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Tips for driving in the Vancouver snow

DH Vancouver Staff Dec 23, 2008 2:00 pm

For those that have been brave enough to venture in the snow with their vehicles the past few days, you know it’s been a frustrating endeavour. Getting stuck, sliding on black ice, and smelling burning rubber are some of the situations you might have faced. Don’t worry, I’m here to help. Due to the nature of one of my jobs in my 80-hour per week work schedule, I have garnered much experience these past few days and can provide some helpful tips:

1. Slow and steady. Driving slow is an obvious tip. However, keeping speed consistent is not. Momentum is your friend, use it as an advantage to avoid getting stuck. Stay on the tire trails of other vehicles especially on the side streets. When you see a chunk of snow like in an intersection, scan the intersection to make sure it’s safe and then quickly speed up early and use momentum to plow past it.

2. Shifting gears. The use of gears is highly beneficial even if you drive automatic. Neutral is my favourite gear because it kills the power in the wheels. When you are unable to stop like on a slippery slope quickly throw it into neutral immediately and pump the breaks. The wheels won’t spin forward. Some people throw it in Reverse but this will damage your transmission. Gear 1 and 2 are useful when it comes to getting out of jams. I’ll explain more of this later. The e-brake is used for emergency situations, hence the name. When all else fails pull up the e-brake. If going at fast speeds you will do a 180. I’m not a big fan of the e-brake because of the unpredictability of it. Keep it simple.

3. Getting out of a jam. There are several strategies for this.

You can clear the area around the tires for bumps but this will require you getting out of the car. It is the most effective strategy though.

You can try muscling through it but this rarely works and leaves you smelling rubber. Getting someone to push your car while you try to muscle through a jam does work often, surprisingly.

You can also try rocking the car forward and backward with very light touches to the gas. Don’t hit the gas too hard or you will have the tires spinning. Instead, press the gas gently. Throw it in Gear 1 or 2 to rock forward then throw it in Reverse real fast to rock backward then back to Gear 1 or 2, etc. and you will eventually get out. Sometimes this requires turning the tires in weird angles. Every situation is different so you will know by feeling which way to turn the wheel. Momentum can be your friend here too. The reason we use Gear 1 and 2 is for more power and to limit spinning too much.

4. Patience. This means patience with others, patience on the roads and most importantly, patience with yourself.

5. Prevention. Keep a lot of distance with the vehicle in front of you. Make slow turns, unless you are using momentum as your friend on a side street. Avoid side streets whenever possible.

Hopefully these tips help you all on the treacherous roads of Vancouver. Enjoy a white Christmas and drive safely everybody.

Update:Rapid, but very light pumping of the gas pedal has been tested as an effective strategy to get out of jams. Be patient. Pumping of the brake pedal is effective for stopping.

DH Vancouver Staff
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