Fun with snow: Driving my smart car in winter weather

I didn’t think I would have the chance to write about driving in snow this year, considering how little of it we’ve been having in the past couple of winters. But I have been driving my smart car in not one but at least two snow showers in the past month!

The first snow

I knew I should have gone straight home after work since snow was called for, and my mother surely would have scolded me for dawdling, but I needed to make a return to Target. When I came out of the store, the snow was coming down in great white flakes. My smart car’s temperature gauge was still at 34 degrees though, above freezing, so I felt confident that the snow wasn’t going to stick anytime soon. Knowing how crazy some southern drivers can get when the slightest dusting of snow hits the ground, I decided it would be better to wait fifteen minutes for them to clear of the road.

So I went shopping! I scampered over to the Petsmart in my smart (haha, my pet-smart), popped inside and picked up the betta I’d had my eye on all week. (You can check out Sir Bubblesworth on my flickr!) I’d had the tank prepping all week and was determined to bring home a fishy that night, snow or no.

Outside, the cars had cleared off the streets, but the snow was coming down hard. The temperature was coming down, too. It had dropped the two degrees to freezing in the short time I had been in pet store. I tucked Sir Bubblesworth into the passenger seat, buckled his cup up tight, and turned on the heat to keep us warm. Off we went into the winter evening!

The snow was coming down thickly, and visibility was low. I took my mom’s advice and made sure to drive at least ten miles under the speed limit. Though the temperature continued to drop, the highway had been brined earlier that day, and my smart car maintained good traction. But the visibility continued to worsen. Occasionally a “lead car” would pass me, and I was grateful to follow their tail lights until they turned off the road. I also used the white line on the side of the asphalt to guide my trajectory. My mother’s words, “Slow and steady wins the race,” rang in my mind as I made my way home.

I made it in one piece. The snow didn’t stick (in fact, it was easier to see the black road once everything else turned white). There were no incidents with the car.

Taking on icy hills in the smart car

I hunkered down for most of the weekend, but the cleanup crews had a time of clearing the roads. Many side roads remained impassable throughout the week and schools stayed closed. I needed to attend a book club one evening, and although the woman whose house we were meeting at said her driveway was “a little icy,” she was sure it was passable. Well, it wasn’t so great. Even her husband had to park down the street and walk the icy hill to her house (but his tires were rather worn, so that was expected).

Driving up the ice looked daunting to me at first, but once my little smart car started climbing, I realized it wasn’t going to be an issue. She maintained traction and didn’t lose her course. I could feel the slipperiness of the ice as the sterring wheel wobbled side to side in my hands, but they were always small wobbles, and they always corrected themselves. I was able to park across from the house of the event!

Later that evening I learned that it was quite difficult for some of the other visitors to make it up the hill. Even my friend in her BMW with a similar traction control system didn’t think she was going to make it and apparently her steering “wobbles” were large enough that she had to correct for them.

Winter Wind

After all of this we had a period of great winds. By now I’m used to handling my smart in the wind. I was worried about her handling in high winds when I first bought her, but now I’m used to it. Yes, super strong winds can try to blow you off course when you’re going high speeds across open spaces. But you have a lot of space in your lane thanks to the smart car’s small footprint, so the small variations aren’t dangerous. All you need is a steady hand. I’m surprised at how confident I am now compared to when I first bought my car. I’m still cautious, and I certainly won’t pretend that high-wind driving is pleasant or fun (well, except for when the wind’s behind you and gives you a free boost forward, that’s fun). It would have been wiser to stay on the less fast and open side roads, but I was confident enough to take the highway to and from work on windy days.

So far so good!

My smart car and I have taken on snow showers, icy hills and blasts of winter wind. I’m very pleased with her performance, but I promise my mom that I will continue to drive conservatively!

ide of the asphalt to guide m traject
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Comments

  1. truthiness's Gravatar truthinesssays...

    I’m a new Smart owner who is looking forward to dumping my SUV. Of course, that assumes Smarts are truly all-season vehicles. Winter is months away so I won’t know for certain about Smart winter driving. But considering all the Smarts in Europe & Canada that brave winters far more harsh than I’ll encounter here in the midwest, plus the Smart’s traction control & ABS, well, I’m very hopeful that my little Smart will become my primary car.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences!

    (BTW, since you seem to be a stickler for for all that spellin’ & grammar stuff, you have a typo in paragraph 8: “smar” > “smart”)

    : )

    Jul 15 2010 | Permalink

  2. Caity Rose's Gravatar Caity Rosesays...

    Thanks for the testimonial! I’m researching potential cars right now, as my poor truck is getting up there in age, and I’ve been considering a smart car for its low impact and affordability. My biggest concern has been its winter handling, since I live in the Colorado mountains where most people drive SUVs and Subarus. After reading your post, I suspect its similar to my friend’s Beetle. You wouldn’t expect it to handle cold weather driving well, but for some reason it’s quite steady. I’m more tempted to go out and test one now!

    Oct 16 2010 | Permalink

  3. Selena/PA's Gravatar Selena/PAsays...

    Hi Rachel,
    Oh so happy I came across your sight. I just bought myen March 25, 1011 she is a 2008.
    Oh yes to day it is snowing, April 1 2011. I was so happy to read your snow adventure. made me feel so much better about driving in the snow. I will change out the tires for better ones, my hubby just put a carlson new muffler last night in the rain. (determend)!!!!!
    Now realy thank you for your great pages and pages of info!
    fondly
    Selena
    selena@smartusa

    Apr 1 2011 | Permalink

  4. Annie's Gravatar Anniesays...

    I’ve driven my Smart through 3 Minnesotan winters now. Some days have been challenging, but I would agree that the Smart handles icy roads better than the average car out there.

    Dec 5 2011 | Permalink

  5. Amanda's Gravatar Amandasays...

    Hi
    thanks for your article
    I have a smart car first winter in colorado snow and ice
    which tyres do you recommend ??
    studded or not??

    Oct 28 2012 | Permalink

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