By on January 13, 2017

Danger Girl's Ford Fiesta ST with white Sparco wheels, Image: © 2016 Bark M./The Truth About Cars

Forget what T.S. Eliot once wrote: January is the cruel month. At least in Ohio, and at least this year. One day it will be eight degrees Fahrenheit and snowing; the next day it will be sixty degrees and raining. And the moment the salt washes off the roads and makes me think it would be a good idea to take my CB1100 out for a spin, the temperature drops and the existing water on the roads freezes solid. Wednesday morning, walking out to the Accord, I ended up falling on my ass and then sliding all the way down to the end of the driveway. It would have been great fun if I hadn’t ruined a set of pants in the process.

I wonder if this is part of the oft-discussed “climate change”. Believe me, I’m no science denier. I mean, of course I deny all of the scientific research about IQ and heritable characteristics. Recently, my son asked me why one of the kids on his football team was “so stupid.” I was tempted to explain to John that while he is the descendant of multiple WAIS-pegging generations, his teammate’s father is a 300-pound mouth-breather whom I occasionally see just starting at the wall with his lower lip quivering slightly. Instead, I said that all human beings were of equal intellectual potential, regardless of their genetic history. My son snorted at me in response. I worry about him. How will he get into Yale if he can’t learn crimestop now?

Any way, climate change is totally real. What I’m confused about is this: Is there such a thing as “good CO2” and “bad CO2”, like there’s “good cholesterol” and “bad cholesterol”? And if so, is that why the Chinese are building two coal plants a week while the average London businessman is forced to drive a 1.2-liter diesel due to CO2 regulations? Like the Chinese CO2 is the good stuff, maybe? But I digress.


What’s important is that I am in Ohio, during the month of January, and it’s raining the proverbial cat/dog slurry. I’ve had snow tires on my Accord for about fifty days now, well before the arrival of any actual snow, because I like to learn from my mistakes. Meanwhile, my old pal who forgot to order a replacement for my damaged left front snow tire back in the winter of 2013-2014 just accidentally burned down his house, because he forgot to turn off a space heater. You can’t make this stuff up. I had to laugh about it. When a mutual friend asked me where my sympathy for the fellow had gone, I told her it resided in the part of my spleen that they removed in a rather hurried fashion three years ago last week.

Anyway. You’d think snow tires would be ace stuff in the rain, because rain is nothing but melted snow. Plus, the deep grooves and relatively low land/sea ratio should clear water in a hurry. By that last phrase, I mean the ratio of tread space to groove space. A 4×4 tire has a low land/sea ratio; a racing slick has a very, very high land/sea ratio.

All of that is true, but winter tires also have tread compounds that are specifically formulated to work in low temperatures and grip a certain type of surface. Raise the temp to fifty-five ambient and cover the road with a sort of water/salt mixture? That’s outside their performance brief. In those conditions, the mighty Accord V6 becomes a sort of spiritual successor to a big-block Chevelle, capable of spinning the tires under power all the way through the first three gears. Top-notch fun. But the significantly reduced cornering grip is less fun, particularly at freeway speeds or close to it. So I’m a little careful.

Which brings us to the fast six-lane divided road heading west out of downtown Columbus. I could describe it to the nth degree, but it would be just like the descriptions of gardens and whatnot in Lady Chatterly’s Lover; you’d want to skip it so you can get to the fuck scenes. If you’re a Columbus local, we’re talking about Vine Street heading towards 670/315.

I’d left work early and was heading west at about 70 mph. The limit is 45 but if you do 45 on that road any at time even close to rush hour you will find that your rearview mirror is now showing a close-up of a Yukon Denali’s grille. And I wasn’t even the fastest dude out there. That dubious honor belonged to the previous-gen Malibu that was tailgating me in the left lane. I moved over. He zipped past.

It was raining pretty hard. There was some standing water on the road. Right before the exit to the freeway that was my goal and probably the goal of the Malibu driver as well, the road curves to the right. Not hard, mind you. Just enough to cause me to breathe off the throttle of my ZX-14R when I’m approaching it at triple digits in the dry. Based on the slightly worrisome way the Accord was surfing the deeper puddles, I decided that I would slow down to about 50 mph for this turn. The Malibu did not slow at all.

Any club racer can tell you about the odd feeling you get when somebody passes you on the way into a corner. You get this sort of burning shame in your gut. How is he able to make that turn at that speed? I can tell you from experience that there are just two reasons:

  • You, the slower racer, are a total kittycat;
  • He’s not gonna make it.

As the Malibu rocketed away from me towards the right-hander, I figured that the answer in this case was a solid example of the first answer. Which was okay. It wasn’t a club race; it was my commute. Discretion, as Falstaff once said, is the better part of valor. But remember, please, that the audience was meant to laugh at Falstaff. That saying, along with anything Polonius says in Hamlet, is intended to be contemptible. Still. I lay back in the cut, as my urban brothers and sisters like to say, and watched the Malibu enter the turn.

Turns out I was wrong; this was a solid example of the second answer, after all. Over the space of about half a second, the following things happened:

  • The Malibu’s nose slid wide a foot or so.
  • The driver, amazingly, did not step on the brake, which was admirable.
  • Instead, he cranked the wheel harder, which was not.
  • The rear of the car began a sort of high-speed oscillation.
  • Which settled after maybe three “wipes” left-and-right.
  • The Malibu exited the corner very close to the median curb, not quite close enough to cause damage.
  • The driver then unwound his steering and slowed down to maybe 30 mph, out of sheer delayed terror.
  • A Yukon Denali started tailgating him.
  • I passed them both and entered the on-ramp for the freeway.
  • The end.

It was edifying, fascinating, and amusing all at once. And it reminded me that any modern production automobile, even my least favorite kind of Malibu, is a splendid and thoroughly impressive device, engineered by hundreds of people to highly precise standards and painstakingly tested in a variety of conditions. Somebody out there grew that Malibu stability control, fed it honey and nightshade, so to speak. Loved it. Worked hard. So it would one day save some dumbass from having a curb-trip rollover at seventy-plus miles per hour. So that dumbass could go home and play with his children instead of snapping his neck under the pressure of a collapsed roof.

Criticizing an automobile is a much easier task than building one, the same way that offering my opinion on Boston’s Third Stage (too much filler on the B-side) is much easier than the tortuous process of actually creating Boston’s Third Stage. Which is not to say that we shouldn’t criticize automobiles. But it’s worthwhile to keep some perspective about the whole enterprise.

In other words: Let’s not take anything for granted. Have some respect and wonder for the era in which we live. Watch those road conditions. And leave your stability control turned on unless you’re on a racetrack. Thanks for reading.

[Image: © 2016 Bark M./The Truth About Cars]

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113 Comments on “Trackday Diaries: The Intervention...”


  • avatar
    sirwired

    Err, Jack… I know it’s not the main point of the article, but the while the bit about the Chinese “building two coal plants a week” is true, the very same article talked about how the Chinese have cut back coal consumption three years in a row, and over half their coal-based generating capacity (even before the current expansion) is unused. (Instead, the construction of these plants is just pointless capital spending by provincial governments.)

    The Chinese government may be ruthless, but they aren’t stupid, and they know that coal use is choking their cities, which doesn’t exactly make for a happy and complacent populace.

