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I'm terrified of driving on slick, icy roads-any tips?

I live in a suburb of Denver, Colorado, and I’m terrified of driving on slick roads. Even when I go REALLY slow-and I try my best to take it slow on bad roads-I still end up slipping. The car I drive is a 2006 Jeep Compass. The guy at the dealership said that the car is in 4-wheel drive all the time, and there is something called 4-wheel drive lock that I can put the car into-it’s supposed to be “extra” 4-wheel drive, but I don’t know if it does any good.

You should get a set of winter tires, like Michelin X-Ice. Regular tires are poor on ice, regardless of the vehicle.

As a 37 year resident of Colorado, we rarely have slick roads in Denver. Yes, it snows but our solar snow removal removes it pretty quick. My five years living in Moscow were another story.

If you are slipping all over the road in a Jeep, then you don’t have proper winter tires. All season (read three season) tires are NOT winter tires. I have been driving RWD BMWs for most of my years here and never got stuck in snow. I use four winter tires when it snows.

Many people mistakenly feel that 4WD is the best thing for winter. It’s only true if you run four real winter tires during snow season. Take them off in the spring as they wear out quickly if driven in warm weather. My RWD BMW with four winter tires will out run your Jeep with all season tires on snow. Get the right tires and you will not have a problem. Check out Discount Tires – they very knowledgeable and helpful.

What you need is a set of 4 winter tires, such as the top-rated Michelin X-Ice tires.

Yes, even after mounting a set of winter tires, a sane person still needs to slow down and to leave much longer following distances when driving on wintery road surfaces, but a set of winter tires will enable you to stop in far shorter distances, and will help to prevent tire slippage.

Just be sure to de-mount the tires as soon as the threat of winter weather is over, as winter tires wear much faster than “regular” tires when used on dry roads.

Also check out for tire prices and consumer reviews and survey results.

If you choose not to own two different sets of tires for summer and winter, you can at least get a better set of all-season tires that do well in winter conditions and will likely be better than your existing tires. survey results show tire performance categories (in light snow, deep snow, ice, etc) that will let you see how each tire stacks up in various winter conditions.

The best way to learn how to drive in wintry conditions is to practice driving in wintry conditions.

Have someone take you to an empty parking lot and just practice how to control your vehicle in those conditions.

Two things. First, everyone is right about winter tires. They are an absolute must on icy roads. Secondly, the guy at the dealer ship is absolutely " nuts". The lock mechanism can guarantee you worse ice control. It is made for deep snow and mud, not ice control. On some cars, it deavtivates the traction control making things worse as well. Though a Compass may be OK, the best Awd vehicals for the money on ice are awd cars, not SUVs. The best for the money with or without traction control , is a SUBARU. If you are that terrified and have the money, 4 winter tires on a Subaru plus PRACTICE on an empty lot when ever you can, can gain some confidence. Everyone feels less at ease on ice and slowing down is your best ally.
Jeeps are not the best on ice as they are SUVs with higher center of gravity not good handling cars to begin with in general. Lower slung sedans with Awd and low center of gravity like a Subaru legacy and winter tires may be worse in deep snow but guarantee improvement on ice. Awd will help you go on ice but does nothing for stopping and only helps handling and traction while accelerating on ice while merging and going up hills. Again, winter tires are a must on any vehicle you wish the most help on ice. Lastly, I live on ice the entire winter and studs help emmensely, but I would not recomend them for those who drive on maintained hot top roads exclusively during the winter.

I disagree, having lived in many winter climates with rear wheel 2 wheel drive only, You can make it through a lot of stuff, 2’ of snow etc if you know how. you have 4wd how to drive in it. You have all the tools, 4wd but need someone to teach you how to drive in the stuff. Just because you have the tools does not necessarily mean you can pretend it is a hot summer day on the expressway,

Despite the Jeep name and marketing the Compass is much more like a car than an SUV. It is closely related to the late Dodge Caliber. It has a lowish center of gravity, very limited ground clearance and no off-road ability. It can certainly handle Denver’s winter weather, which is only extreme for spells (when anyone with the choice should stay home with a mug of cocoa and a pile of car magazines.)

The car based nature of the Compass does improve the handling of the Jeep over other truck based SUVs. But, that alone does not put it in the league of a BMW 3 series Awd or even a standard Legacy Awd sedan. Being car based does not automatically make an SUV as good on ice as a low slung sedan any more then raising it makes it as good off road as a truck based SUV.

Nothing works for stability on ice as well as this combination of Awd, a good traction control system, excellent handling which includes the lowest possible, best distributed center of gravity, winter tires rated well for ice and best of all, driver experience. Ice reveals all handling deficiencies in a heart beat. The Compass does not do as well on ice as a Legacy or BMW Awd…take it to the bank !

