Front Wheel vs. Snow!

Mike…you remind me of teaching my kids to drive in slippery conditions. They both had the exact same accident experience with the same hand me down car. While slowing down in coming to a stop, on snow over ice they were both rear ended, one by another young car driver behind them. We had to remind each that not all the other drivers out there drove cars with studded snow tires like they did.

Front wheel drive is better in my experience, for traction and control. That being said I made it through 30 plus years with rear wheel drive just fine. As for the fun factor, yes doing doughnuts is more fun in a rear wheel drive. WI MN IL And ND, (the snow when I lived in Miami does not count!)

“They learned to SLOW down.”

It amazes me how many people of all driving ages in all types of vehicles don’t get this, in rain as well as snow.

A lot of good advice. I will add or emphasize a few points.

Most important is the driver. While this or that car may be better or worse, my money is on the car with the best driver.

Don't forget - Turn Into the skid.  The fist step is to regain control in a skid, until you get control of the car, nothing else much matters. Practice in a safe spot (large, empty parking lots) !  

Best tyres on the back.  Remember again it is not the ability to go, but the ability to control where you are going and the ability to stop that counts.  

Be smart! If you can't control your car under the conditions, just don't drive.

Of all my friends and acquaintances, the problem SUVs that found themselves off the road were those with part time 4wd that the inexperienced driver could not engage on dry pavement and suddenly hit a patch of snow or ice. The rwd on these things caused them loose control and an accident ensued. Awd and part time 4wd should not all be painted with the same brush…This is a big reason I would have trouble recommending vehicles like Suzuki Vitara and Jeep Libertys…they are accidents waiting to happen for the inexperienced.

Learning how to drive in a 1990 Dodge W250 pickup truck was a challenge lol…When I went to take my driving test to get my license the lady wanted me to parallel park and I looked at her like she was nuts…I was like “You want me to parallel park this thing?” and she was like “Yes!” So I attempted to parallel park the old dodge and I didn’t hit any cars but I parked half on the street and half on the sidewalk…yeah…the lady was really impressed :-//


I had a 67 Bug with the big 53hp engine. Nothing could touch it from 0-15mph. It was the best snow car I ever drove. With a flat bottom and skinny 15" snow tires it was good in deep snow and for skipping across ponds (but that’s another story). If it couldn’t get through deep snow it could go over it.

Ed B.

When I worked for the government and had to drive around the desert I found the full-sized 1993 Ford Broncos (think OJ Simpson getaway vehicle) handled the best on gravel, snow, and sand. They were somewhat compact but had a lot of power. I was sad to see that Ford discontinued making them. They were great for off road driving. I think they were replaced by the Expeditions?

It wasn’t sad for Ford. These rollover kings were beginning to cost them plenty in sales. The Bronco gave way to the explorer which is less capable for that use but has safer handling for high speed on road use. That segment was picked up by extended cab pick ups by all manufacturers. The Expedition is much bigger and more Carlike then you think and a really poor off road vehicle…but great for heavy loads and cruising with a camper in tow.

“has safer handling for high speed on road use”

So THAT’S why OJ went on the low speed chase!

The last thing OJ wanted was to hurt himself…

FWD is better until the skill level of the driver reaches a certain point, where RWD becomes better. RWD allows you to steer with the throttle, which can be helpful when the steer wheels lose grip. But if someone doesn’t know how to steer with the throttle, and even worse doesn’t even know that you CAN steer with the throttle, RWD can get them in trouble because the throttle will steer the car when they don’t expect it, and they end up spinning.

To give a scenario where RWD is helpful, picture going around a curve when you start to slide toward the outside. In FWD, you take your foot off the gas and hope the car slows down enough to restore some grip to the front wheels so that you can steer around the corner. If it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen, you can pull the emergency brake to lock the rear wheel(s) and force a slide, which won’t win you any points with the cops but results in greater stopping friction. This sometimes works, and sometimes doesn’t, depending on various variables such as how slippery the snow is, how good the rear tires are, and how effective the e-brake is.

By contract, get into the same situation with a RWD car, and when it starts sliding toward the outside of the curve, give the throttle a smooth little blip and the car rotates around, and you’re through the corner. If you’re sliding really badly, you rotate it so that the car is pointed at the inside of the curve and give it gas while opposite-steering (this is kind of hard to explain in text, so just watch this: )

Basically, if you’re turning left and you start to slide, turn the wheel to the right. Turning right and you slide, turn the car to the left

It’s really nothing you have to think much about. It is instinctive after driving on slippery surfaces, which way to turn. After that, practice and more practice and let the old central nervous system catch up. If you’re thinking, you’re too late.

“So which is better? RWD or Front wheel drive or is it just a matter of your driving skill?”

Why did you leave out AWD?

I would suggest that what is best depends greatly on your driving skills, driving conditions, what car it is on, and personal preference and experience.

BTW Remember that being able to get out of the drive way is not nearly as important as being able to avoid an injury accident. Always remember that getting on the road and moving from place to place is not nearly as important as being able to avoid accidents.

Ford learned their lessons well. If an accident can happen, it will! I did a project in Washington state and was assigned an Explorer as my job car. It had a separate book in the glove box on “HOW TO DRIVE AN SUV”. It went into great lengths as to what not to do, and to drive moderately.

From a potential lawsuit point of view this was Fords CYA response.

Which cars are safer ? Fwd, rwd etc. There really is no answer as to which is safer…a fwd,rwd or awd as each appears on different vehicles for different purposes. A fwd car is definitely safer in normal travel then a rwd pick up. But, a rwd police cruiser or ambulance definitely is safer to ride in if handled correctly then a fwd compact car. Busses are considered one of the safest modes of transportation there is…yet; they are all rwd and top heavy. Go figure. It’s a winnerless debate.

I guess if we match the vehicle to the driver’s skill, it might matter. But then at least 10% of the drivers out there may have no vehicle they could drive. That would make highways safer for everyone.

One of the best cars I ever drove in snow was a '61 Fairlane with the little 6 cyl. engine & a ton of miles. Heavy as a tank and little torque, paired with a good set of snow tires got me through some wicked South Dakota winters like a champ. It wasn’t pretty but it got me where I needed to go when most were getting stuck!

I’ve never driven an AWD vehicle…For me its either been RWD, FWD, and 4WD. As for Broncos rolling over? How would someone do that? I drove them off-road when I worked for the government, never once came close to flipping them over. Maybe I’m just more cautious than some people?

At low speed, the Broncos of old were credible off roaders. But, in the attempt to give them a decent ride, the softer suspension could make them flip very easily at highway speeds with sudden changes of direction. I used to ref with a friend who sold Fords. The day after we worked a game together, he called to tell me he flipped the new demo Bronco he was driving after dropping me off. He was driving 35 mph and swerved to keep from hitting an animal. He vowed he would never take one home again and told the sales manager he could not in all good conscience sell one again without warning interested parties. Needless to say, he lost sales to others but he slept better, according to him.