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Old 12-18-2005, 02:13 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Bad weather and rear wheel drive cars

I own a 1984 BMW 318i, about 240,000 miles, bought in May. I absolutely love the vehicle. It's the first time in my life I haven't had a car payment. I want to keep this bad boy on the road as long as possible; however, during our last bout of bad weather, I realized the engine wasn't the only thing I had to worry about - my safety and that of my fellow commuter was a serious concern.

We had a little snow and some freezing rain last week and on the commute home, while everyone else was flying at 55 or 60 (on back, one lane roads)with no trouble I was doing about 40 and noticed some fishtailing, real slight - but enough to make me slow down even more. So I slow down with noone behind me, am doing like 25 (seriously) not accelerating, braking or turning, and my car goes completely sideways. Almost off the road, way into the other lane, luckily there was no oncoming traffic. I throw on my flashers and pull off where I can to let cars go by.

Knowing it was real wheel drive, I have a couple hundred pounds of weight in the back thinking that would be helpfull, but after this ride from hell, I started thinking maybe that was the problem. did it take some weight off the front that would cause this? It was ridiculous how much trouble I had and how little everyone else had. The tires are pretty new. Is it just because real wheel drive sucks THAT BAD in that kind of weather?

I can't just go out and by a new car because we might have 1 or 2 more snow storms in the next couple of months.
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Old 12-18-2005, 02:30 PM   #2 (permalink)
seeker
 
Location: home
Maybe some good snow tires.....
Other than that it's a matter of
learning to drive in the snow.

In a car the weight will just lift your front tires
making it harder to steer.
If you want to add weight it needs to be centered.
I grew up in Michigan.
Now that I live in WNC,
It never ceases to amaze me the number
of people who panic with an inch of snow.

Next time it gets icy
find a nice open parking lot (with no cops around)
and practice sliding around
and stopping the slide
It's a matter of practice
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Last edited by alpha phi; 12-18-2005 at 02:35 PM..
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Old 12-18-2005, 02:42 PM   #3 (permalink)
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yeah, it sounds like good snow tires would help you out a lot.is it 5 speed or AT? if it's 5 speed you should be in a little better shape too, more control stopping and starting. You shouldn't be going sideways when you aren't steering or braking though.
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Old 12-18-2005, 02:46 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ilow
You shouldn't be going sideways when you aren't steering or braking though.
That reminds me, good wheel alignment is also important.
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Old 12-18-2005, 02:55 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Probably not a bad idea, good snow tires, but after how badly it performed on that last trip, I was just wondering if it was a natural real-wheel drive problem, and great snow tires would help all that much. I'm no stanger to bad weather, nor to driving - I used to drive a truck for a living. I've just never driven a car that lost control this easily. Going 25 miles on a straightaway and not changing speeds and sliding off the road, while everyone else around you is cruising at 50 with no troubles.

I was just wondering if anyone had any experience with real wheel drive cars in bad weather.

BTW, how would one add weight in the center of a vehicle?
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Old 12-18-2005, 02:57 PM   #6 (permalink)
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5-speed. And yeah, I thought the same thing, there was no rhyme or reason why my car lost control.
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Old 12-18-2005, 02:58 PM   #7 (permalink)
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should I loose the weights?
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Old 12-18-2005, 03:05 PM   #8 (permalink)
seeker
 
Location: home
Quote:
Originally Posted by matthew330
I was just wondering if it was a natural real-wheel drive problem
Not really I've driven a dozen or so rear wheel vehicles
over 14 years in Michigan winter

Quote:
BTW, how would one add weight in the center of a vehicle?
Inside the cabin behind the front seats
It needs to be in the center of gravity
to be of any use

The weight isn't really necessary unless the snow is deeper
than the frame of your car.

Look for uneven wear on your tires
a sign or poor alignment
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Old 12-18-2005, 03:15 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Thanks alpha - I'll have the alignment checked out.
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Old 12-18-2005, 03:28 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Adding weight can help, especially if you can't get going, but it isn't free. Don't put it in back of the axle or you have a very unrefined 911.

If you really can't keep it straight at those speeds, without any steering road banking or brake input, then something else is influencing the car. Are the brakes hanging up at all?

