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Do you want to learn how trucks on snow handle? Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro, a good review every now and then to sharpen your skills is always a good thing.
Snow is one of the most dangerous challenges any driver faces on the road. The heavier the vehicle, the more dangerous it is to drive on it, especially if you don’t know how to handle trucks on snow.
This isn’t just applicable for trucks on snow. All types of vehicles suffer in one way or another when there is ice or snow on the road.
Here’s another sad thing, people who buy trucks are made to believe that their vehicle can handle any type of terrain through effective marketing ads. Sure, a big engine and the right type of tires can handle almost anything. What separates the men from the boys is the driver’s driving skills.
You can’t just plow through snow, thinking you won’t get stuck if you have a RWD (rear-wheel drive) pickup truck. The chances of slipping and sliding are far too high. Not only is this dangerous to you, but also to those who share the road with you.
Learning how to control your vehicle is very important.
So here’s a beginner’s guide on how to drive trucks on snow.
Related Article: Truck Vs. Pickup: What’s The Difference?
Don’t Drive In The Snow If You Don’t Have To
Want to know the safest tip to drive on snow? Don’t drive on it if you don’t have to.
Use your best judgment. Is it worth the risk to go out? Can you wait for the snow to thaw out before driving off?
If you’re already driving, consider stopping for a short while and waiting it out if there’s too much snow. There’s no sense in endangering yourself any further if you can barely see the road ahead.
Do you have an emergency kit should things go awry?
Well, if you really want to go, no one can stop you. So it’s best to be prepared if you do decide to drive trucks on snow.
Always Prepare For The Worst
Let’s say you’re dead set on riding out in the snow. No one can stop you from doing that if you really want to drive trucks on snow. The least you could do is prepare for the worst. At least have some of these items in your truck just in case you get stuck, and there’s no help coming immediately.
- 5 gallons of drinking water
- A rechargeable or hand crank radio
- Basic survival kit
- Extra blankets and warm clothing
- Extra batteries for your mobile device
- A Floor Jack
- Insulated sleeping bags
- Photocopies of your important documents (keep the original copies safe)
- Snow tires or tire chains
Now, here are some tips, basic and advanced, to help ensure you won’t need to use that emergency kit.
Stay Focused And Relaxed At All Times
Whether you’re driving trucks on snow or just commuting from point A to point B, the most important thing when you’re behind the wheel is to stay relaxed. This will help you remain calm and focused should anything unexpected happen. Staying calm and focused also helps you react appropriately to all kinds of situations.
Breathe and stay calm. Panic causes people to overreact. You need to focus.
If In Doubt, Slow Down
The best drivers aren’t necessarily the fastest drivers on the road. In fact, those with the common sense to slow down have a higher probability of reaching their destination safely.
There are many reasons why you should slow down. If you’re not confident about your driving skill with trucks on snow, slow down. If you don’t have the right tires, slow down. And if the snow is at least an inch or two thick, slow down. If you’re in doubt, slow down.
You’ll get there eventually.
Smooth, Deliberate Actions Always Work Best In Emergency Situations
There’s one reason why you need to stay relaxed and focused behind the wheel: this will help you drive better in an emergency. When you enter a skid, you need to maintain your composure and drive as smoothly as possible, although everything is going haywire around you.
Inertia will play a huge part when you start sliding, so you need to steer gently with controlled and deliberate actions. You’ll need to maintain a consistent speed and put some distance between you and the car ahead of you. You also need to go easy on your brakes.
Speeding up, braking abruptly, and making sharp turns can make you lose traction leading to a loss of control of the vehicle. That’s not something you want to happen when you drive trucks on snow.
Turn All The Lights On
Turn your lights on. This will help you see better in inclement weather. This will also help others see you when visibility starts dropping down to zero.
If you have modern LED headlights and taillights, stay in the slow lane so you can head for the shoulder anytime you need to. These lights do not generate heat the same way the old lights used to, and snow can build up on the surface. You will need to clean them up every now and then so others can still see you.
