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Climbing out of a snow ditch stories……..

PACEMD

Active Member
Aug 8, 2019
1,110
1,717
Billings, MT, USA
Yesterday we slid off the road into a snow ditch in our 2019 Stealth Model 3. First, conditions. Nice clear day otherwise, with temperatures in the low 40s. Nice except for the roads. Treacherous roads here in Montana when the temperature swings between the 40s and sub 0 degrees f. Roads were mostly covered in a layer of packed snow from weeks of intermittent snowfall with sub-freezing conditions. The day before the slide the temperature had briefly been in the low 40s, melting the top layer of packed snow. And of course, that froze overnight. Now we have white ice, spots on the road with packed snow topped by a layer of ice. Then yesterday in the afternoon the temperature again rose to the low 40s. Now we have spots of the road with packed snow, ice, topped off with a layer of water. Wet white ice………And of course, this is not all the roads but rather in hard to predict locations, likely more sporadic wind/temperature related in the hills, for example.


To make matters worse, I don’t have snow tires. This is our first winter with the Model 3, which I use almost exclusively to commute 150 interstate miles to work, low traffic, good roads, well plowed. In addition, the snow here in Eastern Montana is generally not deep, it’s too dry. My biggest worry here has been how low to the ground the Model 3 is, not good for occasional deep snow. Otherwise, the Model 3 AWD/P3D- even with stock tires does very well in the snow/ice. Slides on a 90-degree turn taken a bit fast but almost instantly self corrects. The roads here give you a pretty good opportunity to play with the handling under such conditions. Meaning I have a pretty good feeling for handling a slide in the Model 3. Steer out of it and feather the pedal as needed. No sudden movements. Meaning no brakes/slamming on the regen.


All good until yesterday. Yesterday we are in the hills, a few miles off the highway, on a lightly snow-covered otherwise dirt road. Generally, we take the off-road 4Runner for such trips but the roads were actually pretty good most places. Anyway, I got fooled, I took a 90-degree turn to the right, probably traveling at 10 mph slowed to 5 mph for the turn. The car took a long slide on the snow/ice/water, rear drivers side first into the ditch. Narrow ditch about 2 feet deep and approximately 35-degree angle. The car bottomed out on the side of the road as it slid into the ditch but otherwise no direct damage. The road was along a field, no trees or other objects. My wife looked at me with some words on the edge of her eyes which I can’t repeat in polite company. I’ve been driving since 1969 and I’ve never before slid into a ditch like that. I’ve been stuck any number of times but never slid a distance like that. Understand I’m certainly not blaming the car, I was just straight up tricked by conditions.


Ok, all this to talk about what happened next. Two seconds to think, did I hurt the car, no, probably not. We were obviously ok, no thoughts there. Next, do I have a cell signal to call for help? Put that on hold…….Now at 5 seconds, why not see if I can move the car? The car is now completely off the road, rear end all the way in the ditch and front passenger tire just below the road edge.


So I depressed the accelerator a bit, expecting what would happen in a RWD vehicle, spinning the tires, but no, it started to move, front passenger tire grabbed, followed by the front driver's tire, then the rear tires. It slid for a few feet and then climbed right out of the snowbank, and back onto the road. What the polite company fu*k? It scurried right along the edge the ditch for about 2 car lengths and climbed right on out, like nobody’s beeswax. Not a bit of damage anywhere. Nothing, nada, well, other than some added dirt. Again, this was a snow/ice-covered narrow ditch about 2 feet deep with an approximate 35-degree angle. I was too shocked to be impressed.


So when the weather gets better I’m taking the Model 3 out rock climbing with the 4Runner…….oh, and snow tires, why not?
 
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PACEMD

Active Member
Aug 8, 2019
1,110
1,717
Billings, MT, USA
Entertaining, PaceMD. Thanks. Like that bit about the "words on the edge of her eyes".

Thanks. I found posts discussing corrective maneuvers for Teslas sliding in slippery conditions but couldn't find anything about how Teslas do in circumstances where other cars generally get stuck. I'm curious what other folks have experienced. Like in the outback of Australia for example.........Or, maybe I just got lucky.
 

KenC

Active Member
Sep 4, 2018
3,870
3,582
Maine
Good story! 5mph sliding, had to be wet ice. Good reminder that even the most-experienced winter drivers can end up in a ditch. I wasn't even thinking that you could drive out, I was waiting for the part where you pull out the tow strap and wait for a passerby to give you a tug.
 
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PACEMD

Active Member
Aug 8, 2019
1,110
1,717
Billings, MT, USA
I wasn't even thinking that you could drive out, I was waiting for the part where you pull out the tow strap and wait for a passerby to give you a tug.

Exactly, I wasn't expecting that either, I was all like......"what in the farmer's mother"..........

I was too surprised to even pretend to my wife that I knew exactly what I was doing...........
 
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PACEMD

Active Member
Aug 8, 2019
1,110
1,717
Billings, MT, USA
The really odd thing is that the car really didn't even try very hard to climb out, no spinning, rocking, straining over a rough spot, none of that. Just grab and go. Easy as driving over a speed bump. But again, maybe I just got lucky. I'm not trying that again to find out..........
 

Skione65

Active Member
May 5, 2016
1,588
821
Kentucky
Why in the world don’t you have snow tires in that area with those conditions? What are you running on stock MXM all seasons? I’m in an area where we really haven’t even seen snow this season and may not and I’m on performance snows.....probably overkill but nonetheless. Michelin PS4s in the summer and Michelin Pilot Alpin PA4s in the winter....AWESOME tires both sets. Great story though.....love that you climbed out of that ditch the way you did. Well narrated!