What exactly are the tires? If they aren't too old find a tire shop who'll sipe them. It makes a big improvement.
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Old 12-18-2005, 05:25 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alpha phi
In a car the weight will just lift your front tires
making it harder to steer.

Actually it will do more than that. The extra weight will make the back end tend to keep spinning once it starts. So you're really only making stuff worse by doing that.

Sounds to me like 1) your alignment is WAY the hell off (either that or you hit a patch of ice on one side of the car with dry pavement on the other) and 2) you need a good set of snow tires.


Also, if you really do love that car and want to preserve it, you need a winter car. The salt on the roads will kill your body very quickly.
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Old 12-18-2005, 06:05 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Good snow tires make a huge difference. I wish I had some for my current car. I drive a rear-wheel drive Volvo 940 wagon (I keep some weight in the back because the rear end is exceptionally light, it being a wagon) and haven't had many problems so far, but the tires I do have are new. As I know I am driving a rear-wheel drive, I drive very carefully in winter
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Old 12-19-2005, 07:20 PM   #13 (permalink)
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"Also, if you really do love that car and want to preserve it, you need a winter car. The salt on the roads will kill your body very quickly"

Which I would consider, but where I live we have two parking spots, so we can't own three cars, and I don't love it enough to pay a couple hundred a month in storage fees. I love it enough to keep it on the road as long as possible, as long as I'm not jeopardizing my own safety. If it weren't for that I can't think of a new car under 20000 i'd rather have - it's just drives great and has personality. Thanks for the helpfull input everyone, i can check the alignment for free, a new set of tires would probably cost as much as I paid for the car, but something I'll consider doing if it would do as much as everyone suggests it might.
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Old 12-20-2005, 10:31 AM   #14 (permalink)
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I drive an old (no traction or stability control) Mercedes in the snow all the time, which is RWD. I don't have any problems like you're describing. It's much better with snow tires, but still isn't dangerous without them.

As for weight in the back, it's generally a good thing if you're losing rear traction. You're not trying to corner at significant speeds, so weight distribution is not very important. Having had experience with an old 318i (though not in the snow), the rear springs tend to bottom out very easily. It's possible that all the weight you put in the car took up most of your suspension travel. Hitting bumps in the road while in that state could easily cause the rear end to come around.
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Old 12-20-2005, 03:54 PM   #15 (permalink)
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[QUOTE=stingc]I drive an old (no traction or stability control) Mercedes in the snow all the time, which is RWD. I don't have any problems like you're describing. It's much better with snow tires, but still isn't dangerous without them.
QUOTE]

Agreed, don't need to have snow tires to have good safe driving in the snow and ice...I've driven in horrendous snow and ice with tires so worn that they aren't even a match for rain and I've never had problems with safe driving, if you adapt your driving you don't need any fancy snow tires or bags of sand (unless you get stuck easy)...I live in michigan and we have tons of bad, self-centered driver so here you either learn to drive well or you end up in an accident.

As far as not being able to keep up with traffic, I've run into that situation before...only thing that'll help is better tires (my tires were in terrible condition). As for the spinning out, I've done that before merging onto the expressway going about 20 MPH...it was unavoidable, was a sheet of ice that I didn't see

You live you learn and hopely you don't wreck
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Old 12-20-2005, 04:32 PM   #16 (permalink)
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if you feel like weighting the rear (which as some have suggested may not be the best idea) try thr 25 pound bags of rock salt or deicer, that way if you do get stuck you can use it to get out.
Onesnowyowl, I hear you, my old 940 turbo sedan wasn't great in the snow, but passable with the right tires. The worst was trying to get out of my parking space when I was on a sheet of ice. Once I was stuck between two huge drifts with only a couple feet between the car and them and i had zero traction. my car would just shift back and forth as i shifted from forward to reverse trying to rock it out. I was late for work and I finally had to resort to using my frickin floor mats for traction!
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Old 12-20-2005, 05:05 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ilow
if you feel like weighting the rear (which as some have suggested may not be the best idea) try thr 25 pound bags of rock salt or deicer, that way if you do get stuck you can use it to get out.
Sand is a good idea. Also, make sure your gas tank is always full. A 50 lb back of sand, salt or even kitty litter should do the job - it sounds like you went a little overboard on the weight.

