Winter driving

Driving an Audi 6 Quatro I hit black ice and the car fishtailed. I did gain control by taking my foot off the gas and correcting the steering. Would it have been better to step lightly on the accelerator? Are the advantages of 4 wheel drive still operative when the car is free wheeling ie no gas?

The second question is way too general. Stepping on the gas is just a game to play when there isn’t any other traffic. With a manual transmission at low speeds and low gears, it could be alright. An automatic transmission usually doesn’t get you into a serious situation. Letting off the gas can cause the front wneels to lose traction and steering in front wheel drive cars. 4WD a little less, and 4WD automatic transmission even less. If you straightened out without great difficulty, your choice was right for the situation.

 I fear far too many people have a false sense of security with 4WD.  4WD will do little or nothing to keep you on the road.  It can certainly help you get back on the road after you slide off.  

 Winter tyres are very helpful at keeping you on the road.  They will reduce sliding and will give you more traction on snow and ice.  Note: All Season Tyres are NOT Winter tyres.  

 Taking your foot off the gas is usually the best response.  Without special training and a lot of practice, I would not suggest even trying the power on trick.  

 Some modern cars have "Stability Control" which is you best bet under those conditions.  It will not help you get through the snow, but it will help you go in the direction you want to go.  It will beat out all but the very best professionally trained and practiced drivers.

The natural impulse to take foot off the gas on glare ice as stated is the best.
Steering traction is greater in a non braking/accelerating wheel…free wheeling is best whether you have stability control or not. If it were a standard, I would step on clutch as well.

Where you going up hill or accelerating at the time ? Sometimes fish tailing in an AWD can occur unexpectedly when the bias shifts to the rear and traction control is tardy or not available.

I would try to induce it to happen again in slippery conditions in an open parking lot or up hill at low speed to more familiarize yourself with what to expect and under what conditions and how to compensate. We would do that with our Subaru and Rav. They all behave a little differently. We found that even though it fishtailed, we still had some steering control. That you had to ask, may mean you aren’t familiar. Driving too hard or fast for conditions is the downfall of AWD. It’s too easy to get into trouble.

The importance of winter tires as stated by Mr. Meehan cannot be overemphasized.

Ice is ice. There is NO traction on ice, which is why your car fishtailed.

Backing off the gas is the best thing to do under this condition. Your instincts are not fooling you. Trying to accelerate would only have made the situation worse.

AWD (your Audi does NOT have 4WD, it has All Wheel Drive, which is different) is wonderful, but it can’t repeal the laws of physics, such as “there’s no traction on ice.”

Please don’t assume you can drive any way you want regardless of weather conditions because you drive an Audi with Quatro. Quatro is great, but it still comes down to the tires and the road. If there’s no traction, there’s no traction, and all the Quatro in the world can’t change that.

Now, if you want to install studded rally tires, maybe you could accelerate, with some control, on ice. Otherwise, forget it.

One more thing.  Your owner's manual likely warns you about using tyres of a different size.  It is important to obey that rule, and it includes the difference between a new tyre and one with more miles on it.  However if you have tyres with different tread depth but they don't violate any rules indicted in the owner's manual, make sure they are on the BACK not the front.  This is true for all cars.

You did great. Touching the gas would have been the wrong action.

On black ice there’s little you can do besides let your foot off the gas, slowly correct with steering, and pray. Some 20 years ago I was traveling on Rt2 in Mass. at a truely modest clip during sunrise on a January morning on clear roads when I hit black ice. My truck (Toyota pickup) slowly began to rotate, like something out of a made-for-TV movie. Attempts to affect it with steering were futile. Slowly, still rotating, my truck slid down off the crown of the road and onto the berm. The truck had rotated 180 degrees at that point and was facing backwards. In 40 yrars of driving that’s the only time that’s ever happened, but he bazaar nature of the experience left a permanent impression.

For the uninitiated, “black ice” is completely invisable. Visually the road is clear pavement, suddenly all traction disappears.

“Ice is ice. There is NO traction on ice, which is why your car fishtailed.”

There is traction on all types of ice. When your momentum exceeds the traction level (Coefficient of Friction) which is much lower on ice, you loose(lose) control.
There are a variety of ice conditions. The worse is high temp ice, near freezing when water settles on top. Really cold ice has more traction. That’s why hockey games (and speed skaters) are faster inside with elevated freezing conditions than outside. The water layer generated between the blade and ice which deceases friction is easier to attain. Ice that is melting with water layer on top above freezing can be the most treacherous.

I have seen a cold morning frost over ice provide as much traction as a hot top road. Ice traction can vary with temp…that’s what makes it so dangerous.
A road that “seemed” safe at one time, can become a hazard at another.

“you loose control”

Hmmm…Maybe the answer is to tighten the control.


I’m sorry, but I couldn’t resist writing this after our recent discussion in another thread about the apparent confusion nowadays about the different meaning of the words “lose” and “loose”.

Anyway…if the OP is really interested in maintaining maximum control of his/her car on slick winter road surfaces, it is really important to mount a set of 4 winter tires. I also have AWD (and traction control, and vehicle stability control, and ABS) and I always use a set of winter tires, just so that I can avoid most dangerous situations during the winter. The use of winter tires, coupled with driving more slowly when there is a possibility of ice, is the way to go for maintaining maximum control.

Thanks; just what I need, another “wife” to correct me.

I have vehicles like yours (awd,abs, tract etc) and have felt it was MORE (or is that moore ) important to have winter tires on awd as they tend to be driven more aggressively during the winter.

No thanks are necessary!

I do agree that all too many people with AWD operate their vehicle too aggressively, with an apparent attitude that they are invincible because of their vehicle’s drive system. However, I am not one of those people.

If I were you I’d go someplace and practice on both snow and ice . . . I grew up learning to drive in the mountains of Pennsylvania, and can safely say that practice and patience mean a lot more to me than 4WD . . . AWD . . . tire chains . . . “super snow tires” . . . and the lot. Of course, you’ll need a good set of tires. Of course, some cars work better on ice/snow than others. But find an empty lot or lonely backroad and practice with your Audi. Better yet, take a driving course from a local car club if you can find one. Nothing beats experience to me. Glad you’re still here to talk about it. Rocketman