By on January 25, 2016

pb-110202-snow-jw.photoblog900--Courtesy franklinnow.com

Every other year or so, the same site/email/thread/rumor goes around:

“Did you know that your car’s ABS system actually makes driving in snow WORSE?! And the worser part is, you can’t even turn it off! Automakers and the government are the worstest!”

Except that’s not true.

The origins of the rumor are relatively easy to find:

“And in cases of limited traction such as snow, ice, and mud – ABS is actually detrimental to your safety, as it significantly (and needlessly) increases stopping distance.” (Emphasis theirs.)

“Ive (sic) been driving on ice for over a month and another 2-3 month to go. I just dont (sic) like the jeep deciding how my brake is going to work,” a CarTalk Forum user wrote.

“I have done my homework, and I wish to safely disable ABS on my vehicle. If I could “tune” the ABS to activate farther down the pedal as to only kick in during panic stops, that would probably work as well.”

And so on.

“I would say it’s an extremely bad idea,” said Mike Rizzo, Technical-Fellow for Chassis Controls at General Motors. “If I’m driving and let the front axle lock before the rear axle, I’m going to get into a situation where I have terminal understeer … and the vehicle is not going to want to turn.”

Short answer: Steering > No Steering. Disabling anti-lock brakes also disables traction control, which the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated reduces fatal vehicle crashes by 30 percent in sedans and 63 percent in SUVs.

Rizzo said he frequently hears the questions, and the logic behind disabling ABS isn’t entirely unfounded: Piling snow in front of dead-straight wheels would shorten braking distance. Digging in is better. Threshold braking makes for safer stops.

“In all reality, the computer is better and designed to (pump the brakes) faster than you can,” he said.

Rizzo said he’s often asked why engineers can’t program an ABS controller that could recognize when the wheels are straight and allow drivers to lock up wheels to “wedge” snow in front of the wheels.

“That’s technically correct in a test environment on a highly deformable test surface — meaning you can get a ‘wedge’ in front of a tire — but I would say that’s more applicable to gravel than snow. Snowy surfaces are generally more polished, even with just a little bit of traffic on them,” he said.

Even with studded tires, rotating wheels are directly proportional to steering control. Locking wheels effectively makes the car uncontrollable.

“When you get on very slippery surfaces and lock the wheels, it can take seconds for those wheels to start spinning back up to the velocity of the vehicle. There’s not a lot of road friction to push back on the tire to start spinning them back up,” he added.

Same goes for threshold braking.

“You go back 20 to 30 years and people were taught to ‘pump the brakes’ on snow to lock up and then release the wheel to get it back up to spinning with the rest of the car. That’s what ABS is doing — and it’s much faster,” he said.

For new drivers, or drivers new to snow, Rizzo said it’s best to practice in parking lots to understand how to better control cars in slippery conditions. Slowing down and steering into shoulders is more effective than locking up wheels, he said.

Or, again: Steering > No steering.

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221 Comments on “Disabling ABS to Drive in The Snow Is An ‘Extremely Bad Idea’...”


  • avatar
    ajla

    The ABS in a GM vehicle typically disables on its own after 8 years anyway.

    • 0 avatar
      Fred

      Yea it did on my truck and I pulled the fuse rather than pay the dealer $1500 to repair it. I can now lock up the rear brakes anytime I want. Which if I drove on ice would be a problem.

      • 0 avatar

        You should check out some of the EBCM repair videos. They are not trerribly hard to repair if you have some basic soldering skills. Another option is send it out to one of the rebuilders. They typically charge $70-150 to repair the modules.

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    I wonder if the person/persons giving this advise are the same ones pushing that “cruise control in the rain made my car rev up and take off like an airplane” nonsense.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Look like that Beetle just gave the Fusion a big ol aasss whoopin.

  • avatar
    turf3

    Just imagine what would happen if one were to disable ABS, and then were involved in a fatality accident in wet/snowy/icy conditions.

    “So, Mr. Smith, you disabled the ABS on your car, and then skidded on ice running into and killing these three children and their 88 year old great-grandmother?”

    “And you decided to disable the ABS on your vehicle, the ABS mandated by federal law, designed by a team of engineers, and improved over the last 25 years, based on postings you saw on the Internet?”

    “And, once again, Mr. Smith, what exactly are your qualifications in brake system design? but at least you are a professional race car driver with decades of experience, right? No?”

    “Your Honor, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I would now like to sum up the case….”

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      But I saw this ad for “one weird trick to lose weight, gain girth and improve traction in the snow”..

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      5th Amendment all day.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      They would just sue GM, or Ford, or Toyota for providing an electrical relay that they could self remove.

      Millions of cars would be recalled, hundreds would claim they died in similar accidents, and the B&B would go, “Rabble! Rabble! Rabble! Rabble!”

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        As I understand it today (and have on two of my three vehicles) you simply cannot remove either the ABS or the ASC fuse/relay without disabling the entire car; the computers are programmed not to let the car start if either one is removed.

        • 0 avatar

          I did it with my 2012 Hyundai Elantra simply because I wanted to act stupid in a snow-covered parking lot and using the button to disable the stability control does not fully disable it. I put the fuse back in once I was done messing around and drove home. Haven’t taken it out since.

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          “the computers are programmed not to let the car start if either one is removed.”

          Untrue. If this happened to you, you probably unplugged something that was shared with something important. The ABS module low amp logic fuse is the key to hoonery and will generally only affect that module. The ABS module can be needed for AWD function on some cars also.

    • 0 avatar
      Superdessucke

      Mr. Smith would be looking at him puzzled, with a slight overbite, as his GM and Bosch co-defendants looked on nervously.

  • avatar
    JimZ

    one thing which continually amazes me is how wrong-headedly people will approach this. they’ll sit there and fret over whether a car is “good in snow” or whether they should disable ABS/TC or not, when the simple solution is to get some goddamned winter tires.

    yes, yes, AWD, I know, Mr. Subaru fanboy. But AWD will only (usually) help you get moving. it won’t help you stop or steer better on slick surfaces. FWD/RWD+snow tires > AWD with non-winter tires.

    • 0 avatar
      Nick 2012

      Consumer Reports just posted a video debunking the AWD>FWD with proper tires myth. The AWD non-winter tire equipped vehicle took more than 300 ft longer to stop than a winter-tire equipped FWD car.

      • 0 avatar
        bills79jeep

        ‘Consumer Reports just posted a video debunking the AWD>FWD with proper tires myth. The AWD non-winter tire equipped vehicle took more than 300 ft longer to stop than a winter-tire equipped FWD car.’

        If that was indeed the test, it’s not testing AWD vs. FWD. Both types have 4 wheel brakes. A better test would be acceleration, cornering, uphill traction, etc.

        • 0 avatar
          RideHeight

          “acceleration, cornering, uphill traction, etc.”

          Yeah, that’s what’s on *my* mind in the middle of a blizzard on a flat interstate surrounded by 4WD cowboys jumping in & out of my lane as they push the envelope on everyone’s life expectancy.

          Fuq dat, stopping is paramount.

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          the point that you missed is that AWD won’t help you stop quicker. and as far as I’m concerned, when conditions are poor, the ability to stop effectively is far, far more important than being able to get moving a bit quicker.

        • 0 avatar
          VoGo

          At the most basic level, cars do 3 things: they accelerate, they decelerate, and they turn. In adverse weather, AWD helps you accelerate. There are some very advanced AWD systems that can help marginally with cornering, but the effect is minor vs. modern winter tires.

          Bottom line: if you drive in winter, then buy winter tires on a separate set of rims.

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          bills79jeep – Correct. 2 more drive wheels just help acceleration and in some instances cornering. People forget about the “drive wheel” part. 4 “brake” wheels stay the same regardless of where engine power goes.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            “2 more drive wheels just help acceleration and in some instances cornering. People forget about the “drive wheel” part. 4 “brake” wheels stay the same regardless of where engine power goes.”

            That’s not fully true any more. There’s more than one way to slow down a car and only a few utilize the second means despite many modern AWD cars having the ability. Those with manual transmissions know what I’m talking about but some of today’s cars now offer the ability to ‘manually’ upshift and downshift their transmissions, allowing the AWD to work like full-time 4WD and use engine braking. Within reason. When done correctly, the car can be better controlled through judicious use of the throttle, never needing to use the brake except to come to a final stop.

            It is true that most people with AWD/4WD get overconfident; they really need to be trained on how to use such a system. The ones who use it right in ice and snow tend to live in such conditions a minimum of 4 months out of the year.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            @Vulpine – basically if someone can’t figure out what I said they sure as sh!t aren’t going to be effective at compression braking.

            I love tow/haul on my truck for that reason. My 2010 does not have a “select shift” button so I use t/h. I engage it and with a few light brake applications it will downshift and hold the lower gear. It works great.

            My wife’s Sienna will automatically shift down after a few brake applications.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        Three things that will make almost any vehicle do better on icy/snowy roads than any electronic or mechanical system/device:

        1) set of true snowflake snow tires.

        2) set of true snowflake snow tires.

        3) set of true snowflake snow tires.

        • 0 avatar
          VoGo

          Yes, yes and yes.

          I was out on Saturday night in our Odyssey with Blizzacs driving behind dozens of AWD Infinitis, BMWs and MBs, cursing them for going 15 MPH in a 30.

          How is it you can afford $40K+ on a new car every 3 years, but you can’t afford winter tires? In Boston?

          • 0 avatar
            RideHeight

            If you want a really depressing look into the rationality of humans and you live in a snow state, make it a point to observe the tread depth of *any* kind of visible tire on cars you walk past or stop behind.

            I’ve had to stop doing that.

          • 0 avatar
            ClutchCarGo

            If you can make proper winter tires as distinctive, stylish and socially significant as a new SUV every 3 years, you’ll see proper winter tires about as often as you see Uggs on young women.

          • 0 avatar
            22_RE_Speedwagon

            You were stuck behind people driving cautiously in inclement weather and that just drives you crazy, eh?

            BTW my friend’s new Odyssey cost 40K, and he didn’t even get the vacuum.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            “How is it you can afford $40K+ on a new car every 3 years, but you can’t afford winter tires? In Boston?”

            Life’s little mysteries.

          • 0 avatar
            Reino


            How is it you can afford $40K+ on a new car every 3 years, but you can’t afford winter tires?”

            Because actually having basic knowledge about cars, isn’t required in order to buy a car anymore.

        • 0 avatar
          MBella

          The snowflake symbol alone doesn’t mean a whole lot anymore. There are some pretty crappy all seasons that get away with it. The Dunlop Grandtrek A/S has the mountain and snowflake symbol and it is awful in cold temperatures.

          I wish the criteria for a winter tire was updated.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            I agree.

            There is a wide variance in snow/ice traction between even severe service labeled snow tires.

