Piston Slap: Sanjeev Gets a Grip on Snow Tires?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta

Sanjeev writes:

Hello Sajeev, I am Sanjeev.

I moved to Michigan last year and have been driving a used 2006 Corolla. I can definitely afford a better car, but this one is serving me good. Agreed that it doesn’t have all the needed electronics and sex appeal; I am not swayed by that. The recent snow (about six inches) in Detroit area made me think of buying a car with needed ESC, ABS for better handling and driving. I have heard, read a lot about FWD and AWD cars and their handling on snowy roads but haven’t fully comprehended RWD cars on a snowy road.

Many online articles generally suggest that RWD is a bad idea during winter. Still, I see many of many colleagues driving RWD 300s, Durangos, and CTSes. Is RWD better or not on snowy roads?

Sajeev answers:

WELL HELLO SANJEEV: we meet after your years of convincing TTAC’s Best and Brightest ( here, here, here, here, here, here) that you run this show. Now everyone knows you do NOT, therefore they’ll stop asking for your help.

Sanjeev, remember that most modern cars are similarly set up in terms of handling: especially relevant on plowed roads, as the benefits of FWD or AWD drop off precipitously. Most suspension (springs, shocks, sway bars, tire pressures, etc) engineers tune for understeer (spin-outs are usually more dangerous) while modern electronics keep wheels from spinning off course.

The main factor — what puts the “N” in Sanjeev, you might say — is tire selection. Why, I reckon damn near every RWD car spanks 100 percent stock FWD/AWD if swapped over to aftermarket, winter rubber. The video below exaggerates snow tires’ benefits (plus the M3 has a limited slip axle) but it proves the point:

As a former design student at CCS in Detroit, I can vouch for RWD’s benefits for expert drivers/hoons: the ability to dial-in oversteer when the front end starts plowing is either reckless (over-driving) or totally awesome (private road, nobody gets hurt).

But that’s not the point. My recommendation for most city-folk is still a modern FWD car with 1) all handling nannies activated and 2) proper winter tires fitted. But everyone’s forgiven for going Mercury Grand Marquis RWD when a set of snow tires is in the equation.

[Image: Shutterstock user LeManna]

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

Also, if your tires suck and you’re shopping for new tires, help support TTAC’s work by doing your research at TireReviewsandMore.com. — TTAC staff

Sajeev Mehta
Sajeev Mehta

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  • JD-Shifty JD-Shifty on Feb 03, 2018

    I just run snow tires all year round in my truck.(2wd) I add some sand bags about mid december

  • HuskyHawk HuskyHawk on Feb 06, 2018

    Every time it comes up people say the same things. I live in Mass and have never used winter tires (with a minor exception of sorts). I live up a hilly neighborhood, with a steep driveway. My AWD cars with All Seasons do fine. Why no snows? (a) I literally have no place to store four large tires with modern large wheels and (b) they suck on dry pavement, which is what I drive on 98% of the time in the winter. It's rare that I need to actually drive on measurable snow. The exception was a set of Nokian WRG2s (I think) that I put on my Volvo S60. Great compromise. Ran them all year. It really struggled with normal all seasons, but was amazing with those, although limited by ground clearance. Honestly, the Nokian WRG3s is what I would run on any FWD car in a snowly climate.

  • 28-Cars-Later I guess Santa showed up with bales of cash for Mitsu this past Christmas.
  • Lou_BC I was looking at an extended warranty for my truck. The F&I guy was trying to sell me on the idea by telling me how his wife's Cadillac had 2 infotainment failures costing $4,600 dollars each and how it was very common in all of their products. These idiots can't build a reliable vehicle and they want me to trust them with the vehicle "taking over" for me.
  • Sobhuza Trooper Like fusion power, the I.D. Buzz is only 30 years away.
  • Lou_BC "respondents between 18 and 80 years old" Basically anyone deemed an adult who might be allowed to drive.
  • Lou_BC They will do fine if they come up with some cool sedans ;)