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Do Heavier Cars Have Better Traction?
Is there an advantage to driving heavier cars in rain and snow? How can I avoid slipping and sliding on wet, slushy ground?
One of the scariest things to do when you’re driving your car is drive on wet roads. Getting stuck in the mud or a foot of snow is always a cause for alarm. especially if you’re one of those who own heavier cars.
But can you do it with a heavier car? Can you have more traction if you load your car with heavy objects to make traveling on wet ground safer?
It’s not as much as having a heavier car rather than having better tires that will allow for a safer travel across wet surfaces. There is a misconception about heavier cars over lighter cars operating in snowy or wet road conditions.
Both have the tendency to lose traction if the correct conditions are present. What you need to avoid the most is a hydroplaning event (highly preventable) and equipping your car with the right tires.
So we’ll cover hydroplaning and the right tires for snowy and wet road conditions.
Hydroplaning or aquaplaning is the event where a car loses traction with the road due to a water build-up between the road and the tires. This thin film of water can cause cars to skid uncontrollably and is one of the reasons why road accidents happen during the rainy season.
How To Deal With A Hydroplaning Car
Losing control of your car on a wet road can be very scary and dangerous. Heavier cars sliding around are very scary. But this can be treated as a momentary loss of control and you can actually prevent it from happening or regain control of your skidding car in the event that it does.
Here are steps how you can prevent that from happening:
Prevention Is Always The Key To Road Safety
Your Tires Are Key To Having Good Road Traction
New tires perform better on wet or snowy roads. The newer your tires, the better and safer it is for you to drive when it’s raining or snowing outside.
The key to keeping good road traction is having well-maintained treads. Make it a point to check your tires on a regular basis. Replace balding tires immediately. Heavier cars wear tires out faster.
Check the tires for wear and make sure it doesn’t reach or go below 2/32”. You can also use the penny trick if you don’t know how to read the wear bars.
Rotate your tires regularly to get an even wear on all four.
Make Sure Your Tires Are Properly Inflated
There’s a misconception that under-inflated tires are better for road traction. This only applies for off-road vehicles in off-road terrain conditions.
On the road, where it is flat and smooth, hitting a puddle of water could trap water within the tire instead of dispersing it to the side.
How To Avoid Hydroplaning When You’re Behind The Wheel
Be Careful Or Don’t Drive At All When It’s Raining Outside
We already know that it’s dangerous to drive outside when it’s raining. So, if you can avoid it, don’t drive at all. Heavier cars have a tendency to skid on wet conditions.
But, if you’re already behind the wheel and it starts to rain, remember that it is the first few minutes when it is most dangerous. Rain combines with oil and other substances that create a thin slippery film that causes skidding.
Drive slowly and be aware of others who might be skidding.
A heavy downpour will eventually clear the road of all substances but it is going to pose a new problem in the form of puddles.
Slow Down In Wet Conditions
Reduce your speed and avoid puddles of water. Going over these puddles might cause you to lose traction especially if your tires are unable to disperse as much water.
Avoid standing water.
Stay in the center of the lain as puddles tend to form at the sides. You can also drive where others have already driven before. They are likely to have removed as much water and oil off with their tires making it less of a risk for you to drive over them.
If you have to, gear down. Driving in a lower gear will allow you to maintain more traction on the road. This is especially useful when taking turns or driving down hills.
You might want to turn your cruise control off too. Turning your cruise control off allows you to have a more controlled feel of your vehicle. You need to be able to control your speed accordingly and your cruise control will only get in the way.
Avoid Sudden Acceleration And Braking
Ease off on the gas. Drive slowly.
If your car is not equipped with ABS, brake with gentle pumps. Don’t floor the brakes as this may lock your wheels up and cause an uncontrollable skid.
Recognizing The Signs Of Your Car Hydroplaning
You need to know the signs that your car is hydroplaning. Your car is going to behave very differently when it enters into an uncontrollable skid.
Your car may start veering to one side if you’ve been driving in a straight line. This usually happens to cars whose rear wheels have started to hydroplane.
You might notice an increase in revs per minute or a slight speed increase as your tires begin to spin.