Despite that setback, LED lights are brighter and better seen in near-zero visibility conditions.
It’s also best to use your signals at this time. Wait for your signal lights to blink five times before moving to another lane. Since the main objective is to slow down, move to the slow lane, which is the rightmost lane. Let people pass you.
Always Use The Right Set Of Tires
Always use the right set of tires. Here are the best tire combinations for your pickup truck.
Picking the right tires is the best way you can safely drive trucks on snow. Obviously, if you live in dry, arid areas and you tow large loads behind you, an RWD setup is the best. For areas where you experience light to moderate snow, an FWD with snow tires can handle the job. For heavy snowfall, your best bet is an AWD or 4WD with terrain specific tires.
Here’s a breakdown of the best pickup/tire combination for snow conditions:
- City Driving with moderate snow and ice: FWD or RWD with winter tires.
- City Driving with occasional rural driving where heavy snow conditions are present: AWD with snow tires
- Rural driving with unplowed roads and deep snow: 4WD with specialized tires
Having the right set of tires on your truck is the best way to improve handling. Even a seasoned pro can benefit from this, so how much more if you’re a beginner, right? If it’s snowing outside, use snow tires. If it’s summer, use regular tires.
We’ll get into why you should always use the right type of tires in the following sections below.
Different Kinds Of Trucks, Different Kinds Of Reactions
Pickup trucks come in all sorts of drivetrain combinations. You have Rear-wheel drive (RWD), front-wheel drive (FWD), all-wheel drive (AWD), and four-wheel drive (4WD). Each one has its unique pros and cons. One isn’t necessarily better than the other.
Let’s go through each one.
For starters, don’t even think of going out if you own a pickup truck with RWD. Driving RWD trucks on snow is extremely hazardous as these vehicles tend to fishtail on wet or icy surfaces. There’s also a high probability of spinning out or hydroplaning if you drive too fast when there’s snow on the ground.
Rear-Wheel Drive (RWD)
So why do vehicles come with this type of drivetrain if it is dangerous? Well, RWD trucks are built for even weight distribution and optimal handling. The engine delivers power to the rear wheels and pushes the truck forward while the front tires handle the steering. This is well and good when the road is dry.
When it’s wet outside, the wheels can lose traction sending the entire vehicle on an uncontrolled skid.
This can be quite unnerving for novice drivers. It’s best to slow down or pull over if there’s too much snow on the road if you have a RWD truck.
One way to deal with this is to practice driving your RWD truck on snowy roads. Make sure these are roads where not a lot of people use. Equip snow tires for better traction, and if you can, add some weight over the rear wheels. This will essentially push the rear wheels down, giving it more grip on the road.
Slow down when you approach a corner and brake early or continuously pump the brakes. Try to stop earlier than you would to adjust for minimal slippage. Don’t slam on your brakes, as this can lead to more skidding. If you do start skidding, steer into it, and gradually accelerate until you regain control of your vehicle.
Most importantly, stay calm and focused.
Note: RWD trucks are great for towing large loads. You’ll need the best hitches for that. Here’s a related articles on hitches: Best Trailer Hitch Per Class For 2020 and Do All Pickup Trucks Have Hitches?
Front Wheel Drive
If you really want to drive trucks on snow, you’re better off with a Front-wheel drive (FWD) than an RWD. Most cars today have this drive set up, so it should be easy to get one. They’re simpler, easier to maintain, and more economical. That’s also the reason why most Uber vehicles are front-wheel drive.
Related Article: Can Pickup Trucks Drive For Uber?
FWD trucks have the power delivered to the front wheels and is pulling the entire vehicle along.
The FWD setup is simpler and provides greater tactile feedback from the road to the driver. You’ll know when you are slipping, and you can react much faster and adjust your driving accordingly.
FWD trucks on snow actually perform better because all of the weight is situated up front. This makes climbing up hills easier. You’ll also fare better if you have snow tires or all-season tires unless the snow is too deep to provide traction.