            Fortunately, pretty much anything with a Nokian or Blizzak type tread block, coupled with a silica imbedded rubber compound (with the silica spread throughout the tire deep into the tread in a homogenous manner), is nearly certain to be a good performer (this includes many good, lower-priced options from tire makers like Hankook, Toyo, etc.).

        • 0 avatar
          dolorean

          Completely agree. In Germany where I’ve been stationed for years, it’s not mandatory by law for you to have proper snow tires, although it is a law that you will have winter tires in the winter months. This is a bit hard for most ‘Muricans to understand so most simply continue to drive around on All-Seasons.

          However, if you have an accident in the winter months in ANY weather condition, your All-Seasons regardless of tread will be noted on the Polizei accident form as “No winter tires”. Any insurance company to include USAA or other ‘Murican companies can and will not support your accident claim based on this evidence.

          I have a MY00 BMW 323 Ci, which with Traction Control and ABS is brilliant in the snow with a nice set of Autobahn worthy winter snowflakes on a separate set of 16″ rims. The 17″ rims have Z rated track tires for the summer months. Too easy and frankly, I’ve found I spend a lot less money than having to buy a new pair of AllSeasons every two years.

        • 0 avatar
          Sigivald

          4) Chains

          5) Studs

          I mean, chains are awkward, but they really do help a lot; for those of us who get maybe one set of snow a year they can make more sense than dedicated snow tires.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      There’s more than a little voodoo faith about the idea of “good in snow.” I think there’s only one thing that really makes a modern car “bad in snow” even if equipped with modern winter tires, and that’s the combination of RWD and extremely unbalanced weight distribution.

      But 99% of “good in snow” comes down to tire choice. Granted, there are some extreme performance cars for which no proper snow tire is available, but again those are outliers.

      • 0 avatar
        Stumpaster

        This makes no sense. RWD=balanced weight distribution by virtue of putting the transmission behind the engine and drivetrain stuff in the back. FWD=unbalanced in most cases.

        The real issue is all the aerodynamic and incidental junk hanging under the modern car that will grab, break and get you stuck. Plus the wide tires that will just plow. You need clearance, light weight and narrow tires.

        And amen to putting winter tires – I just tried for the first time ever on our TSX and the difference is amazing. Now I am concerned we are going to rip off all that plastic hanging under the car.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          You’re forgetting that pickup trucks exist and are often RWD. A RWD single-cab pickup is a bit hairy in snow no matter what’s on the rims.

          • 0 avatar
            RideHeight

            “A RWD single-cab pickup is a bit hairy in snow no matter what’s on the rims.”

            Right, at that point it’s what’s in the bed that counts. Preferably about 300 lbs. of what’s.

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          ” RWD=balanced weight distribution by virtue of putting the transmission behind the engine and drivetrain stuff in the back. ”

          Pickup trucks. In 2H, even with snow tires my Ranger scrabbles for grip in snow. click it into 4H and it’s unstoppable. but in both 2H and 4H it stops much more effectively thanks to the tires.

        • 0 avatar
          Waftable Torque

          If you’re going to have 2WD and winter road conditions, it makes sense to NOT have a balanced weight distribution. That’s why FWD cars have a winter traction advantage over RWD, all things being equal, their front biased weight distribution helps the front tires grip better for forward traction.

          Jack had an entire article years ago about the benefits of FWD for the average Joe in real world conditions.

          • 0 avatar
            mcs

            >> That’s why FWD cars have a winter traction advantage

            I live in a hilly area and the laws of physics disagree with that statement. FWD alone is horrible on hills. Having the weight shift to the drive wheels is important when you have to climb.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            I remember trying to make it up my then-girlfriend’s parents’ long, hilly, rural driveway in a freak snowstorm in my 1987 Taurus with all-seasons. I was stymied, and stymied, and stymied, and finally got up the driveway by turning around at the bottom, starting toward the driveway in reverse, and punching it. Made it all the way up in reverse. FWD weight distribution, working for me!

          • 0 avatar
            Reino

            FWD vehicles do not have a better traction advantage over RWD. They have MORE PREDICTABLE traction advantage. This is because the wheels putting down the traction are also the wheels steering the vehicle. There is far less risk of snap oversteer and doing pirouettes down a highway (like many RWD pickups do).

        • 0 avatar
          sirwired

          “This makes no sense. RWD=balanced weight distribution by virtue of putting the transmission behind the engine and drivetrain stuff in the back. FWD=unbalanced in most cases.”

          FWD is better than RWD in pretty much every way for everyday snow driving. You’ll get stuck less because there’s more weight over the drive wheels. You’ll be able to steer better because you’ll have extra weight over the wheels used for steering.

          (If you are going so fast in snow that the everyday “pluses” for RWD come into play, you are going WAY too fast.)

          • 0 avatar
            MBella

            Except going up a hill where weight gets transferred to the rear and the FWD car can’t make it up. My E class has an easier time climbing the driveway where my parents live then their Accord. Both have winter tires.

          • 0 avatar
            dolorean

            “FWD is better than RWD in pretty much every way for everyday snow driving. You’ll get stuck less because there’s more weight over the drive wheels. You’ll be able to steer better because you’ll have extra weight over the wheels used for steering.”

            Normally I would have agreed with this statement, having owned mostly FWD cars that I equipped with winter tires for those times I lived in places like Des Moines.

            But as I’ve mentioned earlier, I had a MY95 Mustang Cobra Hardtop Convertible and a MY99 Opel Astra G and have now a MY00 BMW E46 coupe. The reason I say “had” to the previous two is the Mustang on an on ramp to Regensburg threw all 300 HP into her posi-locked rear end on a patch of ice and flung me off the autobahn and flipped me over faster than I could think about it. I had winter tires on but a MY95 Fox body had no Traction Control and I was toast.

            The FWD Astra had 14″ winter tires and ABS but no Traction control and felt like it could go anywhere except that it really couldn’t. Hills were especially painful, made better by people in front of you who, for reasons I can’t fathom, slow down to go up a hill. Damn near impossible to gain back that momentum.

            The Bimmer OTOH with Traction Control and winter tires works unbelievably well in the slush and snow. This winter has been rather snowy and this is the first time I’ve driven anything that was this good in the snow that wasn’t AWD. Granted, it’s not a mountain goat nor is it going to outperform a Subie, but I have far more confidence in the Bimmer’s ability to get me where I need to be.

            RWD with near perfect weight distribution and Traction Control/ABS is quite good.

        • 0 avatar
          stuki

          Ftw!!!

          Even Blizzaks and Hakkapalitas loose traction once they start floating in slippery fresh snow. Tall and narrow winter tires is where it’s at, both for 1)avoiding float in the first place, and 2) to track as true as possible should 1) fail.

        • 0 avatar
          mazdaman007

          It’s always humorous to me who has driven winter tires since 1989 (Ottawa, Canada), when friends I’ve been trying to convince to install winter tires for years come back after the first snowfall basically speechless about the difference between winters and no-seasons, especially when braking. It’s always ‘OMFG I can’t believe the difference, I’ll NEVER use all-seasons again in the winter :)

    • 0 avatar
      hudson

      This all day long. Get proper tires and stop worrying about it.

    • 0 avatar
      JD23

      Why is this an either/or proposition, with the only choices being FWD with proper winter tires and AWD with crappy tires? AWD cars cannot be fitted with winter tires?

      • 0 avatar
        MBella

        Sure can. My Subarus were very excellent with winter tires.

      • 0 avatar
        Reino

        We know this. The discussion is about ignorant joe consumer that thinks he doesn’t need winter tires because he has AWD.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        Who said it’s an “either/or?” It’s simply to counteract the idiots who claim you need a Subaru because they’re “good in snow.”

        • 0 avatar
          thrashette

          While I don’t disagree that winter tires are a brilliant thing, not every car owner can afford them. I’m personally quite poor (student,) but living in a rural commuter area with no public transit, a car is a necessity. That being said, even as a relatively inexperienced driver, I’ve had no problem driving in the snow with all-season tires in FWD cars. Yes, you’ll find me going 5 MPH under the limit, even slower on sharp curves and steep hills. I just commuted through the blizzard in Maryland, other snowstorms we’ve had since 2011, drove in Michigan every Christmas in what that may bring, including driving home to Maryland during a massive snowstorm in holiday traffic. Being careful and aware, I think, is the most important thing you can do in winter driving. I’ve never lost control and I remain confident, but not too confident.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            thrashette – people often get confused by the winter tire designation.
            If you live in an area where the temperature is consistently below -7C or 19.4F then you need winter “mountain with snowflake symbol” tires. It is the AIR temperature that is the final determinant. Under -7C winter tires will remain more soft and should yield better traction.
            If you live in an area where it does not get colder than -7C but gets large amounts of snow then you should have “mud and snow” tires. They will have an “M+S” symbol on the side. NOT ALL M+S TIRES ARE WINTER RATED.
            “All Seasons” will work okay in light snow and warmer weather.

          • 0 avatar
            thrashette

            Lou – I would say most of us in the US wouldn’t need winter tires, then. But even where I live, it seems like people are scrambling for Blizzaks, even when it was 70 degrees in December.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    “Disabling anti-lock brakes also disables traction control, which the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated reduces fatal vehicle crashes by 30 percent in sedans and 63 percent in SUVs.”

    I believe you mean stability control, and I’d agree that is a bad idea to disable. Traction control is a different thing.

    • 0 avatar
      mazdaman007

      Exactly, if you follow the link provided in the article the title of the NHTSA report is ‘Statistical Analysis of the Effectiveness of Electronic Stability Control (ESC) Systems – Final Report’.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    There was more sense to this argument 20+ years ago. The first vehicle we had in the family with ABS was a ’92 Jeep Cherokee. And it was TERRIBLE in the snow. It was only three-channel ABS, it was overly sensitive, and it could not really pump the brakes faster than I could. Ke-chunk, ke-chunk, ke-chunk. It would either give you essentially NO braking when it was slippery and you would just go sailing on, or it would just as easily lockup all four wheels when it was slippery. In those days, Audi DID give you a disable switch.

    In contrast, the best modern setups are simply in another world. The car has all sorts of acceleration sensors, steering angle sensors, etc. so the computer has a MUCH better idea of what is going on. ABS is almost universally four channel now. The ABS controller can pump the brakes many, many times faster than you can, and with the sensors is much less likely to lock a wheel in the first place – basically perfect threshold braking every time.

    You CANNOT do this better than the computer can on a modern car, even if you think you are Lewis Hamilton behind the wheel. Lewis would have ABS in his F1 car if the rules allowed it!

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Interesting. My ’95 Legend has a Sumitomo ABS system of similar vintage (no change from the original application in ’91). It is likewise only three-channel but it works reasonably quickly. It’s not as fast to react as the systems in my newer cars but it’s easily good enough to be an asset in slippery conditions. It is fragile, and ABS pump failures are one of the most common failures in Legends, but my car has avoided any problems so far.

