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Time to Get Ready for Winter Driving

09/16/2016 1:25 PM

The first kiss of cool air recently here in Massachusetts after a long, hot summer had me thinking that winter is not that far behind. And winter here in New England brings wild weather swings and driving conditions to match.

With that in mind, every year members of the New England Motor Press Association (NEMPA) get together in the heart of the season to evaluate vehicle offerings and select the outstanding Winter Vehicle in several classes. These range from everyday sedans to trucks and sports cars. You likely missed this year's rankings, but clicking on the above link will give you food for thought if you live where several inches of snow are likely and are contemplating a vehicle purchase.

In looking at those noted vehicles, one that stands out to me because of its lower cost (under $30,000) and technology content is the Subaru Outback small wagon. The article's citation will give you reasons for its selection in this class. But on a personal note, I found driving the company's full-time all-wheel-drive system (as in a 2016 Legacy this past spring) provides stable feel and handling. Adding to stability and control is the lower center of gravity because of the flat Boxer engine with its four opposed cylinders.

Previously, the knock on Subaru was higher noise levels coming from all those whirling bits below in the all-wheel-drive system. Modern Subarus have had increased noise reduction measures for a more pleasant ride, along with highway mileage ratings boosted into the mid 30 mpg range, even with turning all four wheels.

Let me close with another personal experience as to how stable Subarus are. My eldest son was doing hill climb racing events here in the Northeast, including the Mount Washington Climb to the Clouds. These timed competitions are on closed-off narrow, twisting roads where control is critical. His vehicle is an older Legacy (with a required roll cage welded in) outfit with a newer Subaru drivetrain.

PS He informs me that the record time up Mount Washington is held by a Subaru racing team (7.4 miles in 6 minutes, 9.09 seconds).

--Rick DeMeis

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#1

Re: Time to Get Ready for Winter Driving

09/16/2016 2:39 PM

With 50+ years of driving in New England, I always find it ironic that with each seasons first snow, the first vehicle one comes across off the highway and in the ditch or guard rail is inevitably an all wheel drive SUV or pick-up.

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#2
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Re: Time to Get Ready for Winter Driving

09/16/2016 2:55 PM

Good observation,

Every year on the first snow storm or ice storm, I expect it to see a $WD yes I meant to spell it $WD, I love my 4WD, but I rarely use it. Mostly to make sure its working. Because my girlfriend uses it during the winter.

I have to say, I've been watching tire sales as of late, my car needs a new set before snow flies.

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#3
In reply to #1

Re: Time to Get Ready for Winter Driving

09/16/2016 2:57 PM

Yup, lotsa folk with all wheel drive seem to think they're invincible. They just get deeper in before they get stuck.

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#4
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Re: Time to Get Ready for Winter Driving

09/16/2016 2:59 PM

False confidence.

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#25
In reply to #3

Re: Time to Get Ready for Winter Driving

09/18/2016 4:01 AM

When the stopping part of vehicle control is overlooked a whitening of knuckles may occur.

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#8
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Re: Time to Get Ready for Winter Driving

09/16/2016 4:28 PM

I agree, some people push their technology and run into the laws of physics!

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#10
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Re: Time to Get Ready for Winter Driving

09/16/2016 4:32 PM

I've made the same observation. I think it's because they have more traction to take off, they think they have more for braking - a dangerous fallacy.

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#16
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Re: Time to Get Ready for Winter Driving

09/17/2016 1:08 PM

I grew up in Hingham but down here in Maryland it's the same thing. I think it comes from the idea that car manufacturers have been deluding the public that their all-wheel drive stability control ABS systems make them invincible to the Laws of Physics.

Nothing beats twenty minutes in a wide-open snow-packed parking lot for driver training. One of the things I have stressed to my kids is that the brakes are not the first thing to hit when you start to go sideways. A little bit of throttle and steering will go a long way in the snow. Most cars tend to understeer so some judicious use of the throttle actually makes things better.

Front wheel drive was all I ever needed for a nasty winter in ski country. I would only put on chains at Donner Pass because the CHP made me.

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#5

Re: Time to Get Ready for Winter Driving

09/16/2016 3:05 PM

I get ready for winter here in Florida by putting larger all terrain tires on my truck.

