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Author Topic: Do I *need* All Wheel Drive?  (Read 3389 times)
The_Snow_Troll
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Do I *need* All Wheel Drive?
« on: 09/22/09, 03:16 PM »

I have always had a Subaru and love the fact that I've never had to use chains.  "Back in the day" I would go into the mountains a lot and drive my suby on all the roads that most wouldn't drive their SUV's.

Now, I get out less and hate the poor fuel economy of the Subaru....so....

Do I need AWD?  Would the Jetta TDI be a good substitute?  Do I wait for the Forester TDI as a compromise?

(killing time while at a management seminar)
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Ritalin Kid
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Re: Do I *need* All Wheel Drive?
« Reply #1 on: 09/22/09, 03:35 PM »

I wouldn't depend on a two wheel drive car in the mountains.  My wife and I drive my 4 wheel drive truck in the mountains.  She drives a Volvo S60 with traction control, which I thought would handle ok in the snow but when it snowed last year in town, the car got stuck numerous times.

It's funny, I was thinking about how great an AWD diesel wagon would be.  The only one (to my knowledge) on the market is the Audi A3 TDI with quattro, but it's not really a full wagon. 

I didn't know that Subaru was going to bring the diesel Forrester to the US, that seems like an awesome rig. 
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PNWBrit
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Re: Do I *need* All Wheel Drive?
« Reply #2 on: 09/22/09, 04:32 PM »

It's funny, I was thinking about how great an AWD diesel wagon would be.  The only one (to my knowledge) on the market is the Audi A3 TDI with quattro, but it's not really a full wagon. 

A3 diesel doesn't come with Quattro in the US .

Which is dumb.

Since it is available in Europe.

But I've never been able to understand how the car companies figure out their US/Euro product lines.

Now, I get out less

It seems to me if you fix this your car dilemma becomes a non-issue?



« Last Edit: 09/22/09, 04:38 PM by PNWBrit » Logged
The_Snow_Troll
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Re: Do I *need* All Wheel Drive?
« Reply #3 on: 09/22/09, 04:43 PM »

It seems to me if you fix this your car dilemma becomes a non-issue?


Point taken, then I have to add the cost of family counselling Smiley
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Aleksey
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Re: Do I *need* All Wheel Drive?
« Reply #4 on: 09/22/09, 07:03 PM »

I consider the drive up more of a risk  throughout the season than avalanches. Having flipped my ride on 90 a season back when I drifted too close to a charging semi and over-corrected, I would say that awd/4wd is mandatory. Getting to Alpy on a true powder day, when the snow level is at 1k or less is a drag without. Doable, but why compound your risks any more than you have to?
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Charlie Hagedorn
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Re: Do I *need* All Wheel Drive?
« Reply #5 on: 09/22/09, 08:44 PM »

Front-wheel drive Escort Wagon with (and without (M+S rated all-seasons)) snow tires has served me well for the past couple years. Slush, snow, and driver's-eyeball-high deep light drifts (with chains) at Snoqualmie have all worked out great. Despite a number of intentional attempts to spin it out on snow, slush, and ice, I've never succeeded. One low speed spinout on the road to Paradise in a gathering storm.  Snow tires are absolutely worth it.

That said, AWD is inherently better. Plus, you needn't chain up except in the very most dire of interstate circumstances. The road has, as RuSki says, its risks.
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JibberD
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Re: Do I *need* All Wheel Drive?
« Reply #6 on: 09/22/09, 09:15 PM »

I too faced this dilemma last year when deciding on a new (used) car. Gas was $4.25/gal then, so my frugal side teamed up with a train of thought which asked "how many actual miles driven really require AWD (I have a 50 mile daily round-trip commute). I opted for FWD, good winter tires and chains, which I needed last winter...and yes, it sucked watching the AWD crew being waved through I90 and the Paradise Rd when I was required to put on the chains. That happened three times in a year's driving. As our colleague with the Escort wagon indicated (I say bring that car back into production, circa 1999 body), FWD, chains and snow tires are a very effective combination, like mega traction. On the downside, have you ever experieced popsicle finger?

