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Old 02-11-2010, 01:52 PM   #1
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C6: Driving in the Snow

Hello,

The objective of this thread is to share my experience in using the Corvette C6 as a daily driver, in particular in areas that are prone to snow. For the record, I have a stock 2008 C6 Coupe, Z51, purchased and driven in the state of New Jersey.

I hope that the information contained in this thread will be useful to those who enjoy driving their Corvette whenever they have the opportunity but don't for lack of information (e.g. which snow chains fit on the Corvette).

Before I embark on this literary journey, I have a small, albeit important, disclaimer:
First, and foremost, I want to be crystal clear here, I am not expert in anything and bear no certifications what so ever in any domain related to vehicles, regulations and so forth. FWIW: I work in the IT department of a bank.

Secondly, this is my only car, I drive it daily regardless of the weather; except for hail. I do have a family car but that is for my wife and the kids.
Driving in the snow, from my perspective, is a combination of driver skills, a suitably prepared car and knowing when you are going in over your head

1. With regards to preparing the car

i. Introduction

As I have the Z51 edition, the car came with the run flat high performance summer GoodYear tires: clearly a very poor choice for low temperature driving.

Yes, it is true that some people state it is possible to drive, if you take care, with those tires in low temperatures. However, these tires are clearly not designed to be used in low temperatures and they shouldn't be used in low temperatures. In fact I suspect that it will damage the tires because the rubber is brittle/hard in low temperatures.

Let's not forget that the rubber on high performance summer tires is designed to function in the summer at great speeds - therefore built to withstand heat - their ability to perform in low temperatures is greatly hindered: you are putting yourself and others at risk.

It is clearly preferable to get winter tires because they are manufactured with rubber that is designed to function in low temperatures. The general consensus is that below 7C/44F, winter rubber should be used and will be more effective - i.e. improved adherence.

It is possible to rely on quality A/S tires however they are neither a good high performance tire nor a good performance snow tire. On numerous occasions I have driven my Corvette with the Avon Tech M550 tires in snow so it is clearly doable, is it ideal? No! Doable, most certainly.

My recommendation, and this is what I have been doing, is to have two complete sets of wheels. Although the upfront cost is higher, in the long run it is the better choice - in my case I purchased a second hand set.
Having two complete sets of tires and the appropriate TPMS tool, I am able to swap the sets of wheels myself. This saves me time because it is quick to swap the sets and it saves me money because I do not have to pay someone for the change. My GM Dealer was charging me 300$ to swap the rubber on the same set of rims.

Furthermore, I am improving the longevity of the material. Every time the tire is removed or put back onto the rim there is a risk of breaking the pressure sensor or damaging the wheel itself.
The rule "if it ain't broke don't touch it" is clearly applicable in this scenario

ii. Winter Tires

From a winter tire perspective the are two choices:
  1. Stick with stock size: this is the option I have taken because I purchased a second hand set from a fellow Corvette owner. My Corvette tire sizes are for the front 245/40-18 and the rear 285/35-19 for an LL load range.
    In this size I have only found one snow set, the Pirelli Winter 240 Sottozero.
  2. Go -1 route: usually the recommended route. Reducing the tire size provides improved traction on snow.

About the one size down route.

Going this route means taking a tire that is less wider, with a smaller rim size, and a higher ratio. In other words putting an 18 inch in the back and a 17 inch rim in the front.

The difficulty is to find a tire that is in the correct tire size so that the overall diameter of both tires are identical. This is very important because if the diameter is different it will create problems with the on board calculator.

Normally, if we were to follow the -1 size rule, for the rear tire, it would mean using a 275/40-18 tire. This tire would represent a 0.7% difference with the OEM size, which is clearly acceptable.
The problem is that there is no snow tire in that specific size (at the time of my investigation and the time of writing this note).

The other difficulty is to find a rim of the correct size that will fit on the car. I do not think a 17 inch rim will fit in front, I believe my brakes will get in the way.

Not having 50 rims available to test on the Corvette, I basically grabbed a front wheel and put it on the rear axle, interestingly enough it fit without clearance issues.

So, in this case my initial thought was to put a full set of 18 inch rims onto the Corvette for snow tires. In front I would have put 245/40-18 up front and 245/45-18 in the rear.

The difference in revolutions per mile between 285/35-19 and 245/45-18 is 0.6% (751.02 versus 755.9) based on the website: http://www.tacomaworld.com/forum/tirecalc.php

Which is well below the recommended 3% tolerance for tire size change.

In addition, in those sizes, it is very easy to get snow tires: there is real choice in brands.

Now I did not go this route for two reasons. First I do not know if it is legal/functional and second I bought for a decent price a full second hand set thereby ending the thought on the downsizing.
iii. Snow chains

Finding snow chains for the Corvette is extremely difficult due to the spacing - or lack thereof - between the tire and the housing. I have tried almost every product that Amazon has to offer and have found only one to fit: Thule K Summit K44
No, I do not have a vested interest in Amazon, it's just that their no hassle return policy is perfect when you don't know what works
I do have the list of products I have tested, the only reason I am not publishing the list is to avoid product bashing scenarios which are not constructive. The Thule fit and work, I tested them, although the configuration provided by Thule is incorrect for my snow tires (Pirelli).
This is not surprising seeing the issues I have experienced with other snow chains from a sizing perspective. For me, it is positive to find chains that fit

These snow chains do not touch the Corvette and are installed only on the outer layer of the tire - which is why they fit actually:




The chains aren't needed for this kind of snow, just testing them


My personal take on Snow Chains:

It is my belief that the utility of the snow chains is extremely limited. I have been able to drive the Corvette every where without snow chains: they are my personal insurance in case I have a problem.