Ski
 
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PACEMD

Active Member
Aug 8, 2019
1,110
1,717
Billings, MT, USA
Why in the world don’t you have snow tires in that area with those conditions? What are you running on stock MXM all seasons? I’m in an area where we really haven’t even seen snow this season and may not and I’m on performance snows.....probably overkill but nonetheless. Michelin PS4s in the summer and Michelin Pilot Alpin PA4s in the winter....AWESOME tires both sets. Great story though.....love that you climbed out of that ditch the way you did. Well narrated!

Ski

Snow tires, right. Just hadn't gotten around to it, and for the most part here you can get away without snow tires, until you can't. Thanks for the recommendation, I'll check out the Michelin Pilot Alpin PA4s.
 

Skione65

Active Member
May 5, 2016
1,588
821
Kentucky
Snow tires, right. Just hadn't gotten around to it, and for the most part here you can get away without snow tires, until you can't. Thanks for the recommendation, I'll check out the Michelin Pilot Alpin PA4s.

TireRack has some great reviews on them. If performance is important to you they’re great. If not and you need more of a dedicated snow Michelin X-Ice get stellar reviews or Nokian Hakkapelleta (sp?) as well. Those latter two are for serious snow tho. As I mentioned I don’t see much snow however.....more ice and freezing mix precip type. But if I do I’m ready. Performance and driving on these are insane. VERY close and almost indiscernible from the Summer Performance PS4s.

Ski
 
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MikeBur

ManualPilot
Dec 8, 2014
1,374
737
Seattle, WA
TireRack has some great reviews on them. If performance is important to you they’re great. If not and you need more of a dedicated snow Michelin X-Ice get stellar reviews or Nokian Hakkapelleta (sp?) as well. Those latter two are for serious snow tho. As I mentioned I don’t see much snow however.....more ice and freezing mix precip type. But if I do I’m ready. Performance and driving on these are insane. VERY close and almost indiscernible from the Summer Performance PS4s.

Ski
Good to hear car/everyone did ok in this situation. Tesla traction control is amazing and significantly more responsive than mechanical only systems, incl Quattro imo. Can’t reinforce that value of proper tires though. Car is All-Wheel DRIVE, not all wheel STEER or all wheel STOP - that’s your tires’ job primarily and sometimes nothing short of studded tires or chains are enough ;)

Anywho, personal experience driving 3: XIce are great for snow/ice, though wear quickly and don’t have grip I would expect on very wet roads (ie mxm seem better).
 
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PACEMD

Active Member
Aug 8, 2019
1,110
1,717
Billings, MT, USA
Good to hear car/everyone did ok in this situation. Tesla traction control is amazing and significantly more responsive than mechanical only systems, incl Quattro imo. Can’t reinforce that value of proper tires though. Car is All-Wheel DRIVE, not all wheel STEER or all wheel STOP - that’s your tires’ job primarily and sometimes nothing short of studded tires or chains are enough ;)

Anywho, personal experience driving 3: XIce are great for snow/ice, though wear quickly and don’t have grip I would expect on very wet roads (ie mxm seem better).

Right, and I might not have even lost traction/slipped off the road with snow tires. Snow tires most certainly would help to right the situation.
 
yes the M3 is fantastic at traction control and righting itself in slippery conditions -- best that I've ever experienced. OTOH it *is* a heavier car than most ICE cars of similar size, so physics is physics -- its got more momentum/inertia for any given velocity, so that is working against you when you turn.
 
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Again I have no good reason for not having snow tires, just thought I would put it off for a while, you know, until I slide off of the road.........

Given that I have the P3+ with summer performance tires, there wasn't a question in my mind that I needed winter tires. Besides, I've always had winter tires on my previous cars ( Subaru STi).

In the past I've usually had SNOW tires ( Bridgestone Blizzak ) however I haven't always liked how the car handles with tires optimised for snow traction. They can feel a bit disconnected from the road...

Given that here in Boston we typically get only 6-8 significant snow falls a winter, and the roads are usually clear within a day or two, I decided to go with a WINTER performance tire instead of a SNOW optimised tire.

I got a set of 18" rims and a set of the Pirelli Sottozero tires and I'm very happy with them. Good handling and traction on cold dry roads but still good performance on snow.

If you are going to be driving in deep snow all winter, you probably want snow optimised tires, but if it's occasional snow and mostly cold dry roads consider a, cold weather optimised tire ( cold around here means mostly 40°F and below )
 
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MikeBur

ManualPilot
Dec 8, 2014
1,374
737
Seattle, WA
Given that I have the P3+ with summer performance tires, there wasn't a question in my mind that I needed winter tires. Besides, I've always had winter tires on my previous cars ( Subaru STi).

In the past I've usually had SNOW tires ( Bridgestone Blizzak ) however I haven't always liked how the car handles with tires optimised for snow traction. They can feel a bit disconnected from the road...

Given that here in Boston we typically get only 6-8 significant snow falls a winter, and the roads are usually clear within a day or two, I decided to go with a WINTER performance tire instead of a SNOW optimised tire.

I got a set of 18" rims and a set of the Pirelli Sottozero tires and I'm very happy with them. Good handling and traction on cold dry roads but still good performance on snow.

If you are going to be driving in deep snow all winter, you probably want snow optimised tires, but if it's occasional snow and mostly cold dry roads consider a, cold weather optimised tire ( cold around here means mostly 40°F and below )
Agreed, I use SottoZero tires on my S. Love them for occasional snow and generally freezing conditions.
 

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