The downside to this is that FWD trucks aren’t an optimal choice for high-speed driving and cornering because the wheels doing all the work also have to do the steering. The good thing is that most FWD trucks have ABS and traction control, which makes it the best type of trucks to drive on snowy roads.
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All Wheel Drive (AWD)
Most people believe having an All-wheel-drive (AWD) vehicle is enough to tackle snowy roads, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, the driving experience is almost similar to that of a FWD engine. You’ll still need all-season or snow tires to prevent any slipping and sliding while driving.
AWD refers to the automatic four-wheel-drive system on these vehicles. This system automatically selects two or four-wheeled drive depending on the road conditions present. Unlike a 4WD system, the car does the switching for you 80 to 100% of the time. This also adds 25 to 50% more traction than your regular FWD system equipped truck.
When the system detects slippage, it drives power to each individual wheel to give you better traction. This is extremely helpful when trying to get out of a patch of snow or going through unplowed roads. The AWD system also helps you accelerate better on slick surfaces and turn or brake more efficiently when needed.
All of these things happen without any active participation of the driver. The truck simply understands where power is needed and sends it to the right tires.
The downside to having a truck with AWD is that they cost more than your average vehicle. It is also not designed for off-road use. The absence of a two-speed transfer case and low range gearing makes it virtually useless off the beaten track. Not only that, this significantly adds to the vehicle’s total weight affecting its mileage in the process.
Four Wheel Drive (4WD Or 4X4)
This is the best drive combination if you want to drive trucks on snow. Unlike AWD trucks, you’ll need to activate the 4WD system to use it. For regular driving, you can always deactivate the 4WD and drive in 2WD mode.
When you have the 4WD system turned on, power is sent to all wheels regardless of traction. This will help you get out of sticky situations as there is almost always one or two wheels firmly planted to pull the others out. If your engine has enough power, even just having one tire planted can pull the entire vehicle out.
This is why 4WD systems are found on off-roading vehicles. The difference between 4WD and AWD is the fixed-ratio split that the tires receive when the system is activated. This typically means the front and rear get 50 percent power at a fixed rate.
If you’re planning on driving 4WD trucks on snow, equip appropriate winter or snow tires to help make it easier for your vehicle to plow through. There’s no need to step on the accelerator that much since most 4WD trucks have low gear setting. This will help you move slowly but surely out of the muck.
The downside to owning a 4WD truck is when it is in 2WD mode. The loss of traction can be unnerving. These vehicles aren’t the most economical, either. They’re also not the best vehicles to drive on paved roads because it may have a negative effect on the handling and result in premature wear of the components.
Buy a 4WD if you’re serious about driving trucks on snow and other off-road conditions. They’re perfect for those conditions. Other than that, use a regular FWD vehicle.
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Road Safety Tips When There’s Ice And Snow Present
You’ve already got the basics down. That should help you for the most part when driving trucks on snow. Here are some additional road safety tips that you can use when there are ice and snow present on the road.
Read The Road And Follow Other Vehicles
There’s a reason why you should always keep your eyes on the road. This will help you spot dangers up ahead. Slow down and find clues that will help you determine the best course of action.
Always expect patches of ice or snow on roads that receive less sunlight or warmth. This is usually found on mountain passes and areas where large stands of tall trees block the sun. You can also expect this to happen when the temperature drops drastically within a short amount of time.
But don’t let your guide down once the sun is up. All that melted ice and snow can make the road just as slippery. It’s always best to have the right tires equipped at all times to prevent losing traction when you’re driving over these types of terrain.
You can also use the vehicles ahead of you as a gauge on the terrain. If you see lots of spray, this means the roads are wet, and you should approach with caution. If there’s still some spray, but the road looks wet, this indicates that the moisture is starting to freeze.
The most dangerous road condition is black ice. This is when there is no spray at all. This can be very deceiving as you can barely see it. Take extreme care when black ice is present on the road.
Don’t Stop In The Middle Of The Road When There’s Zero Visibility
Don’t stop in the middle of the road. That’s the last place you want to be whether or not there’s zero visibility. You are posing a huge danger to yourself and others on the road. If you can’t see, turn your lights on and start edging towards the side of the road.
