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SuperMouse's avatar

Need advice about driving a stick shift car in the snow.

Asked by SuperMouse (30713 points ) November 24th, 2009

I have to get a new car and found one I love that has a manual transmission. I’ve driven a stick shift and I’ve driven in the snow, but never have I combined the two. Does a stick shift make driving in the snow and ice more difficult? Easier? Is it about the same? Any advice would be appreciated!

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13 Answers

dpworkin's avatar

One suggestion is that when you are starting from a dead stop on a slippery surface, you might want to try 2nd gear.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

The only thing that I think is harder is parking on hills. I’ve always driven a stick, and have no problem driving in the snow or on icy roads. The thing that seems to really make the difference is whether or not the car has front wheel drive. My Accord does much better in the snow than our 240 Volvos.

IchtheosaurusRex's avatar

My first question is whether or not this is a front-wheel-drive car. It makes all the difference in terms of how you handle the vehicle in a skid.

In a skid, the rear wheels spin out and try to overtake the fronts. If you are driving a rear-wheel-drive vehicle, you get the skid under control by steering in the direction of the skid – turn the steering wheel in the direction the rear wheels are moving in – and let up on the gas. You don’t apply the brakes until the car is under control.

In a front-wheel-drive car, the rear wheels are not driven. Letting up on the gas will make the skid worse. In a stick-shift car, you need to either keep your foot on the gas, give it more gas, or push the clutch in. Pushing the clutch in will often right the car immediately.

For traction, you need to keep your RPMs as low as possible without stalling as you ease up on the clutch. Sometimes you can try starting off in second gear, as that reduces the torque to the drive wheels. This is something that just takes practice. It’s harder to rock a stick-shift car out of a rut, as reverse is usually awkward to get into.

It’s also important to rev match your shifts. You should be doing this anyway, but you’ll have fewer traction problems in the snow if you learn how to do this. Shift at the lowest RPM that will keep the engine above bogging speed. Slipping the clutch through turns will help keep the car under control. With a front drive car, control understeer by pushing in the clutch. With a rear-driver, give it a little gas if you’re understeering.

Last but not least – if this is a performance car, get some winter tires. Tire Rack has winter tire/wheel packages for most vehicles.

Snarp's avatar

It can be a little trickier, but I have managed my stick shift in snow and with significant hills without too much difficulty. If you are skilled with the use of clutch and gears, then you should not really have any more difficulty than with an automatic. I’ve never tried this second gear thing, the only time I have trouble getting started on snow is up hill, and second gear isn’t going to get it. What I like is that I (and most modern stick shifts) have the ability to ease off the clutch and give it no to very little gas without stalling. That prevents a lot of traction loss for me.

I used to drive a rear wheel drive pickup truck that was geared for maximum fuel efficiency so you had to get up to about 15 mph just to get off the clutch. Never drove it in the snow, but it would have been a disaster.

flameboi's avatar

it makes it easier, one of the good things about manual transmission is that you have more control of the car…

Ivan's avatar

It can actually help in some situations. It’s nice to be able to control exactly how much throttle you give the car, and it’s nice to be able to completely cut the power to the wheels if you need to.

nope's avatar

This is a great question, and no offense to anybody, but I find the answers amusing…all the information presented is correct, and the answer by IchtheosaurusRex was particularly thoughtful. The reason it’s amusing to me is, I’ve driven a stick all my life, and always assumed it was actually EASIER in the snow than an automatic transmission, because of the absolute control you have over gear changes and engine speed. An automatic, when in gear will always have some (albeit small) amount of torque on your wheels. With a manual, you can be in gear but stop that torque immediately by pushing the clutch in. Also, I’ve never really found it a problem to switch gears quickly from 1st or 2nd to reverse to rock back & forth.

One of the biggest things of course is where the weight is in your car. A rear wheel drive car, as stated above, can be tricky. However, my first car was a Volkswagen beetle, years ago, that had the engine in the back, and I had great luck with that car. If for some reason you’re looking at a car with rear wheel drive that has the engine in the front, one other thing that can help is a few bags of sand in the trunk (cheaply available at Home Depot or some similar store) to put more weight over your drive wheels. If it’s a newer rear wheel drive, it’s also possible the car might have a rear slip differential, which lets the engine put more power to the drive wheel that has more traction…this is incredibly helpful in snow and on ice. You might ask about that with whomever you’re going to buy the car from.

Hope that helps somewhat, good luck!

SuperMouse's avatar

Thanks for all the great advice. The car I am looking at is an 03 Jetta, it is a front wheel drive. I am no longer nervous about it being a stick shift!

YARNLADY's avatar

@nope I agree with you, I learned in the snow on a manual shift and I always thought it was easier and safer

IchtheosaurusRex's avatar

@nope , those old Beetles would pretty much climb a tree if you wanted them too. All the weight over the rear axle and very little power. I ought to have mentioned that a stick is easier to control in the snow than an auto – once you’ve mastered it.

One other tidbit: keep your tires at the recommended pressure. On most passenger cars, this is 31 to 33 PSI.

SuperMouse's avatar

@everyone, I got the Jetta last week and Sunday I drove it on snow and ice for the first time. I officially agree with those who say it is a bit easier to drive a stick shift in the snow. It seems that it is easier to regain traction when starting on an icy road. So far I love this car! Thanks for all the great advice!

jaemarie9's avatar

been driving a stick for only 2 months!snow!!!ice!!20 minute drive!!help!!!

Meego's avatar

OMG!! I just started driving my new to me manual. We had the worst snowfall on record since 1977, but the roads are in pretty good condition after the 3 day city wide shutdown just for snow removal. =$ At any rate some of the back streets are pretty plugged up including mine..of course. My brother gave me the basic tips and some first hand experience in an empty lot. Suffice to say I got it the first time. I was starting to panic as I read online stories and heard stories from neighbors and almost gave up. But I pep talked myself and kept telling myself I have been through much more stressful times than this. So I went out in my parking lot and for about an hour and a half I familiarized myself with my new car the clutch, the brake, the shifter. After about 10 min of my own lesson I moved on to figuring out what that “biting” point is while you are in first and take your foot off the clutch. I did that for about 10. Then I moved the car all around the parking lot, backing in and starting from stop, you can’t do much in a small lot. I took it out last night on the road first time ever, in the snow, by myself, and as I was saying that the side roads are plugged I got stuck coming out my parking lot. LMAO!! By the grace of God, some van came up to me with a father and 3 sons, looked like hockey players! They made a joke and said we could probably just lift it and put it wherever you’d like. But one small push and I was off. I’m so glad I did not stall it when I was pushed. From there I went to a local store about 7km away. I was major excited as I got it into 4th gear no problems!!! I was determined and determination is the meaning in baseball (learned by my L8 husband miss u bigtime dear). So I took his advice I also took more of his advice as he always told me not to panic so I just didn’t panic, I just went with it and celebrated by myself in the magic that it’s not as hard as I was hearing it to be. But on the other hand I am a truck drivers daughter =D It’s got something to do with genes…just tryin to carry on the legacy…RIP dad.
This is the car I have always wanted! 07 was a gr8 yr for me and hubby! I’m..stoked.

‘07 Mazda 3 Sport ~ cranberry w/28,697km

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