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Driving Advice

Thomas Mallett2013-01-03 15:30:17

Driving advice: Driving in the snow

If you go on a trackday the first thing that any racing driver or instructor will tell you to do is invest some money in your own skill set…not the car’s.

That said I’ll let you in one car mod that will make all the difference before we’re done – and if you’re serious about making progress in the winter period then they’re a must have.

So, what should you do when the white stuff starts to fall?

1. Slow down!

It sounds obvious but it isn’t the ‘getting going’ that causes the problems – it’s the stopping. And, in the snow stopping distances can increase ten-fold.

1. Slow down!

This is, of course, where most 4x4’s fall down. Ask yourself: What does four-wheel-drive allow you to do? Accelerate, stop or go round corners? Yup, it’s only the first one – especially if you have big, wide 20” wheels and tyres attached to your Chelsea tractor – so, slow down even if you’re driving a nice shiny Audi Q7 SLine.

2. Think ahead

Let’s face it, you should be doing this anyway, but it is even more important in adverse weather conditions. The kicker is that you don’t know which bit of the road has the most grip or which tyres the car in front of you has bolted on. So, leave a massive, humungous, gigantic gap between you and the car in front…

2. Think ahead

…otherwise you could be sliding slowly towards the scene of the accident and it’ll all be your fault. It’s called tailgating and however talented you are you’ll still have to stump up the insurance excess.

3. Use higher gears

Are you and I Fernando Alonso? No, sadly we’re not so we can’t trust our right feet to perform the same miracles that his does. That said, if you listen carefully, you can still hear him ‘short shifting’ in wet conditions as he tries to keep his Ferrari in check…

3. Use higher gears

…and we should do the same. Keeping the car in a higher gear will reduce the likelihood of wheel spin caused by a heavy right foot.

4. Cadence braking

Supposedly ABS has rendered cadence braking redundant…but I don’t think that’s entirely correct…not in winter anyway. Try depressing the brake pedal hard on a snowy road and steering – it won’t work.

4. Cadence braking

Cadence braking is the action of depressing the brake pedal and then releasing it again to steer before getting back on it. It works but it takes presence of mind as you slide towards impending doom.

5. Know your car

This is a bit of a cover-all really. But it related to which wheels are the driven ones and how your traction control operates (if you have it). It has been pretty well documented that BMW’s aren’t up to much in snowy conditions but that is largely down to rear-wheel-drive and wide tyres (especially on the MSport models) as opposed to any great aversion that the Bavarian brand has to snow.

5. Know your car

So, if you have something rear wheel drive make sure you park somewhere you can get out and when driving be doubly careful as excessive use of the throttle can lead to lairy oversteer moments.

6. Tyres

There are two separate aspects here, and the second one is the ‘not very well kept secret’ I mentioned earlier. If you are going to be driving in the snow it is well worth while making sure that you have plenty of tread in your tyres…for obvious reasons. The UK legal limit is 1.6mm across ¾ of the width of the tyre but really it should be at least 3mm in the winter to get proper purchase.

6. Tyres

And then there’s the not so secret trick – winter tyres. Honestly, get a set. Not only will they help get you going, even in that BMW, but they will also make sure that you can stop and go round corners. I’m speaking from personal experience here too. They’re not just for snow either, they tend to be good in any conditions where temperatures are less than 7 degrees Celsius and the good ones are decent even in the summer, although they can vary a bit.

  • 1. Slow down!
  • 1. Slow down!
  • 2. Think ahead
  • 2. Think ahead
  • 3. Use higher gears
  • 3. Use higher gears
  • 4. Cadence braking
  • 4. Cadence braking
  • 5. Know your car
  • 5. Know your car
  • 6. Tyres
  • 6. Tyres

But, what’s the golden rule? Leave a massive gap to everything around you and go a whole load slower than you normally would. You’ll actually find that the extra concentration needed can actually be quite good fun and make the journey more relaxing as you can absorb speed fluctuations as opposed to jumping on and off the brakes every few seconds.

 

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