Winter has arrived, the freezing temperatures displaying my breath and dulling the once excited air inside my tires. Indeed, the powder coated blue summer beasts have been tucked away. Stored in a shop too cold to enter, wrapped in plastic, toe tags on them with marks so that I know which hub to place them upon when the weather warms. A place very much like death for them. In their stead, the stock tires. But the stockers are not without enjoyments of their own. With a higher offset, the wheels now tucked further inside the flared fenders, the cars demonstrates slightly less body roll. In fact, it stays near flat. The trade off: grip. A healthy amount of it. This is in no small part due to the lethargic air particles inside the Michelin Primacies. The eco-tread on the tires. But the UHP (Ultra High Performance) tires wrapped around the blue beasts fared far worse. Downright terrifying. The stockers are just scary, at best.
Since tucking my summer fun away for the winter, I have done a few housekeeping chores on my car: oil change; foam air filter clean. Also added to the car: a sweet blue transmission mount. An amazing modification for anyone looking for something on the cheap. Thirty dollars. And the thirty dollars makes itself felt on every shift. The transmission doesn’t dip and dive and rise as it once did under acceleration and braking and shifting. Rev-matching downshifts no longer upset the car when the heel fails to blip the throttle as high as it needs. And the reverse is true: if you blip the throttle too much the car doesn’t lunge forward nearly as much. Overall, the machine is more balanced and less susceptible to my mistakes–which I make plenty of. The install provided no real challenge. Jack car up (which I was already doing for oil change) support transmission with your bare hands or a jack, undo bolt, finagle mount into place, insert bolt. Torque. Viola. Transmission wasn’t that heavy to push up, but it was still a bit annoying. I’d recommend just using the scissor jack from the rear of the car–learn from my mistakes.
On to the next thought: I do have the belief that my car is a bit haunted, in part because of my own stupidity. First, next winter, I will probably look to acquire at least some all season tires, if not full on winter tires. The stocks are not safe enough for winter. A nigh constant war is going on between rubber and the pavement, a war my frozen tires continually lose. Traction is quite scarce. The rear tires spin at even the slightest inclination of a “Tonto, jump on it,” moment. The rear end kicks out fairly often. More often than that it sort of hops around corners, never demonstrating quite enough grip to not devote considerable thought to each turn, no matter the speed. Two hands on the wheel at all times. Traction control always on, save for when I really need to split some traffic. I’m willing to spin a bit for that.
Now, on to two tales of luck and stupidity.
First: On a road not dissimilar from the one pictured above, a winding serpent of asphalt down a steep hill with a cliff on the near side, I trailed a mid-2000’s Hyundai Elantra. Safe distance. Speed was normal. A sweeping left, probably the second most fun turn on the road when dry, approaches, but the Hyundai driver assumes normal pace. No flashes of red illuminate the darkening grey-black sky. I assume they were distracted, as they kept fading to the shoulder on numerous occasions prior, hence my rather safe following distance. Being a Front wheel drive car, the Elantra, thanks to slick/icy roads and questionable piloting, pushes through the corner. The driver, unfocused or inexperienced, employs a full lock to the left, the direction they ought to be going as opposed to plowing, and opts to lock the brakes entirely. They don’t stop. Thanks to countless accidents on this road before, a guard rail now lines the nearing cliff, and into this steel barrier does their front right nose collide. They bounce off the steel and now their car occupies the entire lane of the road before me at a forty-five degree angle.
Following this, I attempt to do all my braking in a straight line even though the turn is already underway. The brakes on my car are locking as well, but I do my best to commit to the cause, keeping the car straight though approaching the guard rail, pulsing my brakes as best as I can. Thankfully, I came to a stop roughly five yards from the guard rail, nose pointed straight ahead. I sat there breathing heavy as an old smoker after a jog and prepared to exit the vehicle to check on the Elantra driver. Instead, they took off down the hill as though nothing had happened. Go figure. An oncoming standard sized truck had appeared mid-corner for the Elantra and I believe this played a part in their swerving, and pushing and then locking. Again, probably because they weren’t paying attention and found themselves startled.
Next: Three days later. The Saturday after Thanksgiving. The weather is cold and I go outside to let the dog out. Knowing I’m going to be leaving in a couple minutes, I turn on my car so that the heat can get to circulating. I flick on my headlights and hop out of the car. As I stare at the front of my house, I see headlights streaming across its width. Moving. Then I hear gravel crunching and the distinct sound of an engine moving away. Confused, I turn around and see my car rolling backwards down the driveway. For a moment I stood there thinking it was over. It’s going to roll over the edge and into the sticker bushes and be gone. But, I gathered my wits and sprinted after it. I pulled the door open and ran around the front side of the door and kept it open with a stiff arm. I had the vivid thought, being in untied tennis shoes, not to get taken up underneath the car. As I ran with a sort of sideways basketball shuffle, I leaned in and pulled the emergency brake with everything I had. After about 10 yards with the E-brake pulled it finally skidded to a stop. So close to being gone.
It’s been a rough winter. Stay safe, drivers.