYS!

    I pendulum'd down that hill. Rear of the truck slid to the left, then I'd release the brake and straighten out, brake again and let the rear of the truck slide to the right, release and straighten out, gaining more and more momentum. Finally near the bottom I just cut loose and let it run out. I was really lucky there was no one else on the road and that the hill wasn't longer than it was.

    Next day I bought another set of chains.

    After admitting this to my neighbor, I was bestowed with another gem of winter driving wisdom. For cars with front-wheel drive and a center parking brake, be aware that your parking brake is most likely connected to your rear wheels. If you hold in the release (thumb) button on your parking brake, you can use your parking brake in lieu of your regular foot brake and have better braking ability on ice. Just don't get up too much speed.
     
  2. manygoatsnmore

    manygoatsnmore Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Avoid braking altogether by downshifting. Manual or auto, you can still do this. Put it in granny low and let 'er creep along. Same thing with acceleration, do it slowly and gently to keep traction. Try to keep an even speed on the flat or going uphill, check your speed by downshifting before starting down hills. Build your speed up a bit before hitting an uphill, then maintain your momentum without mashing the gas as you climb.

    Give yourself lots of extra time so you won't be tempted to drive too fast for conditions.

    Keep a blanket, extra winter clothing, and a small winter emergency kit in the vehicle in case worse comes to worst and you are stranded. Keep your gas tank full - extra weight is good for traction, and if you are stuck, you'll want plenty of fuel. Run the engine every 1/2 hr or so to keep warm (clear the tailpipe first if necessary), but only long enough to warm up a bit, then shut it off again to extend your gas supply. Carrying matches and a candle or canned heat with a safe container for it to burn in will keep you pretty warm and cut down on how often you need to run the engine. A candle will also provide a bit of light so you can save your battery. Cell phone, even without a service plan, can dial 911 if you are in an area with a cell signal. Keep some non-perishable food in the emergency kit, and carry a couple bottles of water (don't leave this in the vehicle in cold weather or it will be an ice cube when you need it!) with you. Maybe a book or some paper and a pen to occupy your mind while you wait.

    Next...
     

  3. Pyrenees

    Pyrenees Well-Known Member

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    Chains are fine...but you tend to be outside wrestling with them when the weather is the most inclement, and patience is not one of my virtues. I just put studded snow tires on for the season so I can be done with it. With appropriate tires my wife's minivan does just fine tackling Colorado weather at 9000 feet.

    Beyond that...go slow and don't be stupid, pretty much sums up winter driving.

    Of course you SHOULD do everything the previous poster stated...maybe I will get around to it before the end of winter.
     
  4. Spinner

    Spinner Well-Known Member

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    I don't drive in snow & ice if I can avoid it. DH does almost every day, all winter long. He keeps a jug of bleach in the back of the truck. He says that if you get stuck on ice (like if you stop going uphill and can't get moving again), pour a little bleach in front of your pulling tire and you can get moving again.
     
  5. rio002

    rio002 Well-Known Member

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    Excellent Thread! My two cents---For pete's sake Turn On Your Headlights! Even if it's daytime and you don't need them to see, us outthere Need to see You. I always have a heck of time near dusk and dawn seeing all these neutral colored rigs, so please turn on your lights, I really am trying not to cream you with my SUV. :)
     
  6. wyld thang

    wyld thang God Smacked Jesus Freak Supporter

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    How about---put the chains on the wheels that turn(really! some people don't know this!)

    When I was young in the Seattle area, people just parked at the bottoms of hills and walked the rest of the way home, or the school bus would let us off at the bottom of the nearest hill to home(and we would walk two miles home in the snow...).

    If you live along a road with other neighbors, let some other folks drive out first to wear the snow down. If you have a neighbor with some sort of snowplow device, grease it with his favorite pie, or in our case, beer.

    Put heavy stuff in the back of your pickup.

    Get some snowshoes or xcountry skis.

    Put chains on your dirtbike.

    Make sure you have warm boots, a warm parka, a hat and a flashlite in case you don't quite make it all the way.

    About chains on a 4wd, I have a maybe stupid question--if you have two chains, could you put one on a front wheel, and one on the opposite back wheel?
    (we've just put them on the back and drove slow and never had any problem--we have some really steep patches).
     
  7. jennigrey

    jennigrey Well-Known Member Supporter

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    How about some additional tips aimed at people who don't usually/have never had to drive in snow? Some basics, I mean.

    Know which of your tires are powered by the engine (front two, back two, all four?). Those are the tires that you will want extra weight over. The more weight you can bring to bear on those tires, the better. They will be better able to "bite" into the snow, rather than just spinning on top.

    Many stores sell sandbags for people to plop into the back of their car (in the trunk or the back seat or wherever is appropriate) for additional weight over their engine-driven tires.

    95% of the vehicles I saw in the ditch last week were small to mid-sized cars. I saw only one pickup, even though I live in an area with lots of trucks. Also, only one or two big "boat" cars. It was the lighter vehicles that had the toughest time.
     