Use your signals to tell other drivers that you’re heading for the rightmost lane by blinking five times before moving per lane. Drive at a slow pace but don’t change your speed drastically. Get off the road and wait until you find a safe area to park your car in so you can wait for the weather condition to change.
Know When To Step And Lift Your Foot Off The Pedals
Cars do three basic things: accelerate, corner, and stop. This may sound simple, but adding snow and ice as a factor makes this a totally complicated procedure.
When driving trucks on snow, it’s extremely important to keep driving in a straight line. To ensure this happens, you need to be deliberate in your actions.
The first step is to ease off on the accelerator pedal. You need to drive slowly to prevent any slipping and sliding. Gradually step on the brakes and maintain your current trajectory. Make small adjustments if you feel any deviation. Make a turn as slowly as possible and wait for your tires to line up properly before stepping on the accelerator again.
Keep a light foot and always accelerate and decelerate gradually.
Let Your Electronic Stability Control System Do Its Job
Most modern trucks have Electronic Stability Control (ESC) Systems, which intervene and correct your vehicle’s path for you. What it does is that it uses the information from the ABS wheel speed sensor, steering angle sensor, yaw sensor, and lateral G sensors and takes over the driving to keep you driving straight.
On your part, all you have to do is ease off on the accelerator, straighten the steering wheel, and trust the vehicle. Pulling the steering wheel to one side will confuse the ESC and delay the correction.
Activate “Snow” Mode
Most trucks today have a “Snow” mode on. This automatically adjusts the power delivery from the engine to the transmission. You’ll find this on most AWD systems, although a select number of newer FWD and RWD trucks have been found with this mode installed.
What “Snow” mode usually does is provide a seamless transition and correction when driving trucks on snow. This removes the time delay between switching the right gear and applying the right amount of torque to help you drive over snow safely.
Install Winter Tires When It Gets Cold Outside
For the most part, we have a predictable weather pattern. So, when the first snowflake starts to fall, it’s time to get those snow tires out of storage and onto your car.
These tires are specifically designed to help them perform in these conditions. You’ll know they’re snow tires because there’ll be a snowflake design on the sidewall. These tires have a tread compound that provides a spongy grip on the road. The tread design will also have edges that bite down onto the road for added grip.
Winter tires tend to have a narrower profile so that all of the vehicle’s weight is concentrated on a smaller footprint. This makes it easier to drive trucks on snow because of the added traction it affords. Add ABS and AWD, and you have a truck that will perform marvelously on ice or snow.
Sounds like the perfect set of tires, right? Think again!
Don’t even think about installing your snow tires on all year. You’ll waste a lot of fuel when you do that. Snow tires provide a lot of traction when there’s snow on the road. Imagine what that would feel like when there’s none of it present on the pavement. It’ll be like driving on flypaper.
You’ll wear those winter tires out quickly, so get your regular tires out when it gets warmer outside.
Why not all-season tires instead? All-season tires aren’t really that effective when there’s a lot of snow on the road.
Snow Too Deep? Toughen Your Tires Up With A Set Of Chains
Winter tires can only do so much. When the snow gets too deep, you’ll be glad you have tire chains to fall back on. The only downside to tire chains is how inconvenient it is to install them onto your tires. It’s a good thing you’ll only need to get them out when it gets too tough to get out of a sticky situation.
If you see people spinning their tires on mud or snow, find a shoulder to park in, get the jacks out, and install those chains.
But don’t just get any regular set of chains. Get tire chains with an “X’ or “Z” pattern so you won’t end up sliding all over the place.
Keep Your Fuel Levels Up
You’ll expend a lot of fuel when you drive trucks on snow. This means you’ll need all the fuel you can put in your tank to ensure you have enough should an emergency situation come up. You don’t want to end up in the middle of nowhere without a drop of fuel in your tank.
But should this happen to you, call Triple A immediately and sit tight. You’re more likely to end up in trouble if you decide to hike through the snow. Stay in your vehicle and try to keep yourself warm. You have those extra warm blankets and clothes in your emergency kit, right?