    • 0 avatar
      3XC

      http://fortune.com/2017/01/10/china-red-alert-pollution-pm2-5/

      Worth a read. Like pretty much everything, it can’t be reduced to a glib statistic.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Yet another reason for developing alt energy: there’s money in it.

      Anyone else thinking that China would pay whatever they had to in order to avoid this kind of issue?

      • 0 avatar
        Jack Baruth

        I don’t think the Chinese think that way. At least not the people at the top. Every Chinese leader from Mao forward has seen human beings as fundamentally expendable, because they have so many to spare. As the Russians used to say… if you could machine-gun a million Chinese a day, you’d have three years’ work ahead of you.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          Oh, I think they’ll *have* care to at some point, Jack. 1.4 billion folks who are upset because the air is making their kids sick can become a rather potent revolutionary force.

          And China has a lot more recent experience with revolutions than we do.

          Plus, ruining the world’s environment – which I’m beginning to think they’re fully capable of doing – is bad for exports.

          • 0 avatar
            Wheatridger

            Chinese leaders aren’t absentee owners, like the top-floor tycoons who own the coal mines. They have to live and work in Beijing at least some of the time, and that must be a hideous duty during wintertime inversions. They have families, too.

        • 0 avatar
          VoGo

          I’m just glad Jack is here to explain how Chinese leaders think in simple terms that even I can understand.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            No, Jack has a point. This is the same country that rolled tanks in on political demonstrators 27 years ago, has a fleet of vans to execute people in, and forces women who’ve had a child already to abort any subsequent babies.

            Humanist utopia it ain’t.

            But at some point, any government has to look after the basic needs of its’ citizens if it wants to survive, and China’s no exception. Indeed, given its’ massive population and recent history of armed insurrection, the impetus to do there might be higher than people realize.

          • 0 avatar
            sportyaccordy

            Yea, killing off your population is def not a good long or even medium term strategy, even outside of the political implications. On top of this pollution stuff, China is and will continue to reel from the idiotic one child policy.

            You look at their environmental problems, human rights issues, skyrocketing labor costs, demographic challenges etc… they’re facing a lot of headwinds. I think a lot of the handwringing over China becoming THE global superpower are way overblown.

        • 0 avatar
          Jeff Zekas

          Well said, Jack. “The Chinese won’t talk. They only hang with each other. The New Zealanders, the Germans, the Europeans, will talk with you. But not the Chinese.” That’s my son’s experience, traveling in hostels worldwide. And it sums up the Chinese: they don’t care about anyone else. Pollute. Take the Spratly Islands. Steal inventions and ideas. Hack our computers. They don’t care. We are the dirt beneath their feet.

          • 0 avatar
            Wheatridger

            As of last year, China has a Two-Child Policy. And they have set a tax price on carbon emissions. They’re capable of change, maybe more so than we are.

            Anyway, finger-pointing at other nations leads us away from solutions.

          • 0 avatar
            fvfvsix

            “As of last year, China has a Two-Child Policy”

            Well then… this obviously shows that the Chinese government are the Most progressive people on earth. I’m not sure if you’re serious, but do you actually think any such policy is okay?

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit-Iron

      I think the real problem is thousands of container ships burning tar as they cross the ocean to bring us Chinese crap.

  • avatar
    Silent Ricochet

    Stability Control is truly incredible. My Focus is the first cart I’ve driven daily that has it and I never thought I’d see it step in… Until a crappy old Subaru Wagon wouldn’t let me pass him on the highway, no matter what. Cold day, a windy downhill highway with solid bedrock acting as a cheese grater on the right and a concrete barrier in the median. Stuck behind this slow wagon in the left lane, we crest a hill and I see my chance, a clear right lane. I floor it. So does he. I know it’s dangerous but now it’s just a stupid race so I press forward and enter triple digits. “No way is this piece of sh*t passing me again”. Fast approaching was a moderate right hand turn. I usually take it at 65, so I mash on my new brakes and bring it down to around 90 mph. I look in my driver-side mirror and see the Subaru had given up. I look at my speedo and then the road and my heart sinks. I’m going too fast. I stay off the brakes and enter the turn as best I can, hit some nice uneven pavement. My gauge cluster becomes a flashing Christmas tree and I keep the wheel pointed in the right direction as best I can. I can feel the car screaming at me for being an idiot and struggle for grip. The turn ends, I slow WAY down, breathe a sigh of relief, and the Subaru passes me. I caught him at a red light a few miles away. If I were in my Cavalier I’m fairly sure I’d be dead.

  • avatar
    zeru57

    I recognize a manic writing session when I see it. Keep riding that electric wave!

    Regarding snow tires, I’m a fan of the Pirelli Sottozero 3 for the wet/warm/dry performance, although it gives up some snow traction to get it.

    My current car is a late model Volvo S60 AWD that is quite hard to break loose on any surface at regular speeds. The DSC feels a great deal more sophisticated than prior generations of auto I’ve driven.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I was kind of thinking about this the other day. It is indeed a bit preposterous for auto journalists to slam cars, knowing damn well they could not design or build one. But if their criticisms are invalid, then by the same logic their praise must be too.

    Wet conditions def separate the men from the boys. I learned a couple of weeks ago after leaning a bit too hard on my Civic during a 90 degree turn in the wet… I def don’t need that bigger rear sway bar, and I am def still just a boy.

    • 0 avatar
      Silent Ricochet

      Threw a fatter (25.6mm) rear sway bar in my Cavalier Z24. In the dry the handling was vastly improved, but there were several instances in rainy/icy weather where the car would be just a tad bit too tail happy. Never lost control of the car, but if I had left it the way it is, I wouldn’t have looked nearly as cool accidentally fishtailing my way out of my workplace’s parking lot. Things could’ve gone wrong I suppose.. It did seem to help with handbrake turns in the snow, however.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    The premise of this article is very simple: modern cars are remarkably capable of saving their ham handed operators and this dude in a Malibu just demonstrated it. I’d have a hard time writing more than 3 boring paragraphs about it.

    But then there’s Jack. Those first four paragraphs crack me up and this was overall a very fun article to read. Kudos and thanks.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    This is more about electronic stability control than it is the Malibu, as cited in this essay by Jack, with said electronic stability control software and integrated hardware likely being sourced from one of 4 or 5 major Tier I Suppliers (Bosch, Continental/ITT, Delphi – no longer integrated with GM)…but NOW I DIGRESS…

    Be that as it may, as I’ve stated (or written) many times:

    “Electronic stability control – Effective systems really are remarkable… I’d contend a well-conducted study would find ESC has prevented more accidents and prevented/saved more injuries/lives than ABS and airbags together; it’s just that ESC prevents accidents from happening, whereas airbags deploy upon a collision taking place, so ESC’s benefits are harder to quantify and appreciate.

    Many people who were spared injury or death (or a collision suffering neither injury nor death) have no clue it was only through the truly awesome powers of ESC, that intervened on the their behalf in a fraction of a second, and modulated multiple vehicle systems simultaneously, that neither their vehicles, or more importantly, their bodies, were unscathed.”

