Tips for Winter Driving

November 9, 2010 at 12:50 am • Posted in ALL POSTS130 Comments

The winter season is approaching and the weather service is predicting higher than average snowfall events and a cooler winter than normal. Thoughts are turning to driving on snow and ice safely. Recently the news media have been giving advice on driving safely and the equipment one should carry during the winter months. The advice is generally good, but often it isn’t specific enough.
Good tires are always recommended, but details on what works best are often omitted. I have been driving since 1962 (easily over a million miles) and I have driven in about every type of weather condition short of hurricanes and tornadoes. Most of the new cars are now equipped with tires that are two to three inches wider than were available 25 years ago. This troubles me. If one drives on clean dry pavement, this is fine. Even though tire tread designed are better engineered to prevent hydroplaning, the new wide tires are more prone to hydroplane on wet pavement than a narrow tire with good tread. Narrow tires have a higher weight to area ratio, which results in better contact with the rough surface of the pavement resulting in better traction on wet or snowy roads.
I witnessed this when my father decided to purchase a 57 Chrysler Imperial the morning after approximately 13 inches fell throughout the Puget Sound area on January 1st, 1969. The car was located in Seattle, which was about 75 miles north of his home. I drove him to Seattle that morning, witnessing at least a dozen accidents on the way. I had very good winter tires on my VW bug and had no problems with traction. He purchased the car, but the tires were only 5 inches wide on this 5000 pound car. They only had three zigzag tread with little slits, which resembled current day siping. Basically, they were a economy tire that was really too small for a vehicle of that weight. He immediately drove to a gas station and filled his tank to get better traction. He then drove to the nearest entrance ramp to Interstate 5 southbound and proceeded up the ramp with no problems. I was separated from my father by a red light. While waiting for the light to change, I noticed something remarkable. My father’s new car was leaving ¼ inch deep ruts in the compact snow. When the light changed, I was able to follow those ruts right up to the back of his car as he traveled south toward to Olympia. At one point, he changed lanes like he was on dry pavement, in order to avoid a Cadillac, which had cut him off during a lane change.
I currently drive a 1966 Dodge Power Wagon which, with all the gear I carry, weighs about 6000 pounds. The winter tires I have used for years, are the narrowest studable tires I can find. I have pulled numerous cars including many 4-wheel drives out of ditches with my narrow tires. Virtually all the vehicles I have rescued had wide tires. Several years ago, I rescued 5 vehicles (Two were 4-wheel drives with wide snow tires) in a two- hour time frame.)
The temperature of ice or compact snow can cause a vast variation in how slick the road is. Below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, ice and compact snow are not very slick. It’s no worse than driving on than a dirt road.
The coefficient of friction for ice and compact snow is far less than that of dry pavement. Any sudden change in speed or direction is likely to cause a skid. The most important things to remember in order to prevent losing control of a vehicle on snow or ice are to change direction, accelerate, and decelerate, VERY SLOWLY.
Sometimes pulling oneself out of a skid calls for unique solutions. Once when the car I was driving started to slowly drift off of a banked road on ice and the steering to my left to correct the skid had no effect, I gently applied the emergency brake to increase the downward pressure on the front tires and that small change allowed me to steer out of the skid and keep out of the ditch. Years later, I was driving down a forest service road along a 50 foot drop-off on compact snow when my four-wheel drive Jeep started drifting toward the edge. Slowing down and turning away from the edge did not correct the problem. I made a split second decision to accelerate even though I was going downhill. The Jeep immediately pulled away from the edge and I was then able to stop it safely. Never lock up your brakes in a skid, because this prevents you from steering out of it.
Last, but not least, it is much more difficult to spin out while going uphill than it is when going downhill.

Volcanoes, earthquakes, and oil

November 1, 2010 at 1:00 am • Posted in ALL POSTS182 Comments

There are a number of groups in this nation who are urging the United States to grow green. They want us to quit using coal and oil. They even refuse to consider hydroelectric dams as green energy or renewable energy. They prefer for us to blow up the dams, but expect us to drive electrical cars. If these goals were feasible, practical, and without serious flaws, it could be a realistic plan for the future.
Even if it was possible to go all electric, using only wind and solar power, electricity is not truly a clean energy. Electric motors, power lines, and other electrical devices generate ozone. Huge complexes of batteries would be needed for the times when the wind isn’t blowing, when it is night, and when heavy clouds block the sun. These power storage stations would have to be everywhere. The materials used in the construction of these batteries would require a massive mining effort around the globe.
Many of these people want to leave the fossil fuels in the ground. They wish to avert another major oil spill like the one in the Gulf earlier this year. There is a problem with that idea. Volcanoes are found everywhere on this earth. It is possible for one to erupt through the middle of a coal field or worse yet, in an oil field. Imagine the environmental disaster of having a volcano erupt through an oil field. It would be a disaster infinitely worse than when Kuwait’s oil fields were set ablaze. There are active volcanic zones near the Gulf of Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Alaska, and many other areas where oil is known to be present. An eruption could also happen in a coalfield.
Imagine what would happen if an earthquake occurred in the Gulf of Mexico and it released all of that oil at once. The earth’s crust is in continuous upheaval. Heat from the earth’s core is slowly escaping through the crust, as it has since the earth was formed. A cooling core shrinks, causing instability in the crust resulting in volcanic activity and earthquakes. It has happened many times in many areas in the last 100 years. Paricutin Volcano, in Mexico, erupted in a farmer’s cornfield in 1943. Major earthquakes occur everywhere on this planet and no one can predict for sure where the next one will hit. Within the last nine months, a volcanic eruption was expected to occur in Saudi Arabia.
Many people wish to tap geothermal energy. Doing this may accelerate the frequency of destructive earthquakes and the formation of new volcanoes. If one researches new volcanoes, it should be quite educational.
No energy source is failsafe and without potential technical problems. Wind power is a hazard for birds. Solar power can cook storage batteries when the voltage regulation system fails and it only works during times of low demand. Man needs all sources of energy to prevail in the future.