Do Chicago drivers need all-wheel drive?

By Product Expert | Posted in FAQ, Safety on Wednesday, October 23rd, 2019 at 11:34 AM
A very snowy, icy looking road is fronted by a warning sign with a snowflake symbol.

All-Wheel Drive Vs. Chicago Snow and Ice

Being in the Midwest, Chicago has a reputation for long, cold, snowy winters. The addition of such conditions does not have a, shall we say, beneficial effect on the already intense Chicago traffic. Anything that makes winter driving easier to bear is a welcome blessing to a Chicago commuter.

One such gift is the all-wheel drive feature that is available on many vehicles today. While few would reject this setup if offered to them no-strings-attached, some do find themselves wondering: do Chicago drivers absolutely need all-wheel drive?


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While all-wheel drive is not absolutely necessary for winter driving, it is helpful. An intelligent drivetrain that sends optimized power to each wheel independently is a great way to increase grip in inclement conditions. Wheels spinning on snow often have a hard time gaining traction. AWD increases the odds that at least some tires will able to get a firm hold and get moving.

Silver 2019 Honda CR-V drives into a city at night.How does all-wheel drive differ from four-wheel drive?

Whereas four-wheel drive sends a uniform amount of traction to every wheel, all-wheel drive intelligently sends differing amounts of engine power to each wheel after determining how much each needs. This determination is based on the amount of traction the wheels have. The result is a more stable grip on the road (or whatever surface one happens to be driving on).

Is all-wheel drive enough to make winter driving safe?

While all-wheel drive is helpful, it should not be thought of as a total solution to the slippery terror that driving in snow can be. In fact, it can sometimes be a danger because drivers with AWD get over-confident.

The most important element of safe winter driving is, as always, being a cautious, careful driver. It’s also good to evaluate the other safety features and scores of the vehicle you’ll be using. Finally, the application of snow tires can be a wildly helpful addition.

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