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Things Drivers Should Know (II)

November 26



Winter driving.

Some may argue some of these points, but so be it. I’ve enough of an understanding to make me comfortable in expressing the following. This is in no specific order.

  • Do not let your engine warm up for more than one or two minutes
  • The alternator, which generates electricity to power electrical things in your car and recharge your battery, does not function at idle. So if you are warming up your car with the defroster, defogger (which uses the car’s AC system), radio, headlights, etc. you are draining your battery rapidly
  • Remote starters are awful for your car. They’ll kill your fuel economy, deteriorate your oil and drain your battery
  • Do not drive aggressively (high revs) until the engine has reached normal operating temperature (look at where the temperature needle is after 15 minutes or so of driving, it’ll always be there when all is ok, that is the normal operating temperature. Until the needle reaches there, take it easy (or at least easier) on the throttle)
  • If you do not clear a thick layer of snow off the roof of your car, you are a jerk. It will fly off, obscuring your rear windshield and chunks of ice will hit the car behind you. Stop finding excuses for being lazy and prepare your vehicle for use
  • Be sure to clear snow off your headlights and taillights. Oh. Wait. If you can’t be arsed to do that, chances are you don’t signal anyway. Nevermind
  • The rating of the oil in your engine, or weight, tells you its performance. The means that it’s been at colder temperature and stands for ‘winter’, it does not stand for ‘weight’
  • 0W has been tested for use up to -30C, 5W -25C, 10W -20C, etc. The colder, the thicker the oil becomes. The smaller the number (0W, 5W, 10W) the thinner it will remain when very cold. The thicker the oil, the less protection and the more wear on the rubbing metal parts in your engine
  • The second number represents its viscosity at operating temperature.
  • Any technician or person saying they’d not use a 0W or 5W because it’s too ‘thin’ is an idiot and does not understand how oil works
  • Know if your car is front wheel drive, rear wheel drive or all wheel drive so you can expect its behaviour in adverse conditions
  • Front wheel drive pulls the vehicle forward. If you are stuck and can’t go up a hill, reversing up the hill may work better
  • Rear wheel drive pushes the vehicle, but with too much throttle may cause ‘fishtailing’, the rear of the vehicle swaying vigorously back and forth leading to a loss of control
  • All wheel drive puts a different amount of torque (torque – what gets the car moving, horsepower – the top speed of a car) front and rear (some systems provide 50/50, others 60/40, etc) but most will not help you in a curve – only in a straight line (Honda’s SH-AWD is one exception I’m aware of and understand, it moves torque from side to side depending on the conditions – feel free to note others in the comments below)
  • No system designed to get the car moving (like all wheel drive or four wheel drive) will help you brake
  • The less torque a vehicle has, the easier it will be to move in adverse conditions (one reason people with muscle cars put cinder blocks or bags of cat litter in the trunk, it’s to put more weight on the wheels driving the car to try and lessen them from slipping so much in snow). So here a high-performance car with wide tires is at a disadvantage in deep snow, a low performance car with narrow tires will fare better
  • ABS systems are helpful to casual drivers and those who do not have a good control/understanding of their vehicle. In snow will mean the braking distance will often be longer as it tries to prevent the wheels from braking – Go out in a snowy parking lot and test it. Know how it operates so you can anticipate it. Do NOT be afraid to test your car’s system in a controlled, safe environment. Non-ABS may be more effective to those who understand basic physics and who plan ahead when they drive, which is unfortunately a minority of drivers
  • I recommend carrying a safety vest in your trunk. In winter I keep mine in the back seat. If you have to pull over and poke around the outside of your car in the middle of a snow storm (clear snow from the wheel well areas/lights/windows, refill windshield washer fluid, check if that big bump you felt caused visible damage, etc.) you want to be seen. Large trucks only look out for the obvious, be obvious

 

Posted by on November 26, 2010 in Cars

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