    • 0 avatar
      hudson

      Many pickup trucks I had from the 90s to 2010s or so (All Dodges) were terrible in wet / snowy conditions if I hit a bump when stopping. This would toss the rear axle up and the truck would just coast a bit before it would start stopping again. My 2011 Ram doesn’t have this problem, and I love it for it.

    • 0 avatar
      Nick 2012

      Agree 100%.

      More than a few times I’ve triggered ABS slowing down on roads where one side of the car is on ice/snow and the other on pavement. Without ABS, I’d have launched the car into a death spin.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        As relatively poor as that 1992 system was compared to a 2016 system, I still would rather have it than not have it. You just needed to be aware of it’s limitations and proceed with due care.

    • 0 avatar
      MarionCobretti

      Even 20+ years ago it was only applicable to the most rudimentary three-channel systems. Sometime in the early 1990’s Car and Driver (IIRC) did a test using an identical car that was available with ABS and without (an early DSM, I believe), with a fat autojourno driving the ABS car and a racing driver driving the non-ABS car. The moral was that you can stop marginally quicker in the dry without ABS, if you’re a race car driver, but for the average bear, you’re better off just burying the pedal and invoking ABS.

      They didn’t test in snow, but even if locking the fronts in snow to “build up a wedge” is helpful (which I’m dubious of), if there’s sufficient traction you might transfer weight to the front and lock the rears instead. With even a tiny fraction of steering input (which is likely if you’re braking to avoid an obstacle) on a low traction surface that means the back is stepping out in a hurry. Most people *flip the hell out* at a hint of oversteer and hugely overcorrect. I’d bet most don’t even realize that they need to back off the brakes and even apply more out fear/confusion.

      When it comes to keeping Johnny Numbnuts from plowing into me in his leased CUV on All-Seasons when the white stuff’s on the ground, I’d much rather rely on ASC and ABS than on his driving skills.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        I actually agree with you – even on that Jeep, 99% of the time I would prefer to have even the early ABS. But that sort of system is how this stupid meme got started, because 1% of the time it was pretty terrible, and that stuck in peoples minds.

        Today, I absolutely positively want ABS and ESC 110% of the time, the computer is a better driver than I will ever be.

        Though I will admit, on a particularly fun and twisty slightly sandy (and deserted) road a few weeks back I disabled most of the nannies on my BMW and had a grand time sliding the thing around like a madman. Kancamagus Highway in NH for the New England locals.

    • 0 avatar
      Truckducken

      Great post, krhodes!
      Here’s my only issue w ABS/TC to date: with a FWD vehicle, let’s say I don’t mind the front end sliding a little while I turn, because I can pull myself through the turn with the (limited) grip of the front tires. Now enters the electronic nanny. It notices my front wheels spinning a bit, so it cuts power to them. Result: I am still sliding sideways, but suddenly cannot continue to turn because I am powerless. Nearly been put in the wall a couple times by this. Granted, older systems (1994/2000)…if we ever see a decent snowfall in these parts again, I’ll have to test my newer vehicles to see if this remains an issue.

      • 0 avatar
        mazdaman007

        ^ This. Quite often I’ll disable the traction control (NOTE: NOT the stability control) in snow for this reason. 2010 Mazda3 with four General Altimax Arctic winter tires.

        • 0 avatar
          sfvarholy

          Had two Mustang GT Convertibles when I lived in the DC area. The 1995 (5sp manual 17″ wide tires) was unbelievably good in the snow. Until I bought my Audi A3, it was my ride of choice when snow started to fall.

          The 2003 GT with traction control you couldn’t entirely turn off was completely useless. It got stuck all the time because the traction control would retard the engine to stall speed any time the tires slipped, so you could never spin them enough to get going.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      I think the origin of the theory that ABS is to be avoided in the snow goes back to the early Audi Quattros, which had an ABS defeat switch for driving in the snow. While technology has improved, I think partially what’s going on is a shift in philosophy and competence. In the ’80s, people could be accountable for understanding what they had and what it did. An AWD Audi might be used in competition, and there were situations where ABS wasn’t allowing experienced drivers to use all the tools at their disposal. With locking center and rear differentials, a driver could shut off ABS and then use the clutch to control lock up for shedding speed prior to turn in. It took skill and personal responsibility, things completely foreign to Audi drivers today. Today the philosophy is to go straight off the road nose-first and let the airbags sort it out. All this BS about wheels spinning up too slowly to turn on ice is commentary on the speed of the driver’s mind.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    I’ve got a co-worker who pulled the ABS fuse (?) from his first generation Tundra truck with snow tires. He says that the ABS was too slow to react when he hits the brakes, and he gets much better control modulating the pedal himself. He does have a house out in the sticks located on Lake Michigan.

    Maybe he does know something…

    Personally I think he’s nuts. ABS has saved my hide more than a few times.

    • 0 avatar
      bachewy

      He might be on to something.

      I have had other cars where the ABS worked fantastic in the snow and ice – within reason and driver input.
      My Tacoma DISABLES all brakes when ABS engages on ice and snow. I’ve slid right through a few stop signs before learning how the truck behaves. Note it was not slowing down while it kept pushing thru stop signs, it kept rolling and only slowed because I was no longer pressing the gas pedal. It’s DANGEROUS and my only complaint about the truck.

      It’s a known issue with these trucks but nobody is doing anything about it.

      • 0 avatar
        kryten

        2ng gen Tacoma is a death trap on icy roads thanks to the way ABS behaves. Never had such issues with any other vehicle I’ve driven on the same roads over the years, some ABS and winter tires equipped, some pre-ABS era and on all seasons and any combination of the two. Just for the record, Taco was on Blizzaks.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      My buddy who owned a second-gen Tundra would also pull his ABS fuse. Even with studded winter tires, the system functioned poorly. When he was griping about ABS in general one day I mentioned that the ABS on his wife’s first-gen Mazda3 (also on studded winters) is probably fine, and he agreed that it’s just particular systems that are intolerable even with good tires. The ABS on the Tribute he had previously was also perfectly acceptable on studded winters. Every vehicle he owned prior to that lacked ABS.

  • avatar
    RideHeight

    Maybe once this asinine drifting trend no longer interests audiences car ads will resort to this “en pointe” technique synced with ballet music.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    ABS is negligible to useless, IMO, when it comes to vehicle safety in adverse weather.

    HOWEVER, electronic stability control is probably the most effective and underappreciated vehicular safety system since at least the shoulder point and lap point seatbelt was incorporated.

    And relatively few people who were/are saved from injury or fatality by electronic stability control will ever realize it because its designed to work in a relatively unobtrusive way, and it prevents collisions/accidents, unlike three-point seatbelts or airbags.

    ESC is a marvelous modern marvel.

    • 0 avatar
      sirwired

      If trying to stop in a straight line, this is true. But if you need to steer, at all, just ABS (even without ESC) is better than nothing, ’cause you ain’t steering at all if your front wheels are locked.

      I agree with you about ESC being a marvel. I went to great lengths to make sure my car (an ’04 Passat) was equipped with it. For what you got, it was a stupid-cheap option. ($300) And, to the surprise of nobody, it was difficult to find. (Especially in the M/T wagon I wanted)

      VW is odd in this respect; they very often lead the way in putting luxury-car-level safety features in their main-line cars, and price those options reasonably, but then ship relatively few of said cars for sale.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        That’s the sign of a maker that is more interested in the publicity benefits of the feature than actually shipping the feature. VW is still like that, as the Performance Package GTI debacle shows.

    • 0 avatar
      dividebytube

      Agreed – my first ESC equipped car, a MY04 BMW 325i, was a joy to drive with stability control. It kept the car under control in winter (with winter tires), and in dry conditions stopped my hoon stupidity a few times I tried to take a corner too hard.

      I was happy to find that my recent purchase – a MY08 Scion Xb – was also equipped with ESC. I had no idea that price level and, more importantly, year had such technology.

    • 0 avatar
      smartascii

      ABS is of questionable benefit to a skilled driver who’s prepared for emergency braking, sure. But most people are not skilled drivers, no matter what they think, and they freak out and stab the pedal when an emergency arises (hell, as the Toyota unintended acceleration nonsense shows, some people even wind up stabbing the wrong pedal when they panic). The point is that for MOST people, MOST of the time, ABS is pretty important.

      • 0 avatar
        JMII

        For sure. And when you say “most people” I’m sure that covers 99% of people behind the wheel. I’ve recently started instructed on the track at HPDE events and its scary how bad people are. Myself included! My car control after hundreds of laps is still only somewhere in the 7/10 range. And that is only under ideal conditions. A professional race car driver is pretty much the only kind of person that can manage things at 10/10s. Thus I’d say your average driver is a 4/10. Someone who thinks they are “good” is really only in the 6/10 range, especially in difficult conditions like snow or ice. A prime example of this is if you have seen anyone attempt to drift for the first time… they will find the task basically impossible.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        Even for a skilled driver ABS has utility.

        Oh, you’re parking on a hill and there’s leaves in the gutter?

        Helps you not hit the car in front of you or smack the curb when the leaves shift on one-another and you suddenly lose a lot of traction…

        (And no matter how skilled and prepared you are, some idiot can make you unprepared for their idiocy, of course.

        No prep in the world can stop someone sliding their car in front of you on the interstate – because you’re not tailgating and thus there’s room for them! – and hitting their brakes…)

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      … And ESC has a bad habit of killing power when you might need it most, ESPECIALLY in adverse weather.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        I can think of only a few EXTREME situations were not having ABS or stability control would be a benefit and most people usually do not venture into those situations or have the actual skills to function without them.
        I’ve given these examples before… I’m in the backcountry plowing through deep snow and am climbing a long hill with a bend or in a similar situation where it is wet and muddy. The computer thinks you are going to get into trouble and kills power and does the ABS tap dance. You now have to back down a long hill. The preferred option is a controlled 4 wheel drift under power.
        Another situation is when the back end kicks out a bit and the system again cuts power and does the brake dance. You end up with an abrupt transition out of oversteer which is extremely unsettling to the entire vehicle. The preferred option is to ease out of the oversteer with enough power to allow the back end to tuck back in but in a smooth fashion.
        Same when a tire catches deep hard snow on the edge of the road or trail. The more dense snow/slush will pull you further into the snowbank. A cut in power will basically let you get pulled in. This case you turn the wheels further against the understeer and apply some power to counter the increased pull into the bank.
        All of these moves require some finesse of which most drivers do not have.
        My dad was a commercial trucker and lost a lot of friends in MVC’s in poor weather. He come to the conclusion that unless it is critical that you are out their braving extreme weather and road conditions it just isn’t worth risking your life. You won’t get into a fatal car crash if you stay home.

