Tag Archives: handling

Rear-wheel-drive and rain

Slippery when wet

Slippery when wet

It rained the other night as I left work. I wasn’t expecting it to rain, but I figured it would be fun to play with the Volvo. I didn’t think the tires were that bad, but it seemed like it would break loose every time I got on the gas. It’s amazing how that little 4-cylinder can overpower the traction so easily. I did a few benign fishtailing around some corners as I went home, but nothing too crazy until I got onto the MoPac frontage road.

It’s very oddly designed intersection as it’s a T-intersection that goes under MoPac, but as it approaches the southbound frontage road, it curves slightly to the right so making that left turn is roughly a 100 degree change in direction. I usually just cut the corner to keep the racing line so I don’t lose too much speed. Yeah, too much Forza Motorsports or Gran Turismo does that to the brain. Unfortunately, unlike a video game, driving your car recklessly has much higher consequences.

As I approach the turn like I’ve done a hundred times before, I start drifting as I hit the apex of the turn. I think I might have lifted my foot off the throttle and it induced lift-off oversteer causing the rear end to come loose. In a video game, I’d let go of the gas and drift around. This is no video game. Having only owned front-wheel-drive cars since I got my license I’ve learned that punching the gas usually straightens out the car if the rear end comes loose. Bad mistake!

I instinctively punch the gas pedal and boy did that make things worse! As soon as I touched the pedal, the whole car just spun like a top! I only remember a blur of the car spinning 360 degrees around like it was on a turntable and coming to a stop facing the wrong way of the one-way frontage road. I was now staring at the grille of the Escalade that was previously behind me. Suffice to say I think everyone in this situation felt a bit awkward.

It took me a couple seconds (which felt more like minutes) to realize WTF just happened because it happened so damn fast and unexpectedly. I was also partially in awe that the little Volvo managed to do a stunt like that. I’m surprised that traffic in the other left-turn lane just kept going after seeing a car spin 540 degrees in two lanes of traffic! I’m probably sure that the person driving the Escalade was glad they didn’t get wiped out by a beater Volvo that looks like the many uninsured beaters roaming the city (don’t worry, I’m insured). I definitely drove a little more carefully the rest of the way home!

It’s amazing the technological advances in safety that have made cars safer because my other car has traction control and electronic stability control which prevents the car from spinning (it’s also front-wheel-drive so it’s less likely to spin out like this in a turn). On the other hand, because the newer technology shields the driver from danger, he won’t know what the true dangers are out there. I immediately knew the roads were slick when driving the Volvo because it spun the tires fairly easily so I knew I could get into trouble. With my other car I would drive the wet roads as aggressively as I normally do on dry roads because of the safety features. It’s funny how technology makes us safer, but act more foolish because of the hidden dangers.

Signs, signs, everywhere there’s signs

Signs, signs, everywhere there’s signs

Blocking up the scenery, breaking up my mind

Do this don’t do that can’t you read the sign?

Right-hand turn lanes

The difference in RH medians and turn lanes. Both examples have 55 MPH speed limits.

One thing I’ve noticed is a lack of auxiliary right-hand turn lanes around here. It seems like the right through lane just becomes a mandatory RH turn lane or you take your chances of getting rear-ended turning right. This wouldn’t be such a big deal if there were also a breakdown lane between the RH through lane and the curb. It seems like they only make the road wide enough for all travel lanes so the edge of the asphalt ends a few inches past the white line. I’m still slowly adjusting to it as I’m used to having a few feet of asphalt between the travel lane and the curb. I keep thinking “I’m driving where cars park!” when I’m driving so close to the sidewalk. It’s also troublesome to make a RH turn when I’m on a 55 MPH “highway” (which used to not have stops before the area became populated and traffic lights were installed instead of lowering the speed limit). Sometimes I really wonder when I’ll be rear-ended by an inattentive driver. I usually end up squealing my tires taking a sharp 90 degree turn while slowing down from 55 and hoping I don’t plow into something from the understeer.

Drive it like it is!

A Mini isn't the same as an Exploder

Mini Cooper is not a Ford Exploder

I was headed downtown and I need to take a fly-over to connect to another highway. I am behind a new Mini and the driver slows down to 40 MPH for the curve in the interchange. I’ve previously taken this curve at the speed limit (65 MPH) in my car fine. My car is a full-size American sedan with no hint of sportiness at all. Now a Mini can out-handle and out-run my car like a cat outrunning a brick on Jell-O. I don’t understand why this person felt the need to slow down so much for an interchange designed for highway speeds. Sure the illusion of the curve makes it look a lot sharper than it actually is, but it is safe. It’s very sad that people can afford to buy such capable vehicles, but drive it like it was an ’78 Chevy Chevette. I’ve seen people do more strenuous maneuvers with lesser cars. If you’re that scared to drive, get off the freeway!