Rear-Wheel drive in Michigan Winters

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by JasenP, Aug 26, 2002.

  1. JasenP

    JasenP Screenwriter

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    I am giving serious consideration to retiring my Cavalier with 147,000+ miles on her for a new used vehicle. The front wheel drive Cav has always been good in the snow and I am curious about how my new car might perform in these hellacious Michigan winters.

    There is a beautiful black 1997 Crown Victoria P71 Interceptor with 65k miles for sale for $5000. This is an ex-police vehicle with heavy-duty shocks, frame etc.. the only catch is that it's rear-wheel drive.

    I owned a 1994 Mercury Cougar that was rear-wheel drive and it was CRAP on the icy roads, should I be concerned about the Crown Vic?

    I've never seen a cop in the ditch, is that evidence enough?
     
  2. Dennis Reno

    Dennis Reno Supporting Actor

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    Rear-wheel drive vehicles are notoriously bad in snow. That being said, my wife drove a Mustang GT for many winters with nary an incident. I also know several people who actually prefer a rear-wheel drive vehicle in bad weather. However, all of these people have many, many years of experience with rear-wheel drive cars.

    Speaking from my own experience, I do not like rear-wheel drive vehicles in the snow. I once had to drive a Crown Vic (rental) across Iowa during an early December blizzard that dumped 12"+ in less than 18 hours. The majority of my experience (to that point) was in front-wheel drive cars.

    I would recommend that you continue your search for several reasons. First, you mentioned that your experience with the Mercury Cougar was less than pleasant. Second, purchasing an ex-police cruiser with 65k on it is not the same as purchasing your neighbors sedan with 65k highway miles on it. Police cars are driven very hard. I would question the reliability of the car.

    Lets hear from some other Northerners!
     
  3. JasenP

    JasenP Screenwriter

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    Would you say it's a question of learning to drive differently in the snow and ice with a rear-wheel drive vehicle or the nature of the beast lends itself to poor traction and people are just lucky?


    I am leaning towards the Crown Vic because:

    A) I would never be able to find a car with the HP and luxury that this vehicle offers for a simialr amount of money.

    B) The dealership has all the maintenance records and it seems to be well-maintained.

    C) It still has that cool searchlight on the driverside mirror.

    D) I also like having a bigger car for safety reasons. It also has dual-airbags, anti-lock brakes and traction control.

    More input is cheerfully accepted.
     
  4. Scott Merryfield

    Scott Merryfield Executive Producer

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    It's been awhile since I drove a rear wheel drive car, but I have extensive experience with several cars of this type in Michigan winters (I'm getting to be an old fart [​IMG] ). None of these rear wheel drive cars handled as well in the snow as a front wheel drive car -- even those with dedicated snow tires. As long as I live in an area that gets snow, I will always opt for a front wheel drive car. It's much easier to pull a car through snow (front wheel drive) than push one (rear wheel drive).
     
  5. Jon_Are

    Jon_Are Cinematographer

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    I drive a rear wheel drive Ranger 23 miles each way to work in Michigan snow, ice, and whatever. It's quite a challenge sometimes, even with a 100lb weight in the bed. I wouldn't give up my truck, though, except for perhaps a 4x4 model.

    I guess it comes down to how concerned you are about driving in the snow; I don't mind it so much.

    Keep us posted!

    Jon
     
  6. Dave Poehlman

    Dave Poehlman Producer

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    I wouldn't say rear wheel is bad in the snow.. it's just different and takes some getting used to if you've been accustomed to front wheel.
     
  7. CharlesD

    CharlesD Screenwriter

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    I lived in Michigan for a couple of years and drove my Mists in the winter without too many problems. I only got it stuck 2 or 3 times [​IMG]
    Like Dave said, RWD aren't too bad, just different. Once you are used to them in the snow you can get around OK, you just have to anticipate how the car will react, and above all conserve your momentum!
     
  8. Dave_Brown

    Dave_Brown Supporting Actor

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    Hey, a fellow member from K-zoo! Anyway, I drive rear-wheel drive vehicles year round (corvette and dodge ram) and found that the best investment you can make is putting some good AT tires on the back. When I did that for the truck, I went from using 4x4 on an almost daily basis to using it maybe 3 times the entire year.

    I have taken the corvette out in winter as well. It takes a much gentler touch and being more in tune with when it starts to swing loose, but it can be done. I know of folks who but winter tires on their 'vettes and drive them year round or unless the drifts are to hight.
     
  9. MichaelG

    MichaelG Second Unit

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    I gerew up and learned to drive in northern Vermont and we had plenty of snow. I only owned rear-wheel drive cars and didn't have much problem, except for a few hills that even 4-wheel drive vehicles couldn't get up because of ice.
     
  10. DavidY

    DavidY Supporting Actor

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    In snow, I prefer FWD over RWD. With a RWD in snow, one must make sure that there is sufficient weight over the rear axle. During the winter, I have a good set of snow tires (rated extreme snow, not AT or AS tires) plus have between 200-300 pounds of sand bags in my 4x2 Mazda pickup.

