By: Brett Nutter
When I received order to Fort Wainwright Alaska I was somewhat terrified. I knew the amount of money that it would take to prepare my family for this move would be far more then the Army would give us. We decided we were going to buy a house in North Pole Alaska because mortgage is cheaper then renting. With that problem out of the way we prepared ourselves for the cold, the bitter cold. Clothing and vehicle preperation were two important aspects of the move. This blog will focus on the shoes of our vehicles.
My wife had a 2011 Jeep Patriot SUV and I had a 2012 Ram 1500 quad cab, both vehicles are 4wd and through the entire winter we only had summer tires due to budget constraints. This is our story.
The bottom line up front: We made it successfully through the winter with summer tires and no accidents. If we could do it over and had the cash we would have had winter tires from the start. My wife and I are both from California and Texas so we had little to no ice and snow driving experience.
My wife and I both had our vehicles stuck at some point throughout the winter, and both times it was within 2 minutes of our house. I saved my wife one time and a neighbor saved her the other. I had to recover myself because I reversed to fast in front of our house and went over a pile of snow that high centered my truck. While not completely reliant on the tires, having good grip coupled with 4wd could have potentially helped my wife out of her two situations.
During normal driving 4wd is pretty important for the going part of driving but does nothing to help with the stopping. The only thing that will help with stopping is either studded tires or chains or running out of momentum. If you drive with enough distance between vehicles and have plenty of time to react and if necessary, an escape route; you can make it through winter without winter tires. You will be taking a chance with only summer tires though.
As with most places in America, everyone around you knows how to drive better then you. There was intense falling snow on a curvy road that was iced over and even though I was only going 15 mph under the speed limit, I was being aggressively passed by others. Each time someone passes you they kick up blinding snow causes a potential wreck if you do not have proper tires for an emergency stop.
My near death experience. The roads were really bad then one day the temperatures went above freezing, an ice rink replaced what was once the roadway. So I went to my wifes work to follow her home and make sure everything was ok. We made it half way home when we hit a turn that had a sharply banked shoulder, I watched as my wife’s car was point forward but sliding down to the left. Oncoming traffic did an amazing job at avoiding her slide and she landed in a pile of snow. As I waited for her to recover back up the road no one would give my wife the curtsey of stopping to let her pass. So when it was clear on my side of the road I stepped out to try and stop traffic, however the ice sheet took me down and I was sliding down the same path as my wife. A vehicle was heading towards me and I really thought it was over, but thankfully they came to a stop beforehand. That was the worst experience we had and probably could have been avoided if we had winter tires with studs on them.
Those are my experiences, yours may differ.
In my next winter vehicle guide I will cover what needs to be in a vehicle for survival.