Winter weather has officially arrived in St. Louis, and while some snowbirds are flying to warmer areas, Wrangler owners in colder climates are getting ready to travel the snowy trails. Even if you have the gear to tackle snow, slush, and ice, it’s important to understand that the “rules” of winter driving still apply.
The fundamental basis for winter driving is to avoid any abrupt turns, stops, and other potentially unsafe maneuvers. Because climates are different across the country, your mileage may vary — but there are a few universal tips that will help you (and your Jeep!) stay safe when the temperature drops.
First things first. You’ll need to take steps to prep your Jeep and winterize it to tackle icy conditions.
- 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 white stuff
- Remember that four-wheel drive won’t help you stop — but skill and practice will
- Pack cat litter and maybe even bring a Jeep friend with a winch to help you get unstuck
Know before you go
How you drive in the snow really depends on what kind of snow (wet, fluffy, etc.) you’ll be driving in and how deep it is. 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 down 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.
Time to stop
There’s one big rule when it comes to stopping your Wrangler 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 — ouch! Double whatever stopping distance you would leave when it’s not winter for safety.
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 Wrangler 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.
Take the wheel and steer
Four-wheel driving (whether on-road or off) will only make steering easier at low speeds; it doesn’t much help if you’re driving your Wrangler at higher speeds. Your vehicle 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 all the way to the right or the left. Keep your Wrangler 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 Wrangler out in the winter weather more often than not, or your vehicle is a daily driver, it’s probably a smart 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 Jeeps 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 go play in the snow!