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Snowstorm Gridlock

My nephew lives in Gaithersburg, MD and commutes to work everyday to Georgetown, Washington, D.C. The trip takes approx. 45-60 min. Recently he was caught in a rush hour snowstorm leaving work at 5:15 p.m. and arriving home at 10:45 p.m. He was in gridlock for the entire ride, so needless to say he had pleanty of time to call practically everyone on his contact list. We spoke to him for about 1 1/2 hours and he had not even made it to the beltway. I asked him what gear he was in and he said-drive. I suggested he use 2nd gear so he wouldn’t have to brake as often. His uncle said he shouldn’t drive that long in 2nd gear - it is harmful to the car. I said I thought it is more harmful to keep it in drive because he could walk faster than the car was actually going. What do you think? - what is the best gear to drive in when someone is stuck in 5 1/2 hours of gridlock during a winter snowstorm.

The car doesn’t care as it will start in first, regardless. You are right to use the lowest indicated as the transmission will not let it shift to a higher gear giving you better engine braking. These are the situations the option was made for and his uncle is incorrect. If I were still for any length of time, I would put transmission in neutral/park and apply the brake. I’m afraid of park in traffic in case I was rear ended at low speed which might then damage the transmission.

Not necessarily, dagosa!

On some cars (Fords, Subarus, and Hondas) you can start up in 2nd gear, completely bypassing 1st gear.
In fact, when driving in very slippery conditions, I used to do this exact thing with my Honda and I have occasionally used this feature in one of my older Subarus.

If he was creeping along in very slippery conditions, it may actually have been a very good idea to leave the shift lever in the “2” position.

I’d leave it in Drive. At slow speeds it doesn’t matter, but if traffic opens up and you can drive faster it’s easy to forget that you’re still in “2”

Even in 2nd gear, the auto tranny will shift back and forth between 1 and 2, but the maximum gear it’ll go into is 2.

Why not leave it in Drive and let the auto tranny do it’s job.

Most new automatics have a winter/summer transmission switch. In winter mode, the transmission will do a second gear start limiting torque and slipping on take off. Just leave it in drive (winter mode) and keep going.

It’s up to the driver to decide what is appropriate according to conditions. Everything is worth discussing because there are advantages to either one. Slow speeds are always in low gear anyway, especially in the range of 1 to 15 MPH. It’s all good.

Ooops, I forgot about you Suby owners. Like a lot of our debates, it sometimes depends upon what, where, how you drive. Amend that to Dumpy Toyotas.

I prefer to drive in 2nd when the roads are icy. It seems to give me better modulation of the speed with less braking. We rarely have icy roads here but this year has been a record setter. And last week, like so often in the past, 4x4s passed me as I drove along at 20 mph and in a few blocks I passed them in the ditch calling for a wrecker. 4x4s are great for getting people out of trouble but even greater at getting people into deep trouble.

If you can start out in a higher gear…then that’s the best. It keeps you from spinning the tires (which is bad). But many cars these days are equipped with traction control…so if the car has traction control it doesn’t matter.

Leave in DRIVE.
If you forget it is in 2nd, when speed increases, you will still be in 2nd wasting fuel and causing engine wear.
I’d rather cause slight wear to the brakes than use engine braking causing more wear.
Does engine braking also increase fuel consumption on modern fuel injected vehicles?

How frustrating.
I’d try to change my schedule to depart well before or after the congestion.
Years ago I would work out and head home after rushour.

Summing up all the posts…it is called automatic transmission for a reason.

Machines aren’t as always as smart as their marketers make them out to be.

While driving in snow & ice conditions, leaving the shifter in a lower gear is often a very smart thing to do so that engine braking helps control speed and reduce the use of brakes. The less you need to use your brakes in these kinds of conditions the better.

The transmission itself doesn’t actually care, however. So uncle has nothing.

I have had second gear start for many years, and now that I don’t have it, I miss it. Traction control systems don’t do the job as well.

The 2 position on Ford, Lincoln, Mercury, Kia, Honda, Toyota, and Subaru gives you nothing but second gear. It does NOT automatically shift between 1 and 2. But the smaller Fords lack it.

The 2 position on all GM, Chrysler Corp, and Hyundai vehicles does automatically shift back and forth between 1 and 2, and is useless for this purpose.

D2 on early GM cars shifted between 2 and 3.

The Second Gear Start accessory on GM, Volvo, and Jaguar leaves out first gear. But very few GM cars actually have it. It was an accessory on the most expensive models.

If you have a Chrysler Corp. car, you have to have the dual gate shifter to get the car to start in second.

Traction Control does different things on different cars too. Some models use the brakes to stop wheel spin. Some cause the transmission to upshift. Others retard ignition timing. Some do combinations of these. But all of them have one fault: the wheel has already begun to spin when they activate, slicking up the ice even more.

Second Gear Start should be a required feature for safety reasons.

“Park” § is the best gear to use during snowstorms…This avoids ALL adverse driving conditions…

Do you really think it’s a good idea to spend 90 minutes on the phone with someone who is driving on snow and ice in heavy traffic?

If my nephew called me while driving, it would be a short call:

Me: Are you driving?

Nephew: Yes.

Me: Call me back when you aren’t driving. [click]

Depends on what you call snow storms…

Places like Texas gets 4" and it’s a MAJOR snow storm…4" here in NH is normal…Kind of tough to put it in Park when you have a 25 mile drive home…

Don’t they give you the “L” in PRNDL for a reason?

Places like Texas gets 4" and it’s a MAJOR snow storm.

Make that 1". I’ve seen Dallas shut down completely with 1" of snow.

Those were the good old days. I remember when a little snow or ice would make people stay home for the day. This is wise, since there are no winter tires or snow plows around here, and sand doesn’t exactly make ice stop being slick.

The past two winters around Dallas have been really interesting in terms of snow, and these days people seem to be unwilling to lose even one day of travel. Even our record-breaking snowfall, a foot deep, wasn’t enough to get people to stay home. I’d rather shut down for an inch than run around in a foot, but it seems in modern times a lot of people aren’t willing to lose a single day for the sake of safety.

Contrary to popular belief, Texans can indeed drive on snow, anybody can drive on snow. Texans should be so lucky as to get 4 inches of snow instead of a half inch of solid glazed ice from freezing rain which is so typical of a winter storm here.
The first time I ever got to drive on snow, I was surprised by how easy it was, nothing like trying to drive on a road glazed over by ice. It was even easier than the muddy dirt roads I spent so much time driving on.
OK, I know that northerners also sometimes get roads glazed over with ice, we can tell when that happens because 50 car pileups make the evening news.