Should you get stuck and still have fuel, you can put your truck on idle and turn the heater. You can keep yourself warm the entire night with half a tank of fuel. Obviously, with more fuel in the tank, you’ll stay warmer longer.
Understand Oversteer And Understeer And Learn How To Control It
Oversteer occurs when your vehicle turns more than necessary, while understeer is when it turns less than you need it to go. This happens when you lose traction. Understeer normally occurs when your front tires lose traction first.
Jerking the steering wheel in either direction is what normally causes oversteer.
Trying to regain control when this happens can seem like a very long time. What you need to do is regain control of your tires by providing traction on the road. Once you’ve achieved a semblance of grip, point your tires where you want to go. At first, this might seem counter-intuitive, but this will correct the issue.
Stay calm and focused, and you’ll be able to get full control of your truck back.
Preventive Maintenance Increases Safety
How much does preventive maintenance cost, and why do you need it? This varies if you have a gas or diesel truck and what drivetrain it has. The thing is, you will need to spend some money to keep your truck running at optimal conditions.
And you will need it to operate in tip-top condition if you ever plan to drive trucks on snow. You’ll need antifreeze to keep your truck operating in the cold. While you’ve got the hood open, check your brake fluid levels. Make sure you top it up so you can stop your vehicle when you need it to.
The cold can also severely affect your ability to start and stop your truck. If this happens, your engine may be too cold. You may need to warm up before driving off. You may also want to check your battery’s condition to see if it’s still working properly. If not, replace it. Here’s a list of batteries that you can choose to replace your current one: The Ultimate Car Battery Replacement Guide Shootout
In rare cases, Sudden Unintended Acceleration (SUA) has been reported to happen, so you’ll need to have that checked.
Don’t Tailgate And Always Keep Your Distance
There’s a rule on the road to keep your distance from the cars ahead and behind you. One car length is enough to keep everyone safe. But this is for driving on dry roads.
You will need to increase that distance to two or three car lengths on wet roads to give you an allowance should you enter into a skid. Test your brakes at regular intervals to ensure you can stop on time and within a safe distance from all the other cars on the road.
You’ll need to increase that distance further when there’s ice or snow on the road. This isn’t just for your safety but for others as well. Should someone start sliding behind you, you have enough tie and distance to veer off to the side to avoid collision.
Having these options is extremely important, especially if there’s a larger vehicle behind you. Your best option when this happens is to move to the slow side and allow the larger vehicle to pass you. You can then drive behind them once there’s enough safe distance between you and the other vehicle.
Related Article: Why Do Pickup Truck Drivers Tailgate?
Be Familiar With Your Truck’s Inner Workings
It’s crucial to know the ins and outs of your vehicle if you’re planning on driving trucks on snow. You need to have a good idea just how long and wide your entire truck is. You’ll also need to know just how much ground clearance you have before the snow hits the bottom of your chassis.
You also need to know your vehicle’s height as the added snow could make low lying branches hit your pickup’s roof. Your Gross Vehicular Weight (GVW or GVWR) is just as important as you’ll know if the snow or ice can handle your vehicle’s heft as you traverse upon it.
Knowing the exact dimensions of your vehicle will give you a better understanding of how much space you can put between you and the cars in front and behind you.
Here’s a related article to help you determine your vehicle’s dimensions: The Essential SUV Dimensions You Need To Know
Having a dash cam system to help you record everything in front and behind you is also a good way to ensure you never hit anything accidentally. Here’s an article about dashcam systems that you can install on your truck for added safety: The 12 Best Dash Cam Systems For Your Car Today
Always Test For Traction
The best drivers know how to “listen” to their vehicles. This is extremely important if you drive trucks on snow. Your truck is constantly going to give you feedback. You will need to take note of these changing conditions as they happen and respond in a timely and appropriate manner.
If your truck pulls to one side when you apply the brakes, you’re probably stepping on the pedal too hard. Ease off to have better control of the situation. This will definitely tell you there are ice and snow on the road.
