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Mazda 3 on snow

Hi there,

I’ve got a 2008 mazda 3 (5 doors) and here is what happened to me last weekend. Visiting friends in NY. it snowed ( about 2/3 inches). There is a dirt road going uphill to their place. So when we left, driving down hill, but slowly, the pedal brakes became very stiff and firm all of sudden. I couldn’t brake . I believe I lost traction which caused the ABS to respond very weirdly. I have all-seasons tires .

When getting to the bottom of the hill, the brakes were functioning normally and drove for almost 3 hours with no issues. I checked my tires ( they have 5500 miles), my fluid level but everything looked normal.

Do you have any idea?



ABS works very poorly on gravel and snowy roads compared to non-ABS cars. It is a downfall of ABS but its benefits are the ability to steer and brake at the same time in all other situations.

Once In A Blue Moon I Have Had This Happen Before With Different Makes And Models

I did it just the other day. My wife’s car was parked the night before, after driving through snow, slush, etcetera. In the morning, I took it up to the corner to clear off snow and warm it up for her. When I got to the highway and hit the brakes (non ABS) - NOTHING! (well, pactically nothing, virtually no braking).

Going down the road, I pumped on the brakes a couple of times and they came back full strength. I’ve had this happen only once or twice before, in hundreds of thousands of miles of driving.

Here’s my theory. I think if conditions are just right when the vehicle gets parked, prior to sitting and freezing, a glaze of ice must form on the brake rotors and or brake pads. A little friction from depressing the brake pedal melts it off. I am not even concerned that something is wrong. My wife has driven hundreds of miles since then. This may not happen again for years or never again.

To be on the safe side, check your brakes while going slow at the beginning of your drive during adverse winter conditions and particularly before hills or intersections.

Keep an eye on things. Have your mechanic take a look if you’d like, especially if you’re goung in for service anyhow. However, this may just be Mother Nature having a little “fun” with you.

Stef, Find A Vacant, Icy Parking Lot

Make sure no cars or people are around and practice getting the car going a little and pushing hard enough on the brakes to activate the ABS. Hold the pedal until the car stops. Try steering while doing this. Get a good feel for the way these brakes work, feel, and sound. Andrew advised that these brakes may be working as designed and may not have a “problem”. It is possible that the road you took off downhill on was very slippery and neither ABS nor conventional brakes would be very helpful.

Any way, get a feel for them and you will know what to expect. These brakes are designed to ordinarily stop your car faster than conventional brakes and also allow you to steer while braking, unlike conventional brakes. Many people panic in an emergency and hold the brake pedal to the floor. ABS brakes should be safer in such a situation.

As Andrew said, its poor in these conditions.

While ABS does enable you to maintain steering in most circumstances, its drawbacks in my humble opinion are not worth it. I persoanlly think ABS is over-rated and should be an option only.

I think the ABS caused the behavior you describe. If the tires can’t get traction the ABS will allow them to continue rotating, and it feels like you have no brakes. You do, but they are working as hard as they can without locking the wheels, which ABS will not do.

Traction control can do the same thing trying to go UP a hill. If the tires can’t get traction, the car won’t move, or spin its wheels, even if you floor the throttle.

These systems are great most of the time, but I think they should come with “off” switches for times when the car would be better off without them.

I don’t think there’s anything whatsoever wrong with your car.

Winter tires would have made a difference, I think, but without them there’s only so much traction.

That is also the way I learned how a car handles in the snow and ice.Its also fun.

[b]  I have all-seasons tires .  [/b] 

Those are really three season tyres and the one they don't include is Winter.  For that you should have  [b] winter [/b] tyres.  However I don't believe they would have done much better under the conditions you encountered.  Two or three inches of snow on a gravel road on a hill, is not easy.

Thanks for chiming in. For the piece of mind I’ll have it looked at when I get it serviced but I agree that ABS should have a switch off linked to them. It’s my first car with ABS and had no problem driving in snow before with non abs vehicles.
So I’ll take good advice from you and find their limits next time it snows.