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advice for people driving on icy roads

 
master steward
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If you are driving on the freeway and there is ice and/or snow, and let's say that you have 2-wheel-drive:  you will be fine.  All you need to do is slow down.  Just go much slower.   Let everybody pass you.  Be one of the slowest vehicles on the road.  

Decades ago I would drive an old volkwagen van (rear wheel drive) and did just fine.   I never looked at a weather report - I would just go when it was time to go.

The freeways are well plowed and sanded.  

You'll be fine.  

Chances are that city streets and county roads will be pretty well cared for.   But that will be the worst of your drive - the less traveled a road is, the less care it will get.   But driving on the freeway will be really easy.  Just go slow.


----

Next up - if you get into a situation where your rig is stuck in snow (or mud), do NOT spin your tires - that just makes things far worse.   Instead you want to give just as much "go" as you can without spinning.


---

If there is water on ice, then pull over for a few hours.   Like, pull over to an exit with a restaurant and just wait there for a few hours.  That sort of thing will get solved soon and you can get back on the road.  



 
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Regarding turning and corners - Drive as if your elderly grandma is in the passenger seat in her Sunday best and is holding a completely full crock pot of chili in her lap.  Be consciously slow with your steering wheel actions or you'll make Grandma spill.

If you live in an area that doesn't allow studded tires, proper snow tires are worth the $$$.  They cost about the same as one auto insurance deductable and give you amazing grip.  Just don't put them on until it's reliably below 40F and take them off in the spring as early as you dare to keep from wearing them out prematurely.  My current set is on its 7th winter.

 
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For those out in the eastern US just now, deep wet snow may be impacting your travel plans.  At such times when stuck up to your axles, follow the time-tested advice of Claudia Schmidt, and ...

"Rock that Sucker"

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LmCc0xnsKVQ
 
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good advice
i remember driving home from blue mountain in a snowstorm with bald tires and whenever i saw some lights approaching behind me i would pull over and let them pass and continue at snail speed
one hill in particular i slowed right down to a crawl at the peak and i was slipping on the way down balancing breaking with not overly breaking. i was glad i did not have any more momentum heading into it
i have become stuck in snow... then tied a bunch of sections of rope through the rim and around the tire making kind of like paddle wheels
it really helps but once you get back onto a dry surface they will become worn down and break off so remove them once you are out of the situation
spruce branches............. remember this one
you may even need to get youre jack out and jack up the tire enough to put a bunch of spruce branches under there
always have a steel shovel and lots of sleeping bags/blankets in case you  need to spend the night

also if you are not experienced... practice... skid school.. do doughnuts in a big parking lot with no obstacles and get used to loosing control and regaining control
 
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I have said for years that the worst thing a person can do in snow is slam on the breaks and skid out of control or spin the tires thinking that somehow more spinning will make you go faster (or anywhere)

Dead on Paul

Eric
 
M. Phelps
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also maybe keep a container of dry sand in the vehicle with you
 
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I am not known as a slow driver, but I have  a vivid memory of an experience in MN.  I was making a 30 mile drive on ice in MN.   I had probably 6 cars pass me.   As I made my trip, I passed all 6 cars ....they were all in the ditch at the side of the road.  Yes, slow down.  

Oh yes, when I am on snow and cannot stop for an intersection, I usually use the bank of snow at the edge of the road to move my vehicle against to slow it down.  If necessary, I will turn into the snowbank.  I have found that hitting a snow bank is less exciting than hitting another vehicle.
 
M. Phelps
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great advice.. if you time it right you can get back out of the snowbank without becoming stuck as well
it might cause some damage to fenders etc but at least you wont have to make an insurance claim
 
M. Phelps
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you cant always follow the tire tracks because they might lead to the ditch!

one time i was following a truck ... there were over a hundred cars in the ditch this drive
the truck accelerated and i could not keep up... all of the sudden it was like warp drive in star trek with all the snowflakes (night time)
couldnt see the road at all
luckily they had to slow back down passing a bunch of stopped cars and i was able to resume following
although i could have easily followed them into the ditch
higher vehicles do have a bit of an advantage in seeing the road in this situation
 
M. Phelps
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definitely go slow... but also try to keep youre momentum up where needed
like a little downhill then little uphill..gain a bit of speed if it is straight
time it so you slow back down by the time you reach the crest

if you bog down in a patch of deep snow
like packed under the vehicle
you are going to have to get out youre steel shovel and remove that snow
also shovel a path to gain some momentum
 
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Please remember the coefficient of friction between ice and rubber is near zero, and a 4 wheel drive still only has 4 wheel stop like the rest of us 2 wheel drivers.
 
