If you’ve ever taken your pickup out on a cold winter day, you may have found that it’s not as responsive as it usually is. If it’s icy out, you might even find yourself skidding across the road. You’re not imagining things; the truth is pickup trucks are more likely to fishtail in winter weather. Here’s why.
Efficiency demands that most trucks have rear-wheel drive (RWD) by default. The problem is that rear-wheel-drive on a pick-up truck increases the risk of losing traction on slippery roads when compared to front-wheel drive. This is especially noticeable when making turns, particularly wide turns.
If a car with RWD loses traction from the rear wheels and begins fishtailing, it is harder to readjust and pull out of the drift. If you find yourself skidding, you need to remain calm and take your foot off the gas, then gently turn toward the direction of the skid. Overcorrecting or hitting the brakes could make a bad situation much worse.
The other problem with pickup trucks is weight distribution. Pickup trucks have little weight directly over the drive wheels. That means there’s less friction giving the tires grip on the road (traction). The reason for this is that trucks are designed to haul cargo so the low body weight will balance out.
One way to remedy this is by making sure there’s always some weight in your truck bed, even in winter. Keeping a few sandbags or cinder blocks in the rear of your truck can help maintain a grip on the road and reduce the likelihood of fishtailing.
One important caveat is that the weight needs to be directly over the rear axel to have any effect. If you simply add weight to the back of your truck, you could cause more problems.
Weight distribution and an understanding of what causes fishtailing are only part of the issue. The most reliable way to prevent your pickup truck from fishtailing is to have more traction. You can do this by making sure you swap out your regular tires for winter tires in heavy snowfall. While it may cost you a little time, it will help you stay in control and just might prevent a serious wreck.
How to Avoid Fishtailing in Your Pickup in the Snow
There are a few things you can do to avoid a fishtailing car or pickup in the winter snow. Here are a few tips:
- Change your standard tires to snow tires.
- Utilize sandbags to improve traction on the road.
- Adjust your driving habits to accommodate the winter weather.
- Use four-wheel drive, if possible.