MINI Winter Driving!! Tips, techniques, practice...
It's that time of year! Here are a few techniques and advice we've all needed and used, hope it's helpful, I've culled these from a bunch of other threads & knowledge, not trying to come off as a know-it-all, but passing along knowledge from all over.
Can't say this enough: Snow tires are TONS better than even the best new all-seasons in snow. I recognize that a lot of folks have "gotten by fine on all seasons". I was one of them. We've tested them with PittStopMINI. All testers agreed, winter tires are hands-down better in winter. A package for Minis is under $600 at Tirerack.com or Discount Tire, or check the tires classifieds on Motoring Alliance. There's no better winter equipment investment you can make. Compare the cost of snow tires to your insurance deductible and the hassle of injury, towing, repairing, etc.
Of course, if your area doesn't get much snow, please at least consider the condition and winter-worthiness of your all-season tires. Do NOT run summer tires in really cold weather - even in the dry they can be very slippery and unpredictable when cold.
1) Make sure the Driver is ready! PRACTICE! Know how you & your car will respond! As soon as snow falls, drive carefully to a deserted parking lot with no light poles or potholes (scout it out beforehand). Drive the car, really DRIVE it, to see what it'll do and how it feels. Hit the brakes HARD to see how the ABS feels, then hit the brakes gently and see if you can tell when one, two, or more tires are starting to "lock" (brake pulsations). Leave lots of space. Remember, you should STEER while the ABS is pulsing. Your BEST bet may be to take a winter driving school - PittStopMINI (through BeaveRun) offers one most February's, the lesson lasts a lifetime - and it's a TON of fun! Other regional motorsports clubs and tracks also offer schooling.
2) GENTLE! Drive like there's a raw egg between you and EVERY control in the car. Leave lots of space. Don't slip the clutch too much, just enough for a gentle start. Often you will want to ease onto the clutch and barely (if at all) on the gas - you want to maintain that slim amount of traction you have. 2)b. Remember the Saw technique: If you're understeering in a turn (front wheel skid), gently (but quickly) working the wheel side to side can actually get you turning again. 2) c. Know how your DSC/ASC works, and when you might want it "off" - like when you're starting out on a slippery road surface. (Practice...!). A little wheelspin on start can be helpful to get moving, then reactivate the DSC to keep you in control.
3) Momentum: In case you have hills in your part of the world, momentum can be your friend, but use it wisely. Don't stop on uphills if you can avoid it! Conserve momentum - but also consider you never want TOO much momentum! Don't do something you'll have to undo later, like accelerate too hard. Watch stop signs and intersections: Before the salt trucks get out, these get ICY - quickly. Be aware.
4) Use the HIGHEST gear you can for the conditions. Don't "lug" the engine, but you don't want excess torque breaking your traction. Upshift (to a higher numbered gear) sooner than you ordinarily would. Lower gears give more torque, which is great for acceleration on dry pavement but can spin the tires on low-traction surfaces.
5) Clutch in or neutral when slippery-road braking, almost always. Don't downshift no matter HOW much it makes you sound like a rally driver. Using the brakes alone allows the DSC and ABS to work most effectively. This also prevents the engine torque interfering with front/rear brake bias or ABS/DSC function. You do NOT necessarily want only the front wheels alone doing all the braking, which they will during a downshift. (*note: exceptions exist, this is a generality, but in most conditions, just use the brakes). 5a) Don't forget to actually steer away from the obstacle! The main advantage of ABS is NOT shorter stopping distances - it's the ability to steer while braking. Don't forget to steer!
6) With snows on, try not to laugh too hard at the SUVs on bald all-seasons thinking they can go anywhere. You have as many tires braking and steering as they do. 4WD just allows a car to get moving in conditions where (arguably) one shouldn't even be driving. It doesn't help stop or brake, and the additional weight usually hurts stopping and braking.
7) When it's cold, go easy. Even on dry pavement, you'll have reduced traction. Your car will also make more noises since everything's stiff. Go easy, at least until things are warmed up. Note that snow tires aren’t quite as good on dry pavement, and cold summer tires are quite slippery even in the dry. Take it easy.
8) Keep an emergency kit in your car. Sleeping bag or blanket, jacket, gloves, a little non-perishable food (energy bars are great but can be hard when cold), a small bottle or two of water, candle (don't forget waterproof matches!) maybe a small folding shovel. I've known people in New JERSEY (fer cryin out loud!) who've been surprised and trapped by snow/ice storms overnight - during their commute home! It's more common than you think, and can happen to you. Yes, even you.
9) Know when to NOT drive! Yes, driving in winter is fun - but sometimes the smart decision is to stay home. Do you really need that latte - enough to risk your car and your life? Stay home if conditions are dodgy enough. Make the safe call.
With due respect, that AAA card and a cell phone are great, but they won't keep you warm and alive, cell service sometimes fails, winter tires trump all-seasons, that light jacket won't cut it, bring your gloves and hat, eat all your vegetables, and be extra nice to others - they may be the ones with the tow cable.
Used and equipped wisely, your Mini is a great winter vehicle - just be aware, it is small and your ground clearance is limited, but other than that, get on out there and have some fun.
I think that's about it... good luck, and safe driving from me and PittStopMINI!