How to Drive in Snow With an AWD

by Vanessa Padgalskas

AWD, all wheel drive, is the same as 4WD, four wheel drive, meaning all four wheels have power rather than just two wheels. In the snow, AWD is helpful especially when starting from a stop. AWD helps the car gain traction, but does not help at high speeds, on ice, or when braking.

Assess the driving conditions. AWD helps in the snow, but it does not help on ice. If the roads are icy, you need to drive with added precautions.

Accelerate slowly. If you feel the tires slip because there is ice, continue to drive slowly until you feel the tires gain traction. Even if you have traction, drive no more than 30 to 40 miles per hour in icy conditions on the freeway and even slower on side roads. If your vehicle starts to slide, do not overcorrect the steering wheel. This will only make the problem worse.

Be cautious when driving at high speeds. AWD will help the car stay straight when driving in snowy conditions, but it does not work as well at high speeds.

Avoid sudden stops. Anticipate stops as far in advance as possible so you do not have to slam on the breaks. AWD does not help the vehicle stop, so you must be cautious to avoid skidding and sliding when trying to stop. Let up on the gas in anticipation of a stop to slow the car down. Pump the brakes to stop or keep the brake pedal down to activate the anti-lock break system, ABS, if your vehicle has it.

Be aware of other drivers. Other drivers may not know how to drive in the snow and their vehicles may not have AWD causing them to slide more. Even though your AWD vehicle is well equipped for driving in the snow, you have to drive defensively to avoid getting hit by another vehicle.

About the Author

Vanessa Padgalskas was born and raised in Spokane, Wash., and currently resides in Portland, Ore. Padgalskas graduated from American University in 2007 with degrees in international studies and economics. She holds a law degree from Lewis and Clark Law School.