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Mike Haasl wrote:Regarding turning and corners - Drive as if your elderly grandma is in the passenger seat in her Sunday best and is holding a completely full crock pot of chili in her lap.  Be consciously slow with your steering wheel actions or you'll make Grandma spill.


YES!  Everything is slow and steady. Try to time it so you don't have to stop at all, if you can. If you do have to stop, break early and geeeeently. Start moving again sloooooooow and gently. And watch out for others doing the same so you don't expect them to stop and go like they normally would (or driving like idiots as others have mentioned).

Nothing is worth speeding to, because if you do speed, you might not make it. Everyone else is going to be late too.
 
paul wheaton
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snow tires are far more important than all wheel drive

 
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What I have learned about driving in snow in modern, high tech cars.  

If the snow gets deep, about 3" or more is deep by todays standards, you have to make sure your traction control is turned off   Traction Control allows the computer to apply the breaks to prevent spinning the tires while you are trying to spin the tires to get through the deep snow.  Turning off the traction control allows you to step on the gas and get some extra power to the tires to occasionally spin them when needed to get through the deep spots or up a hill.

The computer controls the throttle, not the gas peddle (or your foot) so when you step on the gas there is a computer generated lag in acceleration which makes it difficult to get unstuck if you happen into deep snow.

The computer controls the transmission so if you are trying to rock the car to get unstuck the computer will hesitate and make the rocking part very difficult or impossible to accomplish.

And the big warning, if you have a big diesel pick-up and you are on a snow packed road and you come to an intersection and step on the breaks to stop the torque of the engine will keep the rear wheels turning but the computer for the antilock breaks will keep the front wheels from stopping so you will not be able to stop unless you shift into neutral.  (that was learned the exciting way)

Moral of the story, if it is a nasty, snowy, icy day leave the new car home and drive the old 1970's Chrysler or Chevy.  The bigger, the heavier, the better.

Good luck.  Stay safe.
 
Michael Fundaro
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paul wheaton wrote:snow tires are far more important than all wheel drive



What the salesman doesn't tell you is that all wheel drive is only maybe 2 wheel drive.  One front wheel may spin and one rear wheel may spin, but without locking axels you will not have all wheel drive.

Same for 4 wheel drive.  If you did not order locking axles on a 4 wheel drive truck you will not have 4 wheels providing power to the road.  You will have one front wheel spinning and the opposite rear wheel spinning, giving you power to 2 wheels.  I know this because I ordered locking axles on my Chevy Avalanche.  One time on a very rainy and muddy day I stopped on a dirt shoulder off the side of the 2 lane highway.  When I wanted to go again both rear wheels quickly spun and sunk down to the axle.   I shifted to 4 wheel drive and promptly both front wheels dug in and it sunk down too, resting the frame flat on the ground.  This would have never happened without locking axles.  Just because it says 4 wheel drive doesn't mean you will get power to all 4 wheels at the same time.
 
