Driving in 13 feet of snow


#1

I live in a rural city in Japan and we are expecting 13 feet of snow this year, although there is currently only an inch on the ground.

I drive a Mistubishi EKei Wagon (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitsubishi_eK ) with 4 wheel drive but no anti-lock brakes. During the summer if I am going downhill or coasting towards a stoplight from far away, I put the car into neutral and coast all the way.

I’m wondering if it’s safe to do this in the winter? We do get icey roads (but it actually doesn’t get that cold despite the massive amounts of snow) and we also have a sprinkler system built into the roads to melt all the snow. So the roads can be wet although generally do not get very snowy.

Is it okay to do this in the winter? Is it generally okay for the car to switch it into neutral as the car is moving?


#2

I wouldn’t. Do you have a set of winter tires? They’d be worth it.


#3

I do have a set of winter tires, just wondering do these actually make THAT big of a difference. I already have them so it’s not like I’m going to avoid putting them on, I’m just wondering


#4

They make ALL the difference. Honest.


#5

A four wheel drive without snow tires is like a basketball player without sneakers or a football player without spikes. You can get around, but you really can’t perform to the best of your ability…or in this case, the car’s. I have always felt, that a four wheel drive in slippery conditions, needs snow tires more then a 2 wd. Because it can accelerate to higher speeds quicker, you are in greater jeopardy trying to stop or turn.


#6

I agree, its not a good idea to put it in neutral going down hill. You need the engine braking to keep it under control. 13 feet though is about as bad as the UP Michigan. In this case you need all the help you can get with winter tires.


#7

Assuming you do have winter tires, on real ice going down hill, it’s not a bad idea to " work" the brakes in stead of depend upon engine braking which is impossible to modulate. Have done it lots where we live. It’s a delicate situation. The real key in slippery conditions is to not let your speed get away from you which can happen when when you let up on the brakes to regain steerage. Sounds as though you face icy conditions more then snow…If this case, NOTHING works better then the longest studs you can insert. So, engine braking in snow, fine. Engine braking on ice…depends. As your speed builds up, it becomes very problematic. No easy answer.


#8

First, it’s not recommended to coast in neutral in summer. There have been many discussions here on that topic, so you should search for those and read them. In general, it’s a bit less safe, it probably uses more gas, and it may be illegal in your jurisdiction.

In winter, I’d especially recommend against this (except in a very rare case where the engine braking is causing you to lose control). If the car starts drifting off the road, you sometimes need to accelerate to get the car back on the road and under control.


#9

@SteveInquisitive…this might make you feel a little better about not having anti-lock braking. Anti-lock braking system (ABS) generally add distance while braking on ice or snow. Since the regulars here know my general dislike of ABS…I will include this statement: “The National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) explained in a comprehensive report that ABS increases stopping distances on surfaces covered with gravel, snow, or other loose materials”.


#10

DON’T! Leave it in gear and put on a good set of snow tires.


#11

I, too , vote for …leave it in gear.
Here’s why ; ( depending on the 4x4 system type )
I have proven , on my 4x4s, that coasting IN 4X4 allows the engine braking to apply to all four wheels…ALL FOUR WHEELS are being gingerly controlled at the slightest input of your big toe.
– and this is a great thing, to have immense control in this manner.
PLUS…a slight braking, at all, is evenly distributed through the 4x4 to all four wheels again.

coasting in nuetral removes all 4x4 input at all and INCREASES the probability of locking one or all of the brakes !
Who needs anti-lock brakes if you don’t even lock them ? control them with accelerator input and any slight braking.


#12

Just a comment about abs vs non abs in OP situation . ABS was never intended nor should you expect to decrease stopping distances under all situations. Yes, there are instances when it does by a small margin increase the distance . The absolute most important factors in braking not only includes distance, but control while braking. ABS has no equal in adding more steerage while braking. Steerage is at least as important in accident avoidance as absolute braking distance. In an attempt to maintain
steerage in a non abs car, you will always lengthen you stopping distance greater then with. If you can monitor your brakes 50 plus times a second manually, I take my assertion back.

But this fact remains for me. I drive on ice covered hills as much as any one I know… Steerage while slowing down to a stop is more important then the absolute shortest stopping distance.


#13

Not all ABS systems are created equal and I only have experience with a few manufacturers. But in my experience, they suck. Small increase? Not in my experience. And under the worst scenarios where steerage isn’t even an issue like sand and gravel on the road during spring time. Almost slid into the back of cars a few times when the rest of the road was clean and dry. Once the ABS kicked in, it didn’t stop until the car did even though it was past the gravel spot. Had it kick in on ripples in the asphalt too where my non-ABS equipped cars respond as expected. Far and away the situations I have encountered where ABS has been problematic are situations where the risk of sliding into anything other then the car in front of you at <10mph is minimal. Steering is not a concern. Sliding into the guy in front due to the significantly increased stopping distance under conditions no one would consider a real threat is the real issue. The situations where ABS adds value are much smaller than the areas where it adds risk IMO.


