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Ford Transit in Snow & Winter Driving? (Explained)

Introduced in 2014, the Ford Transit is the bestselling van in the United States. It offers owners class-leading cargo space, stellar ride quality, and frugal fuel consumption.

With such qualities, it’s easy to see why demand for the model has continued to rise.

Is the Transit also a champ in snow? Let’s find out.

Here is the short answer about whether the Ford Transit is good for snow and winter driving:

The Transit features all-wheel-drive, which allows it to send power to all wheels simultaneously to prevent slipping on winter roads. Moreover, Transits have safety systems that minimize risks associated with winter driving. This offers peace of mind while you travel in ice or snow. 

Is a Transit Good in the Snow?

The Transit’s status as America’s bestselling van didn’t come by accident. Buyers of the Transit trust it to perform reliably in all conditions—and it often does.

If you need a van that can drive through snow, the Transit is perhaps your best bet. This is because the Transit has everything you’ll need to travel safely with no issues.

The Transit’s design means it is well-balanced while driving. This is helpful on snow-covered roads where vehicles can quickly become unstable during drives.

Perhaps the best thing going for Transits regarding snow driving is Ford’s Intelligent AWD. The AWD system can monitor vehicle performance in snow and prevent wheels from slipping.

This prevents a situation where your wheels lose traction and your vehicle suddenly goes out of control.

What Features Will Improve Winter Driving?

Here are features that improve winter driving on the Ford Transit:

Ford Intelligent AWD

Standard Transit vans come equipped with rear-wheel-drive (RWD); but if you opt to pay extra, you can get an AWD-equipped Transit. What exactly does AWD do?

Regular Transits are two-wheel-drive models, meaning engine power predominantly goes to one set of wheels (the rear for Transits). This means the other set of wheels has little or no power, which decreases ability to find traction.

Typically, such wheels suffer in winter driving conditions where traction is low. If the wheels cannot find traction, they’ll start slipping. And once they slip, it’s only a matter of time before your vehicle goes out of control.

Ford’s Intelligent AWD system is designed to prevent wheel slip, especially on winter roads. Unlike RWD, AWD can send power to rear and front wheels simultaneously. This increases each wheel’s ability to find traction—even on slippery roads common in winter.

You should know this, though: even with AWD active, your wheels won’t get power always.

The AWD operates on an as-needed basis, meaning it will send power to all wheels only when necessary