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  1. #1
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    OT: Car Question

    I'm possibly moving to Colorado after graduation from college next May. Being from Texas, I've never had a 'need' for a 4x4 or AWD vehicle. I was wondering if a 4x4/AWD car or truck is necessary? Can I get buy around towns and mountain roads with a FWD car, similar to a Civic? Depending on the answer, I might be doing some car shopping first.

  2. #2
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    The car you need depends on the driver you are. I know that doesn't help, but if you aren't experienced or comfortable driving in poor conditions at least make sure your vehicle is.

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  3. #3
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    Don't sweat it. I have lived in Colorado all of my 25 driving years and never needed a 4X4 until this last winter. Even then, my wife only needed the 4wd for 2 days to get out of our street. After that, I could push snow with the front bumper of my Buick Regal.

    I drove an older Honda Accord and a 2wd (rear wheel drive) Mazda pickup the entire 7 years I lived at 9300ft elevation in Summit County.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by keylay
    I'm possibly moving to Colorado after graduation from college next May. Being from Texas, I've never had a 'need' for a 4x4 or AWD vehicle. I was wondering if a 4x4/AWD car or truck is necessary? Can I get buy around towns and mountain roads with a FWD car, similar to a Civic? Depending on the answer, I might be doing some car shopping first.
    4x4s & AWD's are definitely not necessary. A front wheel drive car is fine and if you're going to be doing mountain driving while it's sketchy, get studded tires on all four or a good set of chains. Four wheel drive doesn't help you when it comes to maintaining traction or braking on paved roads and that's how come you see so many of them in the ditch in the winter.
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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by keylay
    I'm possibly moving to Colorado after graduation from college next May. Being from Texas, I've never had a 'need' for a 4x4 or AWD vehicle. I was wondering if a 4x4/AWD car or truck is necessary? Can I get buy around towns and mountain roads with a FWD car, similar to a Civic? Depending on the answer, I might be doing some car shopping first.
    Definitely invest in some winter tires or even better, spare wheels (getting tires mounted is between $50 and $100, a few seasons and it pays for the rims).

    I've got a front wheel drive car with a good amount of torque and although it has all kinds of electronics to maintain traction, I was dead in the water with my summer tires when we had a couple big snow dumps.

    All season tires go a long way, but winter tires (studs are unnecessary if you stick to paved roads) really make a huge difference.

    AWD/4WD is advantageous when you're climbing steep, icy, snowy hills. For all other driving purposes, FWD is plenty.

    _MK

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  6. #6
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    Depends on where in CO you'll be moving. Living up in the mountains myself, you wouldn't have been able to get into my neighborhood, let alone my driveway without 4x4, good tires, and occasional chains. Even with 4x4 I had to have a backhoe come to clear the drive and make room to plow more snow. If you have to be able to access the mountains, get a 4x4. If you're living in a major metro or the 'burbs, then you're usually okay with decent tires and a front-wheel drive.

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  8. #8
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    I live up one of the steepest roads in colorado(magnolia) and I only got turned around twice last season. I have a jetta wagon with studs. probably will get a subaru eventually

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by nOOby
    I live up one of the steepest roads in colorado(magnolia) and I only got turned around twice last season. I have a jetta wagon with studs. probably will get a subaru eventually
    Yeah.. but the steep parts of Mag are paved and east facing with good sun. Black asphalt makes a huge difference on the icepack. I would have LMAO watching someone try to get a Jetta to the top of Big Springs last Jan. After the weekend of 120 mph winds the roads were so deep and frozen even the plows stopped running for several days. I have two 4x4s that couldn't even move an inch in the driveway until after 6+ hours of shoveling.

  10. #10
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    I live in Avon, CO and have lived in the mountains for 8 years. My first year I had a FWD civic with bad tires and hated it. I never felt safe. I bought a Toyota 4WD pickup the next summer and what a difference it makes. With some extra weight in the back I feel very stable. My other vehicle is a AWD CR-V. It does amazingly well in the snow with BF Goodrich Traction T/A's. Traction is excellent. If the front wheels slip, the rear ones kick in and away we go.
    4WD and AWD vehicle def help maintain traction over 2wd vehicles unless you are on a sheet of ice. Braking is a different story and is why so many fools go in the ditch. If you are going 80mph on the snow and you have to stop fast or start to slide, nothing is gonna help besides airbags. You'll see all the Audi drivers on I-70 who think their A-4 wagons are on rails going 75mph while others are doing a safe 50mph.