        • 0 avatar
          wmba

          @Lou_BC

          Good post. This is the only comment I can really identify with.

          You list three conditions that I have encountered multiple times over the years, and I fully agree with your solutions.

          The uphill steep curve is the way my subdivision was designed – so have had a bit of practice over the decades in deep snow, been in a few other people’s cars to see the panic when car-sharing. So today I have proper AWD Subaru VTD, and four winter tires.

          Good enough for me. The rest of the pronouncements from the overly sure here in the comments are just that. Keep the ABS engaged on unless you’re on a gravel road says my manual. I don’t live on a gravel road.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      Yeah, the only reason I really know ESC has activated in my XC70 is because the light turns on for a second.

      (I only activate it on the occasional very-tight-turn ramp with good visibility, mind you, and only when I *try*, which is when the road’s dry and clear.

      For obvious “not being an idiot” reasons.)

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    My ’96 4Runner automatically disables ABS when it is in 4-Low, where is your god now Mr. Cole?

    I’d say ABS can be tuned well or poorly. If it is so intrusive that it interferes with threshold braking, then it is a poor design. More useful than ABS’s pulsation is EBD: electronic brake force distribution.

    • 0 avatar
      wmba

      4low 4WD locks front and rear axles together. So, you cannot have even have independent front and rear braking due to the direct connection, let alone individual braking on each wheel. So, of course it disconnects ABS or the system would go into heart failure.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        wmba – Ford’s electronic locking rear diff on the F150 when engaged does not work well with traction control. When one locks the rear diff but leaves traction control on the traction control tries to control wheel spin and causes wheel hop and a lot of rear end chatter.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        Now that’s a good theory, why then is ABS still active in 4Hi (at a reduced threshold)? My theory is that Toyota recognized that if you’re running in 4Low, you must be in a pretty tight spot, and ABS is a hindrance in super-low traction, low-speed situations like that, in addition to the locked-in drivetrain split.

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          gtemnykh – IIRC ABS does shut off and so does stability control in 4lo in Ford. GM is similar.
          The wheel hop/chatter I described is in 4×2 with the locker engaged. I was behind a Chevy once and noticed the same “chatter”.

          I prefer not to run around in 4×4 unless I absolutely have to. it is a habit i got into in my younger years when exploring the back-country. Getting stuck in 4×2 is much easier to get out of than getting stuck in 4×4.

          There are times when it would be nice to shut it all off even in 4Hi. The Ford and GM systems can be completely disabled by holding the button down for 5-6 seconds but will reactivate over 35mph. I have found that even that 35 mph threshold can be a pain. I suspect that it is a legal mandate. In 4Lo the threshold for re-engagement is ridiculously high around 60 mph.

          IIRC in the Ram 1500 you can shut off traction control but not ABS or stability control in 4×2 or 3Hi.

          I rarely ever use 4Lo in my F150. A 20 ft long crewcab isn’t the most ideal choice for real hardcore offroading ;)

  • avatar
    sirwired

    The best advice I ever heard for snow driving was to drive like there were eggs under your foot on the gas and brake pedals. And shift as little as possible; auto-manuals are actually useful here if you aren’t driving a stick. (Of course, if you gotta brake fast ’cause some idiot coming from the other direction is making big ‘ol spun-out spirals in front of you, just slam that sucker to the floor and pray the computers (and the deity of your choice) will save you!)

    Making as few friction demands on your tires as possible makes it so you don’t NEED to worry about what ABS does to your car as much.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      sirwired – when I tried hypermiling techniques I was amazed at how similar they were to driving in adverse conditions. I.E. smooth throttle inputs;slowing down well in advance;avoid full stops; us momentum on hills and/or avoid accelerating on hills; smooth turning inputs….

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        Yet try getting the average moron to realize that. “LOL I stomp on the gas until I have to stomp on the brake oh god why does my Ecoboost get such bad gas mileage I drive so gently?”

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          JimZ – too true. I’ve been along side people in traffic and I can hear their engines revving up and down and the vehicle is “jumpy”. They can’t even hold a steady throttle. They treat the gas pedal like a light switch. All on or All off.

          • 0 avatar
            tankinbeans

            It amazes me that “morse-code braking,” rhe definition of stop and go is a thing. I’ve started playing games with myself when dealing with rush hour traffic and by that I mean I try to see how far I can make it without hitting my brakes. I do it by getting in the middle lane, leaving tons of room and either idling along in 2nd, sometimes 3rd, and modulating throttle inputs. While I creep along everybody in front of me is tapping out their love notes to fellow motorists. I especially giggle when somebody gets pissed and passes me, and their brakes lights light up 2 seconds later. I always catch up.

            More related to the discussion about winters versus all seasons; I have Michelin X-Ice and they must be on the lower end of the spectrum. They feel just like the all seasons on my Buick and tend to spin more than I expected.

            For reference I’m in St. Paul, MN driving a 14 Focus ST that originally game with Eagle F1s and had been told that they wouldn’t get me anywhere. I did do a -1 tire/rim combo when I bought them.

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            “… leaving tons of room”

            Food for thought, if you and everybody leaves “tons of room” in front of them when traffic has slowed to a crawl or stop-and-go, that makes it worse. A traffic jam that is one mile long and takes ten minutes can turn into two miles long and twenty minutes. You’re making it worse for everybody if you leave too much room. It is far from the worst way to drive in a traffic jam and the proof, as you realize, is that everybody catches up a minute later anyway. I would suggest an improvement to your technique is to drive closer to the car immediately in front of you while watching the cars two or three in front of you- accelerate/decelerate based on them (it’s implied that you not run into anyone).

            Being smooth and minimizing use of your brakes, as you describe, is very good and it greatly contributes to more efficient traffic flow. It is an artful way to drive and it takes deliberate effort- but most drivers lack the motivation and some simply lack the brainpower to do it (those are your “morse code brakers”). The very worst ones are those who are the first in line to stop dead in their lane. There is always someone who was first to stop dead when the car in front of them slowed to a crawl. People who hit their brakes right before starting up a long hill are almost as bad (too dumb to understand gravity and/or maybe they never rode a bicycle up a hill). These stop-dead and the brakes-before-driving-up-a-big-hill people make me wish I drove the Spy Hunter car.

          • 0 avatar
            tankinbeans

            Perhaps I should clarify. If traffic is swimming along at 50ish I will drive 50ish, just not by tailgating as is often the case. I leave enough room so I don’t have to slam on my brakes and cause the chain reaction behind me. Where traffic problems arise, at least in my experience, is when people decide thwy have to fill every square inch of the road.

            I don’t idle the whole time. If I can get into 6th and cruise, I will. I’d venture that traffic would run more smoothly if everybody would quit jockeying to be first in line and would just pick a lane and stay there for awhile, oh amd figure out merging etiquette (that’s a whole different discussion though).

  • avatar
    hawox

    old abs were crap.
    i remember once with a fiat tempra i had no brakes at all because abs was too sensibe. i could only stop by handbrake (to figure how low speed was it).
    infact on audi there was a button to disable the abs.
    on more modern cars i tested breaking with abs on snow is easier, infact the computer allows the wheel to lock quite a bit.
    the only way to brake harder w/o abs is by locking complitely and throw the reverse gear in. but then you must be fast to correct with the wheel.
    i did it with an old banger because i think it isn’t good for the gearbox.

    problem is that some stability controls aren’t very good in breaking with 2 wheels on ice and 2 wheels on dry road.

  • avatar
    an innocent man

    I’ve never ever read this anywhere. I’ve never heard someone suggest ABS is bad in snow. The closest thing I’ve heard is to disable traction control if you’re stuck in snow and trying to get out and need some spin of the tires. Although as mentioned above, some ABS systems auto disable in 4Low, I believe.

    • 0 avatar
      old5.0

      Same here. This is a new one on me. I must be meeting the wrong type of people…

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        It’s the same people who think their 1989 F-150 is “good in the snow” after they get out and lock the hubs.

        But that notion has been out of date for decades. It might have had some truth to it, back when everyone drove BOF RWD cars without ABS, TCS, or ESC… But, even then, it probably had more to do with handy people who pay attention being the ones whodrove those trucks. Anyone who still believes this today must have totally given up on learning decades ago.

        Little front wheel drive cars with modern electronic controls drive circled around “traditional four wheel drive” until the snow starts to hit the air dam. Fortunately, modern pickup trucks have modern controls too — its just de-emohasized in the marketing, because this fuqing rumor refuses to die.

        • 0 avatar
          Luke42

          P.S. I had the good fortune to do a drive off with four early-2000s vehicles a few years ago in my local winter conditions. In order of snowworthiness:

          1. 2002 Ford Escape: Excellent, except for manahing excessive power from the minivan-sized V6 under the hood in slippery conditions. AWD + ABS + TCS was fantastic.

          2. 2004 Toyota Prius: Very good. Thrust vectoring and individual wheel braking performed by the computer is impressive.
          3. 2004 Toyota Sienna: Pretty good. Only has abs and electronic skid control, but it has so much traction that it’s fine.

          4. 2004 F-150 Classic (Really a curby 2003): Lousy. Back end breaks loose easily in 2WD. Have to switch in and out of 4H constantly when manoeuvering around town to keep wheels from binding or wheels from slipping — depending on whether the snow is drifting across the road for this 100yd stretch. The computer does this for me in the Escape, and it does it perfectly every time. Also, this thing weighs 2000lbs more than necessary and needs a V8 to get out of its own way, and its the worst early 2000s snow vehicle in my test by a big margin.

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            What about the F-150 makes it weigh “more than necessary”?

            I can vouch for the Escape, though. My ’02 Tribute is the same way.

        • 0 avatar
          hybridkiller

          “Little front wheel drive cars with modern electronic controls drive circled around “traditional four wheel drive” until the snow starts to hit the air dam.”

          Um, yeah, no.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            hybridkiller – “Um, yeah, no.”

            Actually, Um, yeah!

            In deep snow there is some advantage to actually have enough mass to keep from riding up onto the top of the snow or “high centering” on the snow.

            How about I point you down some logging roads with 2 feet of snow on them and see how far that little car will go before all progress stops.

        • 0 avatar
          rpn453

          “Little front wheel drive cars with modern electronic controls drive circled around “traditional four wheel drive” until the snow starts to hit the air dam.”

          That F150 story must have involved some really terrible tires for you to have such a grossly inaccurate perception.

    • 0 avatar
      redmondjp

      It is true in certain circumstances. If all four wheels are in loose snow (or sand, for that matter), and you are trying to quickly decelerate without steering, you are much better off without ABS – you want the front wheels to lock up and mound snow/sand in front of the wheels.

      When I worked at a certain large truck company, we built a fleet of monster 6×6 off-highway trucks for road-building and then oilfield work out in the desert sands of Arabia. We did not equip them with ABS for this reason, as the field engineers told us that it would make stopping distances longer.

