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Your Small Car Can Perform Big in the Snow

What Are The Best Small Cars For Snow? What Criteria Do They Need To Meet?

Updated September 26, 2018

Generally speaking, when it comes to driving in the snow, size and heft matters. After all, it is the weight of your ride that pushes it wheels into the snow allowing the vehicle to gain traction and keep on moving.

However, this does not mean that small cars cannot perform in the snow. They can, and, in many cases, they can outperform cars and other vehicles that have been actually designed to be driven in the snow.

In fact, Mark Cox, director of the Bridgestone Winter Driving School in Steamboat Springs, recently proved to a class of cops that their police pursuit cars, mainly Chevrolet Camaros and Ford Mustangs, could perform better in snowy conditions than their police SUV and heavy police cruiser by racing them around a snow-covered icy track. When properly prepared for winter driving, the pursuit car beat out the SUV and the cruiser.

Wheels, Wheels, Wheels

If you are going to drive in the snow with your little car, the most important thing you can do is put four snow tires on it. After all, it is the tires that transfer your car’s power to the snowy surface, and it is your tires that provide traction. Without traction, your car, regardless of its size, is not be going anywhere.

Cox sums up the importance of these specialized tires perfectly when he said, “The bottom line is that, with the right snow tires, any car is drivable in winter. There used to be the idea that some of the performance cars were not suitable for winter use, but that’s just not the case and we see all the time that if you replace those summer racing tires with winter tires, you can drive anything.”

The Ying and the Yang of High Ground Clearance

Of course, high ground clearance can help you cover roads that are covered with deep snow. But, this high ground clearance comes with a downside as well since it means that the vehicle itself has a higher center of gravity, which makes it harder to stop and easier to roll over or skid off the road. And it is the vehicles that roll over or skid off the road that often times end up being left by the roadside to be buried by the snow.

Explaining the danger of high centers of gravity, Joe DeMatio, an editor for Automobile Magazine, said, “SUVs tend to make people feel invincible because they have traction and ground clearance, but they don’t stop any better and have a higher center of gravity, so they’re easier to roll…  invariably the vehicles you see on the side of the road or in ditches are SUVs much more than cars.”

Winter Wipers

In addition to putting snow tires on your small car, you will need to replace its normal wipers with winter wipers if you want to maximize its winter performance. These wipers are made of synthetic rubber that will not freeze and crack like a normal wiper will at cold temperatures. Also, they provide more downward pressure to the squeegee part of the wiper so that they are able to clear rain, snow, and ice from windshields.

New Battery and Radiator Fluid

Before heading for colder temperatures in your small car, get its battery checked. If it is not rated to handle sub-freezing temperatures, replace it. This is the same with your radiator fluid. It needs to be rated to at least -32 degrees F.

Preparing for the Worst

Finally, you and your small car must prepare for the worst. Make sure you keep blankets or a sleeping bag, gloves, a phone charger, jumper cables, and an ice scraper in your car before you start using it to drive in the snow.

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Chris Riley
About Chris Riley

I have been wrecking cars for as long as I've been driving them but I keep coming back for more. Two wheels or four, I'm all in. GearHeads.org gives me a chance to give something back to the automobile community.

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