What not to do!
The do’s and dont’s.
It is that time of year when all Land Rover drivers can enjoy being heroes. With the first snowflake we have the opportunity to offer help and assistance to those who need it, whilst having a spot of fun ourselves! Such is our desire to try out new tyres, snow chains and recovery equipment that some of us go out seeking ‘Damsel in Distress’ situations. An old friend of mine, John Hicks, told me that years ago he had spotted a car that had gently slid off the road and into a ditch in the snow. There was no apparent damage but nobody around, so he hitched up the hydraulic winch on his Series 3 LWB Station Wagon and gently eased the car back on to the road leaving a note to the effect of ‘I hope you don’t mind but I pulled your car out of the ditch with my Land Rover!’
John knew what he was doing, but we cannot always rely on the ‘Damsel’ knowing what she, or he, is doing. It is remarkable just how unprepared some drivers are when setting out on Winter journeys. The car - that faithful friend with an efficient heater and comfortable seats can become a liability when stuck or broken down. Drivers seldom know anything about being recovered, which is only natural and why should they? In the event of a fair weather breakdown it is usually all taken care of by the RAC/AA. They forget that in real winter conditions these services are subject to the same problems as them and won’t be able to come to their rescue.
Before we get too smug though, we need to ensure that we can be true heroes by being prepared ourselves. I came across a woman trying to slither up a hill in her BMW last year. There was already a local farmer on the scene in a 90, but he had no rope. I had a rope, but not a particular good one, however between the two of us we managed, with fingers that were frozen to the bone, to tie it onto the little eyelet under the front bumper and I gently towed her to the top of the hill. It made me consider what I should have in my Land Rover throughout the winter months and I came up with a basic list that is far from perfect, but things I had kicking around in the garage. Firstly, as ‘Knight in Shining Armour’, I needed to be warm and dry myself, so a good coat, hat, scarf, boots and gloves and possibly a second coat in case the ‘Damsel in Distress’ is cold and wet.
Then there is the issue of recovery equipment. A decent rope, obviously, but with a choice of ‘U’ bolts to attach it to the stricken car. Maybe a pair of sand ladders, or some old carpet so that if the car can get grip, it can help itself. A shovel in case of deep snow and a good torch so that when you are down on your knees in the snow you can at least see where to attach the rope. A winch is handy as it is a gentler means of recovery, but a steady pull is usually sufficient. Always carry some food and water just in case you too are stranded overnight - it happens!
Finally, assess the ability of the person in charge of the other car in grades of stupidity. Grade 1 would be the sort who has one wheel spinning and knows that a manly push and delicate throttle use should see him, or her on their way. Grade 10 is the driver of the Toyota that my son Matt came across last December. He had a trailer on the back and, knowing he was in a 4x4, had attempted to drive over a sizeable snow drift. The car had bottomed out and lost traction. Matt came along and offered a tow, which was eagerly accepted. A tow strap was connected and Matt eased his 110 forward slowly to take the strain. The Toyota driver gave it everything on the throttle and being an auto gearbox the front wheel was probably doing about 80 mph when it made contact with something and exploded!! This exploding tyre took the front wing off and rendered the car un-driveable. Matt could not believe what this bloke had done and all he could do was offer him a lift home so he could sort the mess out when the snow thawed out.
As I write this just before Christmas it is remarkably mild and there is no hint of winter weather, but it could strike any day with little notice!
So if we do ever get any snow...good luck!
A gentle pull from Matt’s 110 would have eased this Toyota off the drift and on its way, but the driver floored the throttle with disastrous consequences!
Toby Savage December 2013