Driving in Winter with Rear-Wheel-Drive: A Short Guide


The winter season is always a tough time for drivers. They have to deal with the cold and usually have snow and/or ice with which to deal. It’s a challenging time, but even more so if you own a truck or other rear-wheel-drive vehicle. Along with such, many drivers spend more time on the road during winter because they’re going to holiday festivities.

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Newer vehicles with RWD may not have as many issues during winter because they have more sophisticated traction control systems and electronic stability control. It’s required on all US-based cars and trucks 2012 and newer. ESC is designed to monitor where you point the car instead of what the car is doing. It can apply the brakes to any wheel necessary to steer your vehicle if it starts to fishtail, getting it back on course.

Traction control is designed to prevent wheel spin for the drive wheels. It helps with acceleration on surfaces with low traction, such as ice or snow. It works by limiting the braking and throttle to the drive wheels, preventing spinouts and fishtailing, as well. Traction control systems of the past were conservative, which hindered necessary forward movement, but newer systems are improved to read the conditions of the road and allow for some wheel-spin, which helps you get going in icy or snowy conditions.

Appropriate Driving

While the newer systems can help you get going and stop you sufficiently, appropriate driving practices are still necessary to get through the winter.

RWD vehicles aren’t unusable, and all vehicles were once RWD. People survived back then, and you can survive now. It just means focusing a little more on driving, being careful, and knowing a few tricks.

Many drivers have claimed that it is easier to drive an RWD vehicle when you put more weight in the back of it, such as cinder blocks or sand. It’s also helpful to start in higher gears, which avoids wheel spin and don’t stomp on the gas pedal; give it a little bit of gas and let the vehicle get its bearings first.

Most drivers travel in the death grip scenario, which is where they grip the wheel excessively tight because they’re nervous or scared. However, if you hold the wheel tightly and start fishtailing, an instant of panic can make you jerk the wheel and spin the car in a different direction.

Another tip is to get used to how your car or truck feels. If you feel the tail end getting a little loose or slipping, take your foot off the gas immediately and start counter-steering slowly. It’s best to avoid the brake pedal during this scenario if possible. Get back in control of the vehicle and brake when you’re in a straight line once more.

The best advice during inclement weather is to drive more slowly, give yourself plenty of time to reach your destination, and don’t follow another vehicle too closely. Another helpful tip is to feather the gas and brakes. That means never stomp down on any pedal and apply pressure gently. If you’re not following anyone too closely (and you shouldn’t), you have plenty of time to stop and avoid a spinout.

Use Downshift Gears

Most people don’t know much about the number two and one on the gearshift of automatics, but they’re there for inclement weather. From a dead stop (such as at a stoplight), shift into gear two or one to prevent wheel spin and get yourself going. Just make sure to shift into overdrive or drive again once you are at an appropriate speed (between 25 and 40 miles per hour).

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Driving in Winter with Rear-Wheel-Drive: A Short Guide

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