For drivers, a winter wonderland can mean a nightmare of freezing rain, sleet, ice and snow that bravery can only mitigate so much. Of course, the depths of winter are when a majority of travelers hit the interstates in their cars — many of which may possess an aspect of their powertrains that counts snow and ice as a traction-reducing, fishtail-inducing mortal enemy: rear-wheel drive.
Related: Winter Is Coming; Is Your Car Ready?
Luckily, RWD isn’t nearly the winter driving median magnet it used to be thanks to increasingly sophisticated systems like electronic stability control, required on all U.S. cars starting with the 2012 model year. ESC monitors where the driver is pointing the car versus what the car is actually doing and can apply the brakes to any of the wheels to help steer a fishtailing vehicle back on course.
ESC is accompanied by antilock brakes and traction control, which is exclusively intended to prevent wheelspin at the drive wheels. It assists acceleration on low-traction surfaces, like snow and ice, by limiting throttle and braking the drive wheels, which also helps prevent fishtailing and spinouts. Earlier traction-control systems were too conservative and hindered forward movement, but today’s improved systems can read the conditions and allow some wheelspin, or “paddling,” which is more effective in loose snow or slippery ice.
To that end, Cars.com editors have offered their personal tips developed over years of extensive driving experience to help you survive the winter with a RWD car or truck. Here are some protective measures you can take before hitting the road, as well as some tips to better control a RWD vehicle when winter weather strikes.
Add Junk to the Trunk
Adding extra weight to the back and distributing it evenly over the wheels can provide added traction for a RWD car. You can add weight in the back with sandbags, cinder blocks or other heavy objects; it can also be a good excuse to overpack for a winter road trip.