I use them when driving on the beach to pull out Snowbirds who don't know how to drive in the sand.

Snowbird = person from north who lives in Florida during winter and specifically uses left lane, drives slow, and gets their Mercedes stuck in the sand while driving on the beach.

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#9
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Re: Time to Get Ready for Winter Driving

09/16/2016 4:29 PM

I get ready for winter by...................................................................taking the water toys out of the pool.

Alas, this winter the diving board needs refinishing.

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#11
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Re: Time to Get Ready for Winter Driving

09/16/2016 4:51 PM

I don't get the fascination with snow, or driving in it.

We got a 20" snow in Lubbock last winter, and the locals declared a natural disaster.

I managed to stay home at least one day, because we had no plants running, really.

What kind of power company is that?

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#12
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Re: Time to Get Ready for Winter Driving

09/16/2016 4:54 PM

Girl friend has family in Amarillo, they had something like 3 feet. I think the Whole state of Texas shares one snowplow.

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#13
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Re: Time to Get Ready for Winter Driving

09/16/2016 4:57 PM

There has to be three, one in Lubbock, and two in Amarillo. At least in Amarillo, one is plowing snow, while the other one is at Stripes getting a burrito.

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#14
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Re: Time to Get Ready for Winter Driving

09/17/2016 11:05 AM

Here in North Dakota we have one for every person but no one qualified to drive them.

Most snow events you would swear the highway departments are scared sh!tless to put their snow removal equipment out on the road and when they do it's not until their crews have reached their 40 hours of sitting in the shop doing nothing so that they are on overtime pay when they do hit the roads.

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#19
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Re: Time to Get Ready for Winter Driving

09/17/2016 3:47 PM

In Green Bay, wi not only is there a over 50 year waiting list for season tickets to watch the Packers play, but there's also a waiting list for people to volunteer to shovel out lambeau field after a snow storm for a packers game.

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#6

Re: Time to Get Ready for Winter Driving

09/16/2016 4:00 PM

You're joking. It's at least 3 months before any such action here, if at all. 6 years ago was bad and if the issue is anything to do with the sunspot cycle, we won't see snow until 2021-2.

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#7

Re: Time to Get Ready for Winter Driving

09/16/2016 4:08 PM

Subaru, what a stupid sounding name....sounds like something ScoobyDoo would ride...

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#15

Re: Time to Get Ready for Winter Driving

09/17/2016 12:00 PM

Puzzling responses. I agree with OP. AWD is far superior. I have a 4WD FJ Cruiser with AT Grabber tires, and a Porsche Cayenne with AWD, same tires. I regularly rescue people who think that they don't need better traction in Virginia and Colorado. In, fact, unbelievably, I pulled a guy in a Ford Ranger 4wd truck out of a ditch in a light (1 inch) snow. When he told me he did not have it in 4wd because he did not notice any better traction, it reminded me of some of these responses. If you think that any rwd or fwd vehicle is a not a liability versus awd in mud, snow or ice, you need some driving lessons.

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#17
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Re: Time to Get Ready for Winter Driving

09/17/2016 2:48 PM

Sorry to inform you but a Ford Ranger is not a truck. Its compact pickup.

In my parts little more than a golf cart with a pickup box that most of us large bodied Northerners just pick up and carry out of the snow by hand one end at a time.

When you can pull a Ford F250 or Chevy 2500 out of two or more feet of snow then you can brag a bit.

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#18
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Re: Time to Get Ready for Winter Driving

09/17/2016 3:40 PM

Are you sure that you just don't melt the snow with hot air and drive it out???

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#24
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Re: Time to Get Ready for Winter Driving

09/18/2016 12:55 AM

After he lit the tyres on fyre.

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#26
In reply to #15

Re: Time to Get Ready for Winter Driving

09/18/2016 4:18 AM

Several tire manufacturers produce dedicated winter tires that significantly improve even the novice drivers driving capabilities.

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#27
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Re: Time to Get Ready for Winter Driving

09/18/2016 6:37 AM

Again false confidence, it improves handling when driving (moving), until stopping or a sudden maneuvering then handling becomes limited.