If your car’s front wheels hydroplane it will start to skid outside the bend.
If all four wheels hydroplane, your car will move forward uncontrollably but in a straight line.
Stay Calm And Follow These Steps
Hydroplaning or skidding happens quickly. Depending on the road condition and speed of the vehicle, it takes a few seconds before your car regains traction. Granted these few seconds are very scary especially for those who have not experienced what it feels like to hydroplane. In fact, even those who have experienced it still find these instances scary.
All you have to do is maintain control of your car and keep calm. Don’t slam on the brakes. Don’t yank the steering wheel. These steps will save you from losing control.
Ease off on the gas, disengage the clutch or switch to a lower gear. Wait until the skid is over before pumping the brakes. Pump the brakes gently if you must during skidding but try to avoid doing that to reduce the risk of your wheels locking.
This may sound counter-intuitive but steer into the skid. Use small corrections and don’t steer wildly. As soon as you’ve corrected your course, slow down. Stop by the side of the road if you must, to collect your wits. Relax and drive slowly while avoiding puddles of water.
How To Choose Snow Tires For Your Car
Snow tires are designed specifically for safe vehicle operation on wet or snowy ground. The treads are designed to compact the snow within the treads and push the excess to the side.
One of the best ways to get the right snow tires for your car is to consult your manufacturer’s manual which details what is fit for your vehicle. You can also ask your local dealer for all-season tires. In the event that you have no one to consult, you can check the sidewalls of the tires and look for the snowflake design denoting it is an all-season tire fit for driving over wet or snowy roads. There are three types of tires to keep yourself safe if you have to drive on snowy ground.
Standard Snow Tires/All Season Tires
Ever wondered why some tires cost more than other conventional tires? Check to see if these tires have a snowflake design on the side.
That’s the Three Peak Mountain SnowFlake symbol and it denotes that the tire you’re looking at has passed a series of very specific traction performance tests for winter conditions. These tires are designed to drive at temperatures below 7 °C (45 °F).
These tires have increased traction on snow and ice thanks to the larger gaps in their tread design which essentially compacts the ice it traverses on and plow the rest to the side.
Studded Snow Tires
Studded snow tires are also a popular choice for car owners as they provide a much more noticeable grip on snowy or icy roads. These studs are either ceramic or metal.
The problem with studded tires is that they basically abrade dry pavement causing road damage in the process. Road dust is also produced as a result that is why these types of tires are banned from being used outside of their “normal” driving conditions requirement.
These tires are created with metal jackets upon which the tungsten carbide pin is encapsulated in the metal jackets anchor the studs to the tires.
The pins act as slight protrusions that come in contact with the road so a stud height of 1 millimetre is allowed for it to act effectively on less than ideal roads.
Because of the potential road damage and pollution, studded tires are banned from being used on regular roads without the presence of ice or snow.
Another popular solution for car tires is equipping it with chains. This is basically a chain mesh that acts as a sheath wrapped around the tires. These tires are designed for heavy snow. The presence of chains changes the manner that the car is driven given that it changes how the tires interact with the road.
The chains act as oversized studs providing the necessary traction for your car to get a better grip on the road.
These are definitely not to be driven around without any presence of snow as it can damage the pavement and in turn, damage the tires as well.
Can You Drive Your Snow Tires On Dry Roads?
Sure, you can but that would be a big waste of a specialized tire that costs more than regular tires. These are designed to adjust to weight differently & are stickier than regular tires. On dry roads, these tires wear down faster than regular tires. And when the snow comes… you’ll need new tires.
Why Should You Wash Your Car’s Under-chassis Immediately After Driving In The Snow?
Snowed in roads often get treated with salt to reduce the risk of skidding. This poses a big problem for all types of vehicle as the presence of salt on metal aids in corrosion. As soon as you get home, wash all the salt off with water especially under the car, the wheel wells and the side panels.
Can I Equip My Vehicle With Tank Treads Instead?
Tank treads have been used for vehicles in snowy or icy conditions and they work really well. So why can’t we use it for everyday vehicles? The answer is: they’re very expensive to install and you’d basically have a specialized vehicle for only one season not to mention the maintenance involved.