According to the Department of Transportation, over 70 percent of the nation’s roads are located in snowy regions. Because of this, more than 116,800 people per year are injured in vehicle crashes due to snowy road conditions while millions of dollars are spent to repair damage due to the same. Although some of these figures are a result of driver negligence or poor winter driving habits, it is safe to assume that, at least in some cases, poor vehicle performance is to blame.

Achieving Peak Winter Performance

It’s no secret that some cars are better in the snow than others. Unless you are driving on a solid sheet of ice, some vehicle features lend themselves better to snowy weather operation and can provide the driver with better handling, acceleration and braking. Here is a look at the top four things to look for when seeking out a good snow vehicle.

1. Drive

How much power is sent to each wheel has a large bearing on a car’s ability to navigate through slippery stretches of road. Here is a breakdown of the common drive wheel systems we normally encounter:

  • Rear-wheel-drive. As the name suggests, with a rear-wheel-drive vehicle, the power is channeled to the back two wheels. Though good for speed, these vehicles tend to have more trouble in the snow; this due to the fact their drive wheels are located in a lighter area of the car.
  • Front-wheel-drive. In contrast to rear-wheel-drive, front-wheel-drive has its drive wheels positioned in the front, usually under the engine block. With these types of vehicles, you won’t experience nearly as much, if any, fishtailing and will have better drive and steering control.
  • All-wheel-drive (AWD). In an AWD vehicle, torque is channeled to all four wheels, though not all wheels receive the same amount of power. Depending on the system, an AWD car will usually operate with either rear-wheel or front-wheel bias. These vehicles are great in the snow but are similar to front-wheel-drive vehicles when it comes to cornering and braking.
  • Four-wheel-drive (4X4). Similar in concept to an AWD system, 4X4 vehicles channel torque to all four wheels. The difference is that the amount of power sent to each wheel is uniformly distributed. If you want the safest bet for your winter commutes, choose four-wheel-drive.

2. Tires

The reason cars slip on the road is because of poor traction. When tires aren’t able to properly contact the ground, it can cause a loss of control. However, there are specialized tires that have an optimized tread pattern for low-traction situations. Likewise, they have a greater tread depth for driving in slush or snow. These specialized snow tires can make a big difference in how your vehicle handles in winter conditions. As a leading provider of Utah auto care, we also specialize in tires. If you have additional inquiries about our selection of winter tires and how they perform, visit our Master Muffler website or visit us at one of our tire locations.

3. Weight Distribution

When there is weight on the wheels, it flattens their shape creating more surface area for road contact. Weight also provides more downward pressure on the ground creating additional friction which is very important when driving in slippery conditions. The heaviest part of the car is typically the engine block, and it is beneficial to have the engine block over the drive wheels for optimal handling. If the engine is in the front of a front-wheel-drive vehicle but there is a large amount of weight in the trunk of the car, this can offset the load on the front wheels creating less traction. 

4. Ground Clearance

In most cases, more ground clearance is better when it comes to driving in snowy conditions. Even if you have a 4X4 vehicle with the best tires possible, it won’t matter if you can’t clear the snow on the road. For areas that get a lot of snow, 7-10 inches of ground clearance is a good mark to aim for.

Safety is Paramount

As your auto repair professionals in Utah and Idaho, we care about your safety. In all aspects of what we do from a basic oil change to engine repair, our focus is on providing the most reliable auto care possible. If you are in need of some winter tires or general auto repair or maintenance, come visit us at Master Muffler today.