Automatically thinking a car based SUV is as good as a car in handling without actually looking at reviews is mistaken. I raced vehicles on ice years ago and nothing has changed. On ice, even with studded tires and all other factors being equal, handling is important. Obviously, nothing trumps driver experience and decision making. But still, racing on ice reveals that the cars but with the lowest mass, the best prepared, all give you a distinct advantage, regardless.

And, as this article points out, ordinary fwd does well too, though not as well as Awd in the different catagory. Notice…all cars, no SUVs.

One additional comment about Awd vs fwd or rwd on ice. Though Awd does nothing to help stopping on ice, it does help acceleration on ice which is a safety factor when merging, going up hills on curves and getting through an intersection as long as you have winter tires.

If you’re slipping while driving…it’s usually the tires or the driver.

Some all-season tires are decent on snow and ice…some aren’t. Denver doesn’t get a lot of snow or ice. You should be able to get around with decent all-season tires (as long as you don’t decide to go into the mountains). But if the all-season tires aren’t cutting it…then you might need new tires.

I’ve seen people who swear that their tires just plain suck in the snow…but the problem turned out to him. He just didn’t know how to drive in snow. Taking it slow is just ONE thing you have to be careful with. Also NOT a lot of braking is wise too. One guy I knew would go slow on ice and snow…but then brake hard when negotiating a curve…thus causing him to slide. You want to slow down before the curve (take your foot off the gas and just glide) when in snow or ice. ABS will help…but you’d be better of if the ABS doesn’t need to kick in every time you brake.

After installing good winter tires, I STRONGLY ADVISE taking a winter driving course from the AAA or other organization. They take you to a large icy area and gradually get you familiar with those surfaces. They also have good classroom sessions on the mechanics of winter driving. After the course you will no longer be “terrified”

You must have grown up in Florida or Southern California. In most of the US every one grows up with slippery conditions and often learn to drive in the winter as soon as they reach legal age.

Completely agree on the ;
and DO NOT let awd fool you in to false sense of security…learn to drive in it…aka practice.

Here’s something else to practice ;

WHERE , on the road surface , you drive has everything to do with driveabilty.
Where ?? you ask.
Yes, I have traveled many a time when others are off the road.
And off the road is the clue here.

Notice, while you’re on an ice road or packed/slick snowy road…
Right where all the traffic has already driven, how shiny and slick is is …right there in those tracks where everybody else has already buffed it to a sheen.
notice over by the curb or road’s edge…it’s rougher over there where nobody usually drives.
– that’s the same place where all the little gravel gets kicked to on a dry road…notice that NOW that it’s not snowing…go outside and look.
Look at all the rough stuff over by the edge of the roadway

Use this to your advantage.
That’s your traction right there.

In most circumstances there will always be extra traction OFF LINE of the regular driving lanes where the rough stuff accumulates on a regular basis.
And especially after they’ve cindered the roads on a previous snowy day, there’s lots of gravel there for you.

PLUS…this is also your key to STOPPING too.
If you’re in a slippery situation and having trouble stopping…HEAD FOR THE ROUGH STUFF at the side or off line.

( This is how my Navajo reservation customers have gotten by all these years with plain-jane 2wd pickups )

I used to live near Steamboat Springs, CO, and drove on snow and ice all the time. If your area allows studded snow tires, that’s the best way to keep sliding and getting stuck to a minimum. Many areas no longer allow this though, but get the best snow tires on all four wheels you can afford. Ask your neighbors, co-workers, fellow church-goers what snow tires they use.

As mentioned above, I avoided using my locking-differential 4WD on ice. That would make my truck skid even more. On snow though it worked great, and would get me through when many other cars would get stuck.

Assuming you now have your vehicle properly equipped, most of the time all you have to deal with is packed snow on the road – that’s the way it was in Steamboat anyway – and simply going slow is about all you need to do to drive safely. Sometimes however there would be something called “black ice” which is something to avoid if at all possible. Usually the local radio station would announce if “black ice” was a problem that day. If it was, I’d just stay home.

The one other thing I did was at the beginning of every snow season, I’d find a big empty snow covered parking lot and experiment with how long it would take to stop, how fast I could corner, etc before skidding. There’s a sort of trick in going around corners you learn by doing this, you approach the corner going slow, then as you near the end of the corner you give it a slight bit of gas, helps prevent skidding. Not possible to explain, but easy to discover how to do it in a big empty parking lot.

At the same time you can learn which way to turn the steering wheel if the car starts to skid. If you turn it the correct way, it will tend to straighten out. Wrong way, it will increase the skid problem.

