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Driving in snow and on ice isn't what it used to be

2892 Views 11 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  Stretch44875
Not really Bolt-specific but more remarking on how times have changed.

We've got late-season (for these parts) snow here so I took my son out for some practice in less than ideal conditions, in our Bolt as it still has snow tires on and it seemed only fair not to throw him onto the public streets with slippery tires.

When it comes to telling somebody how to cope with snow and ice it seems as though there's not much to do anymore, other than learn how the car intervenes and to be ready for for how that feels. We set up with plenty of space and went through a number of maneuvers that would have resulting in big excursions in a pre-augmented vehicle. We were not able to find clear ice with zero traction and unforgiving physics for that case. Short of that it's not possible to get a neophyte driver into a properly formative panic situation because the vehicle itself is so expert at clawing down whatever traction is available from moment to moment.

Drive hard into a curve, throw on brakes and somehow the thing slithers more or less in the intended direction. Panic forward stop and it simply won't yaw or try to trade ends. Eerily effective even as it feels like cheating.

Initial training happened in a parking lot where I did manage to find some nicely packed and refrozen snow, not quite full-on directly-frozen-on-the-surface precip. The car stopped decently hard when I stomped on the brakes yet we were almost unable to stand on the surface when trading positions. How??

The single case that got our kid's attention was hard regen on super low traction surface; I think I heard some brake cylinder action on that but if it's happening, it's a lot less aggressive than when using the pedal. The car failed to slow, in an appropriately terrifying fashion.

I'm not sure if it's worth repeating this with the old Ranger so that our son knows how we had to walk uphill both ways back in days gone by.
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Winter tires are what's mostly responsible for the car keeping composure during your maneuvers in the snow. They make an extreme difference.

That said, traction control and stability control really do make a huge difference in keeping the car in control.

I swerved to avoid a crate in the middle of the freeway in my Prius, and had to sharply correct back to stay off the wall of the bridge; a maneuver that normally would have had me busy for a couple seconds to stamp out the fishtail, but the stability control worked it out within 2 minor steering corrections. That was a lot less eventful than my truck on black ice, when I was taking up the full width of a highway and what seemed like 20 seconds to get the rear end planted back where it belongs.

I say bring out the pickup. If you can control one with a lightweight rearend, you can control anything.
I mostly choose brake or steer, not both. When a bus pulled out in front of me while I was doing 65 mph in a van, I took the soft shoulder on the right and didn't even try to brake. Turned out just fine.
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It's worth taking the car to an abandoned parking lot and hurling it around to see just what you can expect of it. One of these days you may need to brake and steer at the same time.
I spent my youth learning vehicle dynamics. I'll still do a brake/swerve test when I'm on snow/ice to get a sense for the handling, and I repeat every so often if I think conditions may have changed.

Absolutely if at all possible. Pick one, try not to pick two. Sometimes ya have to draw twice. :D
My girlfriend and I were in separate cars going down the same snowy hill. I tried brakes and immediately gave up on that idea as I was headed toward a parked car. Steered around it and spent the rest of the hill slowing best I could, avoiding cars, and finally stopped toward the bottom. My girlfriend stuck to braking and steering, which put her into that first parked car.
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