#14

Often people feel the only time the abs is working is a low speeds, just as they’re about to hit someone as that’s when the system is most vocal and they get their opinion then. What they don’t get is; it was saving your butt when at higher speeds when it’s less obtrusive for a variety of reasons including where a car at speed makes other obtrusive noises. The system is still working on a rain soaked road or snowy curve when slowing down and you never know it.

Driving two cars equipped the same way but one with and one without in all situations, is the only real way to see the actual difference. That has been done many times over and abs equipped cars still fare better and provide more evasive options. Whether the driver uses them…is a different story. If all you want is the absolute best stopping distance in all situations…that’s impossible. Abs does provide it in some, ice and packed snow, and some it does not, granular situations.


#15

Learning how to drive before ABS…I find ABS not that useful. With over 1 million miles of driving I can’t find a single case where ABS was beneficial. I’ve been in situations where I had very slippery conditions…and needed to brake hard…but I learned how and when to pump my brakes…and have been able avoid getting into an accident or killing myself.

HOWEVER…Then there’s Traction control (which in most cases needs ABS)…has helped me out on 2 separate occasions. Both on black ice where I didn’t know it was icy…until the traction control kicked in. One time was right on a main road about 1/2 mile from my house. It was 36 degrees (above freezing)…but the ground was below freezing…and the little drizzle turned to ice once it hit the road. While those instances are rare…traction control both times saved me from getting killed or severely damaging my truck…and both times…not a scratch.


#16

As you all well know, traction and stability control only exists because of abs and needs it all the time. It is your abs system working in exactly the same way only initiated by sensors instead of your brake pedal alone. Even in braking for example, a yaw sensor can help the abs straighten your car out. The same sensor that can initiate your braking response while cornering without you touching the pedal when traction control is needed at times. One cannot exist without the other. Whether you are braking, accelerating or coasting, the coexisting systems are in use, all the time, monitoring your situation. Both traction control and abs and stability control are all controlled by braking action ( including throttle control ) Even the so called limited slip diffential is just the braking of the spinning wheel so the common open diffential can apply force to the other side…

So though abs means “anti lock brake system”, in cars now, it should mean “automatic brake system” which is in use all the time at the discretion of the computer and it’s sensors and occasionally when you ask kindly with the brake pedal.

You want to complain ? In the works is steering by wire…your stability control will really work better then !


#17

looking forward to getting a vehicle with traction control,I’ve heard it really helps(probaly as good or better then limited slip)but people let the gee whiz make up for thier lack of skill,as always I maintain that driving slowly and carefully under difficult conditions is the best way to handle bad conditions or just stay at home.Technology can only do so much,what amazes me around here during the first snow falls its usually the SUVs and 4wd that are over the bank-at least until people get it in thier heads that dry road is a little diffrent from snow covered or icy roads-Kevin


#18
Technology can only do so much,what amazes me around here during the first snow falls its usually the SUVs and 4wd that are over the bank-at least until people get it in thier heads that dry road is a little diffrent from snow covered or icy

I own an SUV…have owned 4wd pickups and SUV’s for over 35 years. And I agree there are MANY people who buy one and have no idea how to drive them. They think because they have an 4wd/awd system they can drive like they do during the summer. Taking it slow and steady in adverse conditions is the way to go. An 4wd/awd system can significantly help in snow and ice. But if you don’t know how to drive in adverse weather…then the best snow tires on the best 4wd system isn’t going to help.


#19

I agree. A lot of people use the 4wd ability to go fast in snow as an excuse to go fast in snow and ice. That ability should be used to merge safely, get through slippery intersections and climb hills. Test after test have shown that 4wd with crappy tires will out accelerate a 2wd with snow tires. That too is a recipe for leaving the road. Another factor is the traditional, usually older 4wd with a partime system that when cornering or sudden lane change with a fixed differential on packed snow and ice where the differential tries to keep the front and rear spinning together, in itself can throw you into a spin. You can bet though, that the majority of 4 wds off the road are those using 4wd as an excuse not to use winter tires or even decent tires and worst of all, an excuse not to slow down. I have argued that 4 wd allows a person to drive slower and more safely by not having to get a run for hills or roll through snowy intersections when your too afraid to not get going again. You use 4 wd to your advantage, not disadvantage.

My best friend, for years complained about his Subaru not being that great in wet snow and one time “causing” him to leave the road. After a few years of badgering, he finally got snow tires. “oh, I never thought they could stop so well” was the first thing he said to me after his first snow storm. Dahh ! And, this can from a guy with a measurable IQ greater then that of my entire immediated family. ;=)

I have noticed too, that that the most cautious drivers seem to be those with cars that are the best prepared for winter. They want all the advantages along with reduced speed.


#20

Hmm, I have winter tires. I am worried about driving in icy conditions. Should I USE the winter tires?