Snow, yet again

I’ve only owned my BX TZD Turbo estate for a week, yet I’ve already driven it twice in the snow. Snow in March feels pretty odd, and it has proved annoyingly distruptive. For a start, the silver BX was meant to head to its new home today, but that’s been postponed for another day.

That’s because this morning, there was an awful lot of snow. This much in fact,

citroen bx snow drift

Snow time again

Yes, it was drifting windscreen-deep in places. Still, it gave me a chance to put the winter tyres through their paces. I wasn’t impressed to be honest. It wasn’t a scientific test, but on one steep uphill section, I was left with the wheels spinning and no forward movement at all. Turns out that the Goodride brand is a Chinese one, which may explain why the performance was a bit disappointing. Certainly, I feel that the Riken Snowtime tyres on my other BX performed better. I’ve also seen some disturbing comments about the performance when conditions are warmer or just wet – though I didn’t find too much awry when I collected the car last weekend, and it really was very wet at times on that journey!

Only the front tyres are winter tyres, which is far from ideal. I therefore plan to fit all-summer tyres when the weather finally picks up a bit, and will have a complete set of winter tyres for next season. Mixing and matching is a very bad idea, as it can seriously unsettle the car in some conditions. It’s a bit like having bald tyres on the rear – potentially quite scary and dangerous.

The BX TZD is making me smile though. We got off to a bit of a bumpy start together, but it’s really coming together now.


Yeah, I’m rubbish. Sorry. I got myself into a state of regular posting before Christmas, but that was over a month ago and I’ve posted twice since. Oops.

You see, the problem is that the good chaps at Classic Car Weekly have been giving me work to do. Yes, I’ve returned to the title on which my writing career began in 2007. It’s been a pleasant return, though I shall miss working with my chums at Kelsey Publishing.

With regular deadlines to hit – important ones that lead to money coming in – I’m afraid I’ve been rather distracted from the issue of Bloggage. It’s hard to say no to work when it pays for important things like fuel and car repairs. Oh, and meat. Hmmm. Tasty.

So, what have I been up to for the past month? Mainly driving my BX Turbo Diesel actually. It’s been very busy. Christmas saw us in Devon and in the past month I’ve been to Birmingham twice (about 3hrs away if you take the pretty roads like I do). Then it snowed. Brilliant! Having sold my 4×4 Ford Maverick, I was a little nervous about bad weather. I needn’t have been. Why? Because I had winter tyres fitted.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that fitting winter tyres is not some miracle cure, in the same way that owning a 4×4 doesn’t make you invincible. You may have noticed a lot of BMW 4x4s in ditches during the snowy times as their owners discovered that a 4×4 cannot overcome basic physics. As it happens, my old Maverick fell foul of the rather dramatic snowdrifts up here in mid-Wales with its new owner…

Citroen BX in the snow

Winter tyres. A very worthwhile investment!

Having helped dig it out (bloody good fun actually!), we decided that whatever your vehicle or its tyres, when the snow is blowing into 4ft deep drifts, the only sensible thing to do is chuck more wood on the fire, get the kettle on and stay at home.

But once things had calmed down a bit, it was a good opportunity to put the Riken Snowtime tyres on the BX TXD to the test. I was very impressed. Sure, wheelspin is still easily generated but drive carefully and it’s staggering what these tyres will pull you through. Handling seemed very assured as well. I could get it to understeer if I was really silly, but rein in the hooning and turning was very undramatic. However, the biggest revelation was braking. Try as I might, getting the wheels to lock up was very difficult indeed – don’t forget that the BX has a very powerful hydraulic braking system. I once managed a four-wheel lock-up on dry Tarmac. It really did take most of the stress out of winter driving. Not all of it – you always have to respect the conditions.

I know this far too well after getting caught out in the wintry conditions. A section of the A4120 between Devil’s Bridge and Aberystwyth is very open and if there’s snow, it always drifts across this section. Several days after the last snowfall, high winds had blown snow across the road. I came around a bend far too quickly to be met by icy snow from bank to bank. I hit the brakes hard but the road was curving stongly so I had to come off them again. I turned, the front end went very light. This was no time to panic, so I didn’t. I eased off the steering slightly and hoped I’d avoid the main snow drift. I did. Just. The back end also went very floaty but we got around it. Phew! I’m really not sure I would have made it without winter tyres. I could have proved it once and for all by returning home and dragging the other BX out, but decided to count my lucky stars instead…

To conclude then, unlike the idiots on Top Gear, I can wholeheartedly recommend winter tyres. They’re not just a gimmick to con you out of money and, based on my experiences since September, they’re far from hopeless when it’s dry. The Green Tiger BX could do with some new tyres, so now I’m struggling to decide what type to fit to it…


Project: Budget 4×4. Hiccups

There is always a danger when you buy at the bottom of the market, especially when you do so sight unseen!

Ford Maverick swb

Brake issues strike the Budget 4x4

The Maverick has a brake issue, that wasn’t revealed until long after I’d paid my money and got home. In fact, the problems started when I went and bought some new tyres. Two of the wheelnuts on one rear wheel were missing! I opted to take the spare wheel off the rear door and stash it inside so I could safely make it home. The owner of our local hotel has a Terrano that’s going to be scrapped, so I was able to pinch the nuts. Thanks to the Hafod Hotel! This hotel is also responsible for supplying our wood burning stove. Lovely people. They also have beds and a bar, providing rather more traditional hotel services!

I decided that the poor handbrake needed attention on the Maverick, as it resolutely refused to hold the car on the slope our driveway has as it joins the road. I’m a fully signed up member of the Nissan Owners Club – remember that my Ford is entirely Nissan beyond the badge – and downloaded a useful guide on how to adjust your handbrake. This was delightfully simple to do. You remove the centre console, which is held by four screws (you can leave in situ and get under it, but it’s easier with it out of the way). This enables you to slacken the handbrake cable, so you can easily remove the rear drums. These are self-adjusting (ha!) but the trick is to tweak them up until you can just get the shoes on. All well and good. Pump the footbrake a few times, then check they aren’t binding. While the back end of the truck was safely and securely raised, I decided it’d be fun to put it in gear and really get the rear axle spinning. It’s a good way of checking the brakes work! Sure enough, a slight tug on the handbrake and it stalled. Excellent. the footbrake however did absolutely nothing at all. Hmmm. That’s not right. I repeated my adjustment procedure to make sure I hadn’t got something badly wrong. Nope. Handbrake was working fine and a test drive revealed that it (just about) held it on the steep slope.

So it seems the rear brakes are not working at all when operated by the footbrake. This is a dual circuit system (front/rear) so suspicion is focusing on the master cylinder at the moment, though the clearly-very-seized bleed screw on the top of the rear load compensating valve is a cause for concern. The rear pipes have all been removed, but if there’s air trapped here, the brakes will not work.

Investigations are continuing. Incidentally, the new tyres cost £150 fully inclusive, with another £60 (!) spent on the necessary fluids for a service – including 3-litres of Limited Slip Differential oil for the back axle. Another £15 has been spent on other service items – plugs and filters – bringing total expenditure so far up to £725. Still some room  for whatever brake parts are necessary within my £800 budget.

I’m not too disheartened at this stage. Without a rolling road, it’s nigh on impossible to check whether the rear brakes are working on a car as the fronts do most of the stopping. When you buy cheap, you always run the risk of there being issues – there almost always are. I’ve spent a lot of time crawling around beneath my new purchase and I’m pleased to note that it is very solid. I may need to buy some anti-corrosion products to make sure it stays that way…