Winter Driving Tips from Tirerack

Since the start of winter is almost upon us we thought it might be time for a little winter driving recap. For those in warmer climates you might want to skip this one. This is only for those hardy souls that can do snow induced hand-brake donuts in their sleep. The Tirerack has a series of winter driving articles for those that would like to know more about the wonderful world of oversteer and understeer. Here's an excerpt of one of the better ones:

To most effectively control your car on a slippery road, you should always use only one control at a time. While cornering, for instance, you should be off the brake and off the accelerator, coasting through the turn and using all available grip for steering. The proper way to negotiate any curve or corner is to brake on the straightway before the curve to adjust your speed; then coast and steer through the turn. When you start to straighten the steering wheel as you exit the curve, gently accelerate out of the turn.

Okay, so you didn't adjust your speed properly, and your car is understeering. What now?

First, there are several things you should NOT do. Don't increase your steering angle, because the tires have already lost grip and increasing the steering will only make it worse. Don't hit the brakes because the front tires are already skidding, and more brake pressure will only make it still worse.

You can read the entire article here. And afterwards when you're ready to buy snow-tires you can go here. We'll have more on snow tires, winter driving, and donuts in the days and weeks ahead.

  • Dave& Stacy

    “To most effectively control your car on a slippery road, you should always use only one control at a time. While cornering, for instance, you should be off the brake and off the accelerator, coasting through the turn and using all available grip for steering.”

    Only if you want to be slow. The proper way to drive on a slippery surface is to use your left foot to brake. 😉

    -Dave & Stacy ClubRally Omni #585

  • RHT3

    ABS was invented to facilitate braking while turning. Why not use brakes?Less throttle while turning with tire slip=braking. Why release throttle?

    A bit too simplistic an explanation.

  • Judging from most people's winter driving skills I've seen over the years I'd argue that simplistic is probably best. I think the basic theories are still misunderstood by most out there.

  • I agree with Gabe – I grew up in Northern Maine and learned how to drive (1979 Chevy Caprice Classic Station Wagon) in the snow by modulating your brakes and as indicated in this article proper planning and smooth gentle driving.

    I used to own a 2000 Audi S4 – and I thought that I was pretty invincible with Quattro! Wrong! ABS and 17″ low profile sport compound tires do not make a good snow car! Any Audi enthusiast will tell you (especially with an S4) that you need to swap out tires to maximize your car's winter performance and safety on the slick.

    I absolutely detest ABS in the snow – an ABS computer really shouldn't be controlling your brakes when driving on ice and snow – I found this out with the Audi – which had hypersensitive ABS (on ice and snow) and you couldn't scrub off any speed no matter how you tried to manually modulate brakes. In desperation (before I went over the side of an embankment) I gunned the throttle and was able to shoot the stern of the S4 around and save myself from going into someone's yard.

    Get snows if you live in the icy and snowy climes – esp if you've got 17″ performance run-flats!

  • I too cannot stand when APS kicks in in the snow. When I'm in control, using threshold breaking (think modulation, but with feathering) I have a much better idea where my car s going, and when it's going to stop. When ABS kicks in, only the computer knows. As someone who I worked with once would say about ABS, is that they don't help you stop faster, they just let you pick what you're going to hit.

    The best thing to have in your car in the snow, is a stick shift. The only sure way to keep your wheels from sliding is to let roll free, and then you can get control of your car again.

  • scooblymonchee

    Traction control off? Check.

    Chassis aligned perpendicular to direction of travel? Check.

    Steering at full opposite lock? Check.

    Houston, we are a go for snow.

  • This has always been the big negative of ABS – in snowy conditions your best stopping power can be to lock the wheels so that snow builds up in a pile in front of them, increasing friction. I wonder if any of the “summer/winter” switches on auto transmissions also modify the ABS for winter driving?

  • Aaron

    From my experience, it isn't the folks up north who need this advice, its the ones in the southern states who only see snow once every 2 or 3 years!

    When I was in college, I was driving several of my friends in my Mazda Protege (econobox, stick shift, front wheel drive) from Atlanta to Athens, Georgia on a snowy road. 4 smallish pickups passed us on our 3 hour drive. We stopped to help each one out of the ditch on the side of the road when we caught up with them.

    My father took me to a large snowy parking lot in Michigan when I was 16 and taught me how to drive in the snow. For those without time for instruction / training, the simple “One control at a time” is excellent! I think that I would add something to the effect of:

    1. Slow down
    2. One control at a time
    3. Slow down some more, stupid.
  • allan MICHAEL

    I find using, taxis, buses, and trains the best way to stop skidding.

  • MiniLifeCrisis

    Upon waiting for my MINI, one of the numerous emails form MINIUSA contained this web link. It has some helpful tips on driving in the snow. I'll let you know if they worked for me some time in March. 🙂