It's already well-established; Canadians love their trucks – especially pick-ups that seem to do yeoman duty for practically any task. Driving to the market for milk? Check. Taking the kids to school? Check. Hauling a load of lumber to a work site? Check. Whatever the job may be, pick-ups will always insinuate themselves into the mix.
But what happens as the days get shorter and temperatures are consistently below 7 degrees Celsius?
Pick-ups come in a variety of configurations including RWD and 4WD. To be 100% clear; 4WD does not make the truck – or the driver invincible. Before venturing out in your pick-up during the winter months, there are some things you should do to ensure the safety of yourself, your passengers – and those drivers around you.
Always switch your regular “three-season” tires for winter ones. 4WD does not have any impact when it comes to stopping in cold temps. Winter tires can shorten stopping distance by as much as 40%.
4WD does not make the truck – or the driver invincible
Before you go anywhere, clear all snow off the vehicle. All of it.
Today's trucks are either RWD or 4WD. In a pickup with 4WD engaged, all four tires share the driving. Two-wheel-drive units do not fare as well. Generally speaking, a passenger vehicle typically has 55-60% of its weight on the front wheels (FWD) and 40-45% on the rear. Pickup trucks are designed to carry loads. So as little as 30-35% of the vehicle’s weight is on the rear wheels when it's empty, to allow for the addition of a load in the rear. They are front-end heavy. It’s all about the weight – or lack, thereof.
In a pickup, the lightly-laden rear wheels cannot provide enough grip on slippery surfaces to create beneficial weight transfer. If the rear tires spin under acceleration, there will be no transfer and little acceleration. Add weight over the rear wheels – bags of sand – even cat litter. Putting weight in the cargo box will help traction; too much will create a new problem – as that heavier rear-end tends to swing out in the turns. Here it’s all about trial and error to find a stable "balance". Something that results in a front/rear weight distribution similar to a passenger car is preferred.
In adverse weather, drive cautiously and with purpose. Avoid sudden manoeuvres. Always look ahead. Keep speed in check and think about where your best bets for traction might be. Slow and steady will get you and your truck home safely.
Remember, 4WD pick-up drivers, the additional driving wheels are only helpful when accelerating. They do not improve stopping or turning.