    But a good FWD sedan with good snow tires will do very well. I have many co-workers who commute from Summit county to Avon. A 45+ minute drive over Vail Pass. 5 days a week. Most of them have FWD sedans like Civics or Accords with snow tires.

    I would never own a 2wd vehicle though. The cost savings isn't worth the added traction and safety I get. On snowy days, I just leave it in 4wd until the roads are clear.

    As far as chains go, get some for emergency purposes but they suck to put on and you'll rarely use them. I used chains once in 6 months in WP. Winter of 95', Berthoud Pass closed twice for 5 days. A good thing to get is a good nylon 20' tow strap so people can pull you out of a ditch.

  11. #11
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    I spent two years commuting from the front range to the mountains (one year to Eldora in the Winter) in a honda prelude, never got stuck, never had any problems - at all. Front drive is fine, just get good snows, studs are probably overkill if you're going to spend any time on paved, dry roads.
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    I've never owned a 4WD or and AWD and have lived here all my life. FWD is just fine. If you want you can even get snow tires to put on in the winter to help out a little bit. The fact of the matter is that in the front range there really isn't that much snow. You'll be fine with that you've got

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by wormvine
    As far as chains go, get some for emergency purposes but they suck to put on and you'll rarely use them. I used chains once in 6 months in WP. Winter of 95', Berthoud Pass closed twice for 5 days. A good thing to get is a good nylon 20' tow strap so people can pull you out of a ditch.
    If you get chains, just make sure you know how to use them.
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nickle
    If you get chains, just make sure you know how to use them.

  15. #15
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    Pretty much what everyone else has said is true. FWD with studs or good snow tires will be just fine. However, in my experience, last year I sure was glad I had 4WD. Most neighborhoods had ice and snow 6-12" thick for 2 months. We also had a couple of storms that dropped 2' of snow....Try getting through that with a Honda Civic. I saw so many passager cars in ditches, abandoned, etc. last year. I never had a problem getting anywhere.
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  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by chinkerjuarez
    I've never owned a 4WD or and AWD and have lived here all my life. FWD is just fine. If you want you can even get snow tires to put on in the winter to help out a little bit. The fact of the matter is that in the front range there really isn't that much snow. You'll be fine with that you've got
    Again.. unless you need to get to the mountain dirt roads. I can guarantee that no one in a 2 wheel drive would have been been able to get to my diveway, let along up it, for at least 50% of the days last winter. There is a big difference between driving the highways that go through the mountains, and driving the gravel sideroads. I lost count of how may FWD car I helped tow out of deep snow last year, and that's when I wasn't needing a tow myself.

    Tell me again how your 2 wheel drive is getting through this?
    IMG_5422 (Large).JPG

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nickle
    If you get chains, just make sure you know how to use them.
    Must be one of those new FWD Ford Mustangs.......

    What a moron

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by thump
    Again.. unless you need to get to the mountain dirt roads. I can guarantee that no one in a 2 wheel drive would have been been able to get to my diveway, let along up it, for at least 50% of the days last winter. There is a big difference between driving the highways that go through the mountains, and driving the gravel sideroads. I lost count of how may FWD car I helped tow out of deep snow last year, and that's when I wasn't needing a tow myself.

    Tell me again how your 2 wheel drive is getting through this?
    IMG_5422 (Large).JPG
    I don't see why I need to spend the extra money on gas and for 4WD when this happens almost never in Denver. Most of the HWY's are clear during the winter to go skiing so I've never had a problem. Last year during the blizzards when my car looked like that. I just grabbed a shovel and dug out then the neighbors and I, even the ones with 4WD helped dig the street out so we could drive. Not a big deal.

  19. #19
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    How many dirt roads do we have in denver anyway???? I never said anything about driving on mountain dirt roads. I said the front range. You just need to know the limits of your car. If your car won't make it don't do it.

