Handling a rear wheel drive in snow nowadays is so much easier than it used to be. Read my top tips on driving methods, common mistakes, and avoid accidents.
I share some of my knowledge and experience gained throughout my driving life, along with tips for driving a rear wheel drive vehicle in snow. I take you through some of the common mistakes people make while driving in snow and ice conditions and how to avoid them.
Contents (Jump to Topic)
What Is Rear Wheel Drive?
Simply put, rear wheel drive vehicles have the drive wheels at the rear, opposed to front wheel drive being at the front. I know, obvious, but I did say simply put.
You will often see vehicle descriptions abbreviated to initials, i.e rear wheel drive RWD, front wheel drive FWD and all-wheel drive AWD or 4×4. But, even though abbreviated each still informs you which wheels receive the power.
Is It Harder To Drive Rear Wheel Drive Cars In Snow?
Driving rear wheel drive vehicles in winter conditions, although greatly improved, can still be a bit of a nightmare. This is especially true for inexperienced drivers that have yet to drive on slippery roads, but that’s why you here, right? so I’ll get on with it.
Front Wheel Drive Vs. Rear Wheel Drive In Snow
Let’s make a quick comparison of the two different vehicles.
Front Wheel Drive
In a FWD car the engine, about 65% of the weight of the car, is actually over the drive wheels. Consequently, this results in better handling. In fact, a FWD is more likely to understeer making it less likely that you lose control.
Rear Wheel Drive
In contrast to the FWD, with a rear wheel drive car, you lack the weight over the drive wheels. When the rear wheels lose traction oversteer can happen, meaning the car can tend to fishtail, spin out, or even hydroplane as the back slides out.
What Is Understeer and Oversteer?
Understeering occurs when the front wheels lose grip and stay going straight even when the steering is turned.
Correct by taking your foot from the gas, at which time the tires should regain some grip. If you do not manage to regain control, put on your hazard lights and try to gently roll to a stop on the side of the road.
Oversteer is when the rear end of the car tries to overtake the front, in other words, you are going into a spin.
To stop or correct oversteer, you need to decrease acceleration, but DO NOT touch the brake. If possible, steer into the skid, easier said than done but it will help to pull the car straight. If you do not feel confident steering into the slide, do nothing with the steering until you feel you have control back.
Here’s a great video that will show you exactly what I am explaining.
How To Drive A Rear Wheel Drive In Snow
Here are some practical solutions for safer winter driving, not just for rear-wheel drive vehicle owners. FWD and all-wheel drive owners should also follow these guidelines.
Change to winter tires, summer tires just won’t do, which is why winter tires are mandatory in certain states. Don’t wait until the first snowfall, put them on as soon as the weather conditions change.
Snow chains are an excellent way to achieve better grip and you should always carry them in your trunk. Practice putting them on and taking them off in your driveway, so you’re not stumped by the side of the road when you need them.
Traction Control & Electronic Stability Control systems
Put simply, traction control sensors know the speed of the vehicle and the speed of the main wheels. If the wheel starts going faster than the car you have wheel spin occurring. At which time one or both systems will kick in, lightly breaking or lowering the acceleration.
Don’t worry, apart from a warning light coming on, you will barely notice it, amazing stuff this modern technology.
Putting Weight In The Back
Since weight distribution is one of the main issues in rear wheel drives, adding weights like bags of sand or cinderblocks in the back will help. Please note, you should not do this for FWD or all-wheel drive cars.
Police Safety Tips For Handling A RWD In Snow
Here’s what the experts recommend when driving vehicles on winter roads.
Reduce Your Speed
Driving slower gives you more traction, more control, and more importantly, more driver reaction time.
Be Gentle On The Gas
Accelerate slowly this way you will be able to feel how the car is responding, or not as the case may be.
On slippery roads, vehicles need a longer distance to come to a full stop. Braking earlier and softer will help avoid and sudden loss of control.
Increase Your Distance
Never go bumper to bumper, keep your distance. you should be at least 8 seconds behind the vehicle in front of you.
Relax And Stay Calm
Don’t panic, you think more clearly and react faster.
Take Lessons Or Practice
Practice driving in snowy and icy conditions either with a driving school or somewhere safe.
Start in 2nd Gear
It’s counterintuitive but starting on a roll in second gear reduces your chances of spinning.
When you feel your truck lose traction, fight your instincts to pound the brakes and clamp the steering wheel – that’s what causes a tailspin.
Wrapping Things Up & Conclusion
Yes, you could say that RWD vehicles may not be quite as good as FWD models for driving in snow. But with modern technology, practice, and experience they can be a safe car to drive through the winter months.
Other Commonly Asked Questions
I hope that you have found my advice helpful and that you have a safe and accident-free winter. I’ll round things up by answering a few questions that people ask me the most.
Are RWD cars good in snow?
Unlike their predecessors, modern rear wheel drives are now reasonably good in snow and for winter driving. This is due to advances in technology with traction control and the like.
How do you drive a rear wheel drive in snow?
Here are some simple rules to follow when asking how do you drive a rear wheel drive in the snow.
- Reduce Your Speed
- Accelerate Slowly
- Brake Early
- Increase Your Distance
- Relax And Stay Calm
Is RWD or FWD better in snow?
When comparing RWD and FWD for which is better in snow, I have to say FWD is the better. Mainly because the RWD can tend to lose the back end quite easily when driven badly.
What wheel drive is best for snow?
An all-wheel-drive or 4×4 car performs best in snow. But in an urban/suburban area, FWD cars with winter tires and snow chains are fine.