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For many years I drove a 2-wheel drive pickup and made do when it snowed and I had to get somewhere. Most of those years I had no idea what snow tires were; no one here uses them. Change wheels twice a year the video says? Last week we almost hit 70 degrees here and this weekend it is supposed to hit 4 degrees. Up and down all winter, depending on the whim of the jetstream. It is interesting how different areas have different norms. Here, there seems to be two main camps of people: either terrified of snow and driving 5-10mph, or the "I didn't even turn on the 4WD" type, lol. Slowing things down is definitely a good idea, but here we definitely have such a thing as too slow, and many people do it. I'd say they cause about as many problems as the people going too fast. In flatter regions, I imagine there's pretty much no limit to how slow you can go, but as mentioned above, in some areas momentum is of the utmost importance. Here it is common to see a vehicle ride its brakes all the way down a hill, and then try to slowly climb the next hill 5-10mph. They slip and slide all over the road, and sometimes they simply can't make it. They either eventually slide off into the ditch when it can't climb anymore, or have to stop, blocking the road while they try to figure something out, typically going back or calling for someone to come get them. If they had just maintained a little momentum, they could have made it. I remember back in 2WD days, on the steepest, longest hills I had to hit it just right and as I climbed the hill, slowly back off the throttle so that by the time I crested it, I was almost at idle. This almost always prevented any spinning. Another thing that seems to get a lot of people in trouble is trying to accelerate or even hold steady on curves. I learned to take curves with no throttle, and it helps a lot. Automatic transmissions seem to get a lot of people in trouble, too (not to mention cruise control!). I don't like automatics for mechanical reasons, but a manual transmission feels much safer on snow, especially when stopping. You don't need the brakes much like Sonja mentions. I also got into a habit of constantly testing the traction. When taking off, I spin the tires to test how slick the road is. If safe, I lock up the brakes when stopping to test it, or goose the throttle in a straight area. The road may get slicker as you progress, and I want all the information I can get.

I've only really had experience with two vehicles on snow, so I can't say how accurate the video is in its assertion. But I can say this: about ten years ago I bought my Jeep TJ. There is no comparison whatsoever between it in 4WD and the 2WD pickup. It's not like 2+2=4, it's more like 2+2=10! With plain all terrain tires from a dead stop, I can floor it on a layer of snow that would just spin the tires of most vehicles and it will literally lay you back against the seat. I can slam on the brakes and it will test out the seatbelt equally as much. I am not exaggerating when I say it is almost as if there is no snow there when driving. I was flabbergasted the first time I drove it on snow (and mud).  I thought the snow must not have been too bad, so I decided to try it in 2WD before I left the driveway one time...I couldn't keep it on the driveway! It was worse than the truck! I put it in 4WD, and it was once again like the snow wasn't there. I can't say enough good things about it on snow. It's as if it was specifically made for it. I've read from people in colder climes that they do fine as long as the snow is no deeper than about three feet, though I've never tried it. They say then you need something to keep snow from blocking the radiator if it gets any deeper.
 
Mike Haasl
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Great advice Jordan!  Hills change a lot of the math.  And really slow drivers can gum up the works pretty badly.  

In my area we're driving on packed snow that is basically white ice for about 3 months of the year.  So the snow tires are a bit easier to schedule install and removal.
 
Jordan Holland
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Mike Haasl wrote:Great advice Jordan!  Hills change a lot of the math.  And really slow drivers can gum up the works pretty badly.  

In my area we're driving on packed snow that is basically white ice for about 3 months of the year.  So the snow tires are a bit easier to schedule install and removal.


Consistency would be nice for sure! Here, it can be anything. I'd say most commonly we get a snow forecast and the road crews treat the roads with liquid calcium chloride or rock salt. Then it usually rains and washes it all away before it transitions to sleet and then snow. If there's no rain, we usually have snow partially melted by the treatment into a slushy mix that can be quite heavy. Sometimes it re-freezes, sometimes it gets slushier, sometimes...who knows! I think the rarity and varied conditions are a big part of what scares many people here into not learning how. I have often wondered if it would be best if they just left the roads alone, save maybe plowing.
 
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M. Phelps wrote:

also if you are not experienced... practice... skid school.. do doughnuts in a big parking lot with no obstacles and get used to loosing control and regaining control



I found cross-country skiing was actually good practice sometimes. There have been a few occasions where I couldn't control the car, but I could at least make it slide in the right direction by treating the wheels like skis.
 
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The tip that I don't see mentioned much is gearing down. When I had an auto, I'd lock it in 2nd on backroads, and if I let off the gas, benefit from immediate engine braking. With a manual I just drive 1 gear lower.


I've never had any issues with snow, because I don't drive like an idiot, but I still avoid driving in foul weather when practical.

Why?

The other people.

I've watched somebody lose control coming the other way on a highway, come fully into my lane, and then overcorrect into a spin ending in their ditch...

