Winter Driving in Your 4X4

Although the leaves are just now turning colors and starting to fall off the trees here in St. Louis, winter will be here before you know it. Even with a hearty 4X4 vehicle equipped with mods and upgrades to make winter driving safer, it’s essential to understand how to handle driving in winter weather.

If you remember anything about winter driving, remember this: avoid any abrupt turns, stops, and other potentially unsafe maneuvers. Below are some fundamentals on how to stay safe when the Missouri winter weather starts moving in.

  • Choose narrow tires for lower snowfall levels, and higher flotation tires for higher snow
  • Lock in your hubs (if you have them) before heading out into the snow
  • Remember that four-wheel drive won’t help you stop — but skill and practice will
  • Pack cat litter and maybe even bring a friend with a winch to help you get unstuck

Check the Weather

Get acquainted with your favorite weather app — you’ll need it to know what kind of snow you’ll be encountering behind the wheel of your 4X4. Shallow snow will be forgiving, but ice-glazed deeper snow means you’ll have to be a bit more careful and avoid sudden movements. When accelerating, wheel speed is the name of the game here; too high and snow will freeze in your tire, and too slow means you’ll sink into the snow.

If you’re driving on pavement, big tires will help get you off to a start from a stop without too much of an issue. Be especially careful if there’s ice on the road under the snow, especially when accelerating. Off-road snow requires a bit more finesse; treat it like mud or sand and accelerate smoothly, feathering the clutch. This can help you avoid digging down into the snow.

Stopping Is Key

There’s one significant rule when it comes to stopping your 4X4 vehicle in the snow: Give yourself more room than you need. Many cars on the road have ABS systems, which means they will stop better and faster than you, and in nature, trees (for example) aren’t going to move much when you hit them. Double whatever stopping distance you would typically leave.

When you’re on-road, ice will present more of an issue than snow. It doesn’t matter if you can see it or it’s a patch of black ice, all of it is pretty dangerous. Off-road driving in snow is a bit more forgiving when it comes time for a full stop. Locking up the brakes on your 4X4 is fine as long as you’re giving yourself enough time and distance to avoid hitting anything. If you do happen to hit ice, don’t slam the brakes! While it may feel like the easiest and fastest way to stop, pumping the brakes is much more efficient and safer.

Concentrate on Steering

Your 4X4 is top-heavy and has a short wheelbase, and this higher center of gravity could increase the chance of tipping or rolling over during a sharp turn. Deep snow can make it difficult to turn your tires on the pavement, even if your wheel is cranked to the right or the left. Keep your 4×4 in four-wheel drive on the icy roads to steer where you’re headed and keep from spinning out. On trails, stay in ready-made tracks, keep your speed down, and keep it in four-wheel drive. 

If you’re planning on taking your 4X4 out in the winter weather more often than not, or your vehicle is a daily driver, it’s probably a bright idea to invest in a set of winter tires. Our team can certainly help with that! One thing we know from our years in business is that every client is different. How you choose to drive your vehicle is different from the next person.

We love 4X4s and winter off-roading as much as you do! Get in touch with us now before winter weather hits and you’re stuck without the custom gear you need to play in the snow!