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Front wheel drive and sand bags

My Chevy Prizm hates slippery roads and unplowed parking areas, so it’s not happy with northwest Pennsylvania’s almost-breaking-the-record snowfall.

This morning, after getting stuck in an unplowed side-of-the-street parking spot, I remembered that hardware stores sell sand bags for car trunks, to add vehicle weight. But I’m wondering if that only helps you get around if you have back wheel drive. Does adding weight to the back of a car help if you have front wheel drive?

I prefer concrete patio blocks (leaves more usable truck space than sand bags), but we use extra weight in the rear in both FWD and RWD cars we own. Try and see if it makes a difference.

Our Corolla/Prizms never seemed to need much extra rear traction, but I can’t remember the largest snowfall that they encountered, either.

The use of sandbags was intended to add weight over the drive wheels so you can get better traction. You have about two-thirds of the car’s weight on the drive (front) wheels already, so there is no point to adding anything.

I would consider weight in the back if the rear of the car proved to unstable, but that does not sound like the problem you are having.

If you are getting stuck on unplowed streets, I think ground clearence is probably a bigger factor than weight.

Do you have winter tires mounted on the Prizm? If not, winter tires might be more helpful than adding weight.

The weight of the engine is already sitting above the drive wheels. If you add weight, it would be more productive to put it on the floor behind the front seats. That way it would contribute to traction in the rear and, to a lesser degree, in the front. Adding weight to the trunk will only help the rear wheels and might even hurt traction in the front if the weight is behind the rear axle.

If you add weight, make sure you secure it. You don’t want it to become a projectile in a collision.

What KIND of tires do you have on the vehicle?

Not only will it NOT help…but it’ll actually make it WORSE. By adding weight to the back it’ll be removing weight from the front.

I suggest you get some snow tires if you need better traction. Although I really don’t think you need them.

The sand is really only helps RWD and AWD/4wd vehicles.

It may be your current tires(likely all-seasons) are not adept at snow or simply too worn to be effective. Any tire below 6/32" tread depth is seriously compromised in winter conditions.

You need winter tires, not sandbags.

Mike and mcparadise have it correct.

By adding sandbags–or any other excess weight–to the rear of a FWD car, you are disturbing the existing weight distribution and will, in effect, give the front wheels LESS traction.

If you find that you do not have sufficient traction in winter conditions, then you need a set of winter tires (the term snow tires is archaic, since winter tires are effective on ice as well as on snow). With winter tires, the improvement in traction for going, for cornering, and for stopping your car is quite literally–amazing.

Thank you to everyone who gave advice. As many of you have guessed I have all-weather tires and not snow tires. I live in an efficiency apartment, so there’s no room to store off-season tires.

To clarify my getting stuck–I had parked on the street in front of the post office, and the three inches of snow was all churned up from the constant in-and-out from people parking there. It was like trying to get traction on three inches of sand that was on top of ice. After the cars behind me were gone I backed up and was then able to pull onto the street.

I haven’t had much trouble in new snow, just where a couple of dozen people have driven over before I got there.

Bingo. Added weight in the rear of a FWD car is of no benefit, and will result in less traction.

If it really is just one patch, you could put some sandbags in the trunk and then when you get to the spot, open up the sandbags and spread the sand over the difficult part. Or see if you can get the maintenance person to put down some deicer there.

Try to find a tire store that will store your unused tires when they are not in season. You should also consider a set of cheap steel rims that can be stored with the tires so they don’t need to be re-mounted every year.

I’m in agreement with those that suggest you look into some better winter tires.

If you’re hanging up on snowbanks a plastic shovel in the trunk might be a wise investment also.

When I was in graduate school I lived in an efficiency apartment . . . and stored my winter snow tires (I used 4 snows) in the corner of the room, got a round piece of fiberboard and put it on top of the tires, threw a tablecloth over it, and put a lamp on it. Reverse for Winter, Summer tires became the corner table. Rocketman