How do I get into my garage without burning rubber?
December 29, 2018 8:47 PM   Subscribe

My driveway slopes in two directions and I'm having a hard time getting into my garage. What can be done to help the situation?

Here's my driveway and entry to my garage. As you can see, the house is on a slope that runs perpendicular to the facade (yay, San Francisco!). In addition, my house is set from the street so that where my driveway hits the garage, the two slopes fight with each other. Quite frequently, especially if it's at all damp, my front tires spin - you can see that the left one is more problematic than the right, based on skid marks alone. I feel like I have to go pretty slow because it's a narrow opening and that exacerbates the issue.

Do I need to regrade the entire driveway? Another issue is that underside of my front bumper *always* scrapes along the very beginning of the driveway at the street - going up or down, no matter how slow I go. Maybe that will be somewhat better once they finish resurfacing the street. There are no city plans to redo the sidewalks anytime soon, I don't think.

This is a brand new car so I hadn't previously had to deal with the garage issues and I'd like to treat it right (both the car and the garage!).
posted by otherwordlyglow to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Are you brave enough to try backing in to your garage? It would take some practice, but it would not only help with the skidding (it's a front wheel drive, yes?), and it may also help with the scraping. You have the benefit of having a rear-view camera since the car is brand new. It might be worth a try. There are also products on the market to tell you when to stop (kind of like little road bumps you put on the floor).

I have a teeny tiny garage, but I also a bunch of crap stored in either side of it. My driveway isn't aligned with the actual garage, so I have to make a quick swerve to the left, making backing out difficult. I could probably do it if I took the time to really, really practice, but right now I use landmarks (actually using some of the stored crap), so I know when to stop.
posted by dancinglamb at 9:13 PM on December 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

Hello neighbor! The driveway of my building is exactly the same, including scraping the chin of my car when backing out. Aside from going slower, getting a car with higher clearance (and/or AWD), or turning on your way out in order to flatten the trajectory the wheels take out of the garage, redoing the driveway is what I'd do.

On preview, backing in can work too, but if you live on a busy street it can be a drag on other cars.
posted by rhizome at 9:18 PM on December 29, 2018

Well… you could get a 4WD car with an inch or two more ground clearance.

Failing that, yeah, I think backing in would allow your front tires to stay out of the trouble spot at the critical moment, and that would probably also stop the scraping as well. You might scrape on the way out of the garage though.

Or yes, you could have the driveway re-done. I think those are your options.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 9:21 PM on December 29, 2018

Ok, I think there's another option- take a look at this ramp solution this person came up with. I also found this image which got me thinking some thoughts. Perhaps it would be possible to build up portions of your driveway with ramps to keep your car from scraping?
posted by Secretariat at 9:34 PM on December 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I was considering trying to back in- I may give it a go once someone is around to spot me. It is front wheel drive with a backup camera. I can’t figure out what I’d do with those ramps and how I would position them and make sure I hit them when driving in. This car has higher clearance than my last car, which I never even attempted to get in to the garage. I think my husband did it a few times but it was also manual transmission so I feel like it had a little more control. He used to park his giant truck in there every day but it obviously had much higher clearance. Could a driveway person (are there such folks?) just eveniur portions of the driveway without redoing the entire thing?
posted by otherwordlyglow at 9:52 PM on December 29, 2018

I think the best way to answer that question would be to get a contractor or two to come look at it and tell you what they see as your options. You're looking for a paving company.

My guess is that they could probably do a quick-and-dirty fix that might last for several years, but that the best thing to do would be to remove and replace at least part of the driveway.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 11:40 PM on December 29, 2018

First, does your Kia have the Sportmatic shifting feature? If so, try setting it to 1st gear to enter your driveway. It might be automatically using 2nd gear, which is more likely to slip on the damp, sloped pavement.

