Winter Driving Help?

CassandraDecember 3, 2013

I've lived in MN all my life but find myself getting more cautious as I get older. Although I don't have a long commute to work, the short trip can be treacherous 4-5 months out of the year: slick with ice or snow. I currently drive a 2007 VW Rabbit and like the car just fine in all respects. Its mileage is very low and it works perfectly. In general I like a small car for the gas mileage and the ability to maneuver well on city streets. However I want to invest in something that will help me reduce the fear of slipping and crashing. I should say that I'm a 58 year old woman who has never had an accident in my life but, again, find the fear factor rising as the years go by.

I also live in a condo with a very small garage accessed by a narrow right turn. The VW Rabbit fits perfectly. So I don't want a car with a much bigger footprint.

So I have two questions. First, the car still has its original tires, still in fine condition due to low mileage. Should I look into purchasing some type of heavy duty, or snow tires? Will this make a difference? And is so, what type can you recommend?

Second, should I consider selling the car and getting something else? If so, what small car would give me the most stability and safety in winter driving?

Really appreciate any suggestions! I'm clueless when it comes to cars.

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1. Original tires usually are not the best for snow. You could get additional traction by switching to snow tires, but the best grippers are noisier than touring tires.

The next step down is all season tires. There are tires that offer more grip that are not too noisy - see Consumer Reports for noise ratings.

Better traction tires will aid both accelerating from a stop and stopping.

2. Look at a Subaru with AWD (all wheel drive). I suggest the Forester model. This is what parents are buying in Wisconsin for their new teen age drivers. There are other versions of 4 wheel drives. A Jeep with part time and full time 4 wheel drive with snow tires is one of the best, but you do have to be savvy about how and when to use the various modes of this drive. However, maintence may be more costly than your present vehicle and the ride is more harsh for older Jeeps.

A note of caution: A good 4 wheel drive can lull the unspecting driver into trouble. Its stopping power does not (seemingly) match its acceleration. It goes good, but stopping is no better than any other 2 wheel drive vehicle with the same tires.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2013 at 4:40AM
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If the tires are 7 years old, they should be replaced because of their age.

Today most people use "all season" tires and they're good at handling a wide variety of conditions but like the old adage, "jack of all trades, master of none" they aren't perfect for every situation, especially winter driving. There are "winter" tires, made specifically for driving on snow and ice. They typically have a very soft rubber compound that grips well but wears quickly on dry roads. Because you don't use them year round, it makes sense to invest in a set of wheels for them as well to facilitate changing from winter to summer. Bridgestone's Blizzak are generally considered the best of the winter tires but other manufacturers make them as well at varying price points.

Driving well in winter conditions is a much a function of tires and vehicle as driver skill. ABS helps a lot, especially in early winter when we forget that pressing too hard on the brakes sends one into a skid.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2013 at 7:52PM
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You have a low mileage 2007 VW Rabbit and you like the car: I recommend you keep this car and put on a good set of all season tires. There's no need to buy a different vehicle just yet unless critical parts are badly corroded.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2013 at 6:13AM
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