  8. jennigrey

    jennigrey Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Another important tip: even the shortest trip to the post office is a candidate for a stranding on the side of the road. Even if you don't bundle up to get in the car, always bring enough jackets, gloves, hats, etc. for folks to be safe/comfortable if you have to get out to change a tire or if you get stranded. You'd think someone living in Alaska would know better, but I did stop and change a tire for a young man once who left the house in shorts and a t-shirt for a quick trip down the road to the video store and was struck by an ill-timed flat. Saw the fool on the side of the road, dressed as previously mentioned and trying to do the job without gloves. I felt bad and offered my assistance. He was embarassed but accepted gratefully and sat in my car warming up while I finished the job.
     
  9. via media

    via media Tub-thumper

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    I thought that most 4WDs send power to the right front and right rear wheels, unless you have a true 4WD. If that's the case, wouldn't it be better to chain those two instead of both fronts?

    I've never used chains so please be kind if I'm wrong. :help:

    /VM
     
  10. Beltane

    Beltane Enjoying Four Seasons

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    Get good pair of snow tires. I know people who never put snow tires on their car, but believe me, it makes a world of different. Not only will you stay out of the ditch, but it makes driving in incliment weather much less stressful. :)
     
  11. veme

    veme Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Me neither :) .
    I spent years driving school bus on back country roads & if I never have to drive again in bad weather that's just fine with me.
    Believe me, nothing like sliding backwards down a LONG steep incline in a snub nose school bus, with 72 kids (other people's :baby04: ),screaming “We’re all going to die!” and laughing & crying about it!! :help:
    Meanwhile I’m thinking
    “You kids might be right.”

    My tips: :angel:
    Go slow
    Down shift instead of the brake
    Plenty of weight in the back
    Really good tires
    Go uphill with enough speed to make it
    Turn into the skid
    Keep your sense of humor & wear your seat beat

    veme
     
  12. blufford

    blufford Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I like to keep a case of glow logs (fireplace type) in the trunk of the car. If I slide off the road and damage the engine, I can still have a little fire (outside the car) to keep warm. I also carry a tarp which is a nice wind break. Some extra transmission fluid, anti-freeze, hoses and clamps if I bottom out the car in some deep snow and pull some hoses off. I always stop and help someone stranded in the snow and many have stopped for me.
     
  13. tiogacounty

    tiogacounty Well-Known Member

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    We have reached a point in this country where we don't know what a good pair of snow tires means anymore. In the snow country of Europe, before the start of winter, you take your four summer tires and rims off, and swap them for four winter tires and rims. The big difference there is that they don't use the traditional low tech. "mud and snow" tires that we think of when the word "snow tire" is heard. High tech. winter tires, like Bridgestone Blizzaks, Nokians, or Cooper Weathertechs, are soft compound, mildly agressive, and a true winter tire that will go great in snow, and have been documented to handle ice BETTER that studded tires.
    Every Thanksgiving weekend I take the wife's Intrepid into our shop and put the winter tires on. They stay on until March. As a full size, front wheel drive car with the proper tires, it literally will run circles around most vehicles once the snow flies. Every manufacturer of true winter tires will agressively warn you to put four of them on the car, NOT just two on the drive axle. I can speak from experience when I say they mean it. On a front wheel drive, the car will spin out if you leave the all season tires on the back. There is a lot of information on winter tires available on the Tire Rack website. I have had good results with the Coopers and Bridgestones, with the Coopers being dramatically cheaper. The difference between a car, or light truck, with "all season" tires, and one with true winter tires, is absolutely unbelievable, and well worth the expense if you live in snow country.
     
  14. Ninn

    Ninn Custom Crochet Queen

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    I learned my best tip last winter. Went to DBIL's home in January-1/4 mile driveway with 3 feet of snow and more falling all day. Of course, we got stuck trying to get out-DBIL has no salt or kitty litter for traction. Took my backseat floor mats, turned them upside down so the teeth were showing and used them for traction to get out. Now I keep an extra set of them in my trunk. You can get the same effect with that plastic carpet cover that has those huge teeth on the back-you can buy it by the foot at most carpet outlets and save yourself some real frustration in the cold.

    I also keep an e-tool ( collapsible shovel for the militarily impaired) in there, just in case.
     
  15. michiganfarmer

    michiganfarmer Max Supporter

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    I used to wonder why people in states that dont get, or stay below freezing, like the carolinas, alabama, georgia, etc had so much trouble with snow. After spending a couple years in NC, then moving back to MIchigan, I noticed something. Even in Michigan were we drive on snow all winter, the first snow of the season is a nightmare. The warm ground melts some of the snow, then more snow turns into slush, then more snow turns into slime, then more snow turns into ice, so you end up with lubricated ice to drive on. Once the weather here gets down below freezing, and stays there the snow actually becomes kind of grippy. Tires can grab it. In states where the ground doesnt stay frozen you get that slimey slipery goo every time it snows. Its a nightmare to drive on.

