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Old 01-16-2007, 03:32 AM   #1
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Scary Snow

Today I was driving along this little road that's right along the edge of a lake, with a hill on the other side. As I was driving along (and it was pretty damn snowy out) a bit too fast I hit a pothole that seemed to cause all of my problems. Suddenly, my car was fishtailing. It occurred to me, then, that I really don't have any idea what to do, when winter driving problems appear. It's luck alone that my car is intact at least a half dozen times over, already, and this is only our second snow. I mean, I was sliding backwards down the f'n road! If it weren't for the blind luck that my car stopped, I could've been in the lake, or in the hill, or in another car, or pretty much anywhere but where it was. I was lucky...

So, my questions... In winter driving, sometimes I have to make a turn, and I put on my brakes and the car just slides. My normal response is just to sit on the brakes and turn the wheel, hoping it'll catch my eventually, but I recall one time where I was sliding towards a rock and just sitting on my brakes, praying not to crash. Is there more useful advice for when the wheels can't get traction? Pumping the brakes, maybe? I figured ABS would save me, but it didn't turn on in that case...

Other question, like that turn where I hit the pothole and my car started wildly swingly left and right, my reaction at first was to compensate, which I'm SURE is wrong, because when it starts sliding left, I'd turn right to try to get it back under control, and it only seemed to make things worse. After a moment I just started braking and eventually stopped. Anything better I can do?

In any case, I know I'm sounding like a terrible driver in this thread, but I'm really not that bad... Just in need of some advice. Snow kicks so much ass, but crashing blows.


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Old 01-16-2007, 05:08 AM   #2
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First, are you sure you have ABS? Because from your desciption it doesn't sound that way. (BTW, a few years ago I had a very deep pothole obsurred by snow spin me out too, and only got away by luck - and I wasn't even going too fast. Sometimes luck is all you can count on).
Do you get a pulsing in the pedal from the ABS? If you do then your approach of just standing on the brakes is correct.
If you don't have ABS that's almost a new thread, but briefly you should be pumping the brakes...
Do you have an automatic tranny or a standard? I found that when things start getting iffy I'm better off getting the car in neutral and letting it roll through the problem. Once your front wheels and rear wheels are going different speeds you're no longer driving, you're riding a sled.
And when the snow cooperates get yourself to an unplowed slick parking lot and do some playing around to see how the car reacts.
- I hope you have snow tires too!
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Old 01-16-2007, 05:12 AM   #3
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Other question, like that turn where I hit the pothole and my car started wildly swingly left and right, my reaction at first was to compensate, which I'm SURE is wrong, because when it starts sliding left, I'd turn right to try to get it back under control, and it only seemed to make things worse. After a moment I just started braking and eventually stopped. Anything better I can do?
If your car is skidding you turn INTO the skid. That is you point the wheels in the direction you want the car to go. So if the rear end has slid out to the left you should actually be steering to the left to keep your front wheels pointed down the road. Hope this helps!
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Old 01-16-2007, 07:40 AM   #4
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just remember on snow and ice when ever your wheels are locked up your going to slide strait. Your always better off to pump your brakes if you dont have ABS and if you are trying to take off....dont spin your tires like mad, let off and try to let them slow down and kinda hook up.
And when you go into a skid you DO want to compensate just try to do it GENTLY!!!!! GENTLY is the key!! You want to be smoothe on the ice. Jerking and swerving will make you loose control even worse.

I live up in ALaska and deal with these kind of conditions every day and i drive for a living on top of that.
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Old 01-16-2007, 07:51 AM   #5
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Same thing happened to me, except it was in rainy weather and I was taking a turn too quickly. Thread for that is here, if you're interested. But to summarize, I gently pressed the brakes until it wouldn't go down any further, and slowly turned my wheel to correct myself until it wouldn't go any further. The end result? Nothing. I just sat there and gave up, until the Focus stopped skidding sideways. Luckily the only damage I got out of it was a loosened front sway bar, slightly torn bumper, a dead horn, and a dead passenger side fog light.

I've also experimented with the idea of pumping my brakes, while taking corners. If anything that seemed to make things worse. So I don't think that's a great idea either. I'd only pump my brakes in icy/snowy conditions.

Press the gas? I never really thought of doing this, for fear of flipping the car over or end up oversteering (and crashing at a faster speed than before!). But on the other hand it is a FWD car, so... maybe it would work?

I'd be interested in knowing what to do as well, so I wouldn't have to sit there helplessly and hope I don't hit anything. I really love my Focus, but in some ways I wish it could handle cornering a little better with bumpy roads. It can get very scary at times, especially on a poorly maintained freeway.
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Old 01-16-2007, 08:28 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by StealthGray View Post
First, are you sure you have ABS? Because from your desciption it doesn't sound that way. (BTW, a few years ago I had a very deep pothole obsurred by snow spin me out too, and only got away by luck - and I wasn't even going too fast. Sometimes luck is all you can count on).
Do you get a pulsing in the pedal from the ABS? If you do then your approach of just standing on the brakes is correct.
If you don't have ABS that's almost a new thread, but briefly you should be pumping the brakes...
Do you have an automatic tranny or a standard? I found that when things start getting iffy I'm better off getting the car in neutral and letting it roll through the problem. Once your front wheels and rear wheels are going different speeds you're no longer driving, you're riding a sled.
And when the snow cooperates get yourself to an unplowed slick parking lot and do some playing around to see how the car reacts.
- I hope you have snow tires too!
If he had ABS you would know it. You wouldn't continue to go straight if you had ABS. What it sounds like to me, is the fact that you have all season tires on your car. I would recommend a dedicated snow tire with bad snowy weather. You'll be AMAZED at the grip traction that you have with a tire that's dedicated to a certain application.

The BEST thing you yourself can do, is go into a big open parking lot and test your car out in different situations. make it slide by pulling the e-brake and then try to get back in control. You also NEVER NEVER NEVER hit your brakes in a turn. you will instantly lock up your tires and have absolutely no control over you car. The best thing to is to go SLOW until you're comfortable and can control your car in these situations. I've personally made it a habit not to hit the brakes while during while in turns even in dry conditions. Your tires tend to lock up when you hit the brakes in any turn, just less likely to do it in dry conditions. I bet if you practice these techniques a little more you'll gain confidence and be a all around better driver
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Old 01-16-2007, 08:36 AM   #7
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^
THats a great idea...i learned how to drive my old 2wd on the ice and snow by hours and hours of that......not only did it help me....it was fun :D
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Old 01-16-2007, 11:08 AM   #8
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It's HARD not to hit your brakes though. It's your gut reaction that tells you, "SLOW THE HELL DOWN!!" and you just do it, ya know? I understand what you mean, but what do you do if your car is fishtailing into a hill at the edge of the road? I gently pressed on my brakes (not all the way down) as I was taught to do in that sort of situation, and I still skidded along the edge of the road. UGHH!!
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Old 01-16-2007, 12:16 PM   #9
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I know that feeling !! Focus just keeps going straight. As soon as I let off the brake, I could steer again. Up on the sidewalk between a light post and a sign post.
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Old 01-16-2007, 02:22 PM   #10
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I definitly have ABS, I usually play with that in parking lots and on our street. I've got an automatic transmission. The tires I have are some Goodyear ones, and I really am starting to doubt their potential to handle winter.

I guess I'll have to get a set of snow tires.
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