    • 0 avatar
      toplessFC3Sman

      Good luck with that study – since ESC typically uses the ABS system to actuate individual brakes to help the driver maintain control, any “saves” by ESC are also saves by ABS. Comparing ABS with ESC saves to ABS without ESC (or cases where ESC wasn’t activated) would be possible, but would be confounded by what the driver behind the wheel did. Did they just lock up and continue pointing the car off the road, to the point where nothing could save them? Did they dial in way too much steering to try to make the car turn, and when the fronts gripped there was nothing the systems could do to save it? Did they just not hit the brakes hard enough (actually very common)?

      • 0 avatar
        tonycd

        topless, the numbers I’ve seen (not authoritative, to be sure) suggest that ABS alone didn’t cut the rate of crashes as much as hoped, but the addition of ESC made a huge difference.

        It’s hard to say why. Maybe people simply got used to ABS’s powers and left themselves a shorter stopping distance?

      • 0 avatar
        rpn453

        ABS was common long before ESC, and was statistically shown to have little, if any, safety benefit.

        Thus, ESC was mandated while ABS never was.

        https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2006/08/killer-abs-abs-braking-increases-rollover-risk-by-51/

        https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/10/nhtsa-abs-braking-increases-fatal-run-off-road-crashes-by-34/

        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

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      I’ve read that ESC cuts the rate of one-vehicle fatal crashes 50%.

      DW: “neither their vehicles, or more importantly, their bodies, were unscathed.” Doesn’t this mean that because of ESC, their bodies got maimed?

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        I do that sometimes.

        I even re-read it to try and ensure it conveyed what you just correctly identified.

        Yes. It should read …”scathed” and not “unscathed.”

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      Specifically, ESC helps save clumsy drivers from *losing control* when they’ve put themselves into a bad situation (most of the time), or when a bad situation happens to them (a little bit of the time).

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        And it also helps unskilled and even fairly skilled drivers recover control of the vehicle much more quickly and calmly when the proverbial sh*t hits the fan, and control has already been compromised due to things unexpected (e.g. a short patch of black ice).

  • avatar
    NoID

    I’ve yet to own a car with functioning ESC. I hear its wonderful.

    My Montana minivan did have TCS, which worked when it wasn’t really wet outside (defeating the purpose…) But that van also had a chain link fence post welded in the space one occupied by the catalytic converter, so I suppose I shouldn’t have asked too much from it.

  • avatar
    zoomzoomfan

    First time I felt some type of electronic nanny save my dumb ass was when I first got my previous car, an ’08 Mazda3 hatch. I was driving the two lane road that my girlfriend’s family lived on, and I came around a curve (in a pouring rain) a bit too fast. The right tires left the road and immediately sunk into the mushy Kentucky springtime soil, and the entire car lurched to the right. Being a naive 17-year-old, I slammed the brakes, and the little car with skid marks coming out of it icon lit up in the gauge cluster and as the car thankfully returned to pavement, I felt it wiggle a bit and straighten right up. Interesting that even back then we had stuff like that to help us when we are dumb.

    • 0 avatar
      TEXN3

      Way back when? My wife’s 2012 Accord was the first vehicle we had with any sort of “control” and I usually have it turned off. Partly when the X-Ice tires are churning through more than a foot of snow and slush. I’m starting to see the advantages of a raised vehicle in winter.

  • avatar
    MagnetoReluctance

    Another entry in the series of Jack Baruth’s tall tales of commuting on 315.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    This article has so much good stuff it’s hard to parse. There should be a short story contest around the use of this gem: “It would have been great fun if I hadn’t ruined a set of pants in the process.” The entire piece is set up like a good standup routine, with call backs to a building running gag, little punch lines, and a thinker at the end.
    Here in OR, I’m suffering from the opposite tire selection issue; in a place where all season water management with cold temperature grip is almost always the right answer I’m dealing with a situation where real snows would be better. That’s usually one or two days a year, not two cumulative weeks and counting.
    Good ESC is pure magic, and trumps the “cheat mode” torque distribution in my symmetrical AWD in all but the best of situations. The few times I’ve heard the tell tale double whine beep were when I was full on puckered getting ready to try and catch what I felt starting to happen, and it never happened. Just: BLEET BLEET and the car going where I wished I’d had the common sense to have put it on my own. Magic.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    The first car I had with ESC was a ’04 BMW 325i. It saved my from my own stupidity a few times. Like taking a left waaaay to fast. Any previous vehicle of mine I would have hopped the curb and done some damage to the tires and under carriage. Instead the car applied the brakes at the correct corners to keep me tracking straight into the turn. Ultimate nanny moment but one that I was grateful for.

    ESC and traction control was also the only thing that kept the BMW straight – with Blizzaks – in the winter. That dashboard light was always ticking off and on while turning through the snow-choked side streets.

    Of course without snow tires, there wasn’t enough traction to go around. That’s when the TC would kill the power so much that moving forward in some situations was impossible.

    • 0 avatar
      Sam Hell Jr

      It’s hills that really change the winter driving equation. As a flatlander, I’ve got by on all-seasons, but I had an experience in a winter storm in Cincinnati a few years back which caused me to re-evaluate. The robots can stop a spin but there is bleep-all they can do about gravity.

    • 0 avatar
      tedward

      The cool thing I’m experiencing now is the improvements being made to these software packages. In my own garage I have two iterations of vw’s traction and stability control. I can definitively state that the current gen doesn’t bog down as easily and actually helps with forward progress of you let it. My previous gen car needs aids disabled frequently to handle oddball situations.

      So, increasingly, it seems like not all software is being created equally when it comes to safety aids. It would make for a fascinating comparison actually, if that’s even possible.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    ” I said that all human beings were of equal intellectual potential, regardless of their genetic history.”.
    .
    You’re not supposed to flat lie to your Son Jack……
    .
    Imagine the fun responses I get from folks when I tell my Teenage Foster boys the truth about thinks like what John asked you .
    .
    As always, a good read , I too think modern Automobiles have wondrous capabilities even though I don’t want one .
    .
    Talking to a guy in Kansas this morning, he says the ice will hit to – night ~ BE CAREFUL OUT THERE all .
    .
    -Nate

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    I had the ESC kick on once. Coming home with the kids I slowed for the off-ramp because it was wet and the fairly new OEM tires worked like slicks in the rain and rains in the dry. I normally run about 75 on the ramp because that is the speed I am usually running and just don’t slow down. Even our 2000 Durango takes it at 70 without drama so it isn’t a tight off-ramp. Anyway, putzing along at 43 on the damp ramp and the back end steps out. I squeeze a little more throttle and counter steer and I can hear the ABS for a fraction of a second and the ESC/TC light is flashing like mad. My 14 year old daughter looks over at me and deadpan says “Get a little squirrely?”.

  • avatar
    ajla

    But the risk of meeting death by sliding my SRT10 or WS6 sideways into a pole is part of the fun.

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    Lulz at people who road rage in shitty weather. We got 8 to 10 inches of snow Saturday, which was compacted to about 2 inches of solid ice on our main streets by Sunday. I kept it at a cautious 25 or less when I had to drive because I really REALLY don’t want to end my life inside an automobile if I can help it. I was being passed constantly. Amazing. Someone in a Cherokee actually crossed the solid yellows to pass me. ON ICE.

    I am puzzled how folks drive like this, but slow to a crawl the second a drop of rain comes down.