It's a tough choice... but a fun one to make, right!?
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-Doug O
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Re: Do I *need* All Wheel Drive?
« Reply #7 on: 09/23/09, 11:51 AM »

I'm in the same situation (trying to decide between fwd and 4wd) as my car right now has 213k miles and needs to be replaced.

Do other skiers on this post get by OK with fwd and snow tires?  4wd sounds nice, but as mentioned, it seems you take a hit on fuel economy with most any model you buy.
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Charlie Hagedorn
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Re: Do I *need* All Wheel Drive?
« Reply #8 on: 09/23/09, 06:05 PM »

(I say bring that car back into production, circa 1999 body)

Absolutely. The pre-1997 Escorts rock, in my humble opinion.
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korup
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Re: Do I *need* All Wheel Drive?
« Reply #9 on: 09/23/09, 08:18 PM »

I had a Civic with studded tires and never had any problems even on deep days, but it was a huge PITA to be forced to put (unnessesary) chains on, so upgraded to an older Legacy AWD, small engine, good gas mileage that was only slight better.
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Rusty Knees
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Re: Do I *need* All Wheel Drive?
« Reply #10 on: 09/23/09, 09:10 PM »

Do not buy a chevy colorado 4WD - poor gas mileage, wimpy brakes, VERY difficult to work on.  fwiw

However, if after that you do want one, look for one on Craigs list soon.
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PNWBrit
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Re: Do I *need* All Wheel Drive?
« Reply #11 on: 09/24/09, 09:57 AM »

Having had to dig out and push a small FWD snow tired car from a not really very snowy and perfectly flat parking lot about three weeks ago.

I missed my AWD.

The days I really want to ski and to get there early to do so make it worthwhile. living in a foothills neighborhood where a couple of inches of ~sea level snow make the place impassable for two days also helps the purchase process.

Or just get a PT Cruiser. So long as you have a high tolerance for Scottish accented road rage.

Edit: Those old Escorts? Really? People like those things? I'm just stunned.
« Last Edit: 09/24/09, 10:01 AM by PNWBrit » Logged
Snow Bell
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Re: Do I *need* All Wheel Drive?
« Reply #12 on: 09/24/09, 10:31 AM »

I have the AWD Volvo wagon and I also debated the pros and cons of that decision.  For my family, the mpg trade-off seems justified as we don't regularly drive much anyhow.  The 5 cylinder with turbo is powerful and fairly efficient (better than my 6cyl. SUV).  The clearance is not great but has only been a problem for me once or twice.
The only other car that I have had that even came close in terms of traction was our early 90's Legacy.  That car was cool because it had an "off road" option which lifted the suspension a couple of inches.  It probably negatively effected traction control a bit but was helpful in deep snow.  We liked that car pretty well.  Maybe you need an economy daily driver and a cheap dedicated ski rig, stickers and all.  Maybe extra lights, rocket box, a small plow...  I think that's your answer.  If you can't get your hands on the vintage Escort due to their popular demand, I'll bet you can scoop up grandmas old suby for cheap.

Come to think of it; (is that the proper use of the semi colon?) Skierlyles just bought one of the small Subaru AWD's.  The Impreza Sport I believe.  That seems to be targeted at you.

All that being said, I have never set out to ski and not arrived due to my car.  I have ditched the car and hitched to the pass a couple of times but I always made it and so will you if you are dedicated.  Besides, if your rig sucks, your buddies are more likely to drive you. Grin


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skierguitarist
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Re: Do I *need* All Wheel Drive?
« Reply #13 on: 09/24/09, 01:16 PM »

I have a Toyota Matrix xr awd wth all weather tires (2003).  Great mileage if you keep your foot out of it.   Sits a little low, but considering that is my only complaint, I give it two thumbs up.
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aaron_wright
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Re: Do I *need* All Wheel Drive?
« Reply #14 on: 09/25/09, 08:14 AM »

It's amazing how location changes perspective. In Wenatchee we typically deal with snow and ice covered roads for the Entire months of December and January. I have a VW Eurovan with snow tires and we've never had a problem with it driving daily on ice, packed snow, wet snow or slush. This includes several trips to Mission Ridge, Blewett Pass and  sometimes Steven's Pass a week. Front wheel drive with good snow tires, not snow rated all season tires, will get you through 99% of the driving you do. For those times you need chains consider SpikeSpiders, the CHP uses them and they literally take seconds to put on.
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Alan Brunelle
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Re: Do I *need* All Wheel Drive?
« Reply #15 on: 09/25/09, 10:43 AM »


The only other car that I have had that even came close in terms of traction was our early 90's Legacy.  That car was cool because it had an "off road" option which lifted the suspension a couple of inches. 


