Have you and your trusty pickup truck been dealing with traction issues this winter? You might have been told to throw some weight in the back. But depending on whether your truck is rear-wheel, front-wheel, four-wheel, or all-wheel drive, adding weight could cause more problems than it solves! Separate the facts from the myths, and find out if adding weight to your truck bed works to boost traction.
Does adding weight to a truck bed help with traction?
The logic behind adding truck bed weight for winter traction seems pretty straightforward. Trucks are designed to carry heavy loads in the back. But if the bed is empty, most of the weight is in the front of the truck, which can cause a loss of rear-wheel traction and even fishtailing.
To help even out the weight of their vehicle, you might see people adding weight to their truck bed with sandbags, cinder blocks, or other heavy items. But the results from adding all this extra weight can vary depending on your drivetrain system, or, in less technical terms, which wheels spin when you hit the gas.
Adding Weight to Rear-Wheel Drive Trucks
When trying to get better traction, it’s important to identify your truck’s drive wheels — the ones that move when you accelerate. In rear-wheel drive trucks, the back tires are what propel the vehicle. Accordingly, a lack of weight on the rear axle might allow rear-wheel drive trucks to spin out in wet or slick conditions. Placing the right amount of weight in your truck bed can help enhance stability, traction, and control, allowing the wheels to grip the road more effectively.
While adding weight to a rear-wheel drive pickup can be beneficial, be careful not to add too much! Know the max payload for your vehicle by checking your owner's manual. An appropriate amount of weight can help give your rear tires the traction they need without overly affecting stopping power or fuel-efficiency.
Adding Weight to Front-Wheel Drive Trucks
By design, trucks tend to have more weight near the front axle, which is excellent news if you drive a front-wheel drive. In vehicles with FWD drivetrains, the weight from the engine and the cab helps give your front tires the traction they need by increasing the rubber-to-road surface area. So, if you drive a FWD truck, you're probably better off not adding weight to your truck bed!
Some motorists insist on adding weight to their front-wheel drive trucks to make it easier to stop in slicker conditions. However, the extra weight comes at the expense of acceleration and fuel efficiency. If you want enhanced traction and reliable braking capacity in the winter, it's best to skip the sandbags and go for a winter truck tire like Firestone's Winterforce LT tire.
Adding Weight to All-Wheel Drive Trucks
All-wheel drivetrains have computers that detect slipping and loss of traction. The computer compensates by adjusting which wheels are spinning so that the vehicle maintains traction. Typically, only two wheels are receiving power at any given moment, until skidding or a loss of grip is detected. When that happens, power is transferred to the other wheels to stabilize the vehicle and keep it moving forward.
All-wheel drive trucks are designed so the weight is stable in the front and back. Adding extra weight to an all-wheel drive truck could throw off this weight balance, confuse the computer, and end up causing the spinning or skidding you are trying to prevent.
Adding Weight to Four-Wheel Drive Trucks
Unlike all-wheel drive where power shifts between the front and rear tires, all of the tires spin on four-wheel drive vehicles. Since power is distributed among all four wheels, adding weight to your 4WD truck is usually unnecessary.
Lose the Weight with Winter Tires
Adding some sandbags to the back of your truck might help in a pinch. But if you're tired of adding weight to your truck for a better winter ride, consider skipping the sandbags and purchasing a set of winter tires instead. When the temperature dips below 40ºF, the rubber on regular tires can get stiff and rigid, causing less traction for your truck. The rubber in winter tires is made with chemical compounds designed to maintain a flexible grip at extremely low temperatures.
Additionally, tires with excessive tread wear won't do very well whether you add weight or not. It's essential to make sure that your tires have enough tread to keep you and your family safe on the road. Even an all-wheel or four-wheel drive vehicle can't create traction if the tires can't get a grip.
Find the Right Winter Tires at Tires Plus
Are you ready to stop dead-lifting cinder blocks into your truck every winter? Find the right set of winter tires for your truck at a Tires Plus near you. Our technicians are ready to talk tires, tread, and traction. Schedule an appointment online or through the Tires Plus app and get back in the driver's seat where you belong!