  20. #20
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    Alright, this might sound a little harsh, but IMNSHO money spent on a winter driving/bad weather driving course will go a LOT farther than getting a 4x4 or AWD vehicle. I see far too many SUV's and Subi's stuck in the ditch and my theory is that the 4x4 or AWD just gives the nervous bad weather driver false confidence and they end up getting in over their head.

    Funny thing is, there's been lots of talk in this thread about getting snow tires, or chains, or 4x4 this, or AWD that, just put studs on and you'll be fine in a FWD car blah blah blah but no one has stepped and said HEY! LEARN HOW TO DRIVE IN THE SNOW, and you'll be fine. Well there, I just said it. Seriously... you're from a place that never sees snow and ice, and although the Front Range doesn't get THAT much you'll be better off knowing what to expect and having the skills to handle it than not. A 4x4 or AWD vehicle isn't going to do everything for ya.

    So take that rant for what it's worth, but it's like mtn biking: you ain't gonna be any better of a rider on a $7000 bike than you are on a Huffy unless you spend some time working on your fitness and your skills.
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  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by chinkerjuarez
    I don't see why I need to spend the extra money on gas and for 4WD when this happens almost never in Denver. Most of the HWY's are clear during the winter to go skiing so I've never had a problem. Last year during the blizzards when my car looked like that. I just grabbed a shovel and dug out then the neighbors and I, even the ones with 4WD helped dig the street out so we could drive. Not a big deal.
    Ah geez.. Yes, that works in the 'burbs. Except my driveway is 300+ feet long and had built up enough snow that the plow didn't even have enough room to run. Add to that the 100 mph winds, and the snow froze so hard you couldn't even dent it with a snowshovel. When you have an excavator with a tracked backhoe charging to you $150/hr just so you can get _out_ of your driveway, then you'll understand why a 2wd just doesn't cut it living at 8500 feet.

    And it did happen, almost weekly up here. Then when you factor in the drift from the continuous winds, the roads were crap for weeks solid.

  22. #22
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    Colorado and snow driving

    Think about it like this...look outside and judge the depth of the snow. For the most part, in and around the city a 2wd with great snow tires (Nokian) will suffice and keep you out of trouble most days, but we do get snow that is ~6" or so deep when falling and this past year the white stuff stuck around for months on many of my local thoroughfares.

    My experience (pulling/shoveling many out of ditches/banks or just *dips* in the road) is that smaller cars, with their lower level of ground clearance will have the most issues. Once the snow "floats" you a bit, your tires leave the surface of the snow and are useless, doesn't matter what brand you have.

    The available traction and safety that an AWD car gives is absolute. Do you *need* to have that level of security, all depends on how you feel about being at the mercy of the elements/roadway conditions/other drivers. I bought my wife a nice little Subaru 2.5RS and run Nokian WR all-season extreme snow rated tires. With the AWD and traction, just a no-brainer and it gives me peace of mind that she's able to negotiate the condtions no matter what the weather.

    I drive a Toyota Tundra with extreme snow rated tires on it and being a selectable 4WD, it's great...most times but as folks have eluded to, having a large 4WD does not make you invincible and can actually lead to a false sense of security...hence the numbers of them wrecked/flipped on the side of the road. Hell, doesn't even have to be a highway, we get them flipped in *town*. Chuckleheads...

    One thing I get w/the Toyota is ground clearance (stock, not lifted) and this allows me to negotiate snow/mud/muck that is much deeper than what you would be able to get a smaller car through. Being a Coloradan...I very much enjoy getting out and enjoying the state I live in and this is the vehicle that meets my needs year round. Do you need a larger truck/SUV/portly gas-hog? All up to what you want to do with it. Please, if you go the large/SUV route....*use* it. Carry things, people, bike stuff and lend it out to friends if they need the same. I hate to see all the pretty, shiny LARGE vehicles being used like Honda Civics (no slam to Honda's intended!).

    Good luck with your choice and congrats on the move...you'll love it here. Just be sure to volunteer a bit with a trail maintenance group, bike advocay or other civic-minded pursuit...if everyone did just a LITTLE of that, think about how amazing our state would be!

    Allen

  23. #23
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    Full Trucker nailed it!

    Here we are dispensing with all the technical info on vehicles/tires etc...and FT comes in and points out the obvious...it's the wing-hut behind the wheel that needs to be fully tightened down and ready for travel.

