The Ram's Eye - A Driver's Blog: Snow Driving Tips



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Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Snow Driving Tips

With snow on the roads, grip is reduced and, as a result, a vehicle's ability to accelerate, brake and turn is also reduced. Here are a few winter driving tips that could help you drive safer while there's snow on the ground.


Starting up

- Roll into the gas pedal: When taking off, always apply very little pressure on the gas pedal and start to roll into it very slowly to avoid losing traction and spinning the wheels.

- Start in 2nd gear: In manual/standard vehicles, especially those with high torque outputs, it may be helpful to start in 2nd gear as it will have less torque at the wheels and will be less likely to spin.

- Don't keep spinning: If, while you're trying to get going, the wheels keep spinning but you are not moving, lift off the gas right away. For one, the tires most likely will keep spinning without going anywhere and you could dig the tires deeper in the snow. For another, if you actually start moving, you could damage the gears and be faced with a very expensive repair bill. When your wheels are spinning with no traction, they could reach very high speeds. If you start moving while the wheels are spinning and you move onto a surface with much higher traction (concrete or asphalt, even if they are wet), it will have the effect of grabbing the wheels and immediately trying to stop them which puts huge stresses on the gears.

- Pump the gas: If rolling into the gas gets the wheels spinning, start to gently "rock" the vehicle back and forth by going on and off the gas pedal (i.e. slowly and steadily pump the gas). Doing that prevents the wheels from spinning with no traction and, after a few times, it could give you some momentum to start moving.

- Digging out the tires: If you can't get the vehicle moving by slowly rolling into the gas pedal, starting in 2nd gear, or pumping the gas, you are stuck too deep and you may have to dig around the tires or get a tow. When digging around the tires, try to dig a slight ramp in front of the tires which will make it easier to climb out, especially if the tires are a few inches deep.

Safety tip: when digging, make sure to use a shovel or any tool that you may have laying around in the vehicle (i.e. an ice scrapper) to dig and put the parking brake on and the transmission in park or in gear if you drive a standard/manual. There could be a slight incline but your vehicle isn't rolling because it is stuck. If you dig around the tires, it could start rolling and injure you so make sure you are clear of the vehicle's path.


On the go

- Break earlier: Stopping distances are greatly reduced in the snow. Remember to start braking earlier than you do in dry conditions and learn how much longer it takes to stop in the snow.

- Slow down for turns: When there's snow on the ground, you need to take turns a lot slower than you do in dry conditions so slow down and take the turns smoothly.

- Be aware of other drivers: A lot of people cannot judge where lanes are supposed to be when markings on the road are covered with snow. Be aware of where other drivers are and the possibility of them cutting you off.

- Leave lots of room: Since stopping distances are reduced, you need to leave more room to react. Rear ending someone is a lot more likely in snowy conditions because people leave the same room in front of them as they do in dry conditions which is not enough to come to a complete stop in case the driver in front stops abruptly.

- Don't change lanes often: Snow plows do not plow the whole road; they only plow lanes. Often times, you'll find very small banks of snow between lanes, which is snow building up from plows pushing it to the sides of the lanes. If you change lanes, you will have to drive through these banks which can cause your vehicle to turn unexpectedly (and you may crash or overcorrect and lose control) or lose traction and spin out. Only change lanes if you have to.

- Do NOT pass snow plows: This is probably common sense. Snow plows clear (most of the) snow off the road. The roads ahead of them are in much worse shape than the roads behind so never pass a snow plow.

- Correcting a rear skid: Steer in the direction you want the vehicle to go. Be prepared to quickly correct because once you gain traction, you will go in the direction your wheels are turning and most likely will have to correct the steering angle back and forth a few times to bring the vehicle back to the centre. Lifting off the gas shifts weight to the front of the vehicle (i.e. less weight on the back wheels, which already don't have enough traction) so it could make things worse in some situations. Ease off of the gas but if it worsens the situation (i.e. the car's back end slides further out), try to modulate pressure on the gas pedal until you gain control. Be ready to lift off once you gain traction to avoid acceleration.

- Correcting a front skid: Immediately lift off the gas and apply the brakes. This will shift weight to the front of the vehicle and give you more traction at the front wheels. Avoid steering until you gain front traction and pump the brakes if you don't have ABS.

AWD/4WD is not invincible: Just because a vehicle has all-wheel-drive or a 4x4 drivetrain, it does not mean it cannot be defeated by snow. Take it easy and drive carefully.

- Avoid cruise control: Do no use cruise control while driving on snow. It could cause unpredictable acceleration if the tires lose grip.

- Drive below the limit: When there's snow on the ground, do not drive at the posted speed limit on the highway. Highway speed limits are meant for ideal conditions. Slow down according to how bad the roads are.

- Watch for black ice: Watch for glossy/shiny patches on the road or vehicles that are "squirming" or losing control and quickly regaining it, which could mean there's black ice ahead. If there isn't enough room in front to slow down and stir away or even just slow down, do not try to steer away or brake while on the ice, that could make things worse. If you cannot avoid it, try to pass over it as smoothly as possible and not panic. Slow down and be careful while driving across bridges and overpasses as they freeze before the road.


Finally, remember not to take your vehicle out if there's a bad storm and you're having trouble getting out of your driveway because it most likely won't be much better on the road. If you're already out and you're caught in a very bad storm, find a parking lot, pull over and wait the worst part out. Drive safe and please use these tips with your best judgement and at your responsibility.

2 comments :

  1. Blogging is not only educative but effective way of getting information to readers worldwide.

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    Replies
    1. Absolutely! I do hope this information and set of tips can help people who has less experience driving in these conditions.

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