Safe winter driving requires good handling techniques, but even expert drivers have a hard time navigating through snow and ice in trucks that aren’t prepped for wintry conditions.
Every system in your truck should be in good repair to take on winter driving, but we depend on tires and brakes to roll us where we want to go and slow us down when it’s necessary. Maintenance for both should be at the top of your to do list.
First Step, Tire Safety
- Grab your owner’s manual and look up your truck’s tire inflation specs. Make sure your tires are in sync with the recommendations.
- Inspect your truck’s tires and replace the tires if necessary.
A set of snow tires is a good option if you live in a region where winter weather is common. Install a set of four snow tires if you drive a 4WD truck, to give a good grip all the way around (and because the circumference of all tires should be the same on 4WD and AWD vehicles — a variance makes the differential or coupling turn constantly, causing excessive wear and possible damage). Install snow tires on the rear of 2WD trucks.
Install studded tires only when roads are bad. Running studs on dry pavement wears the studs down, and can be dangerous — metal studs make it more difficult to stop the vehicle. Check your state’s laws to find out when (and if) studded tires are allowed on roadways.
Chains can be handy for rolling through hard packed snow and ice, and some states require chains be installed on certain vehicles before they travel on specific roads. Read the manufacturer’s instructions before installing chains onto tires, and check to make sure all of the links are intact. After installation, chains should fit tires snugly, because loose chains are easier to break, and when they fly off they could injure someone or cause damage to your vehicle.
Adjust Drum Brakes
If you need new brakes (drum or disc), now’s the time to take care of that repair, but an adjustment might be all that’s required.
Although drum brakes have self adjusters, the adjusters don’t always work as well as they should, so expect to make a deeper push on the pedal before drum brakes engage.
Poorly adjusted drum brakes in the rear, combined with disc brakes on the front, are even more of a safety problem. When you push on the brake pedal, the front disc brakes make contact and begin working almost immediately, trying to stop the vehicle, while in the rear the drum brakes are lagging behind and haven’t begun slowing the back wheels. Put that imbalanced scenario on a snowy road and you have rear wheels pushing a locked up front end where you don’t want it to go.
If your truck has an automatic transmission, slide the shifter into neutral to stop the push; for a manual transmission, push in the clutch.
Making sure tires and brakes are in great shape will help get you safely through the winter.