    Well put and the most important piece of the safety puzzle is how safe you feel driving in the conditions and how well you understand the limitations (all vehicles have them) of what you own/drive.


  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by twobytandem
    Here we are dispensing with all the technical info on vehicles/tires etc...and FT comes in and points out the obvious...it's the wing-hut behind the wheel that needs to be fully tightened down and ready for travel.

    Well put and the most important piece of the safety puzzle is how safe you feel driving in the conditions and how well you understand the limitations (all vehicles have them) of what you own/drive.
    Which is a darn good argument for banning anyone from TX or CA from ever moving here (sorry keylay)

  25. #25
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    Come on now :-)

    (Sorry for the OT/OT bit)

    He's from TX....I'm from CA

    I've found in my many travels, it's not really *where* the person comes from, it's their upbringing! TX and CA just have such a high number of folks you just really wouldn't want to get to know

    Back to my comment about getting involved in the area you move to. It's shocking how many people live in nice area's and do nothing to help it become a more beautiful place or maintain it's high level of quality. *That* is the kind of person I'd like to have as a neighbor, regardless of where they lived last.

    It's almost sobering what many folks in other countries think of Americans...especially ones from TX or CA!

  26. #26
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    I drove a Honda CRX through many Lake Superior winters. 250 inches of snow on average. FWD is fine. I had a Mustang GT for the last 3 years while I lived in Texas, but traded it in for a Forester XT after I moved here. Not that I don't know how to handle driving in snow...been there done that. But why not make it easier on yourself? Plus after having an AWD car for one winter back in Michigan, I appreciate and enjoy the fun driving dynamics of AWD on snow...

    AWD is just more to to drive hooligan style around empty parking lots after a good storm.

  27. #27
    local trails rider
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    Quote Originally Posted by twobytandem
    (Sorry for the OT/OT bit)
    It's almost sobering what many folks in other countries think of Americans...especially ones from TX or CA!
    (even more OT)
    I bet the US troops in Bosnia-Herzegovina's Tuzla area in '97-'98 were not from Colorado...
    For a while they had a rule that nobody could leave the camp in a vehicle if there was 2" of snow.
    (/OT)

  28. #28
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    Thanks for the input everyone. It sure helps alot. Currently I have a Toyota Tacoma PreRunner (2WD truck) which I've driven in snow/ ice a few times. It's not that I don't feel safe, but it wasn't fun. One thing that I probably need to consider is that I'm hoping to find a job in outdoor recreation, hence moving from Texas to Colorado. I'm not sure what type of road conditions a job might lead me to. I'm thinking that selling my truck and getting a FWD car for the city and a 'beater' 4x4 that can make it through the conditions stated.

  29. #29
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    A rear wheel drive truck is about the worst you can have for driving in slippery conditions: there's no weight on the drive wheels unless you load the truck with sand (which might also come handy when it really gets slippery)

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    you will need aleast an f350 diesl,6 to 12 in lift 35 to 44 in monster mudders,4 inpipes,super chip programer,2000watt stereo,4 or 6 really bright lights on your roll bar,running boards,chrome splash gaurds, grill gaurd with 12000 lb winch,indash dvd,and share the road license plate.

  31. #31
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    tires tires tires

    I've had my Cherokee for 9 years now, and tires make all the difference. RWD works great during 90% of the snow storms, with the right tires.
    Take the long cut, we'll get there eventually.

  32. #32
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    Just get some blizzaks on the civic, and you'll be set

  33. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by thump
    Yeah.. but the steep parts of Mag are paved and east facing with good sun. Black asphalt makes a huge difference on the icepack. I would have LMAO watching someone try to get a Jetta to the top of Big Springs last Jan. After the weekend of 120 mph winds the roads were so deep and frozen even the plows stopped running for several days. I have two 4x4s that couldn't even move an inch in the driveway until after 6+ hours of shoveling.
    there were days that I was wishing I had an awd crawling up magnolia at lunch break neck speeds but eventually got to the top. Luckily the roads are school bus routes so the plows were out early and often. I had friends in denver whose streets were screwed for weeks. Also my driveway is dead flat so...

