If you’re of a ‘certain age’ you’ll remember back when, every winter we seemed to have deluges of proper amounts of snow. Not just the sprinkling we seem to get nowadays. And when we got it, it seemed to last for ages?
Not only has the global climate changed quite significantly in those, erm, several decades, but automotive technology has changed too.
Back in the late 1970’s and 1980’s the vast majority of domestic cars had manual chokes, no ECU’s and certainly no anti-lock braking in the bog standard family hatchback. In fact, this was an era still when even having a radio cassette in the car was an optional extra and car mats was something this was infamously always ‘haggled’ as part of a purchase negotiation. There must be many a parent out there who felt a moral victory by parting with several hundred pounds to a few thousand pounds but walking away with a ‘free set’ of car mats.
But, with more infrequent heavy snow and advanced modern vehicular technologies, we’re discussing in this article whether there is a different attitude to driving in the white stuff to say 30 or 40 years ago?
There’s no doubt that one of the greatest advancements in automotive design is ABS but how effective is ABS in snow? This of course really depends on driver technique and other metrics including speed and the extent of surface snow and ice. But the car will perform differently to a flat, dry surface and so those who have never driven in snow before would be well advised to take things carefully and get used to the different performance characteristics…and to avoid sudden last minute braking.
But the other advancement since the 1970’s that helps keep us in a straight line when braking is tyres. As an official sponsor for many seasons in BTCC (British Touring Car Championship) and as regular visitors trackside each season, we know how much of a difference tyre choice makes in various scenarios: hot vs cold, wet vs dry etc. Tyres nowadays are graded for various performance aspects and whilst it’s less usual nowadays to have sets of summer AND winter tyres, it therefore makes it more worthwhile to better consider tyre choice based on even factors like whereabouts in the U.K you live (I.e. if in an area more prone to ice and snow you may decide to opt for different performance metrics).
And who can remember, on some vehicles at least, covering one’s grill with tin foil to keep out moisture? This is far less of a problem nowadays of course with electric ignition and injection fuelling rather than carburettor’s and ‘points’ (hands up who also carried spare sets of points?)
We mentioned ABS earlier and cars often have other features that we take for granted by default nowadays like traction control, and even AWD. These can also breed a feeling of invincibility, and there is no doubt that both these features can help modern drivers in the snow more so than a vehicle without. But ultimately, the best resource a car can have for driving in the snow is YOU. Knowing how your car can and will behave and taking things carefully if you absolutely must venture out is greater than any ABS, AWD or set of car mats. Ask anybody who was brought up in the 1970’s or 80’s!