Should You Add Weight to Your Car in the Winter?

2023 Volkswagen Tiguan with rear liftgate open

We’re always looking for a better way to handle winter driving conditions. The least you can do to help your cause is to get a set of winter tires for your vehicle. Winter tires are a great and largely economical way to give yourself an edge for safely handling winter conditions. However, there is some advice out there that people should be wary of, namely, adding additional weight to a vehicle to improve traction. So, should you add weight to your car in the winter? The answer is not terribly clear. Let’s take a closer look at some helpful information our team of experts found.

READ MORE: Five Important Winter Maintenance Tips

Are Sandbags Good for Winter Driving?

Just like other automotive myths, putting sandbags in the trunk of a car is based in truth. This was an accepted practice in the days when most passenger cars were rear-wheel drive. The advantage of adding weight to the trunk of a rear-wheel drive car is that it places additional weight over the drive wheels, which will help increase traction. Pickup trucks can and do, benefit from carrying sandbags in the bed to increase traction. In fact, some experts suggest adding up to 136 kg (300 lbs.) to the cargo bed of half-ton pickup trucks for additional traction in lieu of other cargo. 

Adding Weight to Front-Wheel Drive Cars

The advent of front-wheel drive was a game-changer for driving in snowy and icy conditions. Front-wheel drive is effective for the same reason that people put sandbags or other additional weights in the trunks of rear-wheel drive vehicles; it’s helpful to have extra weight over the drive wheels when dealing with snow and ice on the roads. Front-wheel drive vehicles accomplish this with the engine. Also, traffic safety experts don’t recommend putting additional weight in the trunk of vehicles with front-wheel drive. The intended effect is already happening and making the rear of the car or SUV heavier than necessary could make it unstable in an emergency situation.

Speaking of SUVs, additional rear weight isn’t necessary (regardless of drivetrain) because the natural weight distribution is already very evenly divided, front and rear.

Tips for Getting Better Winter Driving Traction

If you’ve been driving in Alberta’s winter conditions for a few years, you are probably already well-versed in handling snow, ice and slush. However, it never hurts to share a few tips for getting better traction, even if it’s just a little bit of review.

  • Drive in tracks cleared by other vehicles.
  • Use tire chains or snow socks
  • Invest in a set of winter tires

Having an appropriate set of winter tires is crucial to safely driving on winter roads. Making sure your car, truck or SUV is ready for cold weather is equally important. Schedule an appointment with the Fifth Avenue Volkswagen Service Department, today, for more help.