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#28
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Re: Time to Get Ready for Winter Driving

09/18/2016 10:34 AM

I've tried to lose control with limited success using the winter tires and it's sometimes a bummer

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#29
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Re: Time to Get Ready for Winter Driving

09/18/2016 11:39 AM

that has to be one of the most absurd posts you have ever made.

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#31
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Re: Time to Get Ready for Winter Driving

09/18/2016 12:38 PM

Let explain further for you, with 4WD/AWD, you have better traction on roads with varing conditions. Speed increases, maybe still under the speed limits but passing others because With the better traction you gain a false sense of confidence in your vehicle (and possible your own abilities) at the same time your road conditions change (patch of glare ice, obstruction possibly) where the driver over compensates to gain control but instead because of a lack of skill makes matters worse.

For quite a few years, I as well as others were passed on the road, only to find these same people in a ditch farther down the road. Majority, not all trucks some cars with 4wd/AWD vehicle.

the worse, on a iced highway snow plows when through, they put no salt down (temperature was near or below 0F) , little sand at only the curves in my rear view mirror I saw a car weaving through the 2 lanes on a 4 lane highway, people that saw him coming giving him room. He passed me, and I saw him continue to weave and Bob passing cars, and when he was going to bob the slow lane, he realized thatsee he was about to cut a car off, And weaved back suddenly and over compensated. Puting his car into a spring and taking 6-7 cars into the ditch with him.

I myself was just fortunate, how I avoided being part of it, is that I drove where the cars were (which was on the road), and when I got there, their cars were no longer on the road but into or going into the ditch, that's when even I found out how iced the roads were, took me over 1/4 mile to slow down going 45 MPH, but I didn't stop, the reason why was of the iced conditions.

I took the next off ramp, I pulled into a parking lot and called it in. I also mention what I saw and told them there's going to be quite a few upset people on the driver that cause it. Left my name and number.

absurd, no. You live it, you learn.

4WD/AWD can give the inexperience a false sense of security of both their vehicle and thier own ability.

Keep it between the lines, or I'll see you in the ditches.

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#33
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Re: Time to Get Ready for Winter Driving

09/18/2016 12:55 PM

why does your speed increase, you must be a very novice driver.

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#34
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Re: Time to Get Ready for Winter Driving

09/18/2016 12:57 PM

Don't tell me, tell the ones passing me. In this case, as I stated people who think it's absured. Like yourself.

if your looking for a 'discussion' on this, look no further or stay south of Illinois. You should be safe for driving.

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#38
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Re: Time to Get Ready for Winter Driving

09/18/2016 1:57 PM

l live in Colorado. The ones passing you may or may not know how to drive and have proper equipment. You appear to be making the absurd argument that having proper equipment, AWD, snow tires, is somehow making you, a novice driver, more unsafe.

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#41
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Re: Time to Get Ready for Winter Driving

09/18/2016 2:33 PM

Lol,... Seems your looking for an argument, well you found it. When I was in Colorado Springs visiting friends, maybe you can explain this, why are there a large number of tires on the cars bald?

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#42
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Re: Time to Get Ready for Winter Driving

09/18/2016 3:29 PM

is that a riddle?, I don't know, why?. I am amazed at how well people maintain vehicles and tires around here. I am starting to get the distinct feeling that you are clueless.

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#43
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Re: Time to Get Ready for Winter Driving

09/18/2016 4:09 PM

It's all relative I guess. But keep guessing, you're doing fine.

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#45
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Re: Time to Get Ready for Winter Driving

09/20/2016 9:39 AM

In dealing with icy roads, nothing works better than slowing down. Consider the impact of speed on momentum and on friction. These factors also apply to hydroplaning on wet pavement.

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#46
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Re: Time to Get Ready for Winter Driving

09/20/2016 10:07 AM

For the senile among us, who are dreaming about wild horseless carriages.

You are on a road with bad conditions. You are in a 2 wheel drive car with passenger tires. (or bald tires, if you think that is better, see 41) You are moving at 5MPH.

You know what works better than slowing down, which makes you a moving hazard, and unlikely to ascend any grade?

