Driving on ice or snow experiences, or tips

Poppy

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Hakkapeliitta tires from years ago were talented but not long lasting if used under normal driving conditions (my mistake). Michelin X-ice tires were capable and much longer lasting but by that time we had another set of rims for them so not really a fair comparison. Has anyone heard that snow tires give worse dry pavement braking performance than conventional tires?
I believe that snow tires are typically made with a softer rubber which helps with traction, but also causes them to wear more rapidly, and markedly so, during the hot summer months. I always kept mine on their own set of rims, and swapped them off during the non-snow months.
 

bykfixer

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My rule of thumb with driving in perlilous conditions is if you think you are driving too slow, you're probably still driving too fast.
In many cases on the main drag(s) I turn on my flashers and just ease along while others whizz past. Before long my lane looks like a train because of all the other vehicles that fell in behind me with their flashers on.

When I lived in Greensboro in the summer it was obvious the only flat places were man made but one snowey day it became obvious there's a whole buncha stop signs at the bottom of all those hills. That year there was an ice storm that just shelac'd middle North Carolina. The place was entombed under ice. I had told the boss I'd not be at work the next day if it happened. The day after that I did drive to work and my goodness it was like driving a samboni getting there. A 30 minute commute was an hour and a half but I made it without issue in a 2wd Chevy S-10. Just keep repeating to yourself "the turtle beats the rabbit everytime"……
 

idleprocess

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My rule of thumb with driving in perlilous conditions is if you think you are driving too slow, you're probably still driving too fast.
In many cases on the main drag(s) I turn on my flashers and just ease along while others whizz past. Before long my lane looks like a train because of all the other vehicles that fell in behind me with their flashers on.
In 2013 the Dallas area experienced one of the wort series of ice storms I've seen that left the region coated in thick sheets of ice. For about a week this cycle of sleet overnight, clear days with highs right around freezing to start to melt the ice followed by a sharp drop in temperatures around dusk and subsequent re-freezing produced what was dubbed cobblestone ice which was bad enough on the roads, downright treacherous on bridges and over culverts.

I had to go to work through that hell every day. Early on, driving in on the mercifully vacant freeway at perhaps 20 MPH, I had not one but two vehicles whoosh past at something close to the 65MPH limit. The second vehicle spun out on the sweeping curve we were on about 200 yards in front of me - mercifully onto a flat shoulder where there was some possibility of self-recovery. As I was exiting, I saw the first vehicle in a much worse way that was going to require a tow truck.
 

bykfixer

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Ha, I remember tip toeing down a grade of an on ramp and where I reached a point where the ramp met the highway was a long sweeping left curve. As I went past a yield sign I see this fellow in a Chevy Blazer start to spin in front of me. As he was spinning I see the guy was taking a sip of coffee from his cup then "wham" hits a guardrail on the right side as I eased past. I see in my rear viwe he bounces off the gurdrail behind me and "wham" hits the other guardrail on the left side.

It caused me to wonder if that is what it's like at a NASCAR race on a big speedway and I was the guy running in 4th who ended up winning. Yet the guy in the Blazer was so freaking cool he was actually drinking from his cup while crashing. And that caused me to wonder 'did I just watch Kyle Petty or Bobby Labonte wipe out on the piece of interstate I commuted on each day'. lol.

They said we had gotten 6" of ice. All I know was everything outdoors was covered in at least 2" of the stuff. Another thing I thought was odd was 50 miles north they had gotten all rain. I think it was 2003.
 

scout24

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For 20 plus years, I was on call after regular shift to work during winter weather. I lived, by choice and financial necessity, 50 minutes north of my shop. We would only get called in when there was already 3" on the ground, or heavy icing, and if more was expected. No matter they're calling for 8-12", no call until 3" on the ground. I had some amazingly memorable commutes, usually at night. Start snowing at noon, drive home at 3:30pm, get called back in at 7pm. No way to run a railroad. Did it in FWD cars, RWD cars, didn't have 4wd for most of that time. Fun times. My oldest has now lived in Buffalo for the last 8 years and has some good stories too... 😊
 

Poppy

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My grandson is a competitive dancer. Being the lead dancer in a large group performance is a BIG deal. The school he went to had a lot of talented people. As is the case in life, politics often plays a role, so it is important to show dedication. Absence is a BIG no-no.