      • 0 avatar
        hybridkiller

        Lou_BC – you do understand I was disagreeing with the statement that “Little front wheel drive cars with modern electronic controls drive circles around “traditional four wheel drive”… right? 2 inches or 2 feet of snow, regardless, fwd does NOT drive circles around 4×4 – not on my home planet anyway.

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          @Hybridkiller – I wasn’t sure whether you were serious or not.

        • 0 avatar
          Carlson Fan

          “2 inches or 2 feet of snow, regardless, fwd does NOT drive circles around 4×4 – not on my home planet anyway.”

          You must live on the same planet I do. Now we just need to figure out what planet Luke42 lives on!……LOL

          • 0 avatar
            Truckducken

            OK guys, but then you gotta explain to me why most of the vehicles tango uniform in the ditch after a few inches of snow are 4WD.

          • 0 avatar
            Carlson Fan

            “OK guys, but then you gotta explain to me why most of the vehicles tango uniform in the ditch after a few inches of snow are 4WD.”

            When the roads get bad in Minnesota during winter it’s the minivans and FWD cars that I always see in the ditches. I can’t tell you how many non-4WD vehicles I’ve seen wreck in front of me on an interstate because they hit an icy patch the salt truck didn’t get. My 4WD truck running in 4H goes right over that same spot in the road and never skips a beat. You see a 4WD truck in the ditch it’s because the dummy owner didn’t throw it in 4H like he/she should have.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            Truckducken – most people think 4 wheel drive gives them superman powers or something like that.

            4 drive wheels gives a false sense of traction. They forget that power to 4 drive wheels does not change the fact that only 2 of them steer and 4 of them brake.

            They end up going too fast for road conditions.
            A 4×2 rear drive vehicle gets loose at lower speeds which slows people down. I prefer 4×2 in my pickup for that same reason. It keeps me honest.

            A front drive seems to have a higher threshold before getting loose but it also will get loose before a 4×4 or AWD will.

            I’ll say it again, going too fast due to 4×4/AWD yielding a false sense of traction. Larger SUV’s and trucks multiply the false sense of security.

          • 0 avatar
            Carlson Fan

            “They end up going too fast for road conditions.
            A 4×2 rear drive vehicle gets loose at lower speeds which slows people down. I prefer 4×2 in my pickup for that same reason. It keeps me honest.”

            Lou tell me your not one those people with 4WD PU’s that crawl away from stoplights spinning and fishtailing all over the place because they refuse to use their 4WD. Regardless of speed, your PU is always safer running in 4H on winter roads then 2H. My little ’93 Toy PU with disc over drum brakes and no ABS stopped night and day better in 4H than it did in 2H on snowy roads. The drag of the driveline enabled the truck to more effectively use the braking power of all 4 tires. So I used the 4WD system in that as much for braking as I did to get going.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            Carlson Fan – nope. I use 4×4 when I need it but I also go out of my way to avoid having to stop at traffic lights. Like I said earlier, hypermiling techniques work well in poor road conditions.

            4×4 can be safer at speed if you are aware of the fact that 4×4 can give you a false sense of traction. I traveled over 1500 km at “NewYears” taking my family to a ski resort. I used 4×4 just a few times on the highway when conditions were obviously worse.

            A few years ago I spend a day scoping out where my son’s scout troop was going to camp. There was over a foot of fresh snow on the ground. Again, I rarely used 4×4.

            My dad spent his entire life in logging in construction. He never owned a 4×4 and it was amazing the places he went with a pickup.

          • 0 avatar
            tankinbeans

            Carlson, you must be in a different area of Minnesota than I am. I see far more 4×4 cowboys going tits up in the ditch than anything else.

            Of course Toyota anything drivers are a menace in all situations since theu can’t seem to understand the difference between cautious and overly cautious.

    • 0 avatar
      S2k Chris

      ABS is terrible in the snow. On all of my various cars, all of which were equipped with snow tires (Either Firestone WinterForce or Dunlop WinterSports), ABS can kick in in a low traction situation at about 10mph when decelerating and suddenly instead of stopping you are anti-locking right along your merry way, much further than if your tires had locked up in the slop.

      What I think would be ideal is if ABS cut out below 7 or 10 MPH.

      Even those crazies at the NHTSA admit it:

      “On very soft surfaces, such as loose gravel or unpacked snow, an ABS system may actually lengthen stopping distances.”

      http://www.nhtsa.gov/cars/problems/equipment/absbrakes.html

      • 0 avatar
        hybridkiller

        “…why most of the vehicles tango uniform in the ditch after a few inches of snow are 4WD.”

        The one thing that can render a 4×4 completely useless – overconfidence.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        ABS will often cause longer stopping distances, but shorter stopping is not exactly its intent. It will give added control and help prevent a skid, which is preferable in most cases to a few less feet during a stop.

      • 0 avatar
        rpn453

        “What I think would be ideal is if ABS cut out below 7 or 10 MPH.”

        This would be a nice setting to have in addition to on/off. Call it ABS-HI or something.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    Ok, I’m not going to deny that ABS does have its uses. I will also note that nearly 20 years have passed since the event I’m about to describe, so it may be a lot better today than it was then. However…

    Back in ’99 I drove a ’96 Chevy Camaro which DID have an ABS system (as it was clearly notifying me during the event.) We’d recently had a light snowfall–only an inch or two–but being what the car was, I was driving over a long bridge VERY gingerly at about 15-20 mph. After the bridge came a long, sweeping, downhill left curve leading to a traffic light right where the road started to level out. The light itself came into view while I was still about 800 feet away, just turning to yellow. My foot was already off the gas, so I very, VERY lightly touched the brakes… and started sliding. Just to test it, I applied more brake to absolutely no effect. I was on “black” ice. Releasing the brake, I regained steering. Again I only barely touched the pedal and began sliding again. My speedometer said I was stationary but I was still sliding at about 10mph. I did this several more times as the cars waiting at the intersection watched and waited. I finally came to a full stop, properly aligned on the road, half in the intersection, blocking anyone who might be trying to enter that street, but giving the exiting traffic space to enter the highway without having to maneuver around me.

    From that time on, I have not trusted ABS on truly slippery roads as the system clearly did NOT know I was still moving.

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      What is the deal with “black ice”? Whenever I hear a winter driving story the climax always involves a patch of black ice.

      Is there truly ice that is black in color and is even more slippery than regular clear ice? That would be impressive if it were true.

      Why the need to label it black? Does that make the ice more evil? Like Darth Vader? Like a Black Mamba? Is there some unintended and subtle racism?

      Just always struck me as odd.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Asphalt is black, thus the clear ice appears to be asphalt in the upcoming seconds before you hit it (as opposed to white colored ice). If say most roads were concrete, the name probably wouldn’t have caught on in the first place.

      • 0 avatar
        sirwired

        It’s called that because it makes asphalt just look “wet” (a.k.a. black) and you don’t figure out it’s icy until you do something that requires traction and quickly realize you are in fact driving on a crude skating rink. It most often forms after some amount of melting re-freezes overnight.

        If the ice was thicker, it would be grey/white and therefore easier to see. There’s no evil race or Darth-Vader related allusions going on here; just a simple description of what it looks like.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          At least around here, black ice also tends to be wet ice – in other words, the water has frozen to the pavement, but the ice is still wet on top. We tend to get it a lot in Maine where there is sun shining on snow causes it to melt and run into shady areas on the road. It will be wet in the sun but black ice in the shade. Nasty!

          Black ice tends to happen when it is just barely cold enough for the water to freeze. If it is really cold, it’s white.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        Black ice occurs when temperature, humidity & precise amounts of moisture/precipitation conspire (in perfect symphony) to lay down a thin layer of translucent ice that is so smooth & slippery, it turns highways into proverbial pinball machines or billiard tables.

        There’s no hype associated with the hazards of black ice. I’ve been in situations where I’ve been crawling along on a black ice lacquered highway, and it’s only by divine intervention or luck that I wasn’t side-struck, front-struck, rear a$$ed or t-boned by a wave of out of control, spinning vehicles, like dozens of loose ball bearings, striking the median, other vehicles, and running off the right shoulder into culverts and ditches, and there was nowhere to hide and nothing I could do but brace myself.

        • 0 avatar
          VoGo

          Thank you for instructing me in the dangers of black ice. You all agree that it is very dangerous, but also that it is not actually black in color.

          So why do we call dangerous ice black? Do we typically label things we fear are dangerous as black?

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            I truly believe that it’s called “black ice” because it mainly forms after sundown, and on asphalt roads or even some concrete ones, it gives a black sheen to the road (especially on asphalt though), and that there’s no racial connotations.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            I would have used the term “Stealth Ice” because you simply can’t see it; the road at best looks wet but at worst looks almost completely dry.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            p.s. Key & Peele did a relatively humorous skit about the term “black ice” and the presumed racial connotations.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            It’s scary, tricky, ruthless stuff, that black ice. A perfectly safe neighborhood can be suddenly terrorized by the appearance of black ice.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            It’s really not complicated. Asphalt pavement that is coated in a thin wet layer of ice looks black. Just like wet asphalt pavement usually looks black.

            If you live in a place where the pavement isn’t dark gray to blackish to start with, or you are used to concrete paving, then I guess I can understand why this makes no sense. There is a lot of pinkish to greenish asphalt pavement in the US depending on the mineral content of the additives to the asphalt.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            @krhodes: Kudos for your clarification. The simple fact is that on anything other than relatively fresh asphalt, the ice is simply invisible because it is clear.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          “But let’s be honest – black ice is the real menace. Last night I was in a perfectly safe neighborhood, walking away from an ATM, when black ice just snuck up on me and practically robbed me of my balance”

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          @DeadWeight – agreed. One place to watch out for it is on bridges around freezing. Cement ones seem to be worse. A source of humidity like a big river close by can make it treacherous.

          A week ago I had to run some errands and the road outside my house was “black ice”. Fortunately there was enough compact snow on each side to give traction. In other words, it was much safer to drive on the compact snow than upon what looked like bare pavement.
          I ended up running a big hill on that road twice in 4×2 just out of curiosity. My first errand trip I had the electronic nannies on and the second time I disabled them. I kept my speed under 36 mph to keep the nannies from re-engaging. For those who think the nannies don’t work, the difference was amazing. I had to work much harder at staying in control.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            If I had to encounter true black ice more than 4 or maybe even 3 times per winter, I’d probably stud my tires.

            However, this isn’t always legal depending on jurisdiction, and it also wouldn’t prevent others from smashing into me.

            Like I previously mentioned, the last place I want to be when there is black ice is on a traffic packed highway, because it’s difficult to quickly move left or right safely given that there are vehicles all around, and one is essentially a sitting duck because of the inevitable vehicles traveling way too fast under those conditions (many of whom are in false sense of security AWD or 4×4 vehicles).

