The long slide

| February 01, 2007

Williams recommends driving a gear or two higher than normal to minimize the torque transmitting to the drives.

“In a situation where I’m driving in snow and ice at, say, 35 miles an hour, if I’d normally use seventh gear, then I’d go with eighth or ninth,” Williams says. “That way when I use the throttle, the drives will be less likely to start spinning.”

Shifting gears up or down can jerk the truck just enough to start a spin on a slippery surface, so shift carefully: don’t “bang” the gears. Take extra care if your truck has an automatic transmission.

“In bad weather with an automatic, the truck might downshift on you if you slow down,” Williams says. “Then you get into that situation where you have too much power going to the rear wheels.”

Also remember that a road surface need not be covered with ice and snow to be slippery. Ward recalls waiting at a red light on a rainy day.

“It turned green, and I started out,” he says. “There was another truck coming on the cross street. He had obviously misjudged the red light, mashed the brakes on that wet road and gone into a skid.”

“Had I been in la-la land, not looking, and waltzed right out in front of him, he’d have T-boned me,” Ward says. “But I saw him and stopped after about 5 feet.”

Ward says the other truck slid through the red light.

“I was looking right at him as he went by. I could see he was wigging out,” Ward says. “I guess he got off the brakes, because he got straightened out as he went through the intersection and he just kept going. But if I had not seen him coming, that might have been the end for me right there.”

Instead Ward just sat and watched. “I waved to him as he went by,” he says.

One final tip: get advice from drivers who’ve been in skids, but don’t forget about those who haven’t.

“I don’t have a lot of experience with skids,” says Williams. “I just don’t get into them.”

Skid Causers
A slippery road is only one factor in a skid. Watch out for the following:

Driving too fast
Locking the brakes
Sudden steering wheel movements
Too much sudden throttle
Wind, especially with a light load
Inattention or excessive sleepiness

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