    Dave
     
  11. Dan B

    Dan B Screenwriter

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    I've always preferred rwd over fwd in the snow, but then, I grew up in Wisconsin driving rwd cars. I also was a bit of a power-sliding freak (massive understatement) so that explains that I suppose.

    For the majority of people, a fwd car's increased traction & stability in the slippery stuff make it preferable to a rwd auto. I do not agree with Dennis Reno's statement that rwd cars are "bad" in the snow, however.


    -Dan B.
     
  12. Bill Catherall

    Bill Catherall Screenwriter

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    I used to have a RWD '68 VW Bug that I drove through snow and ice for 4 winters (college) and it worked great. [​IMG] Of course having a very light front end and the engine weight over the rear axle helped a great deal. I could even get over snow piles left by plows that most other drivers would have to shovel out of the way. [​IMG]
     
  13. Philip_G

    Philip_G Producer

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    haha those damn things will go anywhere bill.
     
  14. AjayM

    AjayM Screenwriter

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    I learned to drive in the snow in a 85 Mustang GT and it could be quite the nightmare. The biggest problem was when the snow was a little deep (even 1-2"), the fatter tires just wouldn't get through it to easy. Even with around 200-250lbs of sand in the hatch area. Trying to start up a hill was a lesson in futility (had to get a good running start). Generally it wasn't the best way to get around.

    Now with a Crown Vic a lot of those problems will be avoided, however the car still has fatter tires. But with a good set of snow tires and the traction control will probably get you through most things with no problem. I think the biggest thing you may find fun in the snow is the ABS brakes. That will take awhile to get used to coming from a non-ABS car.

    Andrew
     
  15. Leo Hinze

    Leo Hinze Stunt Coordinator

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    If you use real snow tires, RWD is okay. With a Crown Vic police cruiser, though, you have some serious torque, and without any kind of traction control on the vehicle, you will probably spin you tires a whole bunch. I'm not sure, but I think that the civilian Crown Vic's usually start in 2nd gear, which will help mitigate wheelspin, but you'll still have plenty.
    Don't worry about traction, though. With a RWD crown Vic, you will have as much 'traction' as a FWD Cavalier. While the weight bias of both cars is to the front, based on a greater overall weight of the Crown Vic, which is probably 1500 lb more than the Cavalier, there is probably more weight over the rear axle of the Crown Vic when compared to the Cavalier. Add that in with a bigger tire contact patch, and you have more traction. The extra weight will hurt when you try to stop, though, what with the laws of physics being what they are and all.
    Does this police special still have the industrial strength bumper guard on the front? If so - who cares what you hit[​IMG] Git some big-ass snow tires for the thing, and have some fun.
     
  16. Steve Russell

    Steve Russell Stunt Coordinator

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    I have always driven RWD cars in and have never had a problem. I have only owned 1 FWD car in my life and it did okay in the snow but I prefer driving RWD vehicles. They definitely require a different driving style but I wouldn't say one is inherently better than the other. My last few vehicles have been 4WD trucks but I rarely use it in the winter. I usually find that some sandbags in the back of the truck is sufficient. Probably more important than whether a vehicle is front or rear drive is the quality and condition of the tires.
     
  17. JasenP

    JasenP Screenwriter

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    I have been convinced, I'm going to look at it again tonight. [​IMG]
     
  18. Mark Paquette

    Mark Paquette Supporting Actor

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    JasenP,

    I've had RWD, 4WD and FWD cars in Michigan. They all have their advantages and disadvantages. If you do go with the RWD car I would strongly recommend picking up a pair of snow tires that you have put on your rims every year around November. The last RWD vechicle I had, a 2WD S-10, was just so-so in the snow, but once I added some snow tires and threw some weight over the real axle this thing handled the snow like a champ.
     
  19. Charles J P

    Charles J P Cinematographer

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    It looks like you said it DOES have traction control. The key is understanding how it works. Some forms of traction control actually apply the brakes independenatly to each drive wheel when it starts to spin. This basically means that even on snow, it will be very hard to spin your tires.
     
  20. Jason Kirkpatri

    Jason Kirkpatri Second Unit

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    Edmonton, Alberta - lots of snow.
    My ride: '85 Celica GTS, P225R1460 tires, smoke tires througout first gear on drive pavement.
    Rear wheel drive is fine if:
    You have a posi-traction/limited slip differential - which I do, and
    You run thin tires; wide tires are like snow boards, narrow tires are like cross-country skis. Maximize your weight over the lease tire contact possible to maximize the weight-to-contact ratio. Unfortunately, I don't have narrow tires.
    Weight on the rear end is not necessary, unless you like driving with no front steering input as you are effectively unweighting the front end.
    I've been driving this car for three winters now. I've never been stuck (but I did have to go a hill in reverse once!). Posi-traction and narrow tires (preferably posi-traction if you can't half both) is all you need in RWD.
    Would I run RWD without posi-traction? I've tried it (1981 Malibu Landeau) and I didn't go anywhere! One tire torque is not a winter vehicle.
    So yep, you can do the Vic in the winter. Any really, it all comes down to is stopping in snow, not accelerating. 4WD accelerate like crazy, but does that mean that they can STOP faster than other vehicles? Do you need to drag race in the winter (in cars, I mean [​IMG] )?
    My experience only,
    Jason
     

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