If I had been about 4 seconds farther along the road, the 11,000lbs of my loaded minibus would have made a real mess of their 3000lb minivan at a combined speed of around 140K.

Instead of helping the unhurt but terrified mother and her 10y/o out of the ditch, I would probably have been at least slightly injured; they may well have been dead.



I am fortunate that I have pretty full control over my schedule, so it is.usually very easy for me to work around the weather with effectivrly no cost. When this isn't the case, I drive through it, but if it doesn't cost anything, why not reschedule?


I will admit I get a kick out of counting the big lifted pickups in the ditch, though...
 
Michael Fundaro
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D Nikolls wrote:The tip that I don't see mentioned much is gearing down. When I had an auto, I'd lock it in 2nd on backroads, and if I let off the gas, benefit from immediate engine braking. With a manual I just drive 1 gear lower.



This is great information.  When I still lived in Michigan my "Winter Ride", a '76 Volare, was an automatic with a console shifter.  It was perfect for easily downshifting as I approached a red light or stop sign.  2nd, then 1st, while pumping the breaks, then neutral when it was time to stop.  The console shifter just made it easier to downshift when needed in the snow.  I always downshifted with prior vehicles but it just didn't seem as convenient with the shifter on the column.  
Winter Ride?  Many people with a good car, or classic car, had a winter ride so the the good car didn't get crashed or exposed to the road salt.  My summer ride was a '72 Chevy C-10 pickup, it came out of Phoenix and never saw snow until I moved to Las Vegas.  I was livid having to drive it to work in the snow knowing it had NEVER been in the the snow ever in it's lifetime prior to moving to the desert.

ONE LAST THING I WANT TO MENTION.  If the weather is bad, and the roads are bad, IT IS YOUR RESONSIBILITY TO SLOW DOWN WHILE DRIVING.  Nevada has a law, and most other states probably have something similar, "Duty to decrease speed and use due care" when certain conditions exist.  What does this mean?  If the speed limit on the freeway is 65 but traffic is backed up and stopped you are not allowed to drive 65mph, right?  If it is raining cats and dogs and bovine and there is an inch of water on the road you need to snow down.  If it is snowing you might need to slow down for some situations.  If there is a blizzard and you can't see 50 feet you need to snow down so you can stop in time if something is stopped in the road in front of you.  AND, IF THE ROADS ARE SNOWY AND ICY YOU MAY NEED TO ACTUALLY STOP AND PULL OVER AN PARK IN A PARKING LOT UNTIL THE ROAD CONDITIONS IMPROVE.  Just because you "need to go home", or just because you "need to go to work" doesn't mean it is safe and legal to drive on the roads.  As I mentioned in the Nevada law, if it is unsafe for you to drive 5mph because the roads are covered in packed snow or ice than it is not safe and it is illegal for you to drive 5mph, and it may even be illegal for you to drive at all.  If you are going 1mph and you can't stop and you slide off the road into a ditch or a parked car or a kid on the sidewalk ......IT IS YOUR FAULT.  Even if your state doesn't have a law written that way, if the roads are bad and you decide to drive and you crash into a ditch or car or kid there is no one else to blame.

Use your brain.  Drive safe.  Or, stay home or stay at work or stay at the restaurant until conditions improve.  I have done this on a few occasions.  Even with 4 wheel drive I pulled off the freeway and ate lunch for a couple hours until the roads were plowed and improved, and I pulled off the freeway and parked under an overpass until the rain and hail stopped so it was safe to drive again, and one time I pulled into a rest stop and took a nap until the nasty thunderstorm passed and I was able to see the road again.

Be Safe.
 
Michael Fundaro
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Worst case scenario.  If you are going to the cabin for a weekend or you know there is a bad storm coming and you "need to get somewhere" you can always stud the tires to get better traction on ice or packed snow conditions.
https://www.amazon.com/Motorcycle-Racing-Tire-Screws-Studs/dp/B0821TPW2Q/ref=sr_1_7?dchild=1&keywords=tire+studs&qid=1612425697&sr=8-7
Use a drill driver to install, and after the roads clear you can take them out.  250 will be about 60 per tire.  1/2" will hold in the tire but wont put a hole for the air to lead out.
If you live in the Great White North this may be something to have on hand.  PS: keep the battery charged on the drill driver.
 