Also, I agree with the above; if you weren't accelerating or steering, the car should not have gone sideways. If you are accelerating and suddenly let off the gas sometimes your back end will swing out a bit, but that's different from actually sliding sideways.

I've driven all manner of vehicles in all manner of conditions and have not had the sorts of problems you're describing. All the same, I'd get your alignment checked out, check the brakes and definitely go for good tires. No matter what sort of car you're driving, having the right tires for the road conditions makes a world of difference.
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Old 12-20-2005, 05:27 PM   #18 (permalink)
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If everything else is neutral, brakes can definitely make a car unstable in poor traction. Put it in neutral, disable the ebrake, and lift each end checking each side for any rubbing beyond the normal light brushing. Rear drums are notorious for this, especially if snow & ice get packed in the works. Discs can do it too if the ebrake system is fouled.

You're probably already keeping it in a higher gear than normal, eh?
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Old 12-20-2005, 07:09 PM   #19 (permalink)
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"Also, make sure your gas tank is always full. A 50 lb back of sand, salt or even kitty litter should do the job - it sounds like you went a little overboard on the weight."

Granted. I moved recently and the weights were the "odds and ends" that I just threw in the back of my trunk. My lazy self told me "Hey - it's winter, maybe I don't have to bring them in the house, it'll help in the snow and freezing rain."
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Old 12-22-2005, 02:38 PM   #20 (permalink)
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I'm betting that you have a set of baloney skinned summer only tires on that bimmer?

If I'm wrong then others might be along the right track.

Summer only tires need to be over at least 40 degrees F otherwise the rubber turns into a super hard hockey puck like substance that essentially provides ZERO traction. This without even mentioning the presence of ice or snow.

That said, while snow tires might be a good idea, I suspect that just switching to an all-season compound of rubber (and upgrading to something with a little more tread depth then baloney skins) is all you need to see a HUGE difference in the situation you previously described.

Anyway, unless you live in the snow belt, Canada, New England, or the rockies, you probably don't need Snow tires but since you see temperatures which could produce snow, you definately need at minimum an all season rubber compound to address these temperatures.

Remember that your tires have an optimun temperature range rating asa well as a duty rating.

For what's it's worth sand bags and/or large chunks of steel are common and have been very helpful in every rear wheel drive vehicle I've seen or operated.

Food for thought.

-bear
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Old 12-22-2005, 05:35 PM   #21 (permalink)
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rear wheel drive in not inherantly worse in adverse weather conditions than FWD, truth be told I actually prefer it...

its a LOT easier to control a skid with a RWD car, just steer into it...

a front wheel drive car sliding? forget it, you may as well let go of the wheel.


go find an icy parking lot without any lamp posts, and throw the thing around, lose control of the car so you can practice regaining control.
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Old 12-22-2005, 11:05 PM   #22 (permalink)
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humm I have like 200 pounds over my rear wheels and im fine

but I have a huge 82 van so the motor is right inline with the front wheels and a castiron V8 wieghts a lot


I remember trying to keep control of a 69 Trans Am with the 6.6l and possie track rear end....I was trying to get it to a storge for a friend...lol


there was no salt- or - sand down either
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Old 12-22-2005, 11:13 PM   #23 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ziadel
go find an icy parking lot without any lamp posts, and throw the thing around, lose control of the car so you can practice regaining control.

thats how i learned... fun and makes you a safer driver!
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Old 12-24-2005, 04:15 PM   #24 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JStrider
thats how i learned... fun and makes you a safer driver!
Untill your hit black ice and then into a pole doing 30 Km/h
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Old 12-26-2005, 01:22 AM   #25 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ziadel
a front wheel drive car sliding? forget it, you may as well let go of the wheel.
That's not entirely true, loss of traction in a FWD comes later than in a RWD (in most cases) and, certainly in a stick, putting the clutch in and using the brakes to put more weight on the driving wheels will help you quote a bit in regaining traction. This is under the assumption you have room.

At least, in a FWD you can see what you're going to hit, and attempt to steer around it. In an RWD, once you put the car in a spin, you put the car in a spin - unless you are very, very, skilled, at least.