    There was one day I tried to get to eldora and it took 1.5 hours to dig up to the county road, that kinda sucked
    Last edited by nOOby; 08-27-2007 at 03:39 PM.

  34. #34
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    Good tires, FWD and some winter driving skill and you're set. I ran some Nokian Hakkapeliittas last year on an old beater Golf of ours and it was like a tank in the snow.

  35. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by keylay
    Thanks for the input everyone. It sure helps alot. Currently I have a Toyota Tacoma PreRunner (2WD truck) which I've driven in snow/ ice a few times. It's not that I don't feel safe, but it wasn't fun. One thing that I probably need to consider is that I'm hoping to find a job in outdoor recreation, hence moving from Texas to Colorado. I'm not sure what type of road conditions a job might lead me to. I'm thinking that selling my truck and getting a FWD car for the city and a 'beater' 4x4 that can make it through the conditions stated.
    Ah I see. Now that a little more info comes into play, I would say that you personally owning a 4x4 truck would be a good idea, based on your reasons for moving here, your choice of occupation, and the likelihood that you will actually NEED 4WD at some point. I still stand behind my words of learning to drive in snow. I grew up in northern Indiana with frequent trips north into Michigan, and I saw plenty of bad winter driving early on and learned how to deal with it. I drive my stock '96 Tacoma in 2WD nearly all winter long, with 4WD only on the burliest of days.

    A good friend of mine took the Winter Driving School up in Steamboat last year, and he said it was well-run, worth every penny he spent, and a LOT of fun. If you have the means, it might be wise to check out since you've only "driven in snow/ ice a few times."

    http://www.winterdrive.com/
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  36. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by Full Trucker
    Ah I see. Now that a little more info comes into play, I would say that you personally owning a 4x4 truck would be a good idea, based on your reasons for moving here, your choice of occupation, and the likelihood that you will actually NEED 4WD at some point. I still stand behind my words of learning to drive in snow. I grew up in northern Indiana with frequent trips north into Michigan, and I saw plenty of bad winter driving early on and learned how to deal with it.
    Frikkin' Midwesterner!

    I remember to joyous conditions in Michigan that I just don't see a whole lot of out here - black ice and deep slush. Almost ditched my Tercel due to deep slush once. Saved it by the skin of my teeth and came away with nothing more than shorts full of $hit.

  37. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by SkaredShtles
    Frikkin' Midwesterner!

    I remember to joyous conditions in Michigan that I just don't see a whole lot of out here - black ice and deep slush. Almost ditched my Tercel due to deep slush once. Saved it by the skin of my teeth and came away with nothing more than shorts full of $hit.
    My CRX got high centered once in deep slush that re-froze overnight. Had to get it pulled out. That was fun. Good old non-plowed underclass dorm parking...

    In the same car I went straight off of an off ramp on a nice sheet of black ice. nothing says fun like no brakes and no steering!

    I don't miss Michigan winter driving. Out of 5 winters in that car, those were the only two winter weather incidents.

  38. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by thump

    Tell me again how your 2 wheel drive is getting through this?
    IMG_5422 (Large).JPG
    A 4wd won't help you in that either.

  39. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by keylay
    Thanks for the input everyone. It sure helps alot. Currently I have a Toyota Tacoma PreRunner (2WD truck) which I've driven in snow/ ice a few times. It's not that I don't feel safe, but it wasn't fun. One thing that I probably need to consider is that I'm hoping to find a job in outdoor recreation, hence moving from Texas to Colorado. I'm not sure what type of road conditions a job might lead me to. I'm thinking that selling my truck and getting a FWD car for the city and a 'beater' 4x4 that can make it through the conditions stated.
    A high clearance 2wd is distaster (Like you mentioned). Get a FWD, AWD or 4WD (whatever), those Pre-runners are useless here (except when its dry).

  40. #40
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    Learn to drive in snow; important: carry a folding shovel (snow shovel type) in the car for digging out from the inevitable encounter with the ditch. Tow strap is nice, blanket and food good idea also...sure others have ideas on emergency kit, pretty easy to get stuck in the winter for several hours in major blizzards like we had last December.
    Quote Originally Posted by MB1
    To differentiate riders by the type of surface frequented is IMO the height of foolishness.

