Re: Driving in the winter... Sandbags?

aliza@inforamp.net (Ran O.) wrote:

>Hi!  I'm having a little argument with my friend about driving with sandbags 
>in the trunk when the road is snow covered.  He says that if you put sandbags 
>in the trunk (for a rear wheel drive) you will have more traction on the snow 
>covered road.  I disagree with him because I think that the lighter the car 
>the better.  First of all, if the car is lighter, it is easier to move it, 
>therefore, there is less tire spin.  Second of all, if the car is lighter, it 
>is easier to stop because you have less momentum in a lighter car.  Third of 
>all, if the car is lighter, you will have less sideways momentum when making 
>turns, therefore, decreasing fishtailing.  An the final reason is that on snow 
>you want the least amount surface area touching the road, therefore, if the 
>car is lighter, the tires will not be as flat out on the road, and therefore, 
>less tire spin, fishtailing, etc.

>What I'd like to know is what you think about this.  Anything will be greatly 

>Thanks in advance.

>Ran O. in Toronto, Canada


Well, that is not what I would call 'rational thinking' for several
reasons, some of which you have already mentionned.

Please note the followings :

In a snow-covered road, what you need is the least possible contact
surface between the tires and the snow. This, so that the tires can
melt some of the snow and grip on tarmac (if at all possible). Exactly
the opposite reason, why you use skis! Putting sandbags in your (rear)
trank, will add weight to the rear wheels, allowing them to grip
better, BUT :

In those conditions, you car needs not only traction from rear wheels
(to push the car) but also grip from the front wheels to steer it. By
adding weight to your rear wheels, you reduce the push-down on the
fron, which will reduce your steering capabilities, an absolute no-no.

Adding weight to your rear-end will also reduce your capabilities to
power steer your car, that is to use the power to induce a rear-end
slide, which can be of great help in slippery situations. 

It will also make your rear-end break away more abrabtly, when it does
break away, due to bigger inertia of the rear-end, making any
correcting effort more difficult.

Braking, with weight on your rear-end, will also be more difficult, as
the front wheels will tend to lock on braking, due to being lighter
thank normal (due to the weight on the back). That can lead to an
uncontrollable car, skidding anyway it can, and you not being able to

For these reasons, plus some others which are more mandane (like
increasing your fuel consumption) I would not advise anyone to add
weight, to any part of their car, for snow driving.