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Vermont snow driving tips

Discussion in 'Gen II Prius Main Forum' started by nctacoma, Dec 29, 2011.

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  1. nctacoma

    nctacoma New Member

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    Hello,

    Let me describe the situation that I found myself in yesterday. My wife is traveling for the holidays so I decided to take her car to work instead of my truck as I have all my tools stored at the jobsite(I am a carpenter so need the truck for work). The commute is about 40 miles and it includes going over Appalachian Gap(6 mile uphill with switchbacks and 6 mile downhill with a few switchbacks. When I left for work in the morning it was 35 degrees and raining. Throughout the day the temperatures dropped and rain changed to snow. By the time I left work there was about 6" of snow on the ground. It was quite slippery but I figured I would be ok since the Prius just got a brand new set of studded Nokkian Hakka's. I was following a snowplow up the mountain and was doing fine except for being blasted by the spray from the plow. After about 3 miles of this, the plow decides to turn around. I keep going and then have my first experience with the traction control system. I go from 30 mph, light starts flashing, 25, 20, 15, 10, 5, 0, traction control light flashing the entire time. I am stuck at a dead stop. 2 cars behind me(some wagon, probably all wheel drive, and an SUV) go around me and give me dirty looks for stopping in the middle of the road on an uphill. I try to get moving again but cannot. I tried feathering the throttle, off and on with the throttle, floored it.....not moving at all. So I did a 3 point turn in the middle of the road and hoped like heck that nobody would come around the downhill corner side while I was doing it. I went downhill to the first pulloff and waited for another plow to come by and then I followed that up the hill. This time I made it about 1/2 mile past my original high point and the exact same thing happened to me.

    I ended up going all the way down the mountain and going up to the highway and driving all the way to Burlington and then down south to the town where I live(which had no snow). Granted the conditions were really slippery with the rain freezing underneath, I saw many cars off the highway in ditches. So I drove my truck to work today and had no problems getting up the mountain in 2wd on the road which is now skimmed packed snow the entire way.

    So for those of you who are familiar with typical Vermont winters, mountains, winter snow driving please let me know how you handle your Prius in these conditions. Please let me know if there is anything that you would have done differently or any advice that you could share would be great.

    I know that conditions vary greatly from region to region so I am most looking for advice from those in VT or hilly New England. The experiences of those in Colorado, while valued, is just very different than the conditions in Vermont and the surrounding areas.

    Luckily my wife has a flat 20 mile commute so I don't think this will be a problem for her, but we do use this car for basically everything as we don't like to use the truck for much else except for work and things we need the truck for. 45mpg is a lot nicer than 15 for my Tundra.

    Thanks for any help
  2. ngc4565

    ngc4565 Member

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    Maybe the ground clearance was a problem. I would avoid driving our Prius under those conditions on level ground, let alone over a Vermont mountain pass.

    p.s. The last time I drove that pass under those conditions was in 1978 driving a Chevrolet Corvair with conventional snow tires without studs.
  3. ItsNotAboutTheMoney

    ItsNotAboutTheMoney EditProfOptInfoCustomUser Title

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    I don't have experience of your scenario.

    Have you checked your tire pressures recently to ensure they are still at least at placard? I'm not sure which is better (I'm a PFA) but I have read that a slightly higher pressure can help keep firm contact on snow.
  4. tanglefoot

    tanglefoot Old enough to know better...

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    You might consider carrying a pair of cable tire chains with you. They're a bit of a pain but strapping them onto the front tires should give you the bite you need to keep pulling ahead in those kinds of conditions. There does get to be a point where the undercarriage of the car is riding up on the snow accumulation, increasing drag and reducing tire traction until nothing can get you going aside from a shovel or a strap.

    I usually try to keep the traction control from engaging but it sounds like the drag from packing the snow and physics of the incline were exceeding the available traction. I don't think there were any driving techniques you could have used aside from reversing and busting ahead again, which wouldn't have been practical with traffic behind you and would have yielded very slow headway. Without chains to strap on, the best options would be turning around or waiting. Since you still weren't able to make progress following the plough, I think the incline was just too steep for the available traction.

    Driving in reverse offers more traction on a climb, as weight shifts onto instead of away from the drive tires, but I would only do that for a very short stretch with no one else around. I save that trick for getting up the driveway. I wouldn't have used this technique in that situation.

    High tire pressures do give you more ground pressure on the tire footprints for better grip but I don't think that would have been enough in the situation. I run 44psi front/42psi rear. It's nice for low rolling resistance and nice snow grip.

    Eric
  5. nctacoma

    nctacoma New Member

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    Thanks for the replies so far. To clarify, the ground clearance was fine. There wasn't enough accumulated snow on the roadway for the car to high center on it or for it to build up underneath. It was just a traction issue.
    Definitely still waiting for some Vermont Prius drivers to chime in. I will look into the cables because honestly at this point I don't even want to drive this when the roads are snow covered in the mountains, which has been continuous for the past week or so and most roads around here around paved except for the primary roads. How do you all who live in
    Vermont handle this?
  6. hill

    hill High Fiber Member

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    We've driven thousand of snow miles in numerous states, as well as Canada ... in our Prius, as well as our Lexus hybrid SUV. If you use the Google PriusChat tool, you'll get TONS of threads. In short, most of them will tell you the OEM tires are junky for snow ... REGARDLESS of which of the snowy state's roads you're driving. You really need to get a nice set of snow tires. It'll make all the difference in the world. It's similar to many other cars ... not just the Prius. Get a set of cheep steel wheels too ... that way you don't have to keep remounting each season as well as re-balance. We have a set of studs on cheep rims for our Lexus. It's made our drives 100% perfect. Prior to our hybrids? ... heck, we even lost it into a ditch driving our 4x4 explorer with studs. It happens some times. but ANY car can drive in snow, with the right tires. Our Prius was destroyed, so most of my driving is done in the Leaf now. But if you're driving with decent driving skills and the right tires? Even a toaster can drive in snow! :D