  • avatar
    Drzhivago138

    Boston is one of the most puzzling bands ever. They’re like Steely Dan on steroids–the production takes twice as long, and the end result (except the first album, of course) is half as good.

    But Third Stage will still occupy a special place in my heart, if only because we played the crap out of it (specifically “The Launch”) cranked all the way up in the beloved ’98 F-250.

    /watch?v=p31VFxkKkA4

  • avatar

    1) The climate is always changing. Sunspot activity is a major factor far beyond any contributions we humans may make. Google “maunder minimum” for more and make sure your home is well insulated. And if we humans are truly the cause, then why are India and China usually EXEMPT from most if not all proposed solutions?

    Yes I voted for Trump; his stand on “man-made climate change” was reason #1. Let the hating begin…

    2) In January 1984 I was the music director at one of the handful of radio stations that received a bootleg copy of “Amanda” on a reel tape, sneaked out of CBS/Epic Records, with whom Boston was tied up in litigation. We played the song for several weeks (to expected positive listener reaction) before the label found out, then the cease and desist came down like an iron fist. But it was fun while it lasted.

    And if you have a copy of the “Third Stage” album Jack references (“Amanda” was the hit from that album), you may remember it wasn’t on CBS/Epic like the other albums, but archrival MCA.

    3) Sometimes I wonder if all those electronic nannies make us LESS safe on the highways…because it can be argued they create “10 feet tall and bulletproof” drivers. (Although I admit I enjoy those nannies as much as anyone else…especially the ESC on my Tahoe)

    Is Drivers’ Ed still mandatory in any high school anymore?

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      No Driver’s Ed is not mandatory and it certainly wasn’t 30+ years ago when I was in HS. Very few schools around here still even offer it and in the case of the school my kids went to it was your choice of a zero hour, after school or summer class. However in my state you need some sort of driver’s ed certificate to get you license before 18.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      “Yes I voted for Trump; his stand on “man-made climate change” was reason #1. Let the hating begin…”

      Unfortunately, the feeling I have is that a LOT of Trump voters took this “I’m voting for him to hack off the liberals, so yell at me” tack.

      So, sorry…no hate. Plenty of bemused, head-shaking confusion, though. Voting for this fool seems like a high price to pay for being “anti-PC.” But it’s your vote.

      • 0 avatar
        chuckrs

        A lot of Trump voters took one of his questions to heart: “What do you have to lose?” The DNC had to work hard to find a candidate who was worse. And they did.
        Saw a photo of Reid, Pelosi, Schumer, Clinton, Sanders and somebody else that reminded me of the the Politburo standing on Lenin’s Tomb in the 1970’s. Aged. Two of their young’uns, Booker and Harris, didn’t acquit themselves well yesterday in the confirmation hearings. I think the Democrats are attempting to dethrone the Republicans as the party of stupid.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          “A lot of Trump voters took one of his questions to heart: “What do you have to lose?” The DNC had to work hard to find a candidate who was worse. And they did.”

          I can’t disagree with much of that at all, chuckrs.

          But then again, for me, I’d rather have a status quo that isn’t determined to blow up the house to save it.

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      In some places, Drivers’ “Ed” is nothing more than some traffic cones in the high school parking lot. Make sure you come to a complete stop at the stop sign and look both ways at the imaginary intersection. In some places that’s about the extent of the test, with no portion on an actual public road.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Yeah, my summer-school driver’s ed class (1979) consisted of 1) a competition for who could show the highest MPH on those in-class simulators, 2) the teacher, who normally taught P.E., trying to hide that he was high most days, and 3) tooling around listening to KSHE-95 (Real Rock Radio!!!).

        It wasn’t much.

        I’m paying $400 for my oldest daughter to get a real class.

    • 0 avatar

      I really don’t know why Jack veered off into climate change but I feel compelled to add a comment here.

      When I was a young man back in the early 1970’s, global COOLING and a certain coming new ice age was the battle cry of ecologists and forward thinking politicians. The world worried. A whole cottage industry was created around the global cooling craze, and that went on for quite a few years. Lots of Federal grants. Lots of philanthropist contributions. It turned into a business, this climate change thing. Climate scientists made a good living off of that.

      Fast forward to the modern day and it’s global WARMING. History repeats itself. Scientist warn. Federal grants. Philanthropist money pours in. Scientists making a living doing nothing but studying the phenomenon. Global warming cottage industry springs into existence. It’s worse now though… High profile types like Al Gore take it global and make their own fortunes off of climate change.

      I just finished reading a study that says global warming doesn’t exist. Global ambient air temperatures haven’t really changed in 18 years and have actually cooled somewhat in the last 12. El-Nino excepted. The oceans have been cooling since 2002. Global polar sea ice set a record in 2014. Polar bear populations are at an all-time high. Many climate scientists are predicting that 70’s global cooling thing happening along with a mini ice age. Some pointed out that the during the last temporary global spike in temperatures, the temperature on other planets went up by the same amount. Either the sun has something to do with that or we humans are more awesomely destructive than we ever imagined. We’re polluting so much that we’ve affected the temperature on Mars.

      Do I want clean air? Yes Do I want clean water? Yes. Do I want China and India to stop polluting the air? Yes. Do I want Detroit’s water fixed? Yes. Do I think “rolling coal” is stupid? Yes.

      I have no problem with air and water quality standards. They should exist. I do, however, take issue with the climate change business. When you add enough money to the equation to make a lot of people rich, you get the results the money wants you to get.

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        And the FUD goes on. 10 years ago, there were plenty of people who lacked the intelligence or education to understand climate change. But what Trump has done is emboldened this underclass to vilify the very people who make this country work.

        So it is people in the states that receive the most Federal support that are the most red, and mouth off the most about government handouts. ‘Elites’ is now an insult. Think about that. Someone who worked their tail off in school, got into a great college, went on to work even harder and succeeded in life, paying taxes all the way through. THEY are the bad guys.

        For the same reason, ‘Educated’ is an insult in Trumpland. The complete opposite of traditional American values, all to make these losers in life feel like they still matter in a global economy that passed them by 30 years ago. Keep waiting on the couch for that coal job to come back, buddy. Sit tight.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        “When you add enough money to the equation to make a lot of people rich, you get the results the money wants you to get.”

        And could Exxon have a few bucks to spend to convince people to not do anything about this – which, coincidentally, might affect their bottom line? Interesting question, isn’t it?

        Can scientists “100% prove” that man is behind climate change? No…just like that scientist better known as your doctor can’t “100% prove” that if you eat McDonald’s every day, smoke, and don’t exercise, you’re going to die at age 54. It’s entirely possible that someone who lives like that will live to age 97 and die in a plane crash.

        But what kind of moron ignores the doctor’s advice to eat better, stop smoking and get some exercise? And what’s the harm in making some changes? Who doesn’t want to look better, or feel better?

        And leaving aside the climate change debate, changes are needed in energy production. Fossil fuels aren’t going to be a sufficient source of energy for humankind forever, and if we burn enough of them to support the growing economies all over the world, we’re going to see a whole range of horrible environmental problems that have nothing to do with climate change. Just ask a citizen of Beijing. Whether you think fossil fuels are causing climate change or not, the overuse of fossil fuels causes an entire range of very real, very provable problems. THAT is “100% proven.” And as other countries begin to industrialize, the problem will repeat itself…just on a far larger scale.