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Lots of excellent advice in previous posts (based on my direct experience). And yes, the biggest hazard is other people being either too timid or too aggressive. In snow/ice country, once you drive with proper winter tires you never go back to 3-season tires.

I have deep reservations about DIY studs for a road vehicle though. I see a lot of risk of damaging the tire or throwing bullets at vehicles behind you, even at reduced highway speed.

One trick I have used is to drop the tire pressure to get a little more flex and traction. However, once you get back on the Autobahn your handling will be negatively affected -- have the means to add air close at hand.
 
Mike Haasl
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Studs are illegal in some states as well so be sure they're allowed before you try them out.  My in-laws can have studded tires and they are awesome.
 
Douglas Alpenstock
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Mike Haasl wrote:Studs are illegal in some states as well so be sure they're allowed before you try them out.  My in-laws can have studded tires and they are awesome.


That's true. Those legal studs are installed at the tire shop, when the tires are brand new.

My concern is with the DIY offroad studs referenced above. These are a different thing entirely.
 
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Winter Tires: I prefer this term as more accurate; these are for when the average temp is 7 C or below. These tires are made of softer rubber so the don't turn into Hockey pucks and go hard, eliminating traction. Some balk at the cost but they extend the life of "summer tires" so after time it becomes little to no extra cost.

Check your insurance, not having winter tires could affect a claim; same as "driving with undue care and attention" for not slowing down to adapt to weather conditions. Most new car computers log this info; insurance Co.'s can access this info easily.

HAZARD LIGHTS: PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE USE THESE IF YOU ARE DRIVING SLOWLY! Too many folks driving safely (slowly) or pulled over for safety during a weather event forget this and are hit due to low visibility.

Weight: ensure your tank is full if winter weather is coming, both for weight AND to keep warm if stuck. If you have rear wheel drive, add some sand bags or clay kitty litter to the rear or trunk; also great if you need to spread some for traction.

STAY HOME: short of a medical emergency, if the roads are bad, just don't use them, there is always tomorrow...

 
D Nikolls
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Lorinne Anderson wrote:
HAZARD LIGHTS: PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE USE THESE IF YOU ARE DRIVING SLOWLY! Too many folks driving safely (slowly) or pulled over for safety during a weather event forget this and are hit due to low visibility.



Excellent point. And for the FSMs sake, turn your running lights on if if they aren't automatic. Make sure you know if they are automatic!

Both my trucks are, for better or worse, lightish grey. They are NOT easy to see in blowing snow if I should fail to do the above, being somewhere between the colours of pavement, dirt, and snow!
 
Douglas Alpenstock
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I'm still trying to figure out universal sign language for "please turn on your lights, you @##$%^& dingbat, before you get somebody killed!"

In the nicest way possible, of course. Smiling all the while. The Finger accomplishes nothing.
 
Michael Fundaro
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Mike Haasl wrote:Studs are illegal in some states as well so be sure they're allowed before you try them out.  My in-laws can have studded tires and they are awesome.



If you are driving to a remote location, say a cabin or ski resort, and it is possible for a storm to hit you should be prepared.   If you do not buy chains or cables for your tires what should you do if an ice storm hits the roadways?  Option 1 is stay where you are and wait for the weather to improve and the roads to be cleared and salted/sanded.  Option 2 is to make sure your vehicle is safe to drive on the snow packed icy roads, and without chains/cables that would require studs in the tires.   If you planned ahead and had the studs and drill driver it would take about 20 minutes to stud the tires to make your travel safer.  If the roads were that bad you would not, or should not, be driving so fast that the studs would "fly" out of the tires, and traffic would be so thin there would be very few cars on the highway to be so close to any said projectile.  If you are not prepared it really doesn't matter if other people are prepared and have studs in their tires, you wont be able to keep up and you will be crashed off the side of the road soon enough.

In over 35 years of driving in bad, snow, icy weather only twice have I either needed chains or studs.  I was prepared both times and tire chains made the drive safe and easy.  If I didn't have chains I would have studded the tires if so prepared.   The only other option is parking and waiting for the storm to pass and the plow trucks to clear the roads.