      • 0 avatar
        ClutchCarGo

        “Why the need to label it black? Does that make the ice more evil?”

        At least in western culture, black IS associated with evil and danger and corruption, just as white is associated with goodness and purity. I doubt, however, that applying the adjective black to ice conditions has any racial basis. I think it has more to do with the notion that blackness can hold hidden danger.

      • 0 avatar
        NickS

        Since ancient times people have associated darkness/night/black with feelings of fear. Some of that was further enforced by religion and culture. Iam sure an academic would make a whole career out of it. I wouldn’t read any racial undertones in the terminology. No live human has a truly black complexion, BTW.

        I’ve seen black ice many times. That name doesn’t describe it well, but its pretty close considering that most ice has a light-grayish almost white look to it. So because you can usually see normal ice, maybe black ice is not a bad term for ice you can’t see.

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          NickS – if you ever have the opportunity to go onto a lake that has frozen before a lot of snow has fallen, do it.(If the ice is thick enough of course) The ice freezes the same colour as the water. It almost feels like you are literally walking on water. You look down and see fish swimming. It is truly amazing.

      • 0 avatar

        Black ice – or invisible ice – only trips you up if you are only using your eyes to determine road surface conditions. I’ve gotten to the point that I can tell 95% of the time exactly what the road surface condition is by coupling what I see with what I hear. Wet has more high frequency content in the noise. Ice has much less high frequency content and is biased more toward mids and low mids. Dry has a fairly even balance – mostly white noise like – to the sound. The only one that I have any trouble with – or am most unsure of – is when there is the thinnest of layers of ice to where the pavement/asphalt sounds more like dry than ice. Using both sight and sound along with judicious brake checking, I am reasonably confident of what type of surface I am on at any point in my driving. When none of my “checks” gives me clear indication I drive with more caution as my – and other’s – safety is most important.

        • 0 avatar
          JimC2

          Wait, so you’re telling us you pay attention to your driving and so-called “black ice” isn’t a problem for you? Are you implying that everyone should pay attention to their driving? Crazy talk!!

          25 years of driving in all sorts of climates, terrain, and highways and byways. For a long time now I’ve believed that “black ice” is mostly just an excuse for when people crash themselves.

          Oops, there I go again. Probably gonna hurt a few feelings.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            Most people drive a) way too fast in truly adverse weather (e.g. sleet, snow), and b) fail to maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front of them in such adverse weather (one needs a minimum of a 4 second buffer at 70 mph in normal conditions; double this, at minimum, in adverse weather).

            And yes, black ice, especially on hilly/rolling roadways, or on offramps/onramps, or overpasses, is a uniquely hazardous road condition because braking & steering become much more compromised (especially commensurate with speed) than with “just” ordinary snow or ice.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I have slipped and fallen several times on it so yes it is real and not merely an excuse. Thank heavens for Life Alert.

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            A lot of you guys are missing my point about “black ice.” It’s the same thing as “ice.” You can see it if you’re paying attention because it DOES look different than dry pavement. You can expect to encounter ice if you’re paying attention and that should cue you to look out for it. It’s NOT invisible or some mysterious slipperiness that can jump out and bit you without any warning. If you ARE surprised by it that means that either you weren’t paying attention or you just don’t know what you’re doing behind the wheel in the wintertime.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            There’s Black Ice and there’s “black” ice. Yes, ice that makes asphalt look ‘wet’ is the most commonly acknowledged version of Black Ice. However, as I stated earlier that type of ice is at least visible if you know what you’re seeing.

            What I call “black” ice is that ice that quite literally is invisible to the eye; the pavement looks almost perfectly dry, no matter the pavement type. Remember, except for the most recent asphalt resurfacing, most streets are already grey colored which tends to mask any thin coatings of ice… especially when it’s caused by light powder getting crushed into the pavement. Where I live, even new asphalt turns grey after one winter, at which point ‘invisible’ ice becomes a serious threat.

            Now, can true winter tires help in such cases? Certainly. Their softer compound means that they can better conform into the ‘texture’ of the road surface itself, whether it be dry, iced or simply packed snow. The problem for most is that they cannot afford to own two complete sets of wheels and tires for each vehicle and/or they have no place to store such in their homes. And tires like those cannot typically survive a full year on the road when your winter tends to last only two months or so and even then with only two or three significant snowfalls. As such, the majority of people where I live don’t bother with them whereas somebody who sees snow and ice continuously for three, four or more months straight would find them absolutely mandatory.

            Those tires do help, but you still need to know how to drive on the stuff. Again, where I live it seems everybody forgets what they learned just the year before and I, in a big Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, get passed left and right by sedans, crossovers and even bigger pickup trucks the day after a storm while road crews are still out trying to clean the surfaces.

        • 0 avatar
          johnny ro

          Think coarse surface, then remelted and perfectly smooth. Or, put down wet and froze smooth.

          Far slicker than packed or loose snow even on ice.

          Would like to see a friction coeffiency chart for different things under wheel. Black ice is just above air for low friction.

          The color has been explained.

          Thx1136 is right of course. Inside the 1% here.

      • 0 avatar
        hybridkiller

        It’s called black ice so as not to be confused with Vanilla Ice.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Ice, ice, baby.

          • 0 avatar
            shaker

            ANOTHER reason it’s called “black ice”, is that it reflects the headlights of your car away from you (much like rain does).
            When you drive in rain, you learn that the part of the road that your headlights shine on is dark (to you), but the headlights of oncoming cars reflect from the wet surface into your eyes…
            Now I could stretch the logic of this pretty far, ah he77, why not?
            Black ice looks like a rainy surface due to the effect described above, and drivers instinctively assume that it’s simply a wet surface, and get into trouble FAST.

            Checking your (if equipped) dash thermometer is helpful in this situation, and many new cars will “boot” with an ice warning if the temp is 36 deg F or below, but it has no dynamic effect.

            NOW… an accurate thermometer along with an infrared (invisible) laser to “look” for the aforementioned road conditions could reduce the number of accidents on bridges and overpasses noticeably.

            As to snow tires – the reason that many don’t use them is that they lack the storage for the summer set, so the tire manufacturers “invented” all-seasons to make everybody happy.

            If all-season tires were suddenly declared “unsafe” for winter driving, then driving would become a big hassle in the winter states.

            Also, it wouldn’t happen because the rental car companies would raise cain over it.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            Sorry, but the storage issue is BS. I kept my off-season tires under my twin bed in my dorm room in college. In my student apartment in law school, I stacked them 2×2, put a piece of plywood on them and used them as a table in the living room. Even the biggest wheels and tires can just be stacked in a corner somewhere – if you have such a tiny apartment that you can’t find THAT much space, you probably live somewhere that you don’t need or have a car anyway. And many tire stores in urban areas will store them for you for a very nominal fee.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Let’s just say that wheels and tires are not acceptable decor in a ‘respectable’ home, hmmm?

          • 0 avatar
            hybridkiller

            …or Italian ice.

        • 0 avatar
          dolorean

          Brings new meaning to “rollin’…in my 5.0”

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        My favorite story involving black ice was leaving a conference when there had been some freezing rain. We were told about the weather and to watch out for “black ice.” A guy from North Carolina with a thick accent was befuddled: “Black guys? Why do I need to watch out for black guys?”

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      This is exactly what the old Jeep system would do. It had no way of knowing that all four wheels are locked, and under conditions that slippery, it was very easy to lock all four wheels. MUCH less likely to happen with a modern system.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Old ABS systems operated purely by sensing differences in wheel speed. If all four wheels were locked up (or, with a three-channel system, both front wheels and one back wheel) they couldn’t do anything, because they thought the car was stopped.

      Current ABS systems paired with stability control have use of the full array of sensors in the car, which include not just wheel speed but also yaw and acceleration in every direction. A newer system would have realized you were sliding with all four wheels locked and released various brakes as appropriate to regain control.

      • 0 avatar
        eamiller

        They fixed that issue years ago with longitudinal accelerometers and complex software models.

        Gotta love the number of people on here who relate experiences from 20+ years ago like they are applicable today when it comes to cars.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          “…like they are applicable today when it comes to cars.”

          Luckily no one drives a vehicle built before 2005.

          • 0 avatar
            mitchw

            ’02 Civic here. 5 speed manual. No ABS. No traction or nanny controls. I have a ball whenever it snows. SkipBarber training does that.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Fortunately everything went super a few years ago and everyone was doing so well all 2010 and earlier vehicles were phased out when everyone bought new.

          • 0 avatar
            shaker

            It could be said that the “Cash for Clunkers” program got a few non-ABS (and “dumb” ABS cars) off the road.

            My ’97 Camaro had 4-wheel “dumb” ABS, so I would pull a wheel sensor in the winter, and my manual braking (in some situations) was better.

            I ran all-seasons, mainly due to a lack of storage.

            If it was bad enough, I’d just take the morning off until the roads were cleared, or the day off if it were a “blizzard”.

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          you’re talking about a site where people will say “my mom’s ’75 Vega was a total piece of junk so I’ll never buy a GM.”

  • avatar
    seabrjim

    #Black ice matters.

  • avatar
    MBella

    I agree with everyone that says proper winter tires are the important, and they make ABS useable. That being said, you don’t realize how terrible a regular ABS system is, until you have the chance to drive a car with Sensotronic Brake Control on the same slippery surface as a car with a conventional system. You truly realize how much braking the ABS system gives up.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      “In May 2004, Mercedes recalled 680,000 vehicles equipped with the system; in March 2005 a total of 1.3 million vehicles were recalled. In 2006 high-volume models such as the E-class returned to conventional hydraulic brake systems. Low-volume luxury models such as the SL, the Maybach and the SLR continued to use SBC due to the prohibitive cost of redesign.”

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sensotronic_Brake_Control

      Yeah, sounds great.

      • 0 avatar
        MBella

        The recall was an installation of a strategically placed zip tie to keep stress from the wiring. They went away from it because they realized they were setting themselves up for too much liability.

        This has nothing to do with how well it works, and how inadequate a normal ABS system operates in comparison. Having had several opportunities to drive similar equipped E classes with and without SBC, the difference is amazing. On an icy surface, the SBC car would stop very abruptly. The car with a normal system would be pulsing the brakes, and your stopping distance would be significantly longer.

  • avatar
    Drzhivago138

    But what about engaging Cactus Mode?

  • avatar
    Garak

    Tests made in Finland in about 2004 showed considerably longer stopping distances on gravel, snow and especially ice with ABS. Of course, with ABS you have some semblance of control, and can try to avoid the obstacle or at least crash head-on instead of sliding sideways with locked wheels.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      Garak – I actually find that hard to believe. Citation required BUT remember the time 2004. ABS has come a long way in 12 years. I can see it when there is “soft” conditions i.e. loose snow without ice underneath it or sand or loose gravel. Anytime there is a hard packed surface under the gravel or snow you lock the wheels and it just gets worse. Think of spreading marbles on a floor and putting a plank over them. The marbles can just as easily be replaced with snow or gravel and the cement is hard compact dirt or icy road.