        Like it or not, it’s time to make changes in energy production. and if, as you say, one takes a “follow the money” approach, the obvious conclusion is that the people who are making money off the current system don’t want the competition. Why spend untold millions of dollars mining coal or pumping oil out of the ground when a fusion reactor can produce far more electricity from hydrogen, the most plentiful and easily-obtained fuel in the universe? That kind of technology puts the folks who sell oil or coal out of business…just like the current petro industry did to the energy producers of 100 years ago.

        Ask yourself your own “qui bono” question in that context.

        And as far as the whole “in 1970 people thought cooling was the problem” argument goes…that same year, scientists thought the only way to provide enough computing power for an Apollo moon mission was to fill a huge room with computers. Today, you could probably handle it with a PC you could buy for $400 at Best Buy. I’d say many scientific fields have advanced since 1970, wouldn’t you?

        • 0 avatar
          30-mile fetch

          “And could Exxon have a few bucks to spend to convince people to not do anything..”

          Glad someone else said it. Who exactly does Whiskey think is getting rich off of this?

          I didn’t know that out-of-office Al Gore and a group of scientists who struggled through over eleven years of schooling and post-doc grunt work in the hopes of one day earning middle management income at best as a professor were financially powerful enough to counter the fossil fuel industries. Who, by the way, can hire *and* handsomely pay their own scientists.

          Besides, even some of them are starting to see the light:

          https://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/17/business/energy-environment/oil-companies-climate-change-un.html?_r=0

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            @30-mile

            I think what you’re seeing is a realization on the part of Big Oil that they’re vulnerable. Look at what the emphasis on natural gas over oil has done to their bottom lines, and the coal companies.

            Now, imagine a technology like fusion power, which isn’t far off from becoming workable. All the sudden, you can generate almost unlimited power from hydrogen, the most plentiful and easiest-to-find energy source in the entire universe.

            They’re out of business when that day comes.

            What I don’t understand about the knee-jerk conservative reaction to alt-energy is that these guys are supposedly “capitalists”, but are ignoring that there’s an INSANE amount of money to be made revolutionizing the way energy is produced. Ask the Rockefellers.

          • 0 avatar
            rpn453

            You can’t just decide that alternative energy sources will be viable. Sure, you can fund and maintain their implementation with all the available inexpensive fossil fuel energy, but they won’t take over until they’re truly economically viable. Trying to force the issue just wastes even more resources.

            In the meantime, if people want to reduce fossil fuel consumption they need to live simpler, less energy-intensive lives. And not just a little bit. To make any difference, it has to be a dramatic change. Nobody appears to think that’s worth the sacrifice. Certainly not the people at the top who pretend to care. It’s all lip service.

            Cut your annual spending in half and I’ll believe you’re at least trying. If everyone in North America did that, it wouldn’t make any real difference. But at least there would be some evidence that they truly care.

      • 0 avatar
        brandloyalty

        No mainstream environmental organization warned about global cooling. It’s a myth you have just helped perpetuate, designed to discredit the enviros. Just try to find Greenpeace claims about it. You won’t find any.

        And, WhiskeyRiver, your information about global temperatures is repetition of myths rather than facts.

        As for Al Gore getting rich, individual oil company executives make more than the annual bugets of entire environmental organizations. And if Al Gore was poor, you’d use his poverty as proof that his views are irrelevant. Dismiss him as a welfare bum. Admit it. That’s just how people like you think.

      • 0 avatar
        AoLetsGo

        Wait, what?
        Pray tell what is wrong with Detroit’s water, 4 million people in 126 communities would like to know.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        “When I was a young man back in the early 1970’s, global COOLING and a certain coming new ice age was the battle cry of ecologists and forward thinking politicians”

        This was never a thing; global cooling was not even remotely the consensus opinion in the scientific community, but it did get some press attention. It’s basically the Vaccines-cause-Autism of the climate-change debate.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        Such a convincing argument… “It hasn’t gotten any warmer since the hottest year in recorded history! No climate change!”

        And yet, as of the end of 2016, even that isn’t true anymore.

      • 0 avatar
        carlisimo

        Even when global cooling was a fad in pop media, the scientific community was expecting warming. It goes back to 1897, when Arrhenius discovered the greenhouse effect and realized that our CO2 emissions could theoretically contribute to it (though our emissions were tiny back then). Since then we’ve been able to measure the greenhouse effect on Mars and Venus and confirm that side effects of global warming are occurring (e.g. the upper atmosphere cooling while the lower atmosphere warms, which wouldn’t happen if global warming were caused by an increase in solar irradiance – which we’ve also been measuring and it’s been fairly consistent).

        You can cherry-pick numbers to declare that hasn’t been an increase in temperatures because the mean atmospheric temperature has been increasing in a sawtooth pattern. You just start with a high point in the sun’s sunspot cycle and compare it to a later low point in the cycle, ignoring that there’s a clear trend if you zoom out and look at multiple cycles. In the same way you can ignore wider pattersn and find an isolated spot in Antarctica with decreasing temperatures, and write a report about it. There’s plenty of funding on that side, too. Probably more. But no one’s debunked the fundamentals behind the greenhouse effect, nor our contribution to atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases. You’d have to do one of the two to convince me.

    • 0 avatar
      bikegoesbaa

      “Sometimes I wonder if all those electronic nannies make us LESS safe on the highways”

      Don’t wonder, look at the statistics.

      The current fatality rate per vehicle mile traveled is half of what it was 30 years ago before e-nannies were deployed.

      If electronic driver aids are a detriment to safety it is not reflected in the data.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      1) That’s been looked at:

      http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/2010GL042710/full

      http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2014JD022022/full

      http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/grl.50361/full

      http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/2011JD017013/full

      I hope your #2 and #3 reasons were really good too or you may have wasted your vote.

  • avatar
    mcarr

    Winter in Minnesota means I have the ESC kick in a couple times a day on my commute. Most of the time it’s intentional as I try to see how sideways it’ll let me get on my street (not very). I do remember 2 times where it saved me from hitting the concrete barrier though. One was on a curved overpass that iced over before the road did. The other time was when a patch of ice formed on the road under an overpass. Curves, speed, and unexpected ice do not mix well.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    ESC is a nice feature. The first time I experienced it was piloting a district Suburban back from San Diego very late at night, in a rainstorm, nearly back in New Mexico on some terrible pavement around the Arizona/New Mexico state line.

    The pavement was very grooved and had lots of puddles, occasionally I’d hit one, there would be a bit of hydroplaning and you could feel the computer temporarily dial back the power to keep anything stupid from happening.

    The AWD & ESC in my Highlander have helped me a few times too by transferring power around to the wheels that had the best traction and cutting the throttle a bit. Although my FAVORITE feature is Downhill Assist Control which allows stopping on a slick downward slope instead of the ABS stop-slide-stop-slide-stop-sliding you into traffic. (My 2004 F150 2wd with 4 wheel ABS I can’t get to stop on a slick slope for love nor money.)