Snow Bell,

Still have my '93 Legacy.  It had that very same feature and was a great snow mobile.  Still have it with 245,000 miles on it.  That levitation feature was lost when the pneumatic shocks went out on it after ~170k miles and it was cheaper to have the whole suspension replaced than getting new shocks.  I think that it may have been one of the all time best snow cars.  Probably rivaled the GL style Subaru.  I have never once used anything but all weather tires on the car, never used chains except once in the neighborhood on ice, and I have done trips up to Stevens and other places almost every weekend during the past 4 winters in all kinds of snow conditions. 

The car is really suffering right now, with the drivers side window lifter broken and after it had an accident last spring.  But I just cannot seem to get rid of it.  I will probably buy an old used Subaru, since I have heard on this forum that the newer ones just are not a snow savvy.

Regarding this post, I think that front wheel drive should be fine for most of the snow-controlled roads, but the tires are extremely important.  My wife's front wheel drive volvo was horrible in the snow, but once we wore out the factory supplied tires (which are almost always a performance style tire) it does much better with the typical Michelin all weather tire.

Alan
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Andrew Carey
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Re: Do I *need* All Wheel Drive?
« Reply #16 on: 09/27/09, 05:18 PM »

Diesels suck.  They sicken you and your kids and the neiqhbors kids.  Europe is having really big health problems because of the switch to diesels.  EPA will probably not allow the AWD diesels in the US.

The problem is not chemical pollution, but particulates.  Bunker fuel burning ships, diesel trucks and heavy equipment, and diesel school buses cause a 40% increase in adult-onset asthma in Seattle in the 90s.  New diesels with particulate filters are better, but I haven't seen any documentation on how much particulates they emit.

/s/ an adult-onset asthma victim who quickly suffocates behind diesels, including Volkswagens, Mercedes, and US PU trucks.

Oh yeah, and our old Subaru Legacy Outback was by far the best handling vehicle we've had for icy and snowy roads.  My Dodge Hemi PU with 20 inch wheels and 10 ply M&S in low 4WD does better in snow deeper than 8 inches, altho it can get stuck too :-)  Haven't checked mileage, but there are alternatives to the Sub out there, like the Rav4 etc.
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... want your own private skintrack? Better move to the yukon dude. (B'ham Allen, 2011).
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Andy Carey, Nisqually Park, 3500 feet below Paradise
Alan Brunelle
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Re: Do I *need* All Wheel Drive?
« Reply #17 on: 09/27/09, 07:04 PM »

Yes, the carbon "soot' that diesels put out is now considered a significant health problem.

One source that really irks me is UPS trucks!  I remember some years ago a business report about how efficient UPS was and noted that their trucks had a major positive impact on their business.  Well I guess they didn't take into account the fact that one UPS truck seems to put out more diesel soot than most 18 wheelers.  It bugs me that I have to go get an emission test every so often yet these black smokers are out on the road at will.  My guess is that "efficiency" means the cheapest damn power train possible, with no regulations requiring them to spend a dime on pollution control.

Alan
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Gregg_C
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Re: Do I *need* All Wheel Drive?
« Reply #18 on: 09/27/09, 11:18 PM »

Those that know me know what side of the fence I am on with this discussion.  Been driving Saabs since '85 and luv' em for winter driving.  Full set of narrow, studded Hakka's and the car is a beast in the snow.  I only chain up  once or twice in the winter, usually when the road is too steep for traction (Road to Paul Ridge in BC).  If I had to do the mandatory chain up thing like you folks down south I might feel differently.  The State Patrol on the way to Baker are not early risers so I never have to throw them on when the signs are out.  I am already skiing up:)

Was in Nelson last winter before New Years during the big storm.  Got to try out some different cars in the snow while we waited for a day to fly into Kokanee Hut.  The '95 Subie with all season tires was scary bad in the snow compared to my 900.  The Ford aerostar with snows was better!!  There was no comparison.  I could break traction quite easily with the Suby.  Tires make a huge difference! 

