I got my license last spring, so I haven't done much actual "winter" driving. My concern is that we've been hit with a blizzard and the roads are covered in snow.
Now, I've been driving a standard since I got my license. In driver's ed we learned * different ways to handle snow in an automatic, but I'm completely in the dark about how to handle a standard in the snow. I've heard that a standard is all around better in the snow, and from what I've seen it's true, but I'm still nervous since I'm so inexperienced with driving in a good ol' New England winter.
So, do you experienced drivers have any tips to ease my nerves? Thanks in advance (:
Joined: Aug 02, 2006
Location: McLean, VA, USA
Mon Dec 27, 2010 8:05 pm
Good job MOW And welcome to my site, CloudyCandyX
I would add a couple of points to MOWs list:
- use one gear higher than you normally would, this will help you to better control skid during acceleration;
- if your vehicle is equipped with ABS, this will make your life a bit easier. Otherwise, try to forget you have a brake pedal - or better learn how to cadence brake;
- reiterating MOWs advice about speed - in snowy/icy conditions decrease your speed dramatically
- take an advanced vehicle handling course if available locally - the best investment of a life time, trust me on this. Otherwise, read a lot about handling your car in low traction conditions, find a deserted parking lot and practice, practice, practice... You want to achieve an automatic reaction to loosing control of your car both in a straight line and in turns.
So, there is heavy snow in london again and absolute chaos on the roads!
While the gritters are hard at work on the main roads, it's the side lanes that are the most dangerous at the moment. Hence, one has to be extra careful when driving out of your home - esp. people who have drive to work or school.
Try to carry a fully charged mobile with you, plus some extra clothing, a drink and a snack, just in case of emergencies.
1. When braking, avoid sudden slowing down as this will cause the car to skid on ice or snow.
2. In case of skidding, release your foot from the brake and reapply.
3. Changing to lower gears can also be used to slow down the vehicle.
4. Turning corners in snow is also tricky, so make sure to slow down long before turning.
5. Dress warmly in case of delays/traffic/emergencies.
These are the few pieces of advice that I have some claims against:
1. With ABS, the car will not skid. So, while it is not desired to brake suddenly unless needed, if you do need to stop suddenly - don't fear braking, if you have ABS.
2. Again, only true when the car is not equipped with ABS and on solid ice.
3. Wrong. The brakes at least work on all four tyres, so a certain stability is achieved. Engine braking usually works on two tyres alone and works independant of ABS, so it might lead to a loss of control. Also, you can obviously modulate your deceleration via braking much more accurately than you can with the gears.
4. Indeed. For snow and ice, brake and slow down before the corner, turn into the corner smoothly and positivelly while applying just enough throttle to keep the car from deceleration and without accelerating, untill after you brought the steering wheel back to straight.
4. Wrong. Heavy clothing reduces alertness, might interfere with clear vision, will interfere with steering control and even reduce the effectivness of the seatbelts!
Modern cars have great insulation and heaters, that can make it as warm as in your air-conditioned home, without having any negative effect on the engine or gas consumption. So, use the heater and keep the warm clothes for emergencies like getting stuck in the snow.
If you must keep a coat on while driving, make sure it isn't too bulky, and that the sleeves don't interfere too much with your steering, and that it's zipper is open and the lap belt fits under it and not over it.
The rest is all good advice, but I will add a few of my own:
- Maintain HUGH gaps in between cars. I am talking ten full seconds, and check the gap in practice at least three-four times in each drive.
- Check your tyres, tyre pressure and dampers. There's no driving on snow (other than an occasional frost) without snow tyres. The tyres must be made by an established manufacturer, not old (three years of age for a snow tyre require it's replacement), unworn and accurately inflated.
- Keep the car clean, with all windows, glasses and mirror clean from any snow, frost, water or mist.
- Keep your soles clean from snow, slush or water. Just keep a small rag in the car and clean the shoe soles clean!
- Start the engine, wait for 20-30 seconds (or 60 to 100 seconds in turbocharged engines) to allow the motor to get fully lubricated, while checking the brakes at a standstill. Start moving, and immediately brake (lightly) to check the brakes again. This is a good habit, which is especially important in the snow, because the lower temperatures both reduce oil viscosity and can freeze the brakes, so you need to check them and heat them up.