Merry Christmas to you all!!
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Old 12-29-2005, 10:13 AM   #26 (permalink)
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I have never drivin a FWD car, so if I lose control im done for. Best for snow is AWD or 4x4, but I/m a RWD high HP guy
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Old 01-04-2006, 10:12 AM   #27 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rippley
At least, in a FWD you can see what you're going to hit, and attempt to steer around it. In an RWD, once you put the car in a spin, you put the car in a spin - unless you are very, very, skilled, at least.
On Sunday I found myself thinking the following in a ten-second time span while driving my mom's FWD car:

Hmm, I don't seem to be stopping ...

I could've sworn this car had ABS ...

Crap, I should've braked 30 feet back where there wasn't any ice ...

Hey, maybe that snow bank will stop me ... (10mph)

Hmm, maybe it'll slow me down enough that I can slide to a stop ...

Fuck, how the hell am I suppposed to steer around a fence ...

Crap, there's a fence under me and the guy who owns the house is giving me a funny look ...
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Old 01-04-2006, 12:54 PM   #28 (permalink)
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Location: Kingston, Ontario
Quote:
Originally Posted by MrSelfDestruct
On Sunday I found myself thinking the following in a ten-second time span while driving my mom's FWD car:

Hmm, I don't seem to be stopping ...

I could've sworn this car had ABS ...

Crap, I should've braked 30 feet back where there wasn't any ice ...

Hey, maybe that snow bank will stop me ... (10mph)

Hmm, maybe it'll slow me down enough that I can slide to a stop ...

Fuck, how the hell am I suppposed to steer around a fence ...

Crap, there's a fence under me and the guy who owns the house is giving me a funny look ...

thats why if there is only a FWD car aorund to drive I let my GF drive it...I hate them so much the same thing would have happened to me!
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Old 01-07-2006, 03:30 PM   #29 (permalink)
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Just know how to drive. Last winter I was driving a Dodge Dart, front engine/RWD, with crappy tires, a 383 4-barrel engine (300+hp), with a 4-speed manual, and 3.91:1 rear axle gears with no power steering. This is in Canada, snow up to 8" deep. I could keep up with yuppies in 4x4s all day long, although gas was a big problem, haha.

Driving schools in your area probably have a winter driving course on skid control, etc that you could take and it wouldn't be very expensive.

Anybody who says you NEED FWD, or all wheel drive, or these gazillion dollar snow tires, or ABS to drive safely in the winter is a pussy. Remember, until the early 1980s 90% of cars were rear wheel drive and overpowered.

.02
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Old 01-13-2006, 12:26 PM   #30 (permalink)
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When I lived in New England I got some Bridgestone Blizzaks for my Mustang GT. I had no problems. Second gear starts in the snow, careful driving. Piece of cake.
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Old 01-13-2006, 01:21 PM   #31 (permalink)
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Location: Canada
Quote:
Originally Posted by big_bubba
Just know how to drive. Last winter I was driving a Dodge Dart, front engine/RWD, with crappy tires, a 383 4-barrel engine (300+hp), with a 4-speed manual, and 3.91:1 rear axle gears with no power steering. This is in Canada, snow up to 8" deep. I could keep up with yuppies in 4x4s all day long, although gas was a big problem, haha.

Driving schools in your area probably have a winter driving course on skid control, etc that you could take and it wouldn't be very expensive.

Anybody who says you NEED FWD, or all wheel drive, or these gazillion dollar snow tires, or ABS to drive safely in the winter is a pussy. Remember, until the early 1980s 90% of cars were rear wheel drive and overpowered.

.02
You don't need any of those things. I mean, hell, I've kept control of cars in conditions that most sane people refuse to go out in, with or without snow tires. Try driving an old rusted out Bonneville with shot suspension and a donut on the front right in that sort of weather; you'll be confident driving just about anything else after that.

So, yeah. Don't need anything, other than four wheels and a motor, but they sure as shit help. If I'm driving in adverse condition like I'd be likely to see up north, I'd rather have good rubber on my wheels; I'll get there either way, but driving with the better tires isn't nearly as stressful.