Next month I am going to have ScanWest install a Limited slip differential in the Saab and that will make the car even better in the snow.   AWD is over rated unless you are living in snow for many months and have to get up steep snow covered roads on a daily basis (Mazama). 
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watsonskipsmith
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Re: Do I *need* All Wheel Drive?
« Reply #19 on: 09/28/09, 02:09 PM »

for a ski vehicle, in my experience you cannot beat an AWD chevy astrovan!!
truck chassi
wide wheel base
excellent clearance
with AWD and 4 snow tires it totally rocks in the snow!!
nice and dry place to change at the trailhead.
gets about 20 MPG
reasonable cost
easy to find service (which has not been an issue for my past 2 astrovans
dont need no stinking roof rack
not sexy, not sporty, looks like a toaster.
profiles well with cops, they think its a minivan!


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khyak
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Re: Do I *need* All Wheel Drive?
« Reply #20 on: 09/29/09, 09:30 AM »

Life before Subaru, had crappy celica, family ford wagon, old style volvo wagon.  Only time I ever chained up was when I used my parking brake at Stevens and one side froze to the drum.  Had to put the chain on the one spinning wheel to break free the brake on the other side.  I did always have good snow tires.   Generally if the DOT has the road open, using good technique will get you there.  SLOW down, never stop on a hill, park your car so its pointed downhill at the ski area parking lot, or be ready to ask for a push to get you started.  Oh Yeah, don't use your ebrake when it is freezing outside.   That being said, it does seem that chain enforcement has really picked up the last couple years.  Also, since I live at Hyak and drive I-90 a lot, I do realize plenty of people have no clue of how to drive on snow.  You know those people that spin out in the middle lane and then stop right in the middle of the freeway to chain up or just park there.  Do you think it ever occurred to them to roll backwards to get to the shoulder area?  ABS brakes, we all have been propagandized on how to use them right?  When your are sliding off the road, just keep your foot buried on the brake pedal, because that ABS is going to save you!!  Umm I am being sarcastic, please note that if your car is sliding off the road or into a car, you should try to take your foot off the brake to regain control.   Or just get a suby!  I wish that more cars had a button to switch from AWD to 2wd.
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PNWBrit
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Re: Do I *need* All Wheel Drive?
« Reply #21 on: 09/29/09, 11:17 AM »

you should try to take your foot off the brake to regain control.  

Actually that's what ABS does.  Huh

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Alan Brunelle
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Re: Do I *need* All Wheel Drive?
« Reply #22 on: 09/29/09, 12:07 PM »

Actually that's what ABS does.  Huh

Actually, my ABS do not do that.  They pulse at a fairly high frequency.  Their release phase is too short to accomplish what khyak is referring to.

I think that ABS works best on wet roads.  The kind of skids I have corrected required a complete release of the brake for a second or so.  The wheels then can fully turn, steer into the skid to get control and then stop braking like an idiot that got me into the skid in the first place.
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snowdawg
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Re: Do I *need* All Wheel Drive?
« Reply #23 on: 09/29/09, 01:11 PM »

For me I would go with an AWD or 4WD vehicle, but I go over 40 days a year so I think it is worth not having to stop and put on chains. I used to have an Outback it it handled awesome in the snow and I averaged around 24mpg. I currently drive a Ram pickup which gets terrible gas mileage but also performs well in the snow. I also agree with Khyak that knowing how to drive in snow is very important, most the vehicles you see in the ditch are suvs.
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PNWBrit
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Re: Do I *need* All Wheel Drive?
« Reply #24 on: 09/29/09, 03:11 PM »

non ABS cars may brake slightly shorter on deep snow or loose gravel. Many newer systems are designed to avoid this with better analysis of differing wheel lock up speeds and varying pulse rates.

But only because a fully locked wheel can build up a wedge of snow/gravel. This would seem to be the exact opposite of what you're both explaining.