    • 0 avatar
      Sam Hell Jr

      I have seen people sipping coffee behind the wheel of Highlanders in some hellacious weather. Not a vehicle for which I have affection, but I respect Toyota’s AWD.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    You just need better winter tires to grip in the rain. The old Continental ExtremeWinter Contact was excellent in the wet both with ultimate grip and hydroplaning. The Goodyear Ultra Grip Ice WRT on my car are also very good in the wet even when the temps climb. Many police agencies run them year round around here as they are police pursuit rated. My daughter loves her Ultra Grip Ice (non WRT, and not pursuit rated) for their hydroplane resistance and wet traction and would rather drive on them year round that try to get some wear out of the Firehawk PV41 which are also a police pursuit rated tire.

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    FYI, the reason why it’s warm one day and freezing the next is because of the Jet Stream. It’s got arctic air on one side and tropical air on the other, and you live in an area where the Jet Stream crosses over you every few days.

    People get confused because weather reports mention “average temp on this day.” If you live anywhere near the Jet Stream, the standard deviation makes averages meaningless. It’s either way hotter, or way colder.

  • avatar
    AoLetsGo

    January is bad, but for us damn Yankees I think February is the new Ides month.

    I do think there is something to genetic history and thank God my kids have my wife’s brains with her family background of engineers, nuclear physicists, and even a U.S. President. Instead of my family of hard working peasants.

    The worst thing about Chinese coal smog is that it pollutes the entire world, although coming from American that is kinda of like the pot calling the kettle black.

    My new winter tires are GT Radial Champrio Icepro have not had a chance to give them a real test yet, but so far they seem worse than some of the other brands I have had in the past. Got to love the price though, thank you global economy giving us cheap Malaysia tires.

    ESC is great stuff and all my friends who are automotive engineers are very smart and work hard.

  • avatar
    vww12

    Excellent article, Jack.

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    A few years ago I awoke from a pleasant dream to find myself at the controls of an aged sedan heading at high speed off a highway and about to descend a steep ditch fronting a cheese grater escarpment. Since I sucessfully used the fraction of a second available to avoid death, but eventually fishtailed into the concrete median.

    Entirely my fault, but if the car had had stability control it would have damped out the fishtailing and there would still be one more Dodge Spirit on the road. Lane departure warning would have awoken me earlier, and side air bags would have been nice to have also.

  • avatar
    mikey

    Where do i start ? Climate change, is it real ? A life time in Southern Ontario tells me climate change is most certainly real. Where did it come from ? Did human activity cause it? Can we fix it ? Such questions are beyond my poorly educated thinking. I’ll leave the answers to such for those, much more qualified, than I.

    Moving on to questions about winter tires, and stability control. I learned to drive in the late 60’s. I took my drivers test in 1970 with a 64 Chevy Biscayne 3 on the tree. As i recall the roads were covered with a mix of frozen rain and snow. So i can safely say this would be my 47th year of winter driving. In those days the old under powered Chevy had deep lug snows on the rear.

    I have driven countless vehicles, in all kinds of weather conditions. So it would be safe to say , my winter driving skills are adequate. Yes i have found myself in the ditch , on more than one occasion . All part of the learning experience.

    So somewhere around the mid 70’s Radial tires came along. Wow, radials revolutionized winter driving. Who needs snow tires ? Big Pontiac Parisienne with Michelins , 14 inch tires and all, the big Poncho went anywhere i wanted to go. A succession of cars followed.. 81 Monte Carlo RWD , not as stable as the Pontiac, but I ran the same tires year round . The 84 Caprice ? As long as you had a light foot, no sweat.

    So around this time the new word was “all season tires” Over a period of years, We had Chevy two wheel drive trucks, Two FWD Grand Ams, a 4WD Jimmy, a “W” and an Epsilon Impala . {a Firebird ,Camaro, and a Mustang that wintered in the garage} Our kids drove Cavaliers and Sunfires equipped with good all season tires.. I could not see the point of “winter tires”

    About 16 months ago i made the decision to go to one car. So when i picked up my new EB Mustang, the dealer tells me “ya better buy winter tires”. No way, i’m spending that sort of money. After all the Mustang has” all season tires.” I’ve managed to drive 46 winters without winter tires, and i’m not buying them now.

    Oh boy, was I wrong. 2015-2016 was very mild with little snow. When i did need to drive in snow, you would swear the Mustang had skates on. On a gentle curve, the front end would break loose. The slightest incline, and the real wheels were hopelessly spinning. Oh i activated the “rain and snow” mode, and used all my winter driving skills….With more luck, than skill, i made till spring.

    Mid October 2016 finds me at the Ford dealer. I drive away with a set of Michelin X tires on new Ford OEM Mustang correct wheels.

    The tires completely changed the driving dynamics of the Mustang. The ride is rougher, any speed over 70 mph and the noise level increases. But what a difference in snow..I’ve had it up north in real nasty stuff she just walks through snow up to the rockers. Though the Mustang sits pretty low, with the stability control, i’m confident taking the Mustang anywhere I want to go.

    I guess you CAN teach an old dog new tricks.

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      Those old cars used to run 205-width tires (or less) with just over 100 horsepower at the wheels. That’s more-or-less the same specs as a Fiat 500! They did OK in the snow, but I remember a big hill by one of my childhood homes that would be clogged with tire-spinning cars every snowfall.
      Your Mustang has more than twice the horsepower on wider tires. That’s too much to ask of an all-season, as you’ve discovered.

    • 0 avatar
      brandloyalty

      In deep snow moderm cars have an advantage that is not recognized. The rounded prows and low air dams push most of the snow out of the way so they’re only driving through a few inches of snow.

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      Keep in mind that the populated areas of southern Ontario are a lot more built up than they were thirty or forty years ago. On one hand, that construction is insulated against heat loss to much higher standards, but on the other hand, how much of that construction is kilometers and kilometres of McMansions? Cars and road traffic? Modern cars are far more efficient, especially on short drives on a winter day, but then there is far, far more road traffic in 2016 than there was in 1986 or 1976.

      My point is that there is a *lot* of man made local heat at ground level and it makes a difference in how fast the snow melts. And that makes a big difference in perception.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    Ugh, I finally, after riding on them for 6 years, replaced the Sumitomo HTR+ garbage the dealer bragged about putting on my Subaru when I bought it. They were supposedly all-season but they were way too hard and slid all over the place at the slightest hint of frozen water. Plus they crashed over every road imperfection rattling every bone and making my already noisy Subaru sound like it was disintegrating.

    After the first attempt to drive to work in a few inches of snow I bought a set of wheels and Continental DWSes for winter use. Not enough snow here for dedicated snow tires plus the Contis are a very nice middle ground.

    I still probably had three years tread left on the Sumitomos but I just couldn’t take them anymore. I got some Pilot Super Sports from Costco just before winter and other than the sound of gravel being slung into the wheel wells constantly, they are such a vast improvement in ride quality. I should have done it sooner.

  • avatar
    thunderjet

    Hmm. Apparently I need to be more aggressive driving. I’ve yet to activate the stability control in any of our cars. Traction control yes, numerous times, but not the stability control. I try not to get stupid in the snow or rain. I’m more of a “punch it and go fast in a straight line” kinda guy.

