How to Safely Drive Your Mustang in SnowLast Updated August 8, 2023 | Hamilton Schutt
Snowy roads aren’t ideal driving conditions for any vehicle. But RWD performance cars like the Mustang are considered the worst in wintry weather. Less weight over the driven wheels, low ground clearance, and lots of power make winter driving particularly difficult for Mustangs.
If storing your car until spring isn’t an option, there’s no need to worry. With the right equipment, some smart preparations, and a few driving tweaks, you can still have fun (and be safe) driving your Mustang in the snow.
Prepare Your Mustang for Winter
A lot of the downsides to driving a RWD car in winter can be overcome with some smart adjustments. There’s also some basic maintenance you should do to get your ride ready for cold weather driving.
Invest in Winter Tires
Switching to a set of winter tires will make the biggest impact on your Mustang’s handling in winter weather. The main differences between summer and winter tires are the tread patterns, depth, and material. Winter tires use a deep and complex tread pattern for traction on wet pavement and ice. They also feature a softer compound designed to handle low temperatures without losing traction.
On the other hand, summer tires use a tread designed for maximum traction on dry roads. Their material compound is also vastly different from winter tires, turning hard and rigid when temperatures drop to around 50° or lower.
Add Weight to the Rear
Adding extra weight to the back end of your Mustang is another important winter driving hack. Throw a couple of 50-pound bags of salt in the trunk to keep the rear axle under load. The salt bags will help your wheels stay planted, but they can also get you unstuck in a pinch.
Pour the salt in front of and behind the rear tires to gain traction and break free if you end up stuck. Sand works as well, but the salt will also melt the snow and ice, making it easier to gain traction.
Another way to add weight to your build is by keeping the gas tank filled up. One gallon of gas is equal to around six or seven pounds, with a full tank adding about 70 pounds to the rear.
Refill Coolant - Make sure to refill or add coolant to your engine’s cooling system before cold weather hits. If your reservoir is filled with distilled or softened water, replace it with coolant or use an additive. Just be sure to test the mixture to ensure it can withstand freezing temperatures.
Replace Windshield Wipers - Replace your windshield wipers for a preemptive strike against flash flurries and bad weather. The last thing you want is to get caught in a blizzard with broken wipers scratching your windshield.
Refill Wiper Fluid - Now would also be the time to refill your Mustang’s wiper fluid with a compound that can handle freezing temperatures. Choosing a wiper fluid that contains de-icer will help you clear frost off your windshield before you take off.
Check the Charge on the Battery - Make sure your battery is still in good condition and can hold a charge. Winter is particularly harsh on batteries, so if yours is due for a replacement, now’s the time.
Get an Oil Change - Make sure you get an oil change before the weather turns cold to avoid engine damage or extra strain on the battery. As long as you use the factory-recommended blend, you should have no issues or need for additives.
Get a Good Scraper - Scraping the snow and ice off your Mustang’s windshield is a must, especially when it’s blocking your field of view. However, if you don’t already, you’ll want to start removing the snow from the rest of your car as well. If you leave snow on your hood or roof and it flies off and causes an accident, you could be at fault.
To avoid scratching up your Mustang’s finish or paint while you clear the snow, be sure to invest in a foam snow pusher. These are considerably softer than your typical brush and won’t damage the paint.
Don’t Get Sealed Out - Spray your Mustang's weatherstripping with WD40 to prevent yourself from getting sealed out. This will keep the rubber properly lubricated and unable to freeze to the body. We also recommend keeping a lock de-icer on hand with your WD40 in case ice has permeated through the tumbler.
What to Do If the Doors Freeze ShutIf your doors freeze shut before you’ve had a chance to line them with WD40, spray or pour some de-icer through the door cracks. If you’re out of de-icer, a blend of two parts rubbing alcohol and one part water should do the trick. You can also use a hairdryer to thaw the door out.
Winter Driving Tips
There are a variety of situations you could run into while driving your Mustang in the winter. But, with the proper techniques, you’ll be ready to handle almost any situation.
Use Snow/Wet Mode and Traction Control
If your Mustang is an S550, it’s most likely equipped with the Snow/Wet driving mode. This reduces throttle sensitivity and allows your car to move instead of spinning the tires. For Mustangs without Snow/Wet mode, stay in first or second gear. This will help you maintain control while you cruise over slush, ice, and snow.