And remember: If you feel uncomfortable about the situation, just stay home. Or if it occurs on the road, pull over at the next available spot, go into the first restaurant, and enjoy a good snack until the crew has a chance to clear the roads.

Be sure to keep warm clothes, a warm hat, and gloves in your car, and keep the gas tank at least half full – in case you get stuck and need to use the engine to keep the car warm until the tow truck comes.

Best of luck.

Other than the tire traction angle to this, it seems to me that the act of driving around in a terrified state could contribute to some slipping and sliding.

A nervous driver and the subtle unnoticed to the driver hand twitches. pedal taps, or lapse of concentration could contribute to some of that out of control situation.

One final comment about tires. Regardless of how adaquate you may find an all season tire in snow and on ice, unlike winter tires which maintain acceptable traction with wear, all seasons quickly loose theirs. By the time they are a third to half worn they can be marginal at best . So, those who use strictly all season tires for winter will have to change and buy new much more often then those who use winter tires to keep from scating on ice. This is where tire tests are misleading. Only those who take the trouble to shave some tread off and retest are worth recommending all season tires or any tire for winter driving on ice. So exactly, how many miles do you have on your tires ? Regardless of my 40 plus years of driving experience on ice, a little bit of terror always enters the picture when your my tires completely loose their grip. Unlike snow, there are many fewer options other then praying and wishing you had better tires when the world starts rotating around you in a spin on ice.

“it seems to me that the act of driving around in a terrified state could contribute to some slipping and sliding.”

If somebody is, “terrified”, by driving on winter road surfaces, it is very possible that the person’s panicked state could lead to over-reactions, such as braking too hard.

I have also observed that many insecure drivers tend to sit very close to the steering wheel, and–unfortunately–sitting too close to the wheel impedes smooth turns. Jerky turning motions can induce skids

I have also observed that many insecure drivers tend to follow the car in front of them very closely. Yes, this is dangerous and counter-intuitive, but I have observed it frequently (and refuse to drive with these people any longer). Following too closely–especially on a slippery surface–will inevitably lead to having to brake too hard and/or having to take evasive actions, and those scenarios have potentially severe consequences on slippery roads.

In addition to getting a set of 4 winter tires, I strongly suggest that the OP follow the advice given by others to take a course in winter driving techniques.

To the OP, really you need to face your fear. Meaning when the weather is bad you need to get to a large safe area, unused parking lot for instance and practice. You might want to have an experienced and confident “winter” driver with you as a coach.

Some slipping is perfectly normal. A little wheel slip doesn’t mean you are out of control. It does tell you when you are near the “limit” of your traction at that moment. If you must drive in snow and ice conditions - winter tires increase and improve your traction limit significantly in bad weather. I have a set of 4 Michelin X-Ice2 winter tires on a FWD Honda Civic and I get around fine including going up and down some big hills in snow.

If you can avoid driving during “storms” then you might not need winter tires, but your tires must be in good condition with about 1/2 the tread still on them. Worn tires can be fine on dry roads, but be horrible in snow and icy conditions. So, take a good look at your current tires and replace them if you have about 4/32" or less tread.

Your All Wheel Drive Jeep is really 2WD most of the time and only goes into AWD when a wheel slip is detected. Using the lock feature may help a lot, but only use this “lock” when the roads are bad. Driving in the lock position on dry roads will hurt mpg for sure, and may damage the car if you used it on a highway for 100 or so miles. This is an “on” and “off” feature the overrides the automatic system until the driver turns it off. This would be something to practice in that safe parking lot as I mentioned before.

Winter driving in snow and ice is actually kind of a fun challenge IMO. I’ve done a lot of it and the key things to remember are easy on the controls. Light on the gas, easy on the brakes, and gentle on steering inputs. When there is limited traction, you need to be gentle and easy when you handle the car, and keeping the speeds moderate is part of that too. Leave lots of space between cars, and start to break earlier and easier than you would in normal driving.

Race drivers really don’t hammer their race cars. In fact, racing is running at the limit of traction and demands a light touch to go fast.

There was a place on the road near Steamboat, a mostly flat section, where the nearby mountains sort of funneled the wind at a 90 degrees across the road, so the wind reached a higher than normal speed. If that section got the “black ice” condition, it was hit and miss whether you’d make it, no matter what you did, 4wd or not. When you hit that section, you’d notice lots of cars on the side of the road so you’d go really slow, but if a big gust of wind came up, your car would just be blown off to the side of the road to join the others. The road crew would eventually come along and tow you a couple hundred yards further, to where the black ice ended.