I guess I just don't feel the need to be macho when I'm driving. I know what I can handle, I don't need to prove it to the world and possibly put myself in a bad situation.
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Old 01-18-2006, 02:51 AM   #32 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cyrnel
If everything else is neutral, brakes can definitely make a car unstable in poor traction.
Yep..A hanging emergency brake, stuck caliper, etc. will definitely cause major problems in winter weather. Be sure to check 'em out. And if you ever find yourself in a similar situation, press in the clutch or shove it into neutral if it's a slushbox. Taking the engine braking/torque out of the equation can make the car much more controllable.

All but one of my cars have been rear-wheel drive. Assuming there are no brake/tire/alignment problems, a RWD car should be perfectly stable in bad weather. Getting the car moving from a stop can be tricky, but past that point it shouldn't be less stable than anything else on the road. I actually feel more in-control in turns, because I can adjust the throttle to kick the rear end out or bring it back in. With FWD, it's more like "plow straight ahead" vs "plow even straighter ahead".
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Old 02-04-2006, 05:50 PM   #33 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pain Train
thats why if there is only a FWD car aorund to drive I let my GF drive it...I hate them so much the same thing would have happened to me!
I can deal with FWD even if I don't like it, my mistakes were overestimating the tires' ability and not checking to see if the car had ABS before buying it.
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Old 02-21-2006, 06:33 AM   #34 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by matthew330
I own a 1984 BMW 318i, about 240,000 miles, bought in May. I absolutely love the vehicle. It's the first time in my life I haven't had a car payment. I want to keep this bad boy on the road as long as possible; however, during our last bout of bad weather, I realized the engine wasn't the only thing I had to worry about - my safety and that of my fellow commuter was a serious concern.

We had a little snow and some freezing rain last week and on the commute home, while everyone else was flying at 55 or 60 (on back, one lane roads)with no trouble I was doing about 40 and noticed some fishtailing, real slight - but enough to make me slow down even more. So I slow down with noone behind me, am doing like 25 (seriously) not accelerating, braking or turning, and my car goes completely sideways. Almost off the road, way into the other lane, luckily there was no oncoming traffic. I throw on my flashers and pull off where I can to let cars go by.

Knowing it was real wheel drive, I have a couple hundred pounds of weight in the back thinking that would be helpfull, but after this ride from hell, I started thinking maybe that was the problem. did it take some weight off the front that would cause this? It was ridiculous how much trouble I had and how little everyone else had. The tires are pretty new. Is it just because real wheel drive sucks THAT BAD in that kind of weather?

I can't just go out and by a new car because we might have 1 or 2 more snow storms in the next couple of months.
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Old 02-21-2006, 09:37 AM   #35 (permalink)
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Location: North America
Quote:
Originally Posted by Martian
You don't need any of those things. I mean, hell, I've kept control of cars in conditions that most sane people refuse to go out in, with or without snow tires. Try driving an old rusted out Bonneville with shot suspension and a donut on the front right in that sort of weather; you'll be confident driving just about anything else after that.

So, yeah. Don't need anything, other than four wheels and a motor, but they sure as shit help. If I'm driving in adverse condition like I'd be likely to see up north, I'd rather have good rubber on my wheels; I'll get there either way, but driving with the better tires isn't nearly as stressful.

I guess I just don't feel the need to be macho when I'm driving. I know what I can handle, I don't need to prove it to the world and possibly put myself in a bad situation.
I'd like to see you try driving in bad weather with slicks on the car, maybe then you'll see what "to bad to go out" really means.
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Old 02-21-2006, 09:48 AM   #36 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Martian
A 50 lb back of sand, salt or even kitty litter should do the job
And it's a handy quick traction-getter if you get stuck.
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Old 02-21-2006, 05:19 PM   #37 (permalink)
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It's hard for me not to get annoyed at the recommendations for driving school, parking lots, how talented they are in dodge darts, etc, etc but whatever. I knew that element couldn't resist adding their two cents here. A bit of a reminder:

Weather: freezing rain, snow
Road: straight at the time
My speed:approximately 20, not speeding nor slowing down
Result: my car goes sideways

Tell me what would you have done differently?

Now I made it home, so evidently I did something right. I've drove for a truck for a living in downtown DC and suburbs of norther va to the pa border for 3 without incident, we obviously get bad weather here. I haven't been in an accident since the first year I drove a car about 17 years ago. So it would seem I do know how to drive. Even with cocksuckers like cameroncrazy in some jacked up SUV riding my ass (much love bossman, how's your employee treating you - it is just one right?)

