How To Drive in the Snow | Winter Driving Tips
The snow can be fun, especially in a 4WD at a remote location. Driving in fresh powder is like driving in a combination of mud and sand, but much colder. At times it can be a fun challenge, and others a terrifying surprise.
For those who live above the 45th parallel snow driving is pretty routine. But unexpected snow flurries can catch even the most seasoned drivers off guard. That’s why it’s important to remember the basics of winter snow driving.
Snow driving rules of thumb:
- Let your best judgement be your guide. If it looks too risky then it probably is.
- Stay informed, watch local weather reports to know the chances of snow and freezing rain.
- Have traction tires or chains at the ready.
- Keep your speed down & leave room for braking.
- Higher gears are for cruising, lower for control.
- Use your traction control if it doesn’t interfere with steering.
- Snow tires, 4×4, AWD, lockers, etc will not guarantee your safety.
- Engage differential locks when slippery.
- Raise your suspension if applicable.
Regardless if there is snow on the ground or not, your vehicle should have these supplies when driving in the winter:
- Traction tires or chains.
- Warm clothes, blanket, or even a sleeping bag depending on the territory.
- Protein bars and water.
- Recovery straps, shovel, ice scraper.
- Winching kit if applicable.
- Extra antifreeze.
These basic supplies are essential to your safety plus those who ride with you. Take it from this California couple who were stranded in the Sierras for a week after a violent storm:
Snow Driving Techniques
- Oversteer vs. Understeer – an oversteer is when the vehicle turns more than is intended by the driver. An understeer is when the vehicle steers less than intended by the driver. Although less dangerous, an understeer can lead in to an oversteer very easily.
- Take it slow – 4×4, AWD, and antilock brakes help, but can’t correct an oversteer.
- Look ahead – don’t get caught up in your immediate surroundings. Watch the road ahead for patches of ice, curves, people and other motorists
- Brake slowly before you enter a curve or turn and allow the natural grip of the vehicle to corner. Braking in cadence (pumping the brakes) also helps. Remember, there’s nothing wrong with taking it slow.
- Categorize your movements into accelerating, braking, and turning. Do only one of these at a time and you should be able to avoid a loss of control.
- Get experience – If opportunity permits, find a remote area to safely familiarize yourself with driving on slick surfaces. If sanctioned, learn how to control a skid in the snow as well.
- Do not turn drastically, steering goes a long way in the snow. If you find yourself in an oversteer resist the urge to slam on the brakes. Turn in to the skid and lightly accelerate. This helps transfer the vehicle’s weight, and will give you more directional control. Rear wheel drive vehicles need to be cautious in accelerating out of an oversteer or they could end up overcorrecting.
- Drive in the ruts - If possible, do not blaze your own trail (unless off-roading of course); follow the path that’s been laid before you. If your tires are wider than the ruts then they’ll most likely “grab” and try to pull you out.
- Uphill - If someone is ahead of you then wait for them to safely make the ascent. If someone is behind you then let them know to wait for you. Use 4WD and traction control if applicable. Use a higher gear than “low”. The higher gear ratio will reduce torque and give more natural traction. Drive straight up, and steer for traction if momentum wanes. Steering for traction is when you make quick 1/4 turns left and right repeatedly until traction is gained. If you fail the ascent then apply the brakes, engage reverse, and back straight down.
Remember, you’re ultimately responsible for the vehicle when at the wheel – so be sure to familiarize yourself with every aspect of your ride. Know how it reacts in inclement weather, and always go prepared in the winter.
What other do you have for winter driving? Comment below -