When grip matters most
Winter driving can be a matter of life and death. Do it right, and you’ll reach your destination with a minimum of difficulty and delay. Get it wrong and you could find yourself diverting to a different destination — in the back of an ambulance.
Obvious advice is everywhere at this time of the year, things like making sure to remove vision-obscuring snow from your screen, and clearing snow from you footwear before you attempt to operate your car’s pedals. But what really counts is grip: how well you control your tires’ traction on the road.. think of it as a kind of currency.
Grip credits are lost every time an aggressive input is made to the throttle, steering, brakes or gear change. You lose the game as soon as wheels start to spin or lock or slide. You’ll see plenty of people spinning wheels on the rev limiter trying to get up a hill – but you’re better than those people. Whatever car, truck or tires you have, the techniques are the same.
Let’s start with the throttle – be super gentle. Don’t use it all as you don’t need it. If you feel the driven wheels spinning, ease off.
Gears – start off in second if you can, auto transmissions often have a winter setting so make use of it. Change up early, keep the revs low. The lower the better.
Brakes – don’t stamp on them, sure you have ABS but this is a reactive system so it’s much better not to trigger it in the first place. Definitely don’t get in the habit of ABS saving your skin, but do use it as an indication your approaching the limits of grip. Leave a lot more room than you normally do. Now ease off even further.
Steering – turn the wheel slowly, if you find the car is going straight on while steering, don’t wind on the lock further but momentarily straighten out to regain control then turn in again. Now slow down.
Electronic traction aids – keep them on, your not better than them. The only occasion you might try turning off traction control is if you’re stuck in deep snow and its intervention is hindering progress.
If you do lose control this is likely to occur in s number of different ways. Too much throttle and you’ll spin the wheels which is easily corrected by easing off. Brake too hard and you might lock up, so ease off the brakes before reapplying more gently. If you lose control in a corner, this will be a real test of your car control, so keep the steering wheels pointing in the direction you want to go and ease off.
In short, be sensible, slow down and take it easy. If your feeling keen, why not consider a low traction driving course, they’re great fun and you’ll learn a lot. Good luck this winter, and if this all makes you nervous better stay at home!