Winter DrivingAuthor - Prodigal Son
Prodigal Son wrote:Here's the thing about winter driving: torque is not your friend.
Basically, torque pushes against traction to move the car. Where traction > torque, the car moves and stays under control. Where traction < torque, the wheels spin and the car goes out of control.
In summer, you generally have more traction than torque. It takes some work to break traction and lose control of the car. In winter, you often have very little traction, meaning that it is easy to have torque exceed traction and to lose control of the car. Here are the things that contribute to lack of traction in winter:
* Cold. Cold rubber does not grip cold asphalt the same way warm rubber grips warm asphalt. Even on bare pavement, you have far less grip in cold conditions than you do when it is warm.
* Snow and ice. Duh. Not much grip on snow and ice. But if you spin you tires on snow, you are likely to turn it into ice. And if you spin your tires on ice, you are likely to melt the surface layer, and if ice gives little traction, wet ice gives absolutely none.
Just about every winter driving technique is in some way about reducing torque so that you don't break traction. Luckily for you, the lack of low end torque in your Fit becomes an advantage in Winter driving. Here are the basic winter driving techniques:
* Travel at low speed in high gear. Low gears multiply engine torque, so keeping in as high a gear as possible reduces the amount of torque you are putting down to the road and helps keep you under control.
* Launch in second gear and release the clutch slowly (where it is particularly slippy -- generally not necessary on dry pavement). Again, higher gears have less torque, so using second helps you moderate the torque you put down.
* Accelerate slowly. Again, reduce the torque you are putting down.
* Don't run at hills. Slow and steady in as high a gear as you can will help you minimize torque to just what you need to climb the hill and avoid breaking traction.
* Braking. Brake gently. Again, you want to minimize the braking torque you apply to the wheels so they continue to roll until the vehicle is stopped. A locked wheels generally does not stop as fast under slippery conditions (thought there are exceptions) but the main reason to avoid locking up the brakes it to maintain directional control. With locked wheels, differences in the surface can change your direction and send you sliding all over the place. If you have ABS, though (and I'm pretty sure you must have), let it do its job. If you don't, and you find yourself self sliding uncontrollably towards some object, you have to do the counter-intuitive thing and get off the brakes. This will (hopefully) restore steering control and let you avoid the obstacle. (If it doesn't, well, you were going to hit it at that point no matter what you did.)
* Steering. Wheels only steer if they are rolling. If you break traction while turning, you will stop turning and slide. Always complete your braking in a straight line before entering the corner. Once you enter the corner, keep neutral throttle until you have completed the turn. (Neutral throttle means neither accelerating not decelerating.) Do not stay off the throttle altogether, as this will cause engine braking -- braking torque to the wheels that will limit their ability to turn the car.
* Skid control: Clutch in and steer where you want to go. By clutching in, you remove all torque from the wheels (other than that generated by the momentum of the car) and give the wheels the best chance to grip, roll, and steer.
* Engine braking. There is a persistent myth out there that you should use engine braking to slow down in winter rather than using the main brakes. This is not only untrue, it is dangerous. Engine braking comes on fast (which can help break traction) cannot be easily modulated or canceled, applies only to the drive wheels (which unbalances the car), and cannot be controlled by your ABS (though some cars do have a system to modulate engine braking). Generally speaking, the amount of engine braking you get merely from lifting off the throttle and coasting will not cause a problem, but if it does, throwing in the clutch may allow you to regain control. If you have ABS, throwing in the clutch and hitting the brakes should allow you to slow down and steer without losing control. And, of course, if you have been using the highest gear available while you were running, your engine braking will be proportionally less when you lift, which will help keep things under control.
* Winter tires. Winter tires give you more traction under all winter conditions: cold, snow, ice. The rubber compound is formulated to stay flexible in the cold, the tread is designed to clear snow, and the snipes help you grip on ice. A good set of snow tires are worth more than all the above driving tips put together.
Good luck with your first winter in a manual. A manual is definitely an advantage in winter because it give you lots of ways to limit the torque you are putting down. So remember, torque is not your friend, and you should be fine.