  41. #41
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rm80Co
    ...sure others have ideas on emergency kit, pretty easy to get stuck in the winter for several hours in major blizzards like we had last December.
    Which makes a great argument to get a 4x4. As others have already said, the first rule is to learn how to drive on snow and ice, and the second would be to know what your needs are. If you're living in the 'burbs or lower mountains with nice paved roads then a FWD with good tires will do fine. If you plan to spend a lot of time in mountain high-country, especially outside in the wilderness areas, get a 4x4. At elevation you can park your nifty 2 wheel drive eco-mobile for a nice day of snowshoeing and come back to find yourself buried in snow pretty easily. The snow that "barely ever" happens in Denver/Boulder, happens regularly at 9000+ ft. I don't care if you're the Mario Andretti of snow driving, a FWD with chains is not going to bust you through thick, 4 foot tall drifts on mountain access roads.

    In any event, a rear wheel drive truck is going to be useless for anything except around town.

  42. #42
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    Modern cars suck. A 20 year old Subie with a two-speed T-case is the answer. 28 mpg in 2WD, and it'll pull out tree stumps on ice in 4-wheel-low.

    With the rear diff welded in mine, I can pull stumps on ice that's covered in ball bearings. With bald tires.

  43. #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by singletrack
    Modern cars suck. A 20 year old Subie with a two-speed T-case is the answer. 28 mpg in 2WD, and it'll pull out tree stumps on ice in 4-wheel-low.

    With the rear diff welded in mine, I can pull stumps on ice that's covered in ball bearings. With bald tires.
    I sure as hell wish urabuS still offered a friggin' transfer case in their cars. Our Outback has a most useless 1st gear for doing any sort of crawling.

  44. #44
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    Quote Originally Posted by SkaredShtles
    I sure as hell wish urabuS still offered a friggin' transfer case in their cars. Our Outback has a most useless 1st gear for doing any sort of crawling.
    They do still make them for the Asian and South American markets. You can also put an old 5-speed dual-range in the modern EJ cars with a little modding. Subi used to make a center-locker tranny so you could run AWD on pavement, 4WD on dirt.

    I can't believe there isn't a US market for this kinda thing these days.

  45. #45
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    Quote Originally Posted by singletrack
    They do still make them for the Asian and South American markets. You can also put an old 5-speed dual-range in the modern EJ cars with a little modding. Subi used to make a center-locker tranny so you could run AWD on pavement, 4WD on dirt.

    I can't believe there isn't a US market for this kinda thing these days.
    Dude - there's barely a US market for *standard* transmissions any more. It all points to one thing: people are fvcking morons.

  46. #46
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    Quote Originally Posted by SkaredShtles
    people are LAZY fvcking morons.
    Fixed that for ya.
    The older I get, the faster I was.





    Punch it, Chewie.

  47. #47
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    Quote Originally Posted by dadat40
    you will need aleast an f350 diesl,6 to 12 in lift 35 to 44 in monster mudders,4 inpipes,super chip programer,2000watt stereo,4 or 6 really bright lights on your roll bar,running boards,chrome splash gaurds, grill gaurd with 12000 lb winch,indash dvd,and share the road license plate.
    Dont forget to hang that plastic ball sack off of your hitch.

  48. #48
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    Quote Originally Posted by SkaredShtles
    Dude - there's barely a US market for *standard* transmissions any more. It all points to one thing: people are fvcking morons.
    Ah come on.. and I was just waiting for my new Shimano automatic tiptronic cassette to arrive.

    Now, if I could just get that traction control working...

  49. #49
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    Quote Originally Posted by timroz
    Dont forget to hang that plastic ball sack off of your hitch.
    I always wanted to get one of those in yellow, to cut off one ball and write "Live Strong" on it.

  50. #50
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    I agree with what people are recommending in terms of get winter tires no matter what type of car you drive.

    I have a beater AWD civic wagon. I would like something with more modern safety equipment, but it gets through anything (including the 3 foot snows last year) and gets decent mileage. You might consider a CR-V as a good all-around vehicle. If you're going to do much mountain driving in the winter, you'll want AWD. They handle way better than a 2wd vehicle on curvy roads and up hills. Subarus are ideal here as well, that's why every other car in Boulder is a Subaru.

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