The Jag: Don’t drive things where they shouldn’t go…

There’s a car get-together that happens on Friday mornings in Los Angeles. It’s called the Good Vibes Breakfast Club, and it’s a thing I’ve wanted to attend for some months now. The issue for me is that it takes place at Newcomb’s Ranch up on Angeles Crest and I live down in the southern part of Orange County. It’s a bit of a drive. Regardless, this past Friday I woke up early, knew the roads would be light with traffic, and brought my dog along in the car for the journey. And once I was up there, I immediately wish I had my Montero.

For most of the drive, the roads were totally fine. But about halfway up Angeles Crest, the damp conditions started to change over to an icy situation. Angeles Crest climbs fairly quickly in terms of elevation, with Newcomb’s Ranch sitting a bit above 5,300 feet. We’ve had recent cold and rainy weather (for us) in Southern California, and that left a long stretch of Angeles Crest covered in a bit of ice.

I drove past three different signs saying “Chains Required”. Being from New England originally, I’ve never driven with chains. I don’t know anyone who owned chains. And chains were never a thing required back east. But that’s because the roads get salt, people use (not everyone but plenty) proper cold-weather tires, and the plows get out quickly to clear off the dangerous stuff.

Up on Angeles Crest, I was the first person to arrive at Newcomb’s that morning. And I immediately spun the Jag as I tried to turn around into the side of the road as the Newcomb’s parking lot was completely snowed in. Now I was sitting perpendicular on a two-lane with two to three trucks now stopped on the ice behind me. I spun my tires trying to find any warm pavement I could, but this was on the inside of a tree-lined corner. Still, I knew I could get through the thin layer of ice to at least cold pavement below. So I sawed back and forth a bit, working the car until I found the tiniest bit of grip. I then was able to limp further up the road to a turnout, where I sat for a moment. It actually took the trucks another 30 minutes to get grip themselves and continue past me. They were putting their chains on.

At some point as I was trying to find grip, the steering all of a sudden got very heavy. The act of sawing the nose to find some warmer road put a hurt on my power steering. In fact, I lost it. I’m not sure if I blew the pump itself, a hose, a seal, or what.

As I sat in the turnout, it was icy enough that I couldn’t simply put the Jag in park. I had to leave a foot on the brake, otherwise, the car would slide backward. Once that bit of traffic passed, I fired the car back up and turned around to head around the bend back to Newcomb’s where I wanted to be. And as I got there, the car drifted into the oncoming lane full into the other side of the road towards the built-up snowdrifts. I came to a stop again. About 30 yards down the road, was a young man in a Honda Accord putting his chains on, stopped in the oncoming lane.

My car was going nowhere until the road warmed up. So, I got my dog out of the car and walked across the street to the Newcomb’s lot. Eventually, people started to arrive, including friend of Hooniverse Jonny Lieberman (smartly driving a Subaru). More cars arrived, and this actually led to more sliding. So I let the Jag sit on the wrong side of the road on the inside of a shaded corner. The absolute worst spot for it to be. Thankfully, traffic up here is light especially on a day like that. The car sat there for an hour before I noticed more vehicles had made the drive up. Then a plow went by and it was dropping sand off the back. The sun was higher too. So I hopped into the Jag, fired it up, and carefully made it over to the proper shoulder. Even then, the rear still wanted to slide a little as this corner has decent camber to it. But the car was safer and I hung out at Newcomb’s for a bit more. Some great people showed up in some awesome machines.

Eventually, though, I knew the road was now fine for driving. I said goodbye, loaded the dog in the car, and set off back home. I drove the 85 or so miles home with much heavier steering and the notion that I’m an actual idiot. Oh, and on the climb up the hill in the morning, I forgot to mention an extra tidbit. My poor dog puked in the backseat. So I got to clean that up later too.

I have no photos because I left my phone in the car, and I didn’t feel like walking back across the snow-covered lot to get it. Here’s a good video showing what it was like though, and you can even see my dog in part of it:

11 Comments

  1. “I’m not sure if I blew the pump itself, a hose, a seal, or what.”
    Sounds like Jeff had an interesting time working at the gloryhole. Were you able to remove the belt before driving home, or is it serpentine? If you went 85 miles spinning an empty power steering pump, I would expect it to need a rebuild or replacement now, even if the problem started out in a different component.

    I suppose drivers in that area are not used to driving on ice? I hope nobody inadvertently went off the road or got hit by someone who couldn’t control their car in the freezing conditons.

    1. Mother fucker… I never even looked at the belt. I just turned around (since I am sitting next to the Jag in my garage), popped the hood, and the belt came off.

      And I just ordered a replacement pump the other day. Because I’m impatient and never fully examine stuff.

  2. Not sure if the Montero would have fared better in that situation. When there’s no friction, there’s no grip. Wide tires, skinny tires, 4WD, 2WD, heavy, light, whatever. As you said, even the commercial trucks were not having any luck.

    My one experience with 4WD was in the snow and in a solid axle 4Runner. After getting out and locking the hub centers I found out that in 4WD all four wheels spin uselessly all at once, rather than just one or two of the rear wheels. This has a considerable impact on steering. Instead of acting like a rudder, the front wheels actively move the snow out of the way with their spinning, allowing the 4Runner to continue arrow straight into the Powdrehouse Square rotary.

    1. True, but I would’ve had a lot better chance with beefy tires, true 4WD, a front locker, then with a RWD Jag on… not winter tires, haha.

    2. The tires do matter. IIRC Jeff has BFG AT tires and those carry the snowflake on the mountain symbol meaning they meet a minimum traction level in snow. Not true winter tires but they do meet a minimum standard.

      We’ve had a number of snow storms since Christmas. Our XWD vehicles have a variety of tires from plain AT tires with 4wd and a LSD to AWD with snowflake AT tires and finally a 4wd with winter tires. If the winter tires are a 10 in the varied conditions I’ve seen recently the snowflake tires are an 8 or 9 while the standard ATs are a 4 or 5. All have good deep tread.

      4wd does help, by splitting the torque equally between the axles each tire needs less traction to get you moving since it is asked to only transmit half the force. It also helps to keep the vehicle stable in corners, Accelerate in a corner and you need to get wheels spinning on both axles to induce a slide. There have been a lot of places where those trucks wouldn’t have made it in 2wd that didn’t pose a problem in 4wd. The stability and control in those places where 2wd could have got the job done is much better when the lever/switch is in 4wd.

  3. I thought every southern californian was the best driver in the world? 🙂 I’ve gotten caught several times on winter road trips with summer tires, all in a return to Flagstaff. It doesn’t take much for the forecast to change a smidge, and that return trip has snow for the last 30 miles instead of rain.

    Snow tires are magic in those conditions.

    1. One of the most selfish driving areas I’ve been in, but still not the worst. For some reason, every time I’ve driven in Miami I am blown away with how bad it is a place to drive.

      1. New Mexico is horrible as well, with ABQ the epicenter of it. If you see a NM plate in AZ, it’s either going 10 below or 30 over the speed limit. It would be an interesting statistical distributions. AZ drivers aren’t great, they just prefer the left lane for all purposes.

  4. Sounds like you still didn’t let this mishap spoil your day, and such a beautiful spot that was! On my ’93 Volvo 245, the power steering went at some point. Back then, I had had a gazillion issues and was fed up. So I put up the car with a broken pump. Buyer comes, pops open the hood, and immediately finds out that the pump has losened and thus doesn’t work as intended. Pulls up a tool from his freaking pocket and fixes it on the spot. Not my brightest moment.

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