There's been a lot of great suggestions here, but save the "just know how to drive's".
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Old 02-21-2006, 05:55 PM   #38 (permalink)
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Location: Wilson, NC
I used to have a 318i (87 I think, maybe 86) with just regular tires on it, no snow tires. I didn't have any trouble in the snow at all (I live in the mountains at school) with it. I have confidence in your driving skills - I'd say something is fucked up with your car. Even regular tires should be fine in the snow if you are going that slow. I went 30-40 in the snow with my stick shift and was fine. Hills were shitty (don't stop, for the love of God, don't stop).
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Old 02-28-2006, 08:43 PM   #39 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by matthew330
It's hard for me not to get annoyed at the recommendations for driving school, parking lots, how talented they are in dodge darts, etc, etc but whatever. I knew that element couldn't resist adding their two cents here. A bit of a reminder:

Weather: freezing rain, snow
Road: straight at the time
My speed:approximately 20, not speeding nor slowing down
Result: my car goes sideways

Tell me what would you have done differently?

Now I made it home, so evidently I did something right. I've drove for a truck for a living in downtown DC and suburbs of norther va to the pa border for 3 without incident, we obviously get bad weather here. I haven't been in an accident since the first year I drove a car about 17 years ago. So it would seem I do know how to drive. Even with cocksuckers like cameroncrazy in some jacked up SUV riding my ass (much love bossman, how's your employee treating you - it is just one right?)

There's been a lot of great suggestions here, but save the "just know how to drive's".

I think you took my post the wrong way. Yes---it sounded blunt, that wasn't my intention. I wasn't trying to insult anybody's driving abilities or praise my own. How do you think I learned how to drive in bad conditions? Driver's ed when I was younger, followed by constant practising slides, etc in various conditions in HUGE empty parking lots at night. It gets to be fun after a while too :P

The fact is that alot of people (myself included) simply cannot afford to be so well-equipped, and can't spend $500+ on a set of tires, or thousands on a modern car that can "hi-tech" itself out of any bad driving situation (although we all know they don't really do that). That's why I was driving my project/"hot rod" in the winter, I couldn't afford another car and needed to get around.

On a different note, I just bought an '84 BMW 325E (same body, different engine as a 318). I agree with you on how fun they are, they stick to the road pretty well. I took a big gamble by driving it back as it had been sitting a while and I live ~500km away from the seller, and about 10km after I left, I hit the brakes pretty hard and blew one of the (rusty) steel lines. To make matters worse, we had a bad ice storm come in, the road had about an inch of ice on it with no sand/salt on the highway. That 500km took 14 hours including rests and I went through about 2 gallons of washer fluid.

Anyway--I wasn't trying to push any buttons, just put in my opinion that the driver's ability will make or break the situation in a lot of cases (unless there is somethign mechanically wrong with a car). A good driver doesn't need ABS, AWD, or expensive tires to drive safely. As for a bad driver, even with ABS, AWD, and expensive tires, they can get into accidents and be screwed. Sorry if I offended anyone.

This topic has been alive for a while.....did you end up having the car looked at by a mechanic? Just curious.
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Old 03-01-2006, 04:50 PM   #40 (permalink)
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I can appreciate that. Thanks for the clarification. My solution since this has happened (at the insistance of my commuter friend, and no argument from me), was if it's drizzling - she's driving. The guy I bought the car from is a friend / mechanic and he keeps it running for me. Clutch went out, he fixed it. Gas line, fan belts, etc etc. If it breaks down, he grabs a tow truck and picks me up, and takes care of the problem. This car sat for two years before I bought it so after a few instances of that it looks like we finally got all the kinks worked out. Point being, as long as it's running (which it has for like 8 months without trouble), I won't bother him with this as long as I have alternatives.

It looks as if the most obvious answer is the tires at this point. Like I said though, I have alternatives in bad whether, so when I'm ready - I'll try that. No rush. I just have never really driven a car that reacted that poorly in that kind of weather - so I thought I'd get some input from the TFP.

No hard feelings Bubba. Your point is well taken.
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