      • 0 avatar
        VolandoBajo

        @Lou_BC I agree that citation for the 2004 study would be nice, but likewise a cite should be provided if we are to accept that twelve more years has solved the problem.

        As to the gentleman (or lady) who suggested kerosene, a couple of pieces of useful information, if they might be permitted in the midst of a lot of other things.

        Only 1-K grade kerosene is tested for quality. Not K-1, or anything else, which can contain anything else. By law, the kerosene should be taxed for road use, but if I couldn’t find it, my car (diesel at one time) wouldn’t start, and the only 1-K kerosene I could find was for offroad use, I would use it in a diesel tank. Ten to twenty per cent prevents gel down to around zero Fahrenheit, a lot cheaper than other antifuel gel additives.

        Re: ABS, my “new” used Panther, 97 Grand Marquis came without ABS, as some, but not all, did. I have always lightly feathered the brake pedal except when having to panic stop. And I have trained myself to fan the brakes in a panic stop, as soon as, if not before, the wheels lock up.

        When driving in snow, I remain extra vigilant for black ice, especially on bridges and where the road is near bodies of water. When I am approaching a stop sigh or light I test the brakes in advance, and if I see signs of traction issues, begin stopping way in advance. When and if I get lockup I fan the brakes repeatedly, using light pressure. Most black ice comes in short patches, less than 100 feet in length easily. So I end up with enough traction on the snow to come to a stop, albeit very slowly. But it works, using a good set of all season tires with a good snow rating on tires.com.

        If I had naive drivers using my car, I’d rather they have ABS. But the only time I came close to sliding into a snowbank and an intersection was on Long Island in an FWD Rabbit, where the intersection had a downhill approach. Even then, I managed to stop with just my nose in the intersection as the light was changing.

        I have driven ABS cars in the snow and ice also, and have found them to be more difficult to stop, but as long as I don’t wait to long to start braking, and don’t hammer the pedal in panic, non-ABS works at least equally well as ABS, and often better.

        The EU study that shows slightly more collisions but less fatalities is enough reason for me to prefer no ABS. A fender or even a broken bone can be fixed. But it is kind of hard to come back from a fatality.

  • avatar
    Ol Shel

    A bigger problem is braking over bumps or broken pavement. My WRX would STOP braking over washboard or if any bump was hit, even when I was nowhere near the limits of traction.

    Have they fixed that, yet?

  • avatar
    Wheeljack

    Although its not quite the same thing, every once in a while some dim-witted individual will wander onto a Jeep forum and ask how to disable the airbags since they are convinced they will go off while off-roading. No amount of assurances from highly experienced off-roaders that “if the airbags go off, it was because they needed to” will dissuade them from their mission to self-immolate.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      It’s not impossible. My buddy set off the airbags in a rental car – Chrysler Sebring, I believe – landing a jump off a Texas gate. It knocked his hand off the wheel and sent him into the ditch where it also got some paint scratches from the bushes. No actual collision damage other than some scrapes on the bottom of the bumper.

      He drove it back with the windshield smashed up and the airbags hanging out.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    Disabling ABS to get better snow traction works as well as putting screws in your tire treads and it’s cheaper than tire chains or cables… or throwing hot water on your windshield to melt the ice. Pouring a gallon of antifreeze into your oil will keep your oil from freezing too, doncha know?

    I get a lot of good laughs out of the “fake science” facebook page. Just oh by the way.

    • 0 avatar
      RideHeight

      I’ve thinned oil with a little gas a la Russian Front Tricks to keep an un-garaged car starting throughout deep subzero spells.

      Only used for short, stone-necessary trips, worked well.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      JimC2 – depends on the screws. I used to play around ice racing dirt bikes. You can get carbide steel screws designed specifically for ice racing. The problem is you need screws a few inches long with at least 2 liners inside the tire to keep them from pulling out. Cutting the side walls off of a couple of smooth street tires are what are used as liners. The front tire can use only one liner and shorter screws.
      You can also order extra long tire studs and stud a tire yourself. The only problem is your tires are no longer street legal.

  • avatar
    fiasco

    My 03 Legacy ABS is worthless on anything more slippery than wet pavement. Brakes are effectively shut off. The handbrake has saved me many times by being able to rotate the car; but I need to yank the rear disks off and see what I broke the last time I used the handbrake to make the car turn.

    At 215k miles, it’s probably time to add that defeat device for the ABS.

  • avatar
    Brumus

    “One thing which continually amazes me is how wrong-headedly people will approach this. they’ll sit there and fret over whether a car is “good in snow” or whether they should disable ABS/TC or not, when the simple solution is to get some GODDAMNED WINTER TIRES.” [Emphasis mine.]

    Truer words have rarely been written on this hallowed website…

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    I used to park my cars bumper first in a vertical fashion. I stopped because its surprisingly difficult to back out again.

  • avatar
    Mathias

    Like so many myths, there is some truth to this one.

    My ’04 Vibe without ABS was not bad in the snow, and I believe that in certain situations, it would stop faster than an ABS-equipped car. Which I loved because my “commute” is in town and all 25 mph. 5 miles roundtrip. The wheels lock, the wet snow builds up underneath, and the car comes to a stop pretty quickly, and by the time I’m stopped it’s at a 20-degree angle to the lane. No Big Deal.

    At 40 mph, the same stop would get a LOT more interesting. My next car had ABS, thank you very much. I’m not even afraid to get on the freeway in the snow. It’s reassuring to be able to hit the brakes and know for sure the car will keep going straight, no matter what.

    AFAIK, stoping is quicker without ABS on gravel, too. Same reason, same issues.

    A non-ABS car can be more fun to slide around. One thing that was a hoot in my ’04 was left-foot braking to hang the rear out in a snow-covered parking lot. Wheeeee!

  • avatar
    hybridkiller

    Hey Aaron, I think we’ve identified this year’s source of the rumor.

    Nonetheless, it’s good to know that there’s always a place I can go where a few courageous souls still champion bogus advice based on flawed logic, unscientific anecdotes, and pure conjecture.

    I’ll show myself out…

  • avatar

    If we MEAN ABS, then, yeah, duh. Leave it on. I can’t imagine the average Joe would know how to do it other than to ask a shady workshop.

    However, Traction Control, which can be deactivated on the dash, can be a force for evil on snow or mud. Say you’re trying to move off, and both driven wheels are spinning, applying the brakes to those wheels will achieve nothing. At least by allowing the wheels to spin there’s a chance that you might dig down and find traction with one wheel.

    It’s like off roading, where disabling traction control can have the same effect as a differential lock.

    Just remember to switch it back on once you’re moving. It exists for good reason.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      “It’s like off roading, where disabling traction control can have the same effect as a differential lock.”

      Huh?

      There’s two very different versions of “traction control.” Traditionally, traction control was reduced engine power by way of pulling timing to prevent excess torque from inducing wheelspin. Now, in the modern day, everything from Wrangler Rubicons to Ford Explorers to Honda Pilots and other crossovers have systems that will use the modern multi-channel ABS systems and speed sensors to figure out what wheels are spinning and which are not. By selectively applying brakes to the spinning wheel on a particular axle (not necessarily a solid axle, just referring to the wheel pair front or rear), the torque in an open differential will be shunted over to that non-spinning wheel which until now was not getting enough torque to rotate and move the vehicle. These systems are far from perfect in many crossover applications, with various torque limits imposed on what can actually be sent to a single wheel. The ones on a modern 4×4 is incredibly impressive. Land Rover’s and Jeep’s and Toyota’s systems are particularly brilliant and getting an open-differential truck through unthinkable terrain.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    “Worser”? Seriously? Are we back in 6th grade now? That’s not funny.

  • avatar
    carloss

    My first car had ABS which would fail to activate about 5% of the time. I probably should have pulled the fuse but it made driving exciting! I’m pretty sure ABS > No ABS > Having ABS randomly work 95% of the time.

  • avatar
    TybeeJim

    Before ABS/TC I drove a 1968 Volvo 245 with Michelin XZX radials through the infamous “Ice Storm” in Connecticut in the mid 70’s. The car simply went wherever I needed to go, I worked in local government at the time and delivered firewood to homes and ferried folks to the high school that had generator heat available. Tires are the answer in almost every case. All-wheel and four wheel drive only serve to get you moving, but won’t make stop any better than the next guy. In later years, I bought Blizzaks for various other cars and they were wonderful.

  • avatar
    rpn453

    Oh good. An article about winter driving by someone who doesn’t understand winter driving, with quotes from an expert who doesn’t understand winter driving.

    “I would say it’s an extremely bad idea,” said Mike Rizzo, Technical-Fellow for Chassis Controls at General Motors. “If I’m driving and let the front axle lock before the rear axle, I’m going to get into a situation where I have terminal understeer … and the vehicle is not going to want to turn.”

    Sorry Mike, but if you had any clue what you were doing, you wouldn’t be trying to lock the wheels and turn at the same time anyway.

    “Disabling anti-lock brakes also disables traction control, which the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated reduces fatal vehicle crashes by 30 percent in sedans and 63 percent in SUVs.”

    The point is that it shouldn’t have to. The driver should be able to decide which features he wants to use, when he wants to use them. A good driver is still far better at analyzing complex situations than any computer.

    “Rizzo said he frequently hears the questions, and the logic behind disabling ABS isn’t entirely unfounded: Piling snow in front of dead-straight wheels would shorten braking distance. Digging in is better. Threshold braking makes for safer stops.”

    Yep, the vehicle stops faster in snow with the wheels locked, but is easier to control during threshold braking. That is why a good driver should have the option of choosing which is best for any given situation himself.

    ““In all reality, the computer is better and designed to (pump the brakes) faster than you can,” he said.”

    No kidding. But we’re still talking about the fact that locking the brakes in soft snow reduces stopping distances, so pumping the brakes or having ABS is undesirable in that situation.

    ““That’s technically correct in a test environment on a highly deformable test surface — meaning you can get a ‘wedge’ in front of a tire — but I would say that’s more applicable to gravel than snow. Snowy surfaces are generally more polished, even with just a little bit of traffic on them,” he said.”

    “Generally” doesn’t cut it. I drive on a variety of surfaces, all of which require different techniques.

    “Even with studded tires, rotating wheels are directly proportional to steering control. Locking wheels effectively makes the car uncontrollable.”

    True, unless you have control of whatever it is that’s locking the brakes. Then you have full control of whether it’s controllable or not. So, I guess having control of the brake pedal means means that it’s technically controllable, huh?

    ““When you get on very slippery surfaces and lock the wheels, it can take seconds for those wheels to start spinning back up to the velocity of the vehicle. There’s not a lot of road friction to push back on the tire to start spinning them back up,” he added.”