Freezing rain was predicted, and I refused to take him, and for some reason my daughter couldn't. Some other dancer's father offered to pick him up and take him. When it was time to bring him home, the father was no where to be found, so it was up to my daughter or me.

Although my daughter's car was 4WD, and mine RWD, I decided to take mine. Living on the NE coast of New Jersey, there are a lot of hills running North and South that must have been created by the shifting Earth's crust. At any rate, the main East and West roads are often closed to traffic when there is snow, no less when there is freezing rain. I had decided to take the long way home, which included one long uphill grade, all the while, hoping that no one gets stuck in front of me, because If I stopped, there would be no getting going again. It is important to know the topography of the town you live in.

At one point, on flat level ground, a line of cars came to a stop at a blinking traffic light, that was knocked down. I was only doing about 5 MPH, and slid about 10 feet. Oh... Boy! I had to go around three cars, that gently crashed into each other. I think that was the last time I drove in freezing rain.

Fortunately, I am one of those drivers who leave extra stopping space whenever I am driving, under ALL conditions.

A number of times, I avoided having someone rear-end me, because I had that extra buffer, and I could see in my rear view mirror that he wasn't going to stop in time, and I rolled up an extra 10 -15 feet. Once that wasn't enough, and I got rear ended anyway, but that extra stopping distance made me get hit at 5 MPH instead of probably 30 MPH. But because I crawled up to the bumper of the car in front of me, I tapped him, and broke the plastic license plate holder of my car. Fortunately there were no injuries.
 

KITROBASKIN

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Can't remember how many times on icy roads a vehicle driver behind me getting irate because I see a red light up ahead and am coasting to avoid a full stop...

How about snow chains/cables?
Toyota says warranty is void if I put chains on the front tires, but I used to (v-bar) chain up all 4 tires with my '68 Chevy stepside 4X4 to negotiate our 1 mile of chunky hilly private (dirt and lot of rock) road; Such great control compared to having chains only on back tires. The issue then was high center. Had to back up, shovel the snow from the between and ahead of the front tires to blast on until another high center. Typically, if we knew significant snow was coming, I'd park the Chevy at the highest point at the end of the road and make track all the way to the state highway (helping the main trunk of the road for neighbors as well).
 

Poppy

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During my driving years of 1970-1976 I lived in a densely populated urban area. I had to park on the street. The snow plows had no where to put the snow, so they plowed cars into their parking spots. People would clean off their car, and dig themselves out.

There, one learns how to rock a car out of ice and snow. I always kept a flat bladed shovel in my trunk, a tow rope, and strap on chains. Not all wheels have slots that allows one to pass the strap through them.

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Often one would plow into a spot, that was not well cleared, and in the morning rock your way out.

I laugh, now when I am not satisfied with my driveway until all of the ice and snow is gone.
 

Poppy

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Here's a tip:
In a metropolitan area, there would be a pile of snow in front and behind your car. If you park on a hill, don't do what most do; don't parallel park and have the nose of the car near the front pile. Invariably, you'll need to back up, up hill top make your escape, and you might get stuck. Instead, pass the parking spot, and back into it one quick swipe. If your car is still on a bit of an angle, so be it. This way when you want to get out, you can do it in one quick pass, going down hill. (y)
 

Duster1671

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As others have commented, snow tires are indeed made from softer rubber than all-seasons or summer tires. Rubber hardness varies with temperature, so starting with a softer rubber means the snows remain more pliable when it's cold. It also means they wear much faster at higher temperatures, don't handle quite as well, and decrease gas mileage.