AWD, 4WD and/or and snow tires.

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#35
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Re: Time to Get Ready for Winter Driving

09/18/2016 1:09 PM

It's good practice to have a properly maintained and equipped vehicles but more importantly with regard to situational awareness requires one not to drive because of the unknowns.

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#39
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Re: Time to Get Ready for Winter Driving

09/18/2016 2:26 PM

Agree about the maintenence, about two years ago, temps were in the 40s and temps drop 50 odd degrees, over night. Tire pressure dropped, and warning light came on. Was a little concerned how much pressure to put in.

in October I would go through and winterize. If anything for a piece of mind.

Also I agree about situation awareness, for the longest I always practice defensive driving, that's how it was taught in drivers Ed. I at times always avoid or rarely used the horn, didn't see taking resources away from defensive driving.

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#30
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Re: Time to Get Ready for Winter Driving

09/18/2016 12:32 PM

Snow tires definitely make a difference, up to a point. After that, it's tow truck time

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#32
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Re: Time to Get Ready for Winter Driving

09/18/2016 12:49 PM

Yes, the only snow tires we ever used was for the farm truck, where we put them on by December and took them off in March/April.

Now for my truck/car, I get all season tires. And then drive to their capability. (I carry sand/shovel too) And as I got older, and find out I didn't leave early enough for getting on time for work. I don't try to make it up with how others do by driving faster, instead I come in late.

and last winter, was the first time I stayed home until I knew the snow plow went through. (Prompted by shoveling 4 of my neighbors out as they made a not so valent try)

one think I like to add, when I park, I'll park wait a few seconds and then move the car. A habit I picked up in college when my tires got frozen in a parking lot. Wasn't from low air pressure on tires, just conditions were just right.

but even with the experience, I know there may be a time that no matter how good you are, how safe you drive. There's always the possibility that you can put it in the ditch.

On ice a 5,000 lb vehicle has a tendency of wanting to go straight no matter where your wheels are pointing.

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#36
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Re: Time to Get Ready for Winter Driving

09/18/2016 1:24 PM

I can tell you from experience that a 3,500 pound vehicle has a tendency of wanting to go straight no matter where your wheels are pointing.

Even on dry pavement with slick Goodyear racing tires, if you are driving too fast for conditions.

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#40
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Re: Time to Get Ready for Winter Driving

09/18/2016 2:29 PM

On dry pavement, Rubber rolls off the tires and become like marbles.

Not as much now, but there was a time I loved dirt track racing.(watching that is)

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#48
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Re: Time to Get Ready for Winter Driving

09/22/2016 8:20 AM

Agree with your parking method. It's a good habit to use and even to roll forward and backward six or twelve feet when parking on fallen snow creating a runway for leaving later when more snow is on the ground.

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#37
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Re: Time to Get Ready for Winter Driving

09/18/2016 1:57 PM

That's the same tires I had on my pickup for the last 50,000+ miles until two weeks ago when the blessing came through on one and split. and yea, they were great in snow!

The Ex couldn't even manage to lose control and go in the ditch while driving with those on.

Unfortunately after 50+K on a 35 - 40K rated tire they had about as much tread left as the one on the right.

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#20

Re: Time to Get Ready for Winter Driving

09/17/2016 5:13 PM

What it comes down to is having the right tool for the conditions you're facing at the time....the conditions vary considerably...so trying to pick one tool to serve all purposes is really a trade-off and easily bested in one or more condition...

What you end up with is something that's not particularly good at anything....

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#21
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Re: Time to Get Ready for Winter Driving

09/17/2016 8:35 PM

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#22
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Re: Time to Get Ready for Winter Driving

09/17/2016 9:21 PM

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Re: Time to Get Ready for Winter Driving

09/17/2016 10:04 PM

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#44

Re: Time to Get Ready for Winter Driving

09/20/2016 7:49 AM

No winter driving problems here in Ohio. We usually have more inches of salt on the road than snow. Only the very worst drivers end up in the ditch.

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#47

Re: Time to Get Ready for Winter Driving

09/22/2016 5:38 AM

Ah........only in the northern hemisphere, though. It's spring south of the tropics.

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