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…


Winter Blunderland

I must admit that winter is not my favourite season. Yes, occasionally it gets livened up by having to remember how to drive in ice and snow, but generally, it’s cold, miserable and a dreadful time to be working on the car. Especially when you’ve lost the use of your garage due to an ongoing heating project on your home. We should have got that finished BEFORE winter really, but we didn’t. Bother.

Cars don’t enjoy winter either. They don’t seem quite so keen to fire into life, leak water everywhere (yes, every single one of our cars is as watertight as a paper teapot) and the regular attention that they generally like to receive doesn’t happen because frankly the idea of working on cars at this time of year, when it’s dark and damp and miserable is not really what I’d call appealing.

Mix in those big yellow trucks that throw rot-causing salt at them and you can see why cars would rather snuggle up in a nice, warm garage. In fact, last winter I semi-stripped a 2CV engine and fitted to Elly my 2CV. Yes, I was cold at times but working in the garage was absolute bliss.

2cv Tinkering

Not as dodgy as it looks. Working in a warm(ish) garage

This winter, the jobs have just ended up getting ignored. The 2CV really needs a service. The Mini really needs a service. The BX has a To Do list as long as several arms. The Peugeot needs a degree of fettling. Yet, having been treated to a garage, now it’s out of use I find myself not doing very many of the jobs at all. I just about forced myself to grease up the 2CV’s suspension the other day, and I encouraged myself to tackle a problem with the Peugeot’s exhaust – largely because it had fallen off and I really had to. It’s not good enough really. The 2CV has a very lumpy idle at the moment, caused most likely the exceedingly old spark plugs that are currently fitted. I’ve a feeling that one of them came with a cylinder head I fitted, so gawd knows how old that is.

What makes winter even more unbearable is that driving is no frequently not at all fun. First, you need to try and demist the thing – this winter has boasted some of that super-steam up effect that makes it look like your car has been parked in a stream for several days. The BX and Peugeot have typical French, asthmatic heater blowers. The Mini has a heater blower that just makes more noise than not having it switched on and the 2CV’s heater blower is the engine fan, so revs are needed to clear the screen. Then there’s the aforementioned leakage issue. The Mini and BX have soaking carpets. The 2CV leaks water straight into my shoes. The Peugeot prefers to dump it straight onto your head.

The roads aren’t fun either, being coated in greasy mud and horrible salt. It’s dark too much of the time as well. In short, I’m fed up and enjoying the fact that very slightly, the days are once more getting longer. With winter banished – and I’m very aware that we’ve got a good couple of months to go – I can start getting on top of the fleet once more AND start enjoying time at the wheel again.

Next winter, I just plan to hibernate from about mid-November. The big bonus there is that it’s a good way of avoiding bloody Christmas songs.

Happy New Year. Sort of.