Otherwise the non-locked up wheel of an ABS equipped car allows wheels to rotate and steer fully during braking exactly as you describe the releasing of brakes allows.

Being a better driver than ABS is an old wives's tale almost on a level with seat belts causing drowning deaths.

Edit: ABS also has a vital role in stability control/anti skid systems where one or more brakes are applied independently of driver input.

« Last Edit: 09/29/09, 03:18 PM by PNWBrit » Logged
Alan Brunelle
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Re: Do I *need* All Wheel Drive?
« Reply #25 on: 09/29/09, 03:35 PM »

Not sure I can agree with you 100%.  In fact not only have I found that completely releasing the brake has returned control, there are times where I have found actually applying power helped considerably.  Mind you these are not out of control skids.  Maybe that allowed the wedge of snow to be released, but I got ABS and if the sucka was working then why do I have to do all the work?

In fact the situations that I found where the ABS was most effective was on gravel.  Very effective.

I'm not against ABS, I it is just my experience that I have not had to rely on it that much.  On the other hand please understand that I am not one of those drivers out there every day trying to push the limit.  I'm just an old guy that has had some experiences.  Maybe my old beater just has a lousy implementation.

Alan
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Don_B
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Re: Do I *need* All Wheel Drive?
« Reply #26 on: 09/29/09, 09:35 PM »

Hmm, so it looks like after my 2000 Subaru gives out, my best choices are an late 80's or early 90's Subaru or an old Ford Escort or Chevy Astrovan. Well, if there is nothing newer that's any good, I guess I'd go for the Ketchikan Cadillac (Suby) based on familiarity. With a few mods it ought to keep on ticking, like this '88 GL
or
this one
« Last Edit: 09/29/09, 09:40 PM by Don_B » Logged
bcglaxer
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Re: Do I *need* All Wheel Drive?
« Reply #27 on: 09/30/09, 04:12 PM »

I'm in the same situation (trying to decide between fwd and 4wd) as my car right now has 213k miles and needs to be replaced.

Do other skiers on this post get by OK with fwd and snow tires?  4wd sounds nice, but as mentioned, it seems you take a hit on fuel economy with most any model you buy.


I drive a 2000 Chrysler 300M that is front wheel drive and chains won't even fit on it. I drove it down in Utah through Bryce and Zion a few years ago when 4 feet of snow dumped in one night and didn't have a problem. The only problems I have in Washington are when they physically check for chains. I think it's less about the car and more about the driver.
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PNWBrit
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Re: Do I *need* All Wheel Drive?
« Reply #28 on: 10/01/09, 12:46 PM »

II think it's less about the car and more about the driver.

Illusory superiority and driving ability

"Swenson (1981) surveyed students in Sweden and the United States, asking them to compare their driving safety and skill to the other people in the experiment. For driving skill, almost all of the US sample (93%) and 69% of the Swedish sample put themselves in the top 50%. For safety, 88% of the US group and 77% of the Swedish sample put themselves in the top 50%.

McCormick et al. (1986) asked subjects to evaluate themselves on eight different dimensions of driving skill, such as the "dangerous-safe" dimension or the "considerate-inconsiderate" dimension. Out of 178 subjects, only a tiny minority of responses were below average and for some of the measures, large majorities rated themselves as above average. Taking the eight dimensions together, just under 80% of the subjects put themselves above the average driver."


here's a clip of an ex Formula One and Le Mans race car driver demonstrating how ABS/Stabilty control works better than he can manage on his own http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K3m24bjkfg0
« Last Edit: 10/01/09, 01:18 PM by PNWBrit » Logged
khyak
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Re: Do I *need* All Wheel Drive?
« Reply #29 on: 10/01/09, 02:46 PM »

Good to see I caught up a firm believer in ABS.  Yes we all have been told that ABS works better than us.  When we start sliding off the road we should just keep our foot buried into the brake pedal and let ABS save us.  Now, I am talking about sliding out on ice or snow.  I really believe, maybe it is "illusory", that when your car is sliding for the ditch and your brakes are pulsing faster than a mouse on crack, that you should stop freakin breaking and let the car regain traction.  This may not work on a sheet of ice, but often taking your foot off the brake will allow you to regain control of the car.  .  Unfortunately too many people get lulled into this belief that they should keep their foot on the brake.
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Keith_Henson
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Re: Do I *need* All Wheel Drive?
« Reply #30 on: 10/02/09, 06:47 AM »