  • avatar
    BiturboS4

    ” is that why the Chinese are building two coal plants a week while the average London businessman is forced to drive a 1.2-liter diesel due to CO2 regulations? Like the Chinese CO2 is the good stuff, maybe? But I digress.”

    – The population of China is far larger than the population of England
    – China is also building a large renewable generation capacity (equal to the total electricity generation capacity of the US)
    – Most of the carbon already in the atmosphere came from the US and Europe.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Yeah, and most of the women who were raped in the world last year were raped overseas. Does that mean that suburban American men need to start with the raping?

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      “Natural CO2 sources account for the majority of CO2 released into the atmosphere. Oceans provide the greatest annual amount of CO2 of any natural or anthropogenic source. Other sources of natural CO2 include animal and plant respiration, decomposition of organic matter, forest fires, and emissions from volcanic eruptions. There are also naturally occurring CO2 deposits found in rock layers within the Earth’s crust that could serve as CO2 sources.”

      Myth: Carbon dioxide comes only from anthropogenic sources, especially from the burning of fossil fuels.
      Reality: Carbon dioxide comes from both natural and anthropogenic sources; natural sources are predominant.

      Wait, must be some “alt-right” conspiracy BS…

      https://www.netl.doe.gov/research/coal/carbon-storage/carbon-storage-faqs/what-are-the-primary-sources-of-co2

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        Come on, DeadWeight, you’re smarter than that.

        You know perfectly well that anthropogenic CO2 emissions don’t have to be the majority of all emissions, or more than a small fraction, to change the climate. They just have to be enough to tip the balance and increase concentrations over time. Which they’ve done. CO2 concentrations bounced up and down within a band for tens of thousands of years, and since the industrial age started have gone 50% above the top of that band for the first time ever.

        Anyone who thinks that increasing the concentration of CO2 that much will have no effects at all is engaged in magical thinking.

        • 0 avatar
          DeadWeight

          I’m actually ALL FOR clean water, air and a clean environment, and I actually believe human activity such as burning or combusting fossil fuels is a significant problem and contributor to not only climate change (in terms of increasing atmospheric temperatures), but poor air and water quality, which is a huge problem…

          But let us not engage in such horsesh*t that we discredit even good-faith efforts to reduce carbon emission and reverse air and water pollution cause by human activity by statements such as:

          “– Most of the carbon already in the atmosphere came from the US and Europe.”

          Not only is this wrong, it’s wrong by such a measurement that it’s probably hard to actually quantify even using quantum computing (taking into account the age of the planet and mankind’s presence on it.)

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Lately we’re seeing a pattern from you, Jack: a few throwaway political observations in the first couple of paragraphs, followed by interesting writing and a great point further down.

    I love ESC. The ESC in my G8, which was my first RWD car with any meaningful power, probably saved my bacon on a couple of occasions. It’s amazing how it just cancels out all of the minor mistakes and more of the major ones than you’d think.

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    I’m not going to take the bait and enter this climate change debate. If you remain supremely confident that it’s a hoax, please show your sincerity by moving your family to sea level, with no flood insurance. Otherwise, you’re just blowing smoke.

    I’m here to speak up for stability control. Recently I was helping my daughter shop for her first car, and I had to veto the $5000 Subarus she wanted to buy. Stability control wasn’t common on Subarus until 2009, and those are still worth $10,000 and up. Did I drive without stability control for half a century? Of course, it wasn’t available. Would she have been OK without it? Probably. But in a world where it’s available, I want her to have it. This car would have carried her and two fellow students across 1,500 miles of Wyoming and Idaho, in winter. When she arrives in Seattle, it would be raining. So it’s a non-negotiable demand, an essential feature.

    Maybe later in the spring, when the snow melts, used AWD cars will drop in price. She can wait- everything she needs is on campus, in walking distance.

    • 0 avatar
      brandloyalty

      Sensible approach. While I took pride in keeping an old car in nice shape and thereby minimizing my money going to the car companies, my accident drove home that if you can afford a newer car with moderm safety features, the risk to your health and life are not worth the savings to drive an old death trap. I could easily afford something with airbags, stability control, crash structures etc., and even shelled out for an aftermarket ldw and fcw system.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      “If you remain supremely confident that it’s a hoax, please show your sincerity by moving your family to sea level, with no flood insurance.”

      You don’t need to have any opinion on anthropogenic-CO2-based climate change to realize that living at sea level is potentially disastrous. After all, sea level has increased by about 400 feet already in the short time since my homeland thawed from being covered in a couple miles of ice.

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    So far I’ve only had one car with ESC, and it actually helped me out a couple of times, both times the situation was more or less caused by a combination of the car being a heavy sensory deprivation chamber, and me not being used to driving sensory deprivement chambers, but I was happy to have it the second time, even if it was just a small correction and not saving me from any accident. The first time I was honestly freaked out a bit since the car and I effectively tried to solve the same problem simultaneously, which made both our jobs harder. Both times I took it as a warning that I was going too fast for the road conditions, so the ESC never had to help me again.
    But, I’ve seen a lot of drivers drive just like the guy Jack writes about in the Malibu, and I’m quite sure most of them have no idea what is going on and how much they owe their life to an electronic nanny. On the other hand, us people who try to drive our stoneage cars as carefully as we can do ,without consciuosly risking our lives too much, effectively hold up traffic, as driving as fast as an ESC equipped car does wears you our pretty quickly, even if it’s almost possible with the right tires and car.
    Today it was half raining half snowing, just above freezing (part costal climate so it can vary almost 5 degrees in a few miles) on top of ice that has been made into washboard by semis on snowchains with some layers of salt in between. There was 2 head on collissions a few dozen miles apart, and even a snowplow mamaged to get stuck. ESC would have been really helpful today.

    PS: I remember Jack once writing about the whole FWD vs RWD thing being a non-issue unless you’re driving at above 9/10’s or something similar.
    In some parts of the world we effectively drive at 9/10’s for several months in a row each year, or at least we did before the climate change got really bad.
    And anyone can say what they will about humans causing the climate changes or not, but no one can blame us for not trying our best. Climate change is the earths way of trying to balance things out. More heat leads to more clouds, chich leads to more bad weather, including thunderstorms, and lightning produces ozone if I recall correctly. Earth seems to have ESC installed, and it seems we are trying to find out just how fast she will let us go.

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      If it’s so bad that a snowplow got stuck, I don’t think ESC is gonna help you a lot. “You canna change the laws of physics!”

      • 0 avatar
        Zykotec

        Well, technically it got stuck because it couldn’t see where the edge of the asphalt was so it had quite a few wheels in a ditch, but yeah.
        The only thing that helped today was acting responsibly and drive slowly with imaginary eggshells under all three pedals and both hands on the wheel. (winter tires are mandatory in winter conditions here, so there are very few people in Lincolns on summer tires driving at this time of year)

    • 0 avatar
      carlisimo

      Ozone is a greenhouse gas, so it’d make things worse. That’s why it helps prevent skin cancer, because it absorbs UV light from the sun and then emits infrared (which doesn’t cause sunburn, but does cause warming). Unfortunately, if the ozone occurs low to the ground it’s also a lung irritant.

  • avatar
    JMII

    “And leave your stability control turned on unless you’re on a racetrack.”

