Is four-wheel drive better for icy roads?
Yes, all wheel and four-wheel drive are better in ice and snow.
Jiffy Lube, National Safety Council. AAA Mid-Atlantic
Our Verify team is here to answer your questions, and sometimes, we can even help you get home safe.
We're Verifying, when the roads are slick with ice, do you need to kick into four-wheel drive? First - let's look at the wheel systems.
Front wheel drive and back wheel drive work just like how they sound. The power from the engine goes to those wheels only. That is--unless you have the manual option to kick that car into four-wheel drive. That's an all-terrain-mode.
Other cars are all-wheel drive, meaning the car itself senses the conditions on the road and figures out where to put the power.
James Spires District Director with AAA-Mid-Atlantic said, "If you have to be out, the best car to drive would either be a four-wheel drive or an all-wheel drive. Front wheel drive does give you a little bit better control than the rear wheel because of the weights on top of the driving wheels. But if you're going to be out all-wheel and four-wheel are the best way to go.”
Jiffy Lube and the National Safety Council agreed so we can Verify - All wheel and four-wheel drive are better to get you going on the ice and snow. But the National Safety Council warns people not to get overconfident.
Scott Cudini with Jiffy Lube International elaborated:
“Of the 4 driveline configurations mentioned rear wheel drive, front wheel drive, all-wheel drive, four-wheel drive...RWD is generally considered the worst performer on snow and ice due to vehicle weight. More specifically, the distribution of vehicle weight between the front and rear wheels. For the vast majority of light-duty vehicles, the weight bias is over the front wheels, providing FWD a higher degree of traction and superior snow/ice performance. Conversely, RWD vehicles, with an empty trunk and/or cargo area over the rear wheels lack traction benefit weight provides. The result can be a high degree of wheel spin. Now, modern electronics such as traction- or stability-control as well as improved tire technologies are can mitigate traction issues, but they are nevertheless inherent to RWD.”
Every car, no matter how it's designed, all have the same kind of brakes, and on the ice, that means you're going to slide.