Good to see I caught up a firm believer in ABS.  Yes we all have been told that ABS works better than us.  When we start sliding off the road we should just keep our foot buried into the brake pedal and let ABS save us.  Now, I am talking about sliding out on ice or snow.  I really believe, maybe it is "illusory", that when your car is sliding for the ditch and your brakes are pulsing faster than a mouse on crack, that you should stop freakin breaking and let the car regain traction.  This may not work on a sheet of ice, but often taking your foot off the brake will allow you to regain control of the car.  .  Unfortunately too many people get lulled into this belief that they should keep their foot on the brake.

The only times (twice) I've ever had problems in my AWD SUV (Saturn Vue with M/S tires) were coming down the Mt. Baker road and coming down Crystal Blvd. Both times it was ice and with breaks (ABS) to the floor and I was sliding and not slowing down (gravity fed). When I took my foot off the break I was able to do some steering.

It was spooky at Crystal because ahead of me  cars spinning out and blocking the road. I drove into the snow at the right side of the road and my tires were able to get enough purchase to steer and stop.
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Keith A Henson, Puyallup
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andyrew
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Re: Do I *need* All Wheel Drive?
« Reply #31 on: 10/02/09, 05:26 PM »

I really believe, maybe it is "illusory", that when your car is sliding for the ditch and your brakes are pulsing faster than a mouse on crack, that you should stop freakin breaking and let the car regain traction.  This may not work on a sheet of ice, but often taking your foot off the brake will allow you to regain control of the car.  .  Unfortunately too many people get lulled into this belief that they should keep their foot on the brake.

I don't really know all the acronyms that well, but from the video it looks like ESP (which brakes the left/right wheels independently to keep a car from going into a spin) is different than ABS, and that ABS might not be enough to regain traction if you start going into a spin?
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Andrew Carey
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Re: Do I *need* All Wheel Drive?
« Reply #32 on: 10/07/09, 08:27 AM »

I have ABS on my motorcycle (and my truck and my car).  But why on a motorcycle you say?  Don't motorcyclist avoid snow and ice like death? Yes, they do.

But where ABS really shines is in panic stops, especially where traction is compromised such as wet roads, an oily patch, etc.  M'cycles are more difficult to control than cars, by far; initial breaking shifts weight to the front wheel, reducing traction on the rear wheel, and if things are slippery, that real wheel can come around and pass the front wheel ;-); just using the rear brake can make for very long braking distances.

Tests have clearly shown that even expert drivers can stop in a shorter distance, with less skidding, with ABS than without.  Nobody, to my knowledge, has every claimed ABS substitutes for basic driving skills.

Where ABS is really problematic is on gravel roads--you can end up with no braking on a motorcyle; so my bike allows you to switch off the ABS.  Many ABS systems disable themselves at lower speeds, say under 15 mph, so if you're skidding across an icy parking lot and wondering why ABS is not helping and there is no pulsing in the pedal, that might be why.

The quotes on driver self-evaluations are hilarious.  Since I've been riding a motorcycle and taking beginning and advanced rider courses and reading books on riding technique, it has become apparent to me how LOUSY and inattentive most American drivers are (it is as if many never learned to drive) and even more so for the general American motorcycle rider.  It takes a considerable amount of training and thorough testing to get a m'cycle license in Europe; I suspect there automobile licensing is more stringent as well.
« Last Edit: 10/07/09, 08:32 AM by acarey » Logged

... want your own private skintrack? Better move to the yukon dude. (B'ham Allen, 2011).
...USA: government of the people by corporate proxies for business.

Andy Carey, Nisqually Park, 3500 feet below Paradise
crystal_mt_dreamin
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Re: Do I *need* All Wheel Drive?
« Reply #33 on: 10/09/09, 07:18 PM »

Probably rivaled the GL style Subaru. 

I still miss mine, greatest cars ever.
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