How Does a Front Wheel Drive Perform in the Snow?

by Jennifer Gigantino
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snow road image by Aleksandr Ugorenkov from

With the best of cars, driving in snowy or icy conditions can be dangerous. Vehicles with front-wheel drive offer superior control in the snow to those with rear-wheel drive, but only when they are driven properly.

Weight Distribution

In general -- but especially in slippery conditions -- a vehicle is easier to control when the wheels doing the driving have most of the vehicle's weight on them. This means that front-wheel drive vehicles are better performers in the snow because the engine is on top of the controlled wheels.

Steering Technique

When a front-wheel drive vehicle begins to lose traction in a snowdrift, it can be regained again by simultaneously steering, varying the engine throttle and applying the brakes. This keeps the non-steerable rear end of the vehicle in control while pointing the front end where you want it. Varying the throttle allows you to find the best speed to climb out of the drift.

Dealing With Skids

Rather than following the conventional rear-wheel drive wisdom of letting off the gas completely and steering into the skid, the driver of a front-wheel drive vehicle should apply both gas and brake if he finds himself skidding on an icy road. Steering into the skid is still the best next step.

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