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Driving rental cars without snow tires to ski hills?

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 

Hi all, 

 

I don't have a car :( so those days that the ski club doesn't run a bus, I either have to beg for a ride or get a rental. Rental vehicles don't always include snow tires, which concerns me somewhat, given that Ontario snowstorms can be volatile (think Michigan snowstorms). Any suggestions for driving a rental car on snow? Would it be wiser to just sit at home imagining all the fun I'd have skiing instead?

 

edit: I saw the winter driving thread, but wondered if there's anything else I should consider with regard to rentals?

post #2 of 19

When in doubt gas on it..........it's a rental!;)

post #3 of 19
I would say that in most places I know about in North America, a car with snow tires or awd or both is about number 3 on the list of critical gear to have (after boots and appropriate clothes ... easier to rent skis, almost). Of course it can be a total beater; it just has to be reliable.
post #4 of 19

I travel a fair bit...and can say that most companies in NA do in fact have cars with snow tires.  They aren't the best snow tires perhaps...but they are adequate - you might need to book in advance...but you should have no issues.  Front WD with even crappy snow tires, is pretty good if you just add a touch of winter driving caution.

post #5 of 19

I tried booking a car with snow tires from Enterprise in Ontario.  They said it would cost 5 or 15 bucks more (I can't remember exactly how much) if the car had snow tires, some do, and I was ok with that, but they also said they couldn't guarantee that when I came to pick up my car it would have snow tires on it.  I said never mind, just reserve me a full-sized car.

 

The cars and tires are new with lots of tread and fresh sharp biting edges, so it's not as bad as running your no-season tires after 30000 kms.  I always, if I have to rent a car that may not have snowtires in the winter, make sure to get a full size car; the extra weight helps (if you know how to use it).

post #6 of 19

See if you can rent an AWD.  If you can't and/or you are still REALLY concerned, just find a place that sells chains and buy a set that would fit the rental car.  Return them on the way out of town if you didn't use them.  If you did need them chalk it up as the cost of skiing and safe transportation.

post #7 of 19

If you rent a 4x4, just don't forget they don't stop any better than 2wd, and they don't steer much better either.

post #8 of 19

When picking a rental, steer clear of cars with high performance tires.  Even all-season tires can vary greatly from high performance all-season which stink in the snow to M+S rated all-season that are pretty good (still not as good as dedicated snow tires, of course).  

 

Tires are key...  A good all-season with low miles isn't too bad in snow on a front wheel drive car.   With high performance tires that same car is outright dangerous in the snow.   I have a car that came new with high performance tires and it literally couldn't go, stop or turn with two inches of snow, even with traction control and ABS.  Nothing like your ABS hammering away at the brakes and you not slowing down a bit.   It spent two winters in the garage if there was even a hint of possible snow.  When I replaced the high performance tires with good all-season tires it's now fine to drive around the city in a couple inches of snow, if necessary.   I have studded and studdless snow tires on our two ski vehicles, and highly recommend snow tires if you drive skiing much.

 

I'd suggest getting good at reading tread patters and wear to identify tires that are good in the snow.   It's pretty easy to spot the tires that will go and the tires that won't.

post #9 of 19

You will be doomed!!! Just kidding. Probably not, but you will significantly increase your chance of ended up in a ditch. I drove a high performance AWD sports car through 3 winters with moderate to heavy snow on summer tires (never ended up in a ditch or had damaged body parts BTW, just swapped on Blizzaks for this winter), and I can tell you that while it is doable, there are a few things that you need to be extra cautious about.

 

Snow tires are good, and they are much better than summer tires or all seasons in terms of grip on snow. But they are no magical tires and cannot defy the slippery property of snow, so that means while you have a bit more grip when comparing with the summer or all season, you still have much less grip on snow when comparing with snow tires on dry pavements. So you still cannot drive like you are on dry pavement or in rain when you on snow, and following suggestion still hold.

 

Check the grip threshold every time the road condition changes (change in snow coverage, type of snow). Here is how: brake and increase brake force smoothly and slowly until to the point of when ABS start to kick in or tail starts to slide sideways, and back off smoothly. That tells you how much brake you can apply without losing control. My car's tail start to slide sideways on snow if I apply the brake for more than the initial 1/8 of the total pedal travel. Check your mirrors and don't do that when someone is right behind you, unless you seriously want that person to ended up in a ditch :P ABS is a good thing when you freak out and cannot let go of the brake pedal because it forcefully releases the brake pedal in quick succession so you can have extra grip for steering. But it is not as effective as easing off the brake to release grip for steering yourself. 

 

Keep driving on asphalt whenever is possible (drive in the "black trench" dug out by the car in front of you), also when you are in a corner, keep the outside tires on the cleanest surface possible if the clean surface is not wide enough for you to keep both sides of the tires on it at the same time. More weight is distributed to the outside tires when you are in a corner. That means you need to know more or less where exactly your tires are on the road when driving. 

 

No erratic movements at all. Even during emergency evasive maneuvers, and limit your steering and brake travel to as little as possible because the amount of grip is limited, and the amount of grip used by steering cannot be used by braking and vise versa.