    Brakes really are a problem on slippery roads. They have to be used extremely gently untill you learn how your car acts, and how long your stopping distance is. Downshifting will help slow your tires without locking them up wich will cause a skid. Slowing down before going down a hill then letting off the accelerator and coastng down a hill without touching the brakes will in most cases keep you going straight. Trying to use your brakes while going down a hill can be a problem specially after , or during the first snow on warm roads.

    The differential is a mechaincal device in each driving axel wich has caused many people who dont understand how it works to think that a 4x4 only drives with 2 tires, and/or a 2x4 only drives with one tire.
    The differential was designed to allow both tires to have power, but during a turn it allows the tires to turn at diferent sppeeds so one is not skidding around the curve because during a curve the tire on the outside of the curve is actually turnning a littl faster because it has more distance to travel than the tire near the inside of the curve. This handy mechanical device also has a down side. During slippery driving it will let the tire slip that has the least traction. That's why a 4x4 can seem like it only has 2 tires driving.

    Traction adding devices like chains, studs, or snow tires need to be put on both sides of every driving axel to be as affective as they can be. Chains, and studds are ilegal in Michigan so we are left with only snow tires. Like
    Tiogacounty said Bridgestone Blizzaks, are very good snow tires. Ive never heard of Cooper Weathertechs. I buy Cooper weathermasters. I put them on in november, and take them off in april.

    With rear wheel drive vehicles, if the rear end slides sideways you let off on the gas to get the rear tires to slow down, and that usually gets your rear to come back where it belongs. I think most everyone instinctively lets off on the gas in a skid because we have been driving rear wheel drive vehicles since cars and trucks have been in production. Its pretty engraved in our brains. They even contunue to teach it in drivers education around here. The problem is front wheel drive vehicles act just the opposite. When they slide, if you let off on the gas the front tires will slow down allowing your rear tires to continue sliding sideways, and probably even spin the car around. Its kind of unnerving, but in a skid with a front wheel drive you need to stay on the gas pedal, and if you have the nerv accelerate a little. The acceleration will pull your front tires in front of your sideways sliding rear tires. The same goes with 4x4. Stay on the gas pedal. The front tires will pull, and straighten you out

    4x4 will help you accelerate faster than a 2x4 because you have 4 tires pulling instead of 2. 4x4 wont help you slow down any faster though
     
  16. tiogacounty

    tiogacounty Well-Known Member

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    Michiganfarmer, your right that's the name of the Coopers. My neighbor just got a new set of the Cooper 205/60/16s. They were $85, the Blizzaks were $125.
     
  17. Sparticle

    Sparticle Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Thanks for all this great info!!! We're looking to move to NY from TX and I've never had to drive in the snow. I know how to get around when the city floods, but have wondered how to go about driving in the snow.
     
  18. Mutti

    Mutti Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Now if you could just get the 18 wheeler drivers to slow it down..they scare you half t death roaring up behind you when you are driving slow in bad weather. Granted, they have weight and can see way down the road but I've seen my share of them jackknifed or in the ditch. And headlights...way too many people here in MO still don't know that it is the law if your windshield wipers are on your lights are required to be on. DEE
     
  19. Farmer Willy

    Farmer Willy Well-Known Member Supporter

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    NEVER LICK THE BUMPER, even if it was the last of the fudge ripple. They'll get more eventually. Don't ask.
     
  20. jennigrey

    jennigrey Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Oooh, I thought of another good one while driving today, has to do with ICE.

    Okay, so the air temperature drops drastically and it is now below freezing. This can be due to a cold front coming in, clouds dissipating and releasing trapped heat, maybe just the sun going down. In any case, it wasn't freezing before and now it is. Things start to freeze. No ice on the road a little while ago but if there's any moisture in the air or on the ground, you will shortly have ice on the pavement.

    The first place the ice will show up is ANYWHERE THERE IS AN AIR GAP UNDER THE ROAD. This can be on an overpass, a bridge, or just somewhere a culvert passes under the road. The ground is warmer than the air and will keep ice off the road until the temperature of the ground lowers enough to no longer insulate the pavement. Remember that water retains heat as well, so in general, bridges over water will not ice as soon as an overpass over another road.

    A minivan slid its entire length along my front passenger side fender last Monday when the driver hit ice on the freeway on an overpass and slid as gracefully as Baryshnikov across a lane and a half of traffic and into my truck. Traffic was dense and I had no avenue of escape. I just grit my teeth, let off the throttle, and kept an even keel as the minivan crunched by. When they hit traction again we both crept to the shoulder to exchange insurance information (there goes my spotless record). The entire driver's side of the van had a four or five inch deep furrow at the height of my bumper. The large family crammed inside was a little shaken but fine. Grampa, in broken English, from the back seat, kept saying something about "black ice, you know?" I nodded. I know. Doesn't make me feel any better about my newly increased insurance rates. But I do know. Wish that driver had known.

    Now *you* know!