4x4 Snow Driving

Winter is getting a grip of many countries right now, including Great Britain and the snow is falling. Many people that drive 4×4 vehicles will be aware of the pitfalls when driving in snow and ice, however there are people that purchase a 4WD especially for the winter months and may not have experience driving in such conditions.

Driving a 4×4 does not make you invincible, these vehicles can fall foul to ice the same as any other vehicle. Snow covered roads can often hide patches of ice that could cause your vehicle to skid, stopping distances will be longer, vision can be obscured, loss of traction, there is a lot to consider.

The most important thing to consider before anything else during severe weather would be, is the journey necessary? If the journey is unavoidable then these are the main points to take into consideration:


When driving in adverse weather conditions preparation is a key fundamental. Having the right equipment may prove invaluable, even life saving:

Recovery equipment such as ropes, straps, shackles, Hi Lift jack
Traction aids such as waffle boards or sand ladders
Digging tools such as a shovel
Flask of hot tea or coffee, food and water
Warm clothing, even a sleeping bag or warm blanket
Torch, map,GPS device, mobile phone

Before Setting off:

Clean the snow off of your vehicle, wing mirrors, lights, clear all windows and remove snow from the roof, snow slipping down off of the roof or blowing off into other traffic can be hazardous.

Check tyre are treads and depths are all good with an absolute minimum of 3mm, remember more tread will offer better traction.
Make sure you have enough fuel for the journey.
Be sure you know how to work the vehicles heater properly, this includes the cars rear demist.

Driving In Snow:

When driving any vehicle in snow you will need to anticipate other road users actions, as much as your own.
Be aware of oncoming traffic behavior,  you may have to take evasive action if they slide towards you.
Where possible leave a 10 second spacing between you and the vehicle in front, extra space gives you extra time to react and longer stopping distance.
Expect other road users to be unable to stop at junctions, make allowances for this when approaching or crossing junctions.
Keep headlights on dipped beam during daylight, ff visibility drops below a 100m, put your fog lights on.

Driving A 4×4 In Snow:

Keep in mind that 4WD/AWD is will still spin off a road on Ice the same as a regular 2WD vehicle. Once moving (on any slippery stuff) newbie 4WD owners have a tendency to drive faster than they should and possibly not as carefully and slowly due to a false sense of security. All of the above driving tips should be observed at all times, just because you have a 4×4 does not mean you can drive faster than you would in a 2WD car.

All motor vehicles need traction for safe steering – 4WD/AWD does not provide extra traction for steering.
All cars need traction for safe braking – 4WD/AWD does not provide extra traction for braking.

When To Use 4WD:

Four-High (4H)

In high-range four-wheel drive, you can travel at all normal speeds. Engage this setting when you’re on the highway and roads are really wet, snowy or icy. Four wheel High is also good for level, loose-gravel roads, packed sand or mud.

Four-Low (4L)

The low-range four-wheel-drive setting is designed for sand, snow, mud, crossing water, climbing rocks and ascending/descending hills. When you use four-low, keep your speeds low, too (under 40 mph or so), as you’re not actually gripping the road any better but you’re applying more torque to that grip.

Automatic Four-Wheel Drive (Auto 4WD)

This is a modern convenience that allows you to effectively “set it and forget it.” In this setting, the automobile monitors tire traction while in two-wheel drive and automatically shifts into four-wheel drive when one of them begins to slip. Use this setting when roads are variable, such as patchy snow and ice or any other combination of conditions when a tire could slip suddenly.
Keep in Mind

You should never travel in four-wheel drive on flat, smooth, dry roads, as it will damage your drivetrain. Also, remember that four-wheel drive provides more torque and engages all the tires for movement – it doesn’t help you stop. Always travel at speeds that allow you to stop safely, regardless of how well you’re moving forward.

When shifting from two-wheel drive to automatic four-wheel drive or four-high, you can do so “on the fly” – or while traveling at normal speeds. When shifting into and out of four-wheel-drive low, however, you will likely need to come to a stop and wait for the indicator light to stop flashing.

How To Deal With Skidding:

In the event you find yourself skidding on an icy road, the key thing is don’t panic!

Don’t Brake:
When skidding you need full control of your wheels for skid correction, stamping on the brakes takes away this control and makes the slide worse. Even though it feels like the right thing to do, its not, don’t brake! Ease off the accelerator instead.

Turn Into The Slide /Skid:

Turn your front wheels into the skid, so point the wheels the same direction as the rear of the vehicle is sliding. If the rear of the vehicle is sliding to the left, point the front wheels to the left, and vice versa for the right. You will need to have your wits about you and only turn the front wheels enough to start bringing the vehicle back in a straight line. If you go to far, you will need to correct the steering and turn the wheel the opposite way until you regain control.

Don’t Over-correct The Steering:

When steering into a skid, do not oversteer. If you turn to much you could spin the vehicle.




By Quirk

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