I have mine mounted on separate wheels (steel wheels that are less prone to getting clogged with snow and going out of balance) and swap them for all-seasons at the end of the winter.

The softer rubber is just one of many features that make snow tires grip much better on slick roads.

It's honestly a little baffling that AWD is so much more popular in New England than snow tires. I guess a lot of people don't want the hassle of buying and storing a second set of tires and doing swaps twice a year. Plus, the auto manufacturers have done a good job of convincing the public of the "safety" of AWD. Looking at you, Subaru ;)
 

idleprocess

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All season tires are a curiosity in the most of the south and winter tires positively unheard of. I'm thankful that I am no longer obligated to trek to the office every single workday and have chosen to drive on ice all of once this February during the massive winter storm that all but shut down the state.

Speaking of hills ... once circa 2003 I was driving home in my 5spd Ford Ranger one evening where there had been a surprise sleet storm in the afternoon and was forced to come to a stop on the one major hill on the route, headed uphill. I recall having the foresight to time the stop such that I applied the brakes about the moment that forward momentum ceased, minimizing the opportunity for slippage. When traffic started moving again I waited for a moment then ... guessed ... how much throttle to apply when I released the clutch. I lucked out and found a point within the range between stalling the engine and spinning out the rear tires - likely a benefit of the otherwise unloved anemic 4cyl engine in that model.

Plus, the auto manufacturers have done a good job of convincing the public of the "safety" of AWD. Looking at you, Subaru ;)
I resemble that remark. But to be fair, I bought the vehicle not so much for AWD as I did for it not being FWD. And snow/ice are a perhaps biannual event in my region.
 

aznsx

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While we're on the subject of equipment, there's one other point to be made. These "STUDLESS ICE AND SNOW" tires which came along in the past decade or so are a very different animal from 'your Father's' 'snow tires', which were largely worthless on ice. In the past, it was studded tires or chains only for ice. (BTW, the all-caps technique seems to be the only thing that consistently works to defeat the God-awful 'auto-correct' function I get using this system. I'm not yelling:) )
 

pnwoutdoors

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What was your first experience driving on ice or snow?

Do you have any tips?

Best tip, I'd say: "Slow and steady wins the race." IOW, slow inputs, nothing jerky or quickly done. Take your time. Among other things, the general "Basic Speed Law" severely applies, in situations like vastly-reduced grip and control.

Another great tip, I'd say: Never be driving while fiddling with a cell phone or other device. Attention deficit kills, particularly quickly in loss-of-grip situations like ice and snow. Turn the devices off and stick to job #1: getting there safely.

For learning, I'd say a wide open parking lot is perfect. Of course, they're owned by somebody, so there's the liability threat to the owner(s) to be considered. Still, there's nothing like trying something 100's of times until you get it right. Push the limits a little, then see what happens ... then deal with it. Again and again, until learning the right responses, right adjustments, right amount of throttle, brake and steering inputs. Eventually, a perceptive drive'll get it.

While I grew up (up through teen years) in a relatively sunny area, every chance I got I headed into the hills for sledding, skiing. Enjoyed the opportunities to find an off-the-beaten-track country road where I could toy with the conditions and the car's "feel" on the road. Never had such an opportunity back home. Through the next couple of decades, I lived in a spot with nasty winters in the hills, frosty conditions where I lived, and lots of critters/crud in the road during all seasons. Learned to drive through practically every condition, and had lots of practice. Did a good number of instructor-led "track days" at nearby racetracks, learning how to deal with the car's limits in a variety of situations. (Wasn't with ice and snow, but those skills have translated moderately well, enhancing what had already become pretty decent ice+snow skills.)

One thing I have never, ever skimped on is: the right tires. (Could probably buy a decent two year old car, for the price of tires I have bought over the decades.) I've always kept an eye on them, always rotated them frequently, always replaced the moment ~10% reduction in general grip could be felt (from new), irrespective of tread depth (which is a poor indicator of grip). Pretty useful steps, generally. Steps that get deadly vital, when it comes to wintry conditions and the grip issues that can occur.