    Amen brother! Actually I leave mine ON when I’m on the track too. Mostly because I track my daily driver and prefer to come home in one piece. I’ve seen too many nice toys go home on wreckers because someone figured the nanny was holding them back. As if Roger Penskie himself was in the stands looking for talent at your local HPDE event, yeah right. Plus if the stability control light blinks its because I’m losing grip… and losing grip = losing time. So as I tell anyone who will listen: despite three years of track experience and hundreds of laps the computer (nanny) is still 10X better then me when comes to correcting the car’s angle.

    As such I’ve come to the conclusion that you must be some kind of moron to crash a car with ESC (or VDC in Nissan speak) turned on. I’ve done some seriously stupid things at high rates of speed, mostly missed timed downshifts while turning, and the car has always figured it perfectly. My 350Z is known for trying to kill you due to its short wheel base as it tends to rotate quickly despite having “just” 300HP. However with a slippery surface (ice, snow, rain, gravel, etc) or enough speed even the computer can’t save your butt so being careful is the way to go. In fact the first time I drove my Z I nearly put it in a ditch due to a rain slicked off ramp.

    And yes tires make a HUGE difference. When I switched from all-season performance tires to summer ultra performance tires the grip level increase (in dry, hot weather) was truly amazing. I almost can’t get the VDC / slip light to come on now even when I try.

  • avatar
    DirtRoads

    I’m not a science denier, per se, but I have a hard time believing this alarmist climate change shit. When they can forecast tomorrow’s weather accurately, then I may start to have faith they can predict what will happen in 50-100 years.

    I use all season tires on my car all year long — I figure I have to if they say “all season” on them… And the only place I’ve gotten stuck is my driveway, because I’ve been too lazy to completely shovel it and we’ve had mass snow this year. I understand the rubber compound is a tradeoff on those kinds of tires, but driving an old Passat is also a tradeoff so you really don’t notice it as much.

    I’ve been in situations like the one you described, Jack, and been you, i.e. the driver who went past it all, unfazed, and made my way without incident (funny how a Denali showed up just in time to be part of the story). It amazes me how modern cars forgive things the cars of my youth would kill you for. After reading in detail about how GM first put ABS in the C4 Corvettes, and the adaptation the drivers/racers had to make, then adding ESC turned these overpowered (for their time) cars into something that was as safe as they could be with the tech they had, you gotta concede this electronic stuff is pretty dang amazing.

    I recall driving my old Dodge Coronet, you know the pushbutton transmission one, on bald tires headed north on highway 93 as a kid, solid ice all the way, and I thought it was fun. Just pop in a good 8 track (Brain Salad Surgery) and haul ass. Nowadays I’d stay home and watch old X Files or Criminal Minds reruns. Screw that risky shit. BTDT.

    Sometimes I want an old 50s or 60s car, but then, I really like this safety shit on my newer rigs. *sigh* I’m rambling again…

    Does anyone ever really read through 100 comments? Maybe I can goad VoGo into insulting me or something. MAGA, VoGo!

  • avatar
    SirRaoulDuke

    Jack, I am not going to argue with these fools about climate change.

    I had no idea winter tires were poor in warm rain. Great tip. I only used winter tires when I lived in the High Alleghenies of WV, where 200 inches of snow a winter was not uncommon. We did have winter rain, and it usually fell on top of a crap load of snow. I had 4×4 SUV’s (none of this crossover crap) and trucks then, and I became a fan of Cooper’s truck winter tires. They are pretty damn good in the mud as well as the snow. I found this out because snow always turns into mud eventually, and my driveway was not paved; plus, there was a mudhole near work and we would go there at lunch and be typical redneck lunatics with our trucks…my moment of pride was when my Olds Bravada made it across the mudhole and my dumbass boss got his S-10 ZR-2 hung up. A light foot on the throttle and his usual aversion to the mantra of “no guts, no glory” screwed him. Always hit the mudhole like a madman. Anyway, thanks for the tip on winter tires and rain.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      Full tread-depth winter tires are relatively poor on wet and dry pavement in general, even when it’s cold.

      http://www.skstuds.ca/2015/10/07/do-winter-tires-really-outperform-all-seasons-on-cold-dry-roads/

      Of course, so are many all-season tires. Especially ones of the low rolling resistance variety.

      But winter tires tend to feel even worse than they actually are because of all the movement in the tread blocks. You can get around a warm autocross course – wet or dry – on many of them as quickly as many all-season tires, though you’ll tear them up doing so.

      http://www.caranddriver.com/features/a-tire-for-all-seasons-feature

      “The most interesting result was that the snow tire performed better on wet asphalt than did the all-season tire. The snow tire stopped sooner — 150 feet versus 155 — and pulled more g — 0.71 versus 0.69. And its 56.60-second run through the wet autocross course was 0.11 second quicker.”

      Sure, the RS-A isn’t a great all-season tire, but it’s at least on par with the majority of OE tires.

      However, all winter tires are different. Even from only 80km/hr, there was a 50 foot difference in wet braking distance between the best and worst winter tire in the latest NAF winter tire test.

      http://www.skstuds.ca/2016/10/14/the-english-speakers-guide-to-the-2016-naf-winter-tire-test/

      The Cooper Discoverer M+S certainly is an excellent winter and all-terrain truck tire. It’s also quiet, smooth, and stable on the highway. I’ve owned a set, as have many of my friends.

  • avatar
    rpn453

    Jack, what model of winter tires are on the Accord?

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      A quick search tells me it’s the Dunlop Supersports. The last Dunlops tested by NAF were the very similar-looking SP Ice Sports, in 2014. The name may just be different in the European market.

      Performance was found to be relatively poor on ice but excellent in the wet. Here’s the google translation of the summary:

      “In light of the achievements of spike tire, Dunlop studless tires surprisingly low performance in ice tests. This applies to both braking, acceleration and racetrack. On snow covered much better and on wet some of the best you can have on your car. Stability is in the middle of the tree, but Dunlop louder than most studless tires.”

      https://translate.google.com/translate?depth=1&hl=en&rurl=translate.google.com&sl=no&tl=en&u=https://www.naf.no/forbrukertester/dekktester/vinterdekktest-2014/

      Anyway, I’m sure it’s a competent tire. Throw some of the really soft and sipey studless winter tires like the Hakka R2, X-Ice, or Blizzak if you really want to experience poor, mushy wet performance!

  • avatar
    rpn453

    I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to fully appreciate ESC because of the suffocating method of implementation, despite the brilliance of the invention and its development. Somewhere during the first ten thousand or so times that I went sideways or locked my brakes, it became ingrained in me that those moments are simply part of the joy of driving.

    I’m not saying that ESC couldn’t possibly ever help me. It’s just hard to imagine it happening in a winter situation considering how much calmer and more skilled I am than the testosterone-and-rage-fueled first ten years of my driving life. It’s only dry/wet pavement highway cruising where I would want ESC active. The setting of this story would probably be one of those situations. I find ESC intervention to be extremely unpleasant in every situation I’ve experienced it. I simply couldn’t tolerate it being forced upon me in a newer vehicle where it isn’t easily defeatable. It would be nice to have user-programmable settings where it only activates above a certain speed, along with a convenient button that instantly disables and only re-enables it on command. Only then could I fully appreciate it.

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