    You always regain steering ability the moment you let off the brakes. If the tires are still spinning slower than the vehicle is moving, that’s like advanced ABS. No ABS can simulate that perfect situation where the wheels are both slowing and turning the car without noticeable pulsing.

    If it’s that slippery, there is nothing that can be possibly gained by braking while steering anyway because there’s no significant weight transfer available. Any braking will reduce the ability to steer, and and steering will reduce the ability to brake.

    ““You go back 20 to 30 years and people were taught to ‘pump the brakes’ on snow to lock up and then release the wheel to get it back up to spinning with the rest of the car. That’s what ABS is doing — and it’s much faster,” he said.”

    Once again, we’re just trying to brake as quickly as possible here. In the snow, that’s done by locking the wheels. You don’t brake and steer at the same time unless you’re doing the advanced technique of using the weight transfer of braking to help steer the car. Save the brake pumping for F1 drivers who are trying to unlock the inside front wheel while trail braking into slow corners.

    “For new drivers, or drivers new to snow, Rizzo said it’s best to practice in parking lots to understand how to better control cars in slippery conditions. Slowing down and steering into shoulders is more effective than locking up wheels, he said.”

    To understand how to control your car, you’re going to need to disable the nannies. Practicing with nannies will only help you learn the limits of the nannies. That is not controlling the car. It will familiarize yourself with the car. I guess that’s better than nothing.

    “Or, again: Steering > No steering.”

    Again, braking and steering should be done separately. The basic dollar theory of traction applies to winter driving far more than it does to dry or wet pavement driving, where weight transfer comes into play to provide loans from one wheel to another. If you want the best braking, don’t try to turn at the same time. If you want the best steering, don’t try to brake at the same time.

    That said, a decent ABS system works okay in winter if you have good winter tires. The deep lugs provide enough of a digging effect. I like that it helps to keep the studs in good shape.

  • avatar
    hybridkiller

    Ok, for all you awesomely amazing expert drivers with mad winter driving skills – ABS is not intended for you. It’s intended for all those people who only THINK they are awesomely amazing expert drivers with mad winter driving skills. Alright? Are we done here?

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      ABS can benefit almost everyone. Even F1 cars would have it if they could. It’s just not ideal for every situation.

      We’re going to need to escort you out this time. Gather your things.

      • 0 avatar
        hybridkiller

        “ABS can benefit almost everyone. Even F1 cars would have it if they could. It’s just not ideal for every situation.”

        The same thing has been said about seat belts and airbags, but they’re not considered optional devices – and for good reason.

        • 0 avatar
          rpn453

          A driver can analyze the road conditions and determine when ABS is inappropriate. He would not be able to predict the outcome of a collision. Is that simple enough for you to understand?

          Of course, with ABS we’re arguing about a technology that hasn’t been statistically proven to have much, if any, safety benefit anyway. That’s why this article only included a statistical reference to the safety benefits of ESC – labelled as “traction control” by the ignorant author – rather than ABS itself. For ABS, there is none. Both the European Commission and NHTSA have determined it to be of questionable benefit.

          While ABS has demonstrated a zero net effect to fatal collisions overall, NHTSA actually found that it has negative effects in adverse conditions. It increased fatal run-off-road crashes in wet, snowy, or icy conditions by 34%, while providing only a 12% decrease in fatal multi-vehicle collisions in those conditions. ABS decreased fatal collisions with pedestrians, cyclists, and animals in dry conditions, but actually increased those fatal collisions in adverse conditions.

          http://ec.europa.eu/transport/road_safety/specialist/knowledge/esave/esafety_measures_known_safety_effects/anti_lock_braking_systems_in_cars_abs_en.htm

          http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811182.PDF

          Now, if you could disable the airbags before launching off a Texas gate in a rental car, that would be a good feature.

          • 0 avatar
            hybridkiller

            You conveniently cherry-picked a single data point out of a rather extensive report. Taken as a whole, the advantages significantly outweigh the disadvantages.
            From the NHTSA report:

            “This report concludes that four-wheel ABS has essentially zero net effect on fatal crashes, but significantly reduces nonfatal crash involvements.”

            “The combined effect (ABS + ESC) is always a substantial fatality reduction.”

            If you really believe it’s a good idea to give average drivers the ability to defeat ABS (you know, the vast majority who aren’t super-awesome experts like yourself), then no amount of consensus data is going to change your mind.

          • 0 avatar
            rpn453

            Yes, the NHTSA study shows a small reduction in overall crash rates with ABS, with no reduction in fatalities. Yet there was still an increase in fatalities in adverse conditions with ABS, despite the overall reduction in collisions in those situations. That “adverse conditions” data is probably even skewed in favor of ABS, since it includes wet conditions, where ABS actually is advantageous.

            And the European Commission hasn’t seen any benefit:

            “However, while injury crashes decrease (-5%), fatal crashes increase (+6%). A recent study, however, indicates that anti-lock brakes may not contribute to crash prevention at all.”

            So I stand by my statement that ABS “hasn’t been statistically proven to have much, if any, safety benefit”.

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          rpn453 – it would then depend on the definition of a “safety benefit”.

          ABD does not alter the outcome of catastrophic crashes which lead to fatalities because people make massive driver errors that no system can extricate them from. That fact was proven statistically since the inception of ABS.

          Another point is that even in non-fatal crashes ABS does not change the outcome because poor drivers once again put them in a situation that is not correctible by ABS. ABS can help extricate a driver from a crash but that depends on the driver not completely panicking and using the technology to full advantage. ABS has helped me avoid several crashes.

          I’ve seen that truth time and time over the 20 years I worked as a paramedic.

  • avatar
    Power6

    All this “normal people need ABS but I dont” is pure Internt gold. Looks like comments per day is directly proportional to level of delusion, which seems about right.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      I question your reading comprehension if that’s what you discerned from this thread.

      The statistics don’t differentiate by skill level. ABS has not been proven to be beneficial in adverse conditions for anyone.

      It’s okay to admit that basic car control is scary to you. Hopefully they’ll continue to invent more electronic things so you don’t have to be capable of controlling mechanical things that simply do what they’re told.

      • 0 avatar
        hybridkiller

        “It’s okay to admit that basic car control is scary to you. Hopefully they’ll continue to invent more electronic things so you don’t have to be capable of controlling mechanical things that simply do what they’re told.”

        The level of condescending arrogance in that remark is nothing short of breathtaking.
        Wow…

        • 0 avatar
          rpn453

          Yes, I’m fully competitive with you and Power6 in that regard. The difference is that I’ll say it directly because I haven’t been feminized.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            “I’ll say it directly because I haven’t been feminized.”

            There you have it……….

            testosterone

            trumps

            technology

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            @rpn: Are you here to have a conversation, or are you here just to insult people?

          • 0 avatar
            rpn453

            I was just giving them what they asked for. It was a disrespectful article that began by mocking those with enough winter driving experience to know that ABS can function poorly in the snow. I’m actually glad to see that you guys dragged it out of the ditch since I was last here.

            I apologize for being intentionally abrasive in my original post, but nothing else. Oh well, it inspired me to put my thoughts down for my buddy’s website and further our agenda to have everyone on good winter tires so that salt and gravel no longer need to exist on the roads!

            http://www.skstuds.ca/2016/01/28/how-abs-makes-bad-tires-worse/

          • 0 avatar
            rpn453

            “There you have it……….

            testosterone

            trumps

            technology”

            It’s a great learning tool, if you manage to survive into your mid-twenties.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      You know, there is a possibility that ABS is in some ways actually causing more crashes, especially fatal ones, through driver overconfidence that the brakes will prevent them from hitting another vehicle, person, etc. Because these early nannies helped create a sense of overconfidence, more nannies are needed to force the car to brake sooner just to remain at a relatively safe distance from the vehicle in front. Essentially, it is because of all these piecemeal nannies that we are being pushed closer and closer to self-driving cars that simply won’t let you take control. Then where will we be?

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        @Vulpine – it has been discussed several times the fact that people are horrifically poor judges of risk. Anything that increases a person’s false sense of safety has a similar effect on the increase in risk. Overconfidence applies to more than just the brakes.

        It also happens with road upgrades. I recall some local roads and highways that were narrow, had tons of sharp corners and lots of hills. You would of thought that they were built by a drunken cat operator. They got upgraded and straightened out and the big hills knocked down and the end result? More fatalities. Why? Everyone relaxed and stopped paying attention along with driving faster.

        Another contributor is the disconnect between driver and machine. In the “good ol’ days” there was a reason why it was called “arm strong steering”. Manual transmissions were the norm and brakes needed a heavy foot and a lot of advanced warning. As vehicles have become “modernized” we have seen a disconnect from the driver and the abilities of the vehicle. Driving is TOO EASY or at least that is what people think. MANY have no clue how their vehicle interacts with the road.

        It is easy to blame the safety devices but in the end a good driver knows what his/her machine will do in almost every situation. That applies equally to steering as it does to ABS and traction/stability control.

        I know for the most part when my truck’s nannies are helpful and when they are going to get in the way. I drive with that in mind. I DID learn that via experience and in a many cases by “fooling around” in situations where I learn the limits of my machine safely.

        Statistically 1/3 of drivers should not have a licence and roughly 60% are just fair to average. My dad used to say that the secret to driving is to allow yourself enough room to compensate for other’s mistakes and to allow room for your own.

        Most fatalities, injuries and property damage occur because of that. If you don’t allow time for you or others to compensate, nothing is going to save one’s sorry ass.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          I’ll agree with every word, Lou. And as I said, the day will come when nobody is allowed to drive their own vehicle on the roads. If people want to drive like idiots, they can drive on the race track. If they want to drive their 4x4s, it will be out in the open desert or un-mapped roads and certified off-road parks. That’s not the way I want it, but that’s the way it will be not just in the US, but nearly every “civilized” nation. Each will likely have its own rules, but they’ll choose to do it that way to reduce risk on the roads and very probably have other advantages as well.

      • 0 avatar
        bikegoesbaa

        “Then where will we be?”

        Doing more enjoyable and rewarding things with the time we currently spend commuting or sitting in traffic?

        Less likely to be injured or killed in due to driver error?

        Able to increase the autonomy and self-reliance of anybody who is elderly, disabled, or otherwise physically unable to safely operate a car today?

        Still able to have all the fun you want on closed-course racetracks and ORV areas, which are way more fun than the street anyway?

        You’re right, it sounds terrible.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          I like you, Bikes; because that’s almost exactly why we’re going there. I fear for my 90-year-old mother every time she has to drive but she refuses to move from the house she’s lived in for 50 years and her husband died back in July. She’s got the advantage of some great neighbors but they have their own lives to live and can’t spend their time taking care of a literal ‘little old lady’.


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