Be prepared, or don't be prepared.  What is best for you and your family?
 
Mike Haasl
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Douglas Alpenstock wrote:I'm still trying to figure out universal sign language for "please turn on your lights, you @##$%^& dingbat, before you get somebody killed!"

In the nicest way possible, of course. Smiling all the while. The Finger accomplishes nothing.


Around here I think the signal is to turn your own lights on and off a couple times.  When I do that I tend to get about 1 in 8 that actually turn them on.  But I try...  Maybe there's another signal I don't know about.

Flashing the lights is also a signal that there's a cop hiding somewhere in the direction you're headed.  So that particular signal means different things in different conditions.
 
Douglas Alpenstock
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Michael Fundaro wrote:In over 35 years of driving in bad, snow, icy weather only twice have I either needed chains or studs.  I was prepared both times and tire chains made the drive safe and easy.


Fair enough. We may disagree about DIY studs, but we definitely agree on the importance of being prepared.

Around here, we operate in snow and ice for 5-6 months of the year. We put on proper winter-rated tires and carry on with life. For major trips, the forecast and road reports are carefully evaluated. More than once, the decision to stay home turned out to be the correct one.
 
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That consumer reports video was fairly inaccurate and misleading. 2 completely different vehicles results in an apples and oranges comparison. They should have used an awd crv against a 2wd crv.
If you live in snow country there is no such thing as all season tires. There are 3 season tires and winter tires. I love studs, but have driven on the high dollar studless tires and they are great on ice or packed snow. In deep snow I prefer studs with deep lug tread. Hard to beat Nokia tires. On plowed and sanded roads that are bare pavement, studded tires give you less traction. I’ve been driving in serious winter conditions for over 4 decades. Even did a bit of ice racing years ago (crazy fun with fellow lunatics!). I’ve driven rear wheel drive, front wheel drive, all wheel drive and four wheel drive, and all with different types of tires. I’ll take a good awd (Subaru, Audi) with summer tires over a front wheel drive with studded tires all day long. Put that Camry from the video at an intersection, stopped and headed uphill. On ice. The awd with summer tires will fare much better when the light turns green. So many variables. In deep snow, clearance is more valuable than traction. If you are plowing snow with your front bumper and underside of the car, traction is far less useful than having ground clearance. A tall 2 wd truck would do better than a low to the ground awd. If you have rear wheel drive, tire chains only work if you have at least one front wheel chained up too, or you have terrible steering unless it’s a heavy front end vehicle. If you chain up the front tires of a front wheel drive vehicle, be ready for fishtailing. The automatic chains on school busses are super cool. Wish those could be designed into all vehicles.
When I was younger I did a fair amount of interstate driving on the Mass Pike and NYS Thruway. Being the slowest driver is not good (the fastest and slowest drivers are always the most dangerous). If everyone is passing you, either your vehicle or driving skills are not ready for winter. You are a hazard and far more likely to get rear ended or cause an accident. Yes, the faster drivers may be to blame, but what difference does it make if you get in a crash? Better to stay off the road until conditions improve. If it absolutely can’t be avoided, definitely use your hazard flashers as was mentioned earlier. Passing trucks can throw a blinding mess of slush or swirl of snow at your windshield. The best tactic here is if a truck is quickly catching up to you, accelerate as much as safely possible and then as they pass, let off the gas and slow down as much as safely possible. This minimizes the time you are side by side, and lessens the impact of the slush, which can be dramatic and scary if you’re not expecting it.
Winter driving skills are more valuable than any specific tires or vehicle.
 
paul wheaton
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a longer video with more tests

 
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I got my pro-grade driver's licence at age 16 +2 weeks, driving standard on ice.  My main advice is to practice practice practice your skids where you won't go off the road.  Check the traction frequently with a dab on the brakes or a stab on the gas.  Wet ice is the worst, but it keeps improving as the temperature goes down.  Spinning your tires warms them up, adding lubrication you really don't want.  If you are sliding in a car with an automatic transmission, put it in neutral so that the brakes are not fighting the torque converter.   Be very reluctant and cautious  about changing lanes if there are piles of slush between them.  High resistance on one side and little traction will spin you easily.  Twice I have been surprised by black ice on turns, and stayed in control both times because I kept my reflexes sharp.  