- Make lane changes as gradual and "flat" as you can, while using up as much road space as possible (it's free!). This will make it easier to merge without colliding or pushing your way, but also reduce the risk of sliding over the small snow ruts in between the lanes.
- Skidding on solid ice, should be countered by applying the clutch or flicking an automatic transmission into neutral, while steering in the desired direction.
Driving in severe winter weather poses many challenges. Cars can get stuck in snowy conditions even on familiar roads, forcing the driver and passengers to spend the night on the roadside.
Here is some advice on how to prepare your car for winter driving if you have to make a journey and what to do should you be caught out in bad weather.
Before you leave
Ensure your tyres are inflated correctly and that you have a minimum of 3mm of tread on your tyres to cope with wet and slippery conditions.
In winter, the battery will run down quicker than in warmer weather. Make sure you do a regular long journey to top it up or trickle-charge the battery.
Modern engines are more robust than older ones. All the same, depress the clutch when starting as this will reduce drag on the engine when starting, and preserve the battery.
Keep this topped up and use a proper additive at the right concentration to prevent it freezing.
Keep your tank topped up - that way if you are caught out, you'll have enough fuel to make it home or run the engine to keep warm. However, it's essential to keep snow from blocking the exhaust as noxious fumes can leak into the vehicle.
Clear all snow and ice from the windscreen before driving. Do not use water to de-ice windscreens. Hot water can crack the glass, and the water will only freeze again on the screen or on the ground where you are standing.
A squirt of WD-40 will prevent your door locks freezing up.
Your car may be as warm as toast on the inside but if you have to step outside, you could be in trouble if you have not got any warm clothing with you.
Always pack the following: warm coat, hat, gloves, sturdy boots, a blanket to keep you warm if you get stuck. Take some food, chocolate, biscuits, water and a hot drink if you can. Always carry a fully charged mobile, and some old bits of carpet, or cat litter, to put under the tyres when stuck and a shovel to clear snow.
Driving in snow and ice
How drivers can prepare for the cold weather
This is what the Institute of Advanced Motorists recommends.
- When driving in snow, get your speed right - not too fast so that you risk losing control, but not so slow that you risk losing momentum when you need it - and brake, steer and accelerate as smoothly as possible.
- Start gently from stationary, avoiding high revs. If you get yourself into a skid the main thing to remember is to take your foot off the pedals and steer.
- Only use the brake if you cannot steer out of trouble.
- Double or even triple your normal stopping distance from the vehicle in front. Drive so that you do not rely on your brakes to be able to stop - on an icy surface they simply may not do that for you!
- If your vehicle has ABS in very slippery conditions it will not give you the same control it would in others. Do not just rely on it.
- Plan your journey around busier roads as they are more likely to have been gritted. Avoid using shortcuts on minor roads - they are less likely to be cleared or treated with salt, especially country lanes.
- On motorways stay in the clearest lane where possible, away from slush and ice. Keep within the clear tyre tracks if you can.
- Stay in a higher gear for better control, and if it is slippery, in a manual car move off in a higher gear, rather than just using first.
- On a downhill slope get your speed low before you start the descent, and do not let it build up - it is much easier to keep it low than to try to slow down once things get slippery
- In falling snow use dipped headlights or foglights to make yourself visible to others (especially pedestrians) - but as conditions improve make sure your foglights are only on if necessary as they can dazzle other drivers
- If you are following another vehicle at night, using their lights to see ahead can cause you to drive dangerously close - keep well back from other traffic.
What to do if you get stuck in the snow
Hundreds of drivers have been caught out by the weather in recent days. While it can be dangerous there are ways to avoid the worst effects of spending hours in a cold car, miles from anywhere.
- First of all, make sure you have packed your emergency snow kit. This should include warm clothing, some food, water and a mobile phone.
- If you are trapped in your car, you can stay warm by running the engine. However, it is vital that the exhaust pipe is not blocked by snow. If the engine fumes cannot escape, you could be overwhelmed by carbon monoxide gas, which is highly toxic.
- If there is any risk the fumes can come into the car, do not run the engine. Even if it is safe, do not run the engine for more than 10 or 15 minutes in each hour.
- Stay in or close to your car. In heavy snow it is easy to get disorientated and lost or separated from your vehicle. If necessary you can always hang a piece of brightly coloured cloth on your car to let others know you are there.
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