If your ABS kicks in, you’re in a low-grip situation. It’s time to drastically reduce your speed and let your AWD and traction system take over. Move over to the slow lane. It will also help if you have snow tires on. If the snow gets any deeper, consider installing your tire chains.
If All Else Fails, Get A Winch
If you live in a rural area where heavy snow is expected, installing a winch onto your truck is one good way to get out of a sticky situation. There are different types of winches that fit all types of trucks.
To use a winch effectively, you will need to know your truck’s weight and its engine’s power output. You will also need to ensure you know the winch’s maximum output. You can practice using your winch so that you’ll know what to do and how to do it properly when an emergency comes up.
Winches can be used not only for snow but also for mud and sand situations where your vehicle gets stuck. All you need is to find an anchor point that’s strong enough to handle your vehicle’s weight and the pressure exerted on it. Using your winch properly should get you out of most emergencies.
Here’s a related article on how to use your winch properly: How To Get A Truck Unstuck With These Winches
Can You Drive The Tesla Cybertruck On Snow?
Tesla’s Cybertruck is about to be released in 2021. This is for the single-motor RWD variant. Come 2022, Tesla will release the dual-motor all-wheel drive and tri-motor drive variants. The question is: will you be able to drive these amazing trucks on snow?
With everything the company claims their amazing truck will be able to, will the snow prove to be its bane? Well, Tesla claims their Cybertruck will be able to handle anything and everything you can throw at it. Equipping snow tires on the Cybertruck should help it traverse icy or snowy patches with ease.
Get to know the Tesla Cybertruck better with these related articles:
- The Outrageous Tesla Cybertruck: Not Your Average Pickup
- Tesla Cybertruck: Is It Worth The Price?
- Internet Reacts To Tesla Cybertruck Design: Find Out Why
- 3 Reasons Why The Tesla Cybertruck Is Practical
- Tesla Cybertruck Success: The Top Things Tesla Can Do To Make It Happen
- Demo Goes Wrong: Tesla Cybertruck Shatterproof Window Shatters
- The Crazy Tesla Cybertruck: Detailing the Interior, Exterior, and Price
- An In Depth Look At The Tesla Cybertruck: The Potential Pros And Cons
- New Tesla Cybertruck: The Reinvented Pickup Truck
- Tesla Cybertruck May Be The Game-Changer For The Truck Industry
- Unveiling The Tesla Cybertruck: What You Need to Know
Tesla is slated to release half a million units through the pre-orders made this year, so we’re bound to see many of these amazing trucks drive on snow when the cold season rolls in.
When it comes to driving trucks on snow, only do so if you need to. Use your best judgment and make the right decision.
It’s best to be prepared when driving trucks on snow. You should equip snow tires and practice whenever you can to ensure safety if you encounter these road conditions.
And yes, you can drive trucks on snow, but utmost care should be taken at all times for your safety and for the safety of others.
My Phone’s Out, And I’m Stuck. What Do I Do Now?
This is where truck antennas and CB radios come in handy. Truck antennas can extend your range to reach other vehicles on the road. So, as long as you have power, you should be able to send out messages over the CB radio. If you still have enough juice in your truck’s battery, charge your phone. It never hurts to have options.
Here’s a related article on truck antennas and CB radios: Why Do Truck Antennas Still Exist?
Should I Use The Same Techniques On The Sand As On Snow?
You can drive trucks on snow in almost the same manner as you would on sand. The only difference is there is no limiting factor related to cold. Driving on sand does present a new set of challenges, though, as sand can get into everything. You’ll need to protect your engine from this.
Here’s how you can do that: Can You Drive An SUV On The Beach?
Can You Drive A Truck Without A Muffler?
Yes. But the lack of a muffler will severely hamper your truck’s power output. You’ll also be blowing out a lot of smoke and creating a lot of noise without a muffler. You’ll need a complete exhaust system to make your truck run effectively whether you drive your trucks on snow or on paved roads.
Here’s a related article for that: Can You Drive A Truck Without A Muffler?