In nearly 50yrs of driving, I've only gone off the road once, and that was while creeping along at 18mph in a 45mph zone on a mountain road, in anticipation of lost grip in icy/snowy conditions. Hit a hidden patch of black ice and just continued right through the corner into a big snow bank. Was driving gingerly, slow inputs and all, had AWD and great snow tires, but it still happened. So, halved the speed again, until I was out of the area with shadow zones on the road, lots of corners, little snow on top. Once I got back to the more heavily-snowed-over areas, things were back to normal icy/snowy grip.
 

pnwoutdoors

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Fresh ice tires are best. Consider that the other driver is possibly going to do something irrational because of panic. Anticipate and concentrate. Experiment in a safe location. Turn into spins to gain traction again; hopefully you have planned in advance that it could happen. Stay at home whenever possible by planning in advance. Avoid those 4X4 weekend warriors who think they can drive faster than everyone else because of 4 wheel drive. Typically they take longer to stop because of their unloaded pickup trucks.

Ice is funny. Can be so slick that practically no tire will find any grip, unless its well-studded. Merely having sufficient sipes doesn't guarantee a thing, though the "right" tire compound with tons of ice sipes helps.

Currently have a set of the Nokian WR G4 "all-weather" tires on my own vehicle. Year 'round set, for me. It's got a somewhat de-tuned winter compound that can stand up to summer use. Comes with a 60Kmi UTQG tread life warranty. Amazing grip in the winter, even on icier and thick-snow situations. Not quite a Hakkapeliitta level of grip, but close. Am dealing with temps in the teens and twenties, right now, with ice and snow all over. Plenty of people have over cooked the corners and slammed into ditches, mindlessly going about the driving as though nothing's changed. Of course, invariably, they've still got "summer" tires on and refused to moderate their driving speeds and inputs.
 

pnwoutdoors

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You need snow tires. Not all season, not 3 peak snow rated tires, but actual snow tires. Blizzaks. General Altimax. Nokians. If you think you're ok on all seasons because your car passed inspection back in the spring, please stay home. Snow tires. New snow tires. Two seasons at most on them.

Wise words, there.

Best snow tires I've ever had, for a car: Dunlop WinterSport 3D, first season. By end of season two, they'd begun to fade a little. Third winter season was probably half the grip of those brand new tires. Have had Blizzaks, Nokians. These Dunlops were every bit as good ... for most of two seasons (<20Kmi).
 

Poppy

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Best tip, I'd say: "Slow and steady wins the race." IOW, slow inputs, nothing jerky or quickly done. Take your time. Among other things, the general "Basic Speed Law" severely applies, in situations like vastly-reduced grip and control.

Another great tip, I'd say: Never be driving while fiddling with a cell phone or other device. Attention deficit kills, particularly quickly in loss-of-grip situations like ice and snow. Turn the devices off and stick to job #1: getting there safely.
That is a great tip!!!
 

KITROBASKIN

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So true regarding staying focussed when treachery is under foot. I expect no radio and no talking when things get super slick; lightning response WITHOUT over-correction is the order of the day, and being able to hear what the motor and wheels are doing does not hurt either.
 

jabe1

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Best snow tires I’ve had mere Gislaved frosts, fantastic, but only good for a few seasons if you leave them on. I always tried to have a second set of wheels and would swap them out in my driveway before a storm.
I’ve lived in the Cleveland area most of my life so I have experienced most types of crap road conditions.
Slow down
Stay alert
Ice will laugh at your 4wd
 

Lynx_Arc

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One simple thing I forgot to mention, and not sure anyone else has already is when you start to lose traction you need to steer into the direction your vehicle is going and may need to take your foot off the gas and stop braking until you regain traction.
 
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