One time, a carload of college students went up to Lake Tahoe to ski.  They had a fine day, with new powder steadily falling, and then joined a long line of cars headed for the freeway home.  They saw that everyone was being stopped, and heading back into town.  The cop told them that there was 10" of snow on the road, and it was closed.  A guy in the back called out "But he's from Canada!" indicating the driver.  
"Is that true?" asked the cop.
"Oui, Monsieur, du Montreal."
"Oh, OK then."
They made it, summer tires and all.  
 
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My favorite winter driving experience was while my hubby was driving our 2wd Civic on a mountain road. Just puttin' along, enjoying the beauty. Came upon a guy in a jacked-up Chevy truck with big wide (no tread) street tires stuck in the soft snow. He was sorta upset, what with his babe on the seat next to him and all. Stopped to ask if they needed a hand. He kept sizzling the tires, not going anywhere. I suggested he use his atv loading racks to get traction, which worked at the expense of the racks. He said, "I'm no city boy...I know how to drive in the snow!" That was the last we saw of them...we quietly eased away in our tiny 2wd car, chuckling at the situation!
 
Julie Reed
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People do weird things sometimes, things that seem very counterintuitive. Stopped to help a vehicle stuck in the ditch one night, and it turned out to be an all wheel drive SUV. The lady had the wheel turned as sharply as possible in the direction she wanted to go- back onto the road- so of course the tires just spun. I suggested she straighten the wheel and that would help a lot. So she straightened it out, but as soon as it started to move she cranked the front wheels sharply again! After a couple more attempts at coaching her, I gently suggested maybe I could get it out. She happily exited the vehicle and I backed it straight out onto the road, the same way it had gotten in the ditch to begin with. Even having watched what I did, she still expressed amazement that I had gotten it unstuck so easily.  The best tires in the world and awd can’t compensate for lack of winter driving skills.
 
Jordan Holland
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Another thing I remembered is that a tread pattern with lots of siping does noticeably better in wet and icy conditions. Sipes are those tiny little lines (often zig-zag) in the tread blocks that look so small they could never do anything. I believe they allow the tread blocks to flex and squeegee water away, and I also have a theory that they may get packed with ice/snow and that gives better traction than rubber on ice.
 
Julie Reed
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Here’s a picture of a Michelin X-Ice winter tire, with lots of siping. I’ve driven on a set of these, and they’re pretty nice, though I liked the Blizzaks I had even better. If you live where studded tires aren’t permitted, this is the way to go for winter driving. The downside is that the tread is very soft, and wears out faster on dry pavement. A LOT faster. But, if you have winter driving where it varies from icy roads to dry bare pavement, these give you better traction by far on the dry pavement than you get with studded tires. All snow tries, whether studded or this style (often called ‘studless’) are good for about half their treadlife. After that the studs have worn down or fallen out, and the studless tire’s softer rubber has worn away, exposing the much harder rubber underneath. At that point, the worn studded tire is better because it still has a more aggressive tread pattern. A lot of people in the north seem to pull the remaining studs from the half worn out tires and run them in the summer. That’s ‘ok’ but not ideal, as they are not designed for great traction on bare pavement, wet or dry.
I tend to have a very high opinion of what tires do for a living, so I’ve always replaced them after about 20,000 miles and bought new ones. At that point the old ones can still be sold for decent money, and I feel much safer.
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Michael Fundaro
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Julie Reed wrote:Here’s a picture of a Michelin X-Ice winter tire, with lots of siping.



Ironically, living in the desert I prefer a tire with siping and a good wet weather rating.  In the desert it doesn't rain a lot and the oil and sand builds up on the roads so when it does rain for the first 30 minutes or so the roads are very slippery and wet weather traction is very important.  

But, as you mentioned after the first 50% of the tread life the siping is gone and they are no better than any other tire.  I think you have a good point to buy new tires every couple years and instead of giving your old tires to the tire shop list them for sale on a local classified and get some money for the used tires.  There are plenty of people willing to buy used tires.  I need a set, what do you have and how much to ship to southern Utah?  =-)

 
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