 

Keep a monstrous amount of distance between you and the vehicle right in front of you. I mean a MONSTROUS amount! I'm not talking about 100 yards or 200 yards. I'm talking about 500 yards or more when on highways. 

 

With summer tires, avoid slopes (err did somebody say ski hills...?). Especially stopping on slopes. All season still needs to be aware of this. Chances are once you stop on a uphill, it is really not very likely to get going uphill again. And downhills, you should probably not think about trying to stop on a fully snow covered downhill unless you have winter tires. 

 

You can pretty much forget about passing, switching lanes and driving at the speed limit. Normally there is a constant stream of snow pile in between lines on highway. It is a good way to spin out and visit the ditch if you are not smooth enough when attempting to cross that.

 

If in any case your car start to lose control, DON'T PANIC! Back off doing whatever you were doing smoothly to regain grip (if you are steering, turn steering wheel less; if you are braking, brake less). Panicking will cause you to steer fanatically and brake heavily, which cause you to lose control over the car more, and possibly into a ditch. 


Edited by LaserPower - 11/3/13 at 4:07pm
post #10 of 19
We have five inches at the house now, but haven't gotten off the mark to have the tires swapped over for the winter yet... Almost couldn't get up the hill on the way home from Safeway today. Subaru Outback, it came to a stop because of sensing slipping in first gear, and we had to back up and retry. Normally we have studded snows. Clearly it's time for them to be on.
post #11 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by crgildart View Post
 

See if you can rent an AWD.  If you can't and/or you are still REALLY concerned, just find a place that sells chains and buy a set that would fit the rental car.  Return them on the way out of town if you didn't use them.  If you did need them chalk it up as the cost of skiing and safe transportation.

 

Most if not all autoparts places have a policy that sales on chains are FINAL and no refunds, even if unusued.  They know people would treat them as a lending library otherwise. 

post #12 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by sibhusky View Post

We have five inches at the house now, but haven't gotten off the mark to have the tires swapped over for the winter yet... Almost couldn't get up the hill on the way home from Safeway today. Subaru Outback, it came to a stop because of sensing slipping in first gear, and we had to back up and retry. Normally we have studded snows. Clearly it's time for them to be on.


Just push the traction control button to disable it when that happens.  You'll cruise right up without the car fussing about it just fine then.

post #13 of 19
It's my husband's car. He says there is no such thing... Could be wrong, as it's used, no manual with it. I don't have such a thing on my Audi. There was some kind of differential lock on my old Audi, but nothing like that on my current one. On the other hand, my car has never misbehaved that way..
post #14 of 19
Quote:
 Ontario snowstorms can be volatile (think Michigan snowstorms)

Sorry, That was just a good laugh. I think you`ll be fine with all seasons in the worst of snowstorms in Ontario, assuming your going to either MSLM or Blue Mountain your driving a 4 lane highway for most of the way up. I wouldn`t worry about it, but if you are worried why not plan ahead and not drive in a "snowstorm". Snow tires aren`t going to help much if it`s whiteout conditions on Highway 400(If that ever happens). Just my 2 cents.

post #15 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by sibhusky View Post

It's my husband's car. He says there is no such thing... Could be wrong, as it's used, no manual with it. I don't have such a thing on my Audi. There was some kind of differential lock on my old Audi, but nothing like that on my current one. On the other hand, my car has never misbehaved that way..

That would be odd. Traction control is designed to control the slip of the tires by reducing the power send to the wheels or braking the wheels. The situation does sound like the traction control system is working properly, not really misbehaving. But normally you will have a button to turn it off so you can free the vehicle from the snow or other slippery surfaces. But unless it is a sports car, the button will normally be in a inconspicuous or hard to access location to prevent disable by mistake. Check the place above the hood unlock latch. There should be a button with a 149903d1287359141-esc-esp-dsc-tcs-vids-traction_control_little_car.jpgsymbol on it. 

A locked differential allows 2 wheels on each side of the differential to spin at same speed regardless of traction difference, hence potentially give you more traction in less than ideal situations to free the vehicle. Traction control system works with ABS and differential to control traction. 

post #16 of 19
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the suggestions, everyone :) 

 

skiwhitblu: yeah, I'll be going to MSLM/Blue. I've been in really nasty whiteouts before. That said, I've spent much more time driving around London ON rather than around Barrie, so maybe I'm overstating how sketchy it could be. Not that generally it's reasonable to drive in bad conditions, but once you've paid for a coaching course, you're committed. I'll see how it goes. 

post #17 of 19

That stretch between Barrie and MSL-MS gets a lot of lake affect snow, but it's usually well maintained.  Ontario does get the occasional snow storm, but when it does, the roads will be closed.  I can remember making it through just before they shut the highway down one December night, when there was a layer of slush on top of some freezing rain.  All the light cars were in the ditch, and it was difficult keeping the Wally-wagon on the road, even though it had enough weight to get the Latitude X-ice tires down to that ice under that slush. 

 

Odds are you won't get a severe weather event on your day. Just rent the heaviest car they have, but ask for snows.  You never know; they may have them.


Edited by Ghost - 11/3/13 at 8:56pm
post #18 of 19

Doesn't Ontario require snow tires in the winter, or is that just a Quebec thing? Does that apply to rental cars? 

 

BK

post #19 of 19

It's a Quebec thing.

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