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Winter Driving Techniques

edited November 2014 in General Discussion
Winter (for some of us) is coming upon us and that means we'll be driving in all sorts of horrible weather from slush to ice to freezing rain. Car companies have done wonders in just the last decade to make cars safer and easier to drive with traction control/stability control, abs, many standard airbags, seatbelts, weather adapting transmissions and better tire technology.

However, many of us do not own cars with many of these features (most notably abs and traction control). Many cars are simple: front disc/rear drum brake, manual transmission, and little else aside from airbags and seatbelts (ie, no abs or power steering or all season tires).

How would you cope with winter weather in such a simple yet common car? Then, how would you cope with winter in a fully loaded car?


  • edited November 2010
    When the roads are slippery, good driver judgment and four winter tires are all you need.

  • edited November 2010
    Yep, 4 good winter tires are worth more than all the features you listed put together.
  • edited November 2010

    JoeMario has summed it up very nicely.
    No matter what you drive, a set of 4 winter tires (not old-technology snow tires) will allow you to go, turn, and--most important of all--STOP with much greater safety.

    Don't think of this as an extra expense because your regular tires will be out of service for a few months, thus saving tread wear on those tires. And, even if you have to spend $600-700 for a set of winter tires and steel rims, if they save you from only one fender bender, they will be worth it. If they save you from a serious accident, they will be priceless.

    Get a set of 4 winter tires on their own steel rims, drive conservatively and leave an extra-long gap between you and the car in front of you, and you will be maximizing your winter safety. Also--be sure to clear all snow from your windows, headlights, directional signals, and tail lights before you drive. I am appalled every year at the number of cars on the road with rear lights completely obscured by snow.

    This strategy must be fairly effective, because I use it, and I have not had an accident since 1971.
  • edited November 2010
    I've coped with winters fine for over 40 years with such a simple car, thank you. I've done it with good tires, good technique, and good sense. We even did fine with bias ply tires on RWD vehicles with drum brakes and really pathetic handling. My '64 Fairlane comes to mind.

    Don't misunderstand me, I think airbags, seatbelts, and new tire technologies are all great, but the ABS and TCS is overrated. And it does not susbstitute for good tires, good technique, and good sense.
  • edited November 2010
    When was the last time Honda built an Accord without power steering and all-season tires?

    If you have one, please tell us how old it is.

    I'm with the others, the best thing you can do for winter driving is install four winter tires. It makes a HUGE difference, regardless of make, model, or features.

    Having said that, millions of people get by without them.

    Once you try them, however, you'll be sold.

    Well, except for that guy this moring with the Outback.
  • edited November 2010
    First, if I lived up north, I would have a second set of steel rims with quality winter tires mounted on them. If I was merely visiting in bad weather, I would have tire cables in the vehicle. These cables are a modern replacement for chains.

    Second, I would only drive in bad weather when absolutely necessary.

    Third, whenever I make trips up north, I make sure my car is stocked with emergency supplies, like a flashlight, sand or cheap kitty liter, a shovel, an ice scraper, blankets, etc.

    Lastly, whenever I drive on snow and ice (which isn't often), I take things nice and slow, and plan stops and turns far in advance. Many northern drivers don't like it, and ridicule my slow moving vehicle with Florida plates, but I ignore it. They can drive their cars the way they like, and I shall drive my car the way I like.
  • edited November 2010
    1st, put on the winter tires and that is on all 4 wheels. As far as driving is concerned, there is a lot more night driving in the winter so make sure the inside of the windshield is clean and keep the headlight lenses clean. New wiper blades and/or put on the winter wiper blades (encased in rubber to maintain effectiveness when regular blades "freeze up"), and keep the gas tank 1/2 full or more.

    Attitude adjustment when driving; all puddles can be black ice. You really don't know where the shoulder of road ends and the drainage ditch begins. Get used to the idea of driving without seeing the center line on the road. Most important as soon as any precipitation starts slow down and increase following distances about 4X normal.

    I'm not sure the new technology on cars and SUV's really helps much. Most people might believe in and rely on these systems too much. I'd rather not have my ABS brakes kick in, if they do that means I didn't leave enough room to stop. If your antiskid control kicks in you are going way too fast for conditions. Traction control seems much to abrupt on my cars, it means I am being too heavy on gas.

    The secret to winter driving is to be gentle; that is gentle on the gas, gentle on the steering imputs, and gentle on the brakes. The goal is to get whereever and not end up in the ditch. How long it takes to get there is no longer important. Just keep moving even at 40 mph you'll get there eventually.

    The folks that buzz along at 70+ mph with any kind of winter precipitation are asking for trouble and often they find it in the ditch.
  • edited November 2010
    Good responses; no amount of technology is a substitute for KNOWING HOW TO DRIVE. These gadgets will not do the thinking for you. If you rely on them you will end up in the ditch or in an accident, as testified by the many $50,000 hi tech SUVs in the ditch after a snow storm.

    Take a winter driving course from the AAA or similar organization. My whole familiy has done that since we have 5 months of winter here.

    Personally I prefer no ABS, Traction Control or Stability Control.
  • edited November 2010
    The same way grandpa did, and his son survived, who did it the same way his father did as did your father.

    All this things are great, but while I want them on my car and would avoid cars that lack most of them, The real safety device in a car is the nut behind the wheel.
  • edited November 2010
    Even with all these safety devices, good winter driving should always include an enhanced "cushion". Not only front and back, but to the sides as well. Keeping additional space between you and your "environment" on slippery roads is essential for safe vehicle operation.
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