The Second Version

07/03/08

Forget About Brakes

When driving on snowy roads, that is. Brake must be used very carefully and gently; it's better to slow down by shifting into a lower gear. And never ever brake in the middle of a corner (even ABS won't help much).

And a full-time 4x4 reacts different from a front wheel drive car like the ones I have driven for years; things may vary as a result of how torque is spread (some rally cars give more torque to the rear in order to facilitate powerslides) but at least my Daihatsu Terios doesn't tend to swerve when I push on the gas, even on slippery surfaces. But while braking, it's more difficult to control.

So, today I was driving to work on this back road (I didn't want to take it, but I must have taken a wrong turn somewhere) which winds bend after bend up and down the hills at the eastern limit of Parma province. It was snowing and the tarmac was covered by 1 cm or so of heavy, watery snow; my offroad mounts 4-season (if they exist) tyres. I took a bend to the right - not a sharp one and I was doing 40 km/h - and realized to my dismay that I was going straight towards the guard-rail; steering the wheel had no effect at all.

I had resigned myself to get back home with a dented car, when I realized my foot was still on the brake pedal. I released it and behold, front wheels instantly regained grip! They were steered way to the right, so my car immediately turned towards the other side of the road (a earthen cliff beyond the gutter), but I was ready to steer gently to the left, applying no brakes but a little gas, and I was happily back on the road. Not-so-luckily, because not many people drive along bendy country roads when it snows, there was no traffic, or things could have turned out worse. But it took a little while to shake off that adrenaline.

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