    [​IMG]

    This is one of local Leaf'rs driving around in one of our local mountain ranges - around the 6,000 foot elevation level ... now, your not going to let a toaster out drive you, are you? ;) Even if you never hear from another VT Prius snow driver ... get some real tires . . . read a few of the snow driving threads, and you'll be fine!
    .
  7. cnschult

    cnschult Active Member

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    with modern traction (acceleration) and stability (yaw) control systems, it is only a myth that you still need all wheel drive in the 21st century. I told my mother to buy the new forester only because at driving 8K miles a year it would be senseless for her to buy a FWD car and switch b/t all season and a winter set.

    but for people who drive a more reasonable amount it makes better sense to buy a FWD car and switch to winter tires in november and then back again in march. Especially in a prius that has low ground clearance and no ability to be rocked out of trouble. If you want better ground clearance but still want decent gas mileage try a FWD 4-cylinder crossover like Escape, Highlander or Venza.
  8. pjay

    pjay New Member

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    Yikes. This is a pretty scary thread to read if you're contemplating buying an '11 or '12 Prius and have an '06 CR-V EX with 8 inches of ground clearance, AWD, and VSC.

    Not that we in New York get horrendous snowfalls like the ones in Vermont, but the past couple of winters have had some storms that have been doozies.

    To think that I might not be able to drive on certain roads in the Prius in snow (Taconic Parkway, anyone?) is troubling. To think that I might not find this out till I was ON those roads is even more troubling.
  9. ski.dive

    ski.dive Member

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    Location:
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    I have a home in VERMONT:

    Hankook h727 tires...best tires I ever mounted on any car.

    I'm running 50/48 psi on them for past 10k miles

    Rode them thru extreme winter snow in Vermont &
    wet rain tropical storms in Florida, and HOT 90+ weather also.

    *I have also had them on the I-95 corridor from FLORIDA to MAINE in both the summer & winter..

    Two words, 'great tires'[​IMG]
  10. tanglefoot

    tanglefoot Old enough to know better...

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    I run the Hankook H727's as well and can attest to their amazing winter performance. They're great all-year tires--no switching needed. With these tires, I much prefer driving the Prius in snow to my old 4wd, unless the snow is really deep.

    It sounds like the OP already had some good snow tires mounted but the conditions were just very poor.
  11. pjay

    pjay New Member

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    Tanglefoot, does running the Hankooks year round adversely affect your mileage? Have you calculated the dropoff, if any? Thanks! (I'm considering a '12 Prius.)
  12. qbee42

    qbee42 My other car is a boat

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    The OP clearly stated that he is running studded Nokian snow tires. You don't get much better than that.

    For the OP, we get the same sort of nasty weather around here, but unfortunately we are not allowed to run studded tires. The long and the short of it is that the Gen II Prius has traction control issues on slippery uphills. In general, with the right winter tires, it is an excellent winter car, but it does have trouble with traction control once you lose momentum.

    My solution is to drive a Jeep TJ on the really bad days, or better yet, stay home.

    Tom
  13. tanglefoot

    tanglefoot Old enough to know better...

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    I haven't noticed any measurable drop in MPG from switching from the Integrities to the H727's. They are on the LRR tire list and I believe it--they roll very nicely. They are also very quiet and long-wearing. I've never seen a tire that combines so much winter traction with low-rolling resistance and long life. The '07 still gets mid 50's MPG in the winter and high-50's to low-60's in the summer at 44/42 psi tire pressure.
  14. pjay

    pjay New Member

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    Wow, that is terrific! Thanks for letting me know. I will almost certainly put Hankooks on the Prius if I get it!
  15. jackmccullough

    jackmccullough Junior Member

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    It's not the clearance or the tires, it's clearly the traction control. I live in Vermont, drive a Gen II, and have had this exact same problem happen to me a couple of times. Fortunately there are only two places it's happened, both on short stretches with nobody behind me, so I've been able to just sit there, apply the gas slowly, and inch up.

    Clearly you can't do this going through the ApGap.

    It's not enough to make me give up the Prius, but it would make me reconsider driving it through the Gap with 6" on the ground.
  16. Hal W

    Hal W New Member

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    Probably you have warn the studs to the point that they are no help? I would check it out as studded Nokian are very close or are #1 traction tire! Hal
  17. pjay

    pjay New Member

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    Have to admit, as the first significant snowfall of winter is set to make its way to our region today, I am thinking about how I would fare in it if I were driving a Prius or an Insight as opposed to my AWD CR-V.

    But I'm keeping in mind what tanglefoot wrote in this thread about his Hankook H727s and quietly hoping that nothing like what happened to nctacoma would ever happen to me!
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