As you can see in the following posts, it is really possible to drive without chains in snow and on ice. If you need the chains then you're facing some serious challenge here.

Last edited by Fluffy; 12-31-2010 at 05:47 AM.
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Old 02-11-2010, 01:54 PM   #2
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Preparing the Driver

2. Working on the driver skills

I have in the past attended several driving schools, in particular with a focus on aqua planning. However I have never been to a snow driving school, even less with a Corvette, which in my mind was a problem.

So I found a reasonably priced snow driving event via the Audi Club and went there with a friend who has an Audi A4.

The snow driving school which is organised by the North Atlantic Audi club and held at the Team o'neil rally school is the one I attended and I highly recommend it. It is also possible to attend the one day Team o'Neil school with your vette, albeit more expensive - you get your monies worth in life.

Well, after having spent nearly two days on snow - actually I should say ice - with the Corvette I realize that I have learned a lot, in general and specifically about my car, and that I really have a lot to learn.

Regarding the weather conditions, it appears to have gone to -20F at night and during the day we were around 16F.
Setting aside the difficulties of opening a frozen door, I have no particular issues to report regarding the vette in these rather harsh conditions.

On a side note, I think it is important to point out that I consider myself to be part of those who take good care of their vehicle and keep it clean and mechanically in shape. I know some people have difficulty believing this statement

As you can see from the hotel room, it is white and cool outside (stalactites measuring about 5 feet):



Main roads are clear, however the secondary roads aren't. It is also the first time in my life that I have filled the gas tank of my car (not to mention a vette) and have half a dozen snow mobiles drive up to fill up at the same time.




For the story, on the first photo the brownish stuff is ice not dirt, taking the photo was tough because slippery/icy.

The track on which we drove was very interesting with different exercises, varying in difficulty:
  • Skid pad made out of real ice, guaranteed 100% natural, no additives. In fact we had clean out our vehicles before getting onto the compound in order to not bring salt onto the pad.
  • Uphill climb, nice and straight, rather long and nicely frozen with a bit of snow.
  • 3/4 circle on an uphill inclined plan. Too slow and you fall inside, to fast and you fall outside. You want to avoid both cases as vehicle damage may be incurred. So slippery that if you stop in the curb and don't have studded tires, expect the car to slide down.
  • Small short rather steep uphill climb in an L shape (you turn up into the hill). Too fast and the car goes straight, too slow and you don't get to the top.
  • Classical slalom exercises, braking, acceleration and accident avoidance ...

The skid pad was nice and icy, very slippery - some people actually had studded shoes to walk around which wasn't such a bad idea after all:



The black, instructor owned, Ford Flex used as a tow truck for a little off-course cars. Seriously off-course required a more serious truck, if I counted correctly there were 5 cars really out in the ditch over the weekend.

The vette waiting for the next exercise:



The predominant vehicle being the Audi Quattro with real snow tires, the more serious having studded Hakka 5 tires, one size smaller. I don't consider mine to be real snow tires when I saw the snow tires these guys have.

Upon arrival I learned that I was the first Covette to attend such an event and that one of the chief instructors was a Corvette owner himself. He was upfront with me: "Dude, I would never come here with my vette." Well that made it off to a good start for my day

Quite a bit of difficulties with the vette but the others were also struggling. Setting aside the hardship, I managed to perform all the exercises. On day one there was one exercise I failed at (50% success rate), my fault not the vette. On day two I managed a 100% success rate on that same exercise, so I did improve my handling capabilities of the car.

Let's be clear, the vette, with high performance winter tires is no match to an all wheel drive having studded snow tires such as the A4.
That being said at the timed event, where everyone had two runs, including the instructors, my times were 1 min 32 sec and 43/100 and 1 min 32 sec and 24/100 - rather constant in my screw ups.

The best time, studded Hakka 5, a Subbaru STi I think, did 1 min and 13 seconds. I believe it was an instructor.
The better students, who in general appeared to have studded tires were working in the 1 min 25 seconds range.

Although consistent, I'm pretty sure that a better driver would have taken the vette around in 1 min 30 seconds. As, although I did not get time penalties (e.g. cone touching), I did goof on the slalom and the skid pad.

I did not pay special attention to the slower times as I was interested in comparing to fastest on the block, but I think that they were running in the 1 min 50 seconds range.

As a general summary I would say that I am very happy. I learned a lot about my car and improved my driving skills a bit. I'm convinced that the Corvette is an excellent car, now it's driver just has to get an acceptable level

Also, the fellows from the Audi club were also very friendly and it is a class that I would recommend, even if you don't have a vette

Last edited by Fluffy; 12-30-2010 at 02:36 PM.
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Old 02-11-2010, 01:59 PM   #3
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How much snow is too much snow?

