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by josh pi v en

Spinning Your Wheels? What will get your car to go in the ice and snow.

POTENTIAL EMERGENCY: You’re driving your troop to a weekend ski trip in Vermont when your SUV starts to lose traction.

UNLESS YOU LIVE IN PHOENIX or your last name is Claus and you’re piloting a sleigh, chances are good that winter weather will test your driving skills at some point this season. And it’s one of those tests in which failure can be expensive—and dangerous. When it comes to driving in

snowy and icy conditions, have a mental (or a paper) checklist of

things to do before you get on the road. First, make sure your mobile phone is charged. Completely. (I won’t bother telling you to use it only in an emergency, O.K.?) Second, make sure you have

blankets and water, in case you’re stranded. Third, make sure your headlights, brake lights, washer fluid, and wipers work, and that you have an ice scraper. Fourth, make sure you have a shovel for when you get stuck. Dig out the wheels as much as you can and check to see that the chassis won’t get hung up on a pile of snow when you pull out. And finally, make sure the tailpipe and lights are clear.

Now it’s time to get moving. The

key to gaining momentum from a standstill on slippery surfaces is slow and steady application of the throttle. When you apply too much torque too quickly, the wheels can’t grab and will spin freely—and, no, spinning them really fast won’t create enough friction to melt the snow. Front-wheel drive cars typically

start moving more easily because the weight of the engine is over the drive wheels, creating some added friction. Rear-wheel drive cars are another story (see sidebar). If the wheels spin, reverse and move back until the rubber meets the pavement. Once moving, keep moving. Try

to time traffic signals so that you don’t have to make complete stops. But if the light’s red, stop. As a rule of thumb, allow three times the amount of stopping space you would in clear weather. Brake gently, but ease off the brake if the car begins to skid. Equally important: Don’t assume the other driver will stop. Driving sense runs in inverse proportion to the amount of snow on the ground. Now that you’re moving (well, creeping), you need to plan for skids. If your front wheels lose traction, take your foot off the gas. But don’t try to steer immediately. As the

wheels skid sideways, the car should slow and regain traction.

As it does, steer in the direction you want to go and accelerate gently. If the rear wheels lose traction, take your foot off the gas. Then, if the rear wheels are sliding left, steer left. If they’re sliding right, steer right. As you recover, the rear could start



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