Driving a truck in the snow is a different experience than driving a car. Trucks are good in the snow but a few factors decide this. In this article, we’ll look at what affects trucks in the snow and which are best in the snow.
Trucks with 4WD and AWD and those with high ground clearance are best in the snow. The addition of winter tires makes for the safest driving experience.
Driving in the snow makes everyone a bit nervous, even if you live in a snowy state. The vehicle you’re driving will determine how well your winter driving goes. Let’s take a look at how a truck performs in the snow.
Type of Driveline – 2WD / 4WD / RWD / AWD
The type of driveline in a truck will be a huge part of how a truck performs in snow and winter weather.
Many trucks are 2WD (2 Wheel Drive) or RWD (Rear Wheel Drive) and although you will be able to drive these trucks in the snow they certainly won’t perform as well as 4WD (4 Wheel Drive) or AWD (All Wheel Drive).
RWD trucks give little or no traction in snow and ice. On acceleration in snow and ice, RWD trucks tend to fishtail, leaving the driver more likely to lose control and crash into another vehicle or object.
4WD trucks are good in deep snow but this option is something that needs to be selected internally in the cab. 4WD adds a lot of weight to the vehicle and this aids in driving in snow.
AWD is the optimum driveline for driving in snow as the vehicle’s computer sends power to all four wheels, or just one if needs be, depending on how the truck’s traction control computer reads tire slip. AWD is automatically activated and generally, it’s not something the driver needs to activate when conditions turn inclement.
Height of a Truck
The height of a truck is also a factor when driving in snow. Most trucks have a clearance of 8” – 11.5”. A car ranges from 4”-6” and an SUV 6”-8”. The bigger the clearance the easier it is to drive in the snow.
Bigger trucks have larger ground clearance such as the RAM 3500 Laramie with a whopping 13.1”.
The underside of your truck won’t encounter the drag associated with heavy snow on the road.
The other benefit of height in a truck is the ability to see more. Visibility in bad weather is very important. To be able to see what’s coming up the road or if there are any obstructions further ahead, such as a collision or snowplow.
Most ground clearance levels are to ensure the best off-road experience but the height sure comes in handy when you’re trying to traverse a snow dump.
The type of tires you have on your truck also plays a huge part in winter driving.
For most drivers, the chances of long-term winter snow are quite low. The further north you go the more snow you get, and the longer it sticks on the ground.
The State of Vermont has the highest average snowfall at 89” per year, followed by Maine at 77” and New Hampshire at 71”. If you live in these northern areas you need to be prepared. The only thing in contact with the road is your tires. It’s better for you as a driver to make the correct tire selection when winter begins.
There are 3 types of WInter Tires
All Season Tires – these tires can combat small falls of snow but won’t offer full traction in heavy snow or ice.
All-Terrain Tires – are more suited for off-roading and although are used by some as winter tires, they aren’t necessarily suited to snow.
Winter / Snow Tires are specially designed with snow traction in mind. They have deeper grooves that can displace snow and slush more easily. This content is owned by moc.sotuaytsur. They are identified by having an Alpine Symbol on them or a snowflake. If you live in a state with a lot of snow, winter tires are an absolute must.
Truck tires are also bigger than average sedan tires and so a larger surface area is in contact with the road. The better the traction, the better your truck will drive in snow or bad weather.
Driving in the Snow
The key to driving in snow is not about take-off or acceleration, it’s about how quickly you can stop in an emergency. The better your tire grip, the quicker this happens.
The slower you are initially driving, the quicker you can come to a complete stop. The recommended speed in heavy snow is 30mph.
The fuel consumption is heavy when driving in snow. You can burn up to 3 times the amount of gas when traveling through heavy snow.
What’s also important is weight distribution when driving in snow. If all your weight is in the cab then the back end will tend to slide around more. To even things out it’s worth considering putting extra weight in the bed. This can be done by buying sandbags or water tanks in your local hardware store. By strapping them down over the axles it will regulate the weight and make for a smoother drive in the snow. It’s important to use items that are not going to become missiles in the event of a crash which is why sandbags are ideal.
Even with the advancement of traction control, trucks are still liable to slide around with uneven weight distribution.
How to Drive a Truck in the Snow
Slow and steady wins the race. Ok, I know we’re not racing in the snow but slow is key. The slower you are traveling the easier it is to come to a stop. Turning and parking are more difficult when snow is involved. Trucks need more space taking corners and so steady driving is needed. No sudden movements.
It’s normal to hold the steering wheel very tightly when we’re under stress. I know this from experience as we moved from Europe to Canada. Learning to drive confidently in the snow was a rude awakening. I had to regularly adjust my grip to get the blood flowing to my fingers again.
The danger is that if you’re in a shunt, the tight grip causes a jerking motion which leads to more damage. A relaxed grip and calm driving are best for all.
Keeping your distance from the vehicles in front of you is very important, in case they brake suddenly. You have to have enough time to react and get your truck to a stop. Trucks are inherently heavier than the average sedan and take longer to come to a complete stop.
If you’re planning to travel in the snow, make sure you have plenty of gas, and some emergency supplies in your car. Some snack bars, fluids, and a candle. The candle will keep you warm if you get stranded on the highway.
Best Truck in the Snow
So which is the best truck to drive in the snow? An AWD mid to full-size truck is the best option for driving in the snow.
The top trucks for the job are the ever-popular Ford F-150, the Chevrolet Silverado, and the Honda Ridgeline.
The Ford has 4WD and one of the highest ground clearance measurements. The highest selling truck in the US, in production since 1975, Ford knows a thing or two about building trucks for all types of weather.
If you live in a state with a lot of snowfall, the 2020 Chevrolet Silverado might be the best truck to choose. It comes with a Plough Prep Package which means you’ll never be stuck anywhere in the snow.
The Honda Ridgeline is AWD and its Variable Torque Management allows you to lock the back of the truck for more control in bad weather.
If you are considering buying a used truck, or any used vehicle, always run a VIN check for Mileage fraud, Salvage rebuild, Title washing, and Vin cloning. There are plenty in the business, it only costs a few dollars but could save you thousands. I’ve used VinAudit (links to VinAudit.com) several times and found them reliable and fast.
Trucks are good in the snow and winter weather but when choosing one go for AWD with good ground clearance and invest in Winter Tires for the safest winter driving experience.
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John Cunningham is an Automotive Technician and writer on Rustyautos.com. He’s been a mechanic for over twenty-five years and has worked for GM, Volvo, Volkswagen, Land Rover, and Jaguar dealerships.
John uses his know-how and experience to write fluff-free articles that help fellow gearheads with all aspects of vehicle ownership, including maintenance, repair, and troubleshooting.