General Dos/Don'ts of Snow Driving? - Subaru Outback - Subaru Outback Forums
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post #1 of 77 (permalink) Old 08-13-2012, 05:38 PM Thread Starter
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Question General Dos/Don'ts of Snow Driving?

Hello folks. I'm looking for some information on snow driving. I have always lived in non-snow states. With the impending purchase of an Outback and the intent for more trips and camping, I'm lacking information on snow driving.

I've seen some threads heckling the poor bastards getting into 20 car pileups during a snow storm. So, I'm seeking information, articles, or videos on how to do it right.

I've searched the forums, but couldn't find a consolidated list. Thanks!

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post #2 of 77 (permalink) Old 08-13-2012, 06:23 PM
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3. See 1 and 2.

But seriously, take your time and keep speeds down (especially if you are rusty at driving in snow). It is very easy to go too fast for the conditions in AWD and 4WD vehicles since you still have the challenge of stopping and steering. Also, stay back from other vehicles. Use very smooth inputs to throttle, braking, and steering. Don't do anything sudden. Also, if the ABS kicks in, stay on the brakes and let the ABS do it's job. Do not pump the brakes. Try not to over-correct if your back end gets a little loose (over-correction causes a lot more accidents then under correction).

IMHO, snow isn't so much of a challenge compared to ice. If you suspect any ice and it is safe to do so, try a quick brake check while driving to see how much traction is available (again, only do so if it is safe so don't do it with anyone around). Ice can sneak up on you fast, especially on an interstate trip where you are covering a lot of miles without getting out. Allow PLENTY of space between you and the vehicle ahead of you.

If you are frequently going to be driving in ice or snow, consider upgrading your tires.

Edited to Add: If you are serious about getting out to the mountains in snowy seasons, be very careful. Snow can sneak up on your very fast in higher elevations so always have a plan on how to get out if it starts snowing heavily. In addition, mountain driving on back roads can be very challenging so I wouldn't recommend it for the beginner (in other words, stick to the main roads that are maintained). I would hate to see you become the modern Donner family.

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post #3 of 77 (permalink) Old 08-13-2012, 06:32 PM
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If you have the VCD on then try to drive normal but much slower. 45mph on the hwy is normal around by me in the mountain passes. Figure a good 10-20mph slower than the speed limit. If it's really slick turn the VCD off and use the throttle to keep the car going in the right direction. This method takes practice but you will have far greater success and control with the gas petal than the brakes.

# one rule when losing control of the vehicle in snow is steer into the slide and use power ***not the brakes*** to recover. Instinctually you want to use the brakes to regain control because that is what we are used to doing. Resist the urge and use steady moderate power to regain control. As crazy as it sounds I trained myself and others in video games for concept before I went out and played in the white stuff.


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post #4 of 77 (permalink) Old 08-13-2012, 07:00 PM
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...bossmaverick pretty much hit it right on the nose. The only thing that I could find was this....Feature: Winter withers away with driver training -

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post #5 of 77 (permalink) Old 08-13-2012, 11:28 PM
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We all learn to "steer into the skid," but what that really means is that you can only regain traction if your wheels are pointed the way the car is moving.

Not enough can be said about tires. Snow tires are FAR superior to all-seasons. AWD will help you get moving, but the proper tires will allow you to steer and stop. Remember, you'll need to avoid people who are sliding towards you.

Also, if you can find a nice, big parking lot covered in snow... Go have some fun and see what exactly your car can and can't do.


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post #6 of 77 (permalink) Old 08-14-2012, 02:00 AM
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As I've said in another thread:
Driving a Subaru doesn't make you Ken Block.
The 'steer into the skid' advice came to prominence when rear wheel drive was dominant. It does not precisely apply to front wheel drive or all wheel drive. You can countersteer ('steer into the skid') fairly aggressively without changing your power input as much on a RWD, but if you try to do so as aggressively on a FWD, you'll discover an effect that'll make you think the vehicle is trying to kill you. AWD is somewhere in between, with variables like vehicle stability control and type of power distribution to make it a bit more complex. The rule you'll often hear now is 'steer where you want to go', which still isn't exactly a clear and accurate method to follow.

The ultimate truth is, steering in the direction the car is actually going when you are sliding will regain traction for the steering wheels. The driving wheels will follow based upon which they are in relation to the steering wheels. In a FWD, that means the driving wheels will follow the traction of steering very quickly, and proportionally. In an AWD, you'll get a less pronounced reaction to the input in most cases, but it'll be more immediate than in a RWD.

Of course, the best way to cope with a skid or slide is not to get into one.

How can you avoid that? Two key ways: behavior and equipment.
As noted above, take it easy, control your speed, and be smooth and deliberate. AWD will help you get going, but it won't make you stop better. It will help a bit with steering, but only under power - but that's not a license to attempt a Scandinavian flick to avoid a problem. Remember, you aren't Ken Block.
Also noted above, tires are going to matter a great deal. If you're going to spend serious amounts of drive time in snow and ice, winter tires are worth every penny. They'll do the most to help you steer and stop when it gets bad. Be sure your brakes are in good working order, and the ABS system is actually working. If the ABS light is on, fix it or don't go on that snow adventure.

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post #7 of 77 (permalink) Old 08-14-2012, 02:03 AM
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As with anything you need to gain experience which means you need to get out in it. That doesn't mean you have to do it during rush hour. Get up early, or stay up late, and find an empty lot to practice in, but make sure you are learning and not just having fun. Try to imagine making stops and turns starting at 10-15 mph and working up to 30 mph. Turn off your stability control so you get an idea of what the car does without the electronic help. Then try to find an empty 2 lane or more road (2 lanes each direction) with plenty of run off room and practice staying in your lane and making lane changes (always nervous about those lanes changes and going from wet cement to the slush hump in between the lanes). Follow the flow of traffic. You don't want to be the fool in the ditch that moments before had just blew past everyone, nor do you want to be the slowest because now others have to concentrate on the road AND what your car is doing. Keep in mind that during snowfall one lane is usually better than the other because it gets more traffic and the cars keep it clear (usually the right lane or slower lane). If traffic is moving to fast, then find a slower secondary road though those aren't cleared as quickly as the main arterial roads. Create as big of a space bubble around your vehicle as possible. That means more distance between you and the car in front of you. If you are pacing a car in the adjacent lane, slow down or speed up so you are running parallel to an empty space. Winter driving is different. It is not just a dry road vs wet road. There are wet roads with icy slush, hard snow-packed roads, ice covered roads, roads covered by fluffy snow, roads covered by wet/heavy snow, iced roads with 1-2" of fresh snow on top, deep snow >8" (or even 5-6" if it is heavy snow). You can do it. There will be hundreds to thousands of other people on the road with you doing it. Just like normal driving you will get better at it the more you experience (practice) it.
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post #8 of 77 (permalink) Old 08-14-2012, 02:18 AM
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You can gently steer, OR you can gently brake, OR you can gently accelerate. Do any two of those together and you may lose control of the vehicle.
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post #9 of 77 (permalink) Old 08-14-2012, 03:10 AM
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With all the talk of counter steering, I just want to say again to not over-correct. Far more vehicles wreck due to over-correcting then under-correcting. On slippery surfaces like snow, ice, or gravel, under correction will work just fine to bring things gently back in a straight line. Over-correction on the other hand will whip your rear end back way too fast and you will be skidding and spinning out of control. The more slippery the surface is, the slower and less violent the skid will be. Don't panic and jerk the wheel and/or slam on the brakes. Remain clam and gently steer into the skid. Whatever you do, don't slam on the brakes or else all hope will be lost.

It will take some experimenting to figure out throttle positions during a skid. In my older RWD work cars, taking your foot off the gas cured 90% of the skid if you caught the skid early enough. In some FWD cars, a tiny amount of gas may actually help since the driveline friction acts as a brake to the wheels. Each vehicle differs so you will have try it out with your own vehicle.

Also, here is one more tip that hasn't been covered. When driving in slippery conditions, focus your eyesight way down the highway. It is not the time to be looking directly at the ground or snow flying directly in front of you. By looking far ahead, you will notice a skid happening a lot sooner so you can take easier corrective actions while the skid isn't even a skid yet. In addition, by looking far ahead, you will notice dangers on the road a lot sooner as well.

Finally, if you get caught in a snow or ice storm, there is no humiliation in stopping and resting until the storm passes and the roads get plowed and/or sanded.

Edited to Add: Radar's above post is beautifully written. It is simple but covers a lot.
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post #10 of 77 (permalink) Old 08-14-2012, 03:37 AM
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All season tires are a bad idea, as well as summer tires
Get a set of dedicated winter tires and don't take the cheapest ones, take the best ones
Use them only two seasons
Adjust speed, but don't overexagerate, it is just snow
Accelerate gently
Static friction is better than dynamic friction - so don't give to much gas, learn to feel the right amount of wheelspinn - if its ower, its over, backup and try again, more gas is not the way
If you are stuck, don't stomp stupidly on the gas, hoping it is going to help, because it will not help, it will only make it worse. Try to reverse, get out to see what the problem is
In severe conditions, try to avoid stopping, as starting from a full stop can be delicate, especially uphill
Make more room to other cars, as stopping distances are longer
Go slow into a turn, accelarate after
Get a feeling of how the car behaves - e. g. on an empty parking lot
Learn that snow <> snow - fresh snow is different to old snow, wet and heavy snow is different to fresh powder
Don't steer too brisk, this will cause understeer
Lern to react on understeer (open steering wheel a bit, release accelerator) and oversteer (countersteer) - but don't overreact, do it gently
Don't forget that AWD does not help you braking
Leave VDC on
If ABS begins acting, stay on the brake, let it do its thing, the harder you brake the better ABS works!
etc. etc.

The most commen mistakes I always see are way too much gas and non adjusted speed.

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