Also, keep traction control on to prevent traction loss and skidding. While some Mustang drivers turn it off in warmer seasons for motorsports, it’s extremely beneficial in winter when roads are in less-than-ideal conditions. The only reason to turn traction control off in the winter is if you end up stuck in deep snow. Turning traction control off will give you access to your Mustang’s full range of power and increase your chances of climbing out of the snow.
Traction control was available as an option for Mustangs from 1999-2012. After 2012, it became a mandatory system for all passenger cars. If you’re unsure of whether or not your Mustang has traction control, the best way to tell is by checking for the on/off switch which is typically found near the shifter or on the steering wheel.
Ease Up on the Pedal
One of the best ways to ensure you stay safe on the road in winter is to ease up on the pedal. The general rule is to reduce your speed by a third on wet roads, and by half on roads with snow.
You should also put a stop to launching aggressively at intersections and in parking lots to avoid losing traction and spinning out. Mustangs can fishtail in the driest conditions, and wet, snowy roads will only amplify the possibility of losing control.
Leave More Stopping Distance and Pass Cautiously
Keeping a safe distance from the car in front of you is a good idea year-round. But when snow is present, you should increase this distance. Leave an 8-10 second gap between yourself and the vehicle in front of you.¹ This should provide enough time to stop, and will greatly reduce the risk of a collision.
You should also avoid stopping on inclines and declines in the snow to reduce the risk of your Mustang's tires losing traction and sliding into other vehicles. When going down a snowy decline, be sure to keep a distance of 3-4 cars between yourself and the next driver to provide enough time to come to a stop safely if the need arises.
If you need to pass the vehicle in front of you, take an extra second and think about it first. By shifting lanes, you could be driving into an icier path. Be cautious, use your signals, and take your time while passing.
Avoid Unnecessary Risks
While having confidence in your ability to drive in any weather is important, taking unnecessary risks can be disastrous. The standard Mustang’s ground clearance is approximately 5.1 inches. If you’re driving in snow near that height or higher, it’s going to be near impossible to keep traction for long. Sometimes, it’s better to just wait for the snow to stop and the plow trucks to do their work.
Have a Plan in Case of Emergency
Even with the proper precautions, you can still end up in a dangerous situation. Whether you’re stuck in a snowbank, covered by a plow, or you hit a patch of black ice, it’s good to have a plan of action in place. Here are some tips if you can’t get your Mustang back on the road.
Set Up a Perimeter
Set up a safe perimeter around your Mustang with flares, cones, or any other reflective markers. This will alert other drivers to your presence and signal that you need some help.
Call for Roadside Assistance
Once your perimeter is set up it’s time to give your preferred roadside assistance provider a call. This could be the emergency number from your insurance, a 3rd party provider like AAA, or the Ford Roadside Assistance line.
If you plan to use Ford Roadside Assistance, keep in mind that it is only available up to 60,000 miles or five years from the date of sale.²
Check the Exhaust Pipe
Check to see whether snow has blocked your exhaust pipe. If it hasn't, you can run the engine to keep warm. If the pipe is blocked, try and clear away some of the snow. Running your car with the exhaust pipe blocked by snow could cause exhaust gas to spill into your cabin.
Winter Driving Emergency Kit Checklist
You’ll want to build an emergency kit in case you get stuck in bad weather. Here’s a list of the items you’ll want to keep in your trunk:
- First aid kit
- Pocket knife or multi-tool
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- Road flares or reflectors
- Matches (in a plastic bag or waterproof container)
- Cell phone charger and a portable charger/power bank
- Blankets and sleeping bags
- One set of spare clothes per person
- Hand warmers
- Nonperishable foods (energy bars, unsalted nuts, dried fruits, etc.)
- Bottled water (smaller bottles defrost faster than gallons)
While a RWD muscle car like the Mustang isn’t considered the best vehicle for winter, taking the necessary precautions and focusing on safety over performance will help get you through the colder months. Stay vigilant while you drive, keep an eye out for situations that could be dangerous, and you should be fine.
Sources: 1. How To Drive During a Winter Storm, Geico | 2. What Services Are Covered Under Ford Roadside Assistance?, Ford