3. Knowing when you are in over your head

Well I was always wondering what the limit was in terms of fluffy snow I could go through ... got the answer yesterday coming home from work: 10" is to much!

Car got stuck so I had to remove some snow. The chains make a difference in traction but in this case would be of no value because the car was resting on a bed of snow, the wheels in the air.

The problem was that when I got home, there was a big pile of snow at the entrance of the driveway coming from the snow plows. Anyway I blasted through the pile, couldn't see anything and had to stop. I then couldn't start again as the Vette was sitting on a hill of snow





From my experience, 5/6 inch is ok, except if you have vararam intake or something like that:



To protect the radiator I recently installed the chrome grill that GM sells for the Corvette, it certainly reduces the intake of snow.

I also installed the Pfadt Front Tow hook in the event of a mishap or me getting in over my eye balls.



This hook has been useful once, but boy was I glad to have it.
My only complaint with this tow hook is that it is very close to the bumper. As such inserting a tow cable is difficult and I ended up damaging the paint of the bumper just above the tow hook.
Personnaly I would prefer a removable tow hook such as those installed on the European Corvettes or the Audi
There has been a lot of snow recently in France, so I went for a drive with the car. I did not take many pictures because I enjoyed driving in the snow so much that it wasn't on top of my list of priorities

Here are some photos:




Proof that when correctly equipped, it is possible to drive the Corvette in almost any kind of situation ... except for water!

Don't forget the Corvette is prone to hydro-lock, it is a very low car! So if you drive like me, than modifications where the air intake is exposed to external elements should be considered with great care.

Last edited by Fluffy; 12-31-2010 at 06:01 AM.
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Old 03-29-2010, 08:58 PM   #4
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Here is the Corvette in the December storm of 2009:




I actually went to the cinema during the storm and drove back in the snow, as I was alone - my wife and kids were in France, I took the vette and left the Toyota in the garage

Actually I'm glad I did because the Toyota didn't have snow tires ...



Appendix

Determining one size less
When I started in this endevour I was intrigued by this "-1" size thing. For me the main issue was how to determine the lower size.

There is on TireRack a small helper for this exercise: http://www.tirerack.com/tires/sizes/index.jsp

If your current wheel size is 19 inches (i.e. 285/35-19), select 18 inches in the drop down box.
Locate the tire size closest to the original tire size, in this case it is 285 in width. The tire that is just one size smaller, in the width sens for 285, in the list is 275.

Now using a tire size calculator find the ratio for a tire that is 275mm in width and 18 inches in diameter that will give you the same circumference (revolutions per mile is also fine).
The rule is that you have to be within 3% for it be acceptable; in reality you should find a tire that is within 1%.

In some cases you may get tires that are not frequently used and therefore the choice is reduced. In this case reduce the width of the tire and start again.

For example the Peugeot 308SW tires are 225/45-17. In theory, the snow tires for this size should be 215/55-16 because 215 is one size from 225, as is 16 from 17.

However this size is exotic and it is not easy to get tires in this size; as a result the snow tire that is really used for this car is 205/55-16. In this size there are plenty of products available on the market - not to mention that this tire size is closer to the original tire.

So from what I see, the minus one rule is applied with respect to the radius of the rim (people take one size smaller) but is more loosely followed for the width of the tire.

Last edited by Fluffy; 12-31-2010 at 03:52 AM.
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Old 01-20-2012, 02:25 PM   #5
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I was born in So Cal and have lived nearly all of my life in our irrigated desert boarded by the ocean on one side and (sometimes) snow capped mountains on the other. I don't have the snow driving experience that many of you have.

I happen to take up skiing in my early 20's - about the same time I bought a C3 Vette. Like many in So Cal, I found Mammoth Mountain to be the best ski adventure within driving distance of home (East side of the Sierras less than 50 miles South of Yosemite). I was at a good place in my career at that time (but certainly could NOT afford a second vehicle just for snow) and was able to log a lot of days skiing.

At that time they had some "chains" that were really thick strips of treaded plastic held together with seatbelt-like nylon straps that could be cinched tight to the tire. I used those several times and they worked great without ever damaging anything on the vette. I suspect they didn't age well but I only took the vette skiing for a few years.

However, one day in the spring I took a different route from the lodge back to the condo, that had some hills. I got to a small hill and had to stop at the bottom for pedestrians. No matter how gently I feathered the clutch, the rear tires just spun. That's when I realized I had left the plastic chains at home. In an act of desperation, I let a LOT (I think I went down to about 18psi - definitely below 20) of air out of the rear tires. I was very pleasantly surprised to find I suddenly had enough traction to get out of that low point, up and over the hill - then headed straight for the closest gas station for air.

As I recall I was running BFG L50-15s out back at the time. Even in the dry, they taught me about understeer.

I certainly am NOT recommending you drive around all winter with tire pressure in the high teens. But in a pinch, this tactic can get you out of a tight spot. However, it might not work as well with run flats (???).

FWIW
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