Second, since your driveway slopes in two directions, it looks like your right wheels may need to travel significantly farther than your left wheels. If you measure the tire paths (from sidewalk to garage, or street to garage), I wonder how different they are, and how much of a tire rotation the difference represents? I don't know how relevant this is, and I assume your car's traction control system deals with this phenomenon in some way. But maybe you could experiment with turning off your traction control and/or electronic stability control to enter the driveway.
posted by reeddavid at 1:40 AM on December 30, 2018

Thinking more about my comment on traction control, I do wonder if that's what's causing so much skidding. Due to the slope, your right tire is spinning faster than your left tire. The car may interpret this as the right tire having lost traction, and then apply the brake in order to regain traction. But the right tire needs to spin faster to cover a greater distance.
posted by reeddavid at 1:53 AM on December 30, 2018

What you're probably scraping under your bumper is a feature called an air dam, part of the aerodynamic design of modern cars. It's generally considered a sacrificial part because of these kinds of issues; it's a custom plastic piece that the car can live without, afford to lose in a low-center hit of this sort, and which will, at worse, cost you a small amount of fuel economy if/when it goes away or is substantially altered over time by this kind of wear. Don't sweat the scraping too much; the car isn't becoming less safe. The only real hazard is that someday the whole dam thing (ahem) could break off and you'll drive over it, which will be a surprise, and it may jam itself under the car, into a wheel, what have you.

More likely, though, it'll partly ablate away and the scraping will go down in frequency.
posted by Sunburnt at 2:16 AM on December 30, 2018

Re the backing in, I have a small garage which I back into. After doing it the first time with help, while the car was still in place, I put a strip of reflective tape along the entire length of the floor next to the wheels to act as a guide. Now I can see in my side mirror if I'm aligned correctly when I start to back up.

I also got a set of cheap cushions designed for lawn furniture and glued them to the walls to protect the doors. (UK garage, so it's barely big enough for me to get out on one side, hence the need for protection.) I have an old mattress at the back to protect the bumper.
posted by essexjan at 3:43 AM on December 30, 2018 [5 favorites]

Manual or automatic? I was going to suggest backing in as well. Maybe the gradient is shifting just a little bit of weight to the axle that is nearer the street. If you go in forwards, you could lose a little traction here. And I think reverse is a lower gear ...?

Other possibilities could include having your driveway professionally powerwashed. And maybe get someone with a concrete saw to cut some diagonal grooves on the steeper parts, it could provide more grip, and help with drainage.
posted by carter at 8:02 AM on December 30, 2018

Can you approach from uphill and let gravity coast you in?

The key to not scraping is to get one (either) of the front wheels up onto the sidewalk and later get the second front wheel up. That is, come in diagonally, so that the front wheel on the sidewalk starts lifting the chin before the two front wheels get into the deep trough. This may require a 2-point turn: if approaching from downhill, do a late, shallow turn, towards the red plant bed border, so that your front wheels go up onto the sidewalk, then crank your steering wheel full counter-clockwise, back up a few feet (like 3 feet), and then full clockwise, forward again.

Yes, more traction on the concrete, either saw some grooves, use acid (such as muriatic acid) to etch, or paint some grip paint (it has sand-like grit) either on the 4x8 final ramp area, or possibly the 8x10 entire driveway.

Could also attach a winch to your back wall.
posted by at at 8:12 AM on December 30, 2018

So many good ideas! It’s automatic transmission but I’ll try turning traction control off. I did try using a lower Sportmatic gear and it didn’t seem to help but maybe I didn’t do it right.

I have muriatic acid so that could be tried, too, but that seems like a dodgy project for an amateur like me.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 9:02 AM on December 30, 2018

Use your muriatic acid to etch the concrete in the wheelspin zone, then buy some epoxy garage-floor paint, the kind that comes with sand to mix in for traction. Mix the paint and sand and apply it with a roller. You'll probably have enough to paint the entire floor of the garage.

The idea that 2nd gear is more likely to spin the wheels than 1st is completely backwards. In the days when (some) automatic transmissions would let you start off in 2nd, that was the recommended thing to do on ice, since it was less likely to spin the wheels. I also find the notion that turning off traction control might help to be counterintuitive.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 1:18 PM on January 1

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