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Why do rear-drive cars get stuck in the snow?


I understand why performance drivers like to separate power wheels and "steering" wheels, but why are rear-wheel drive cars much more likely to get stuck in snow and mud?

Many thanks


Philip Donegan (Ballina)

Feb 2016 Filed under: miscellaneous

Expert answer

Hi Philip,

That only really applies to front-engined, rear-drive cars, as opposed to rear/mid-engined models. It comes down to weight over the driven wheels. In a front-drive car, the engine is right over the driven wheels, helping it find traction in low-grip situations, but in a rear-drive car there's not enough weight over the rear wheels to help with that.

They aren't a complete disaster, though. Have a look in Germany the next time you go there in winter and see how many rear-wheel drive BMWs and Mercedes you spot getting stuck in snow and mud. The problem is that most drivers these days are only used to front-drive and worse, many often don’t know that the drive goes to the rear in most BMWs, Mercs, Lexus, Jaguars etc. So they end up using a front-wheel drive driving technique when presented with a slippery surface, which is to add power and try and force your way through. That doesn’t work – rear-drive cars need a more delicate technique for dealing with slippery surfaces, but in the right hands they can be just as capable.

Neil Briscoe - Complete Car Advisor

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