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Is A Manual Transmission Better In The Snow?

Is A Manual Transmission Better In The Snow?

When you are driving on a snow-covered road, it’s important for you to have as much control as possible so you don’t slip, slide, and find yourself having a serious accident. 

If your vehicle has a manual transmission rather than an automatic transmission, is this actually better for you? Is a manual transmission better in the snow? 

Here’s what you should know.

Manual transmissions can perform better in the snow compared to automatic transmissions because they provide the driver with more control. The driver can leverage the transmission as an additional form of braking as well as for better throttle control.

Having driven vehicles with both automatic and manual transmissions in the snow, our opinion is that manual transmission vehicles have an edge over those with an automatic transmission when it comes to those snow-covered roads.

When you are driving one of those famed stick shift vehicles, you generally have an easier time in the snow because you are in full control of your vehicle’s gears. 

With a manual transmission, this makes it easier for you to ease up on the gas pedal when things start to get a bit slippery. 

In doing so, you can do this and downshift your gears, giving you much better traction on the road. 

Essentially, your manual transmission lets you use your vehicle’s engine as a brake, meaning you don’t have to worry as much about having to press down constantly on your brake pedal.

By being able to downshift more rather than hit the brake quickly, you decrease the chances of losing control of your vehicle.

Is a Manual Transmission Bad for Snow?

If you think a manual transmission is bad when you are driving in the snow, you have never experienced times when you were spinning out of control in an automatic transmission vehicle.

On the contrary, a manual transmission can be your best friend when winter driving conditions deteriorate. 

This is especially useful when your vehicle is stopped and you are ready to take off. 

With an automatic transmission, you have a greater chance of spinning your tires and getting stuck. 

However, with a manual transmission, you can shift into a higher gear immediately, which usually helps you avoid tire spinning. 

In fact, even if your vehicle is equipped with four-wheel drive, having an automatic transmission increases the chances you will have a harder time on a snowy road than if you had a four-wheel drive with a manual transmission.

Is an Automatic or Manual Better in Snow?

Here again, we are of the opinion that a manual transmission will almost always serve you better in snow than an automatic transmission.

When you are driving an automatic transmission vehicle in the snow, you usually wind up doing a combination of harsh accelerating and braking, which rarely goes well on a slick winter road. 

Since you cannot have complete control over your vehicle’s gears, your vehicle is more likely to start slipping and sliding due to the constant slowing up and down you are doing.

When driving in the snow with a manual transmission, you are able to change gears in anticipation of certain slick spots you will encounter. 

Thus, you can approach these spots without having to brake suddenly or accelerate at a moment’s notice. 

This reduces the revs you need to give your engine, decreasing your chances of slipping and sliding.

Tips for Driving a Manual in Snow

When you are driving a manual transmission vehicle in the snow, there are several tips you can use to make your journey much safer.

First, we always recommend that you try to start off in second gear, rather than first gear. 

Though you’ll need to practice at this a little bit to get used to it, this will help you in that your tires will have more traction due to turning slower. 

Another helpful tip regards braking on a snowy road. If you do need to hit the brakes, always downshift prior to doing so. 

Once you go into a lower gear, this will in turn lower your speed as well as your tire rotation, meaning you’re less likely to lose control and start sliding.

Finally, if you’re driving on a snowy hill, use the brakes as little as possible, whether you’re going uphill or downhill. 

By downshifting and letting your transmission control your speed, you can lessen the chance of spinning your tires or going into an all-out slide when going down a hill.

What If I’m Sliding in a Manual Transmission Vehicle?

Even if you are very experienced driving in winter weather using a manual transmission, there may be times when Mother Nature will send your vehicle into a spin or slide. 

If this happens, we’ve got some tips to keep you safe behind the wheel.

The most important will be for you to take your foot off the brake and accelerator, and keep your foot off these during the slide. 

However, do keep your foot on the clutch, and keep it pushed to the floor as much as possible.

Doing so will keep your vehicle’s engine from sending power to the wheels, which can help slow you down and allow you to regain control.

As we’ve stated earlier, downshifting will be your best friend on a slick winter road. 

Should you be sliding, downshift slowly but surely, easing your vehicle to a slower and slower speed. 

By doing so, you can avoid quick changes in speed, allowing you to better navigate slippery stretches of road.

Can an Automatic Transmission Do Well in Snow?

If you keep your wits about you, an automatic transmission can do well in the snow, though we think not quite as well as a manual transmission.

When using automatic transmission in the snow, the key will be combining steering and accelerating, while at the same time using your brakes as little as possible. 

If you are tempted to brake at each slippery spot with an automatic transmission, this is almost always a recipe for going into an uncontrollable slide.

Based on our experiences, should you find yourself driving on a snow-covered road during the day or night, here’s hoping you have a manual transmission vehicle.

Zach Reed

Hi, I'm the founder of! Having owned a wide variety of vehicles in my life, I was astounded at how hard it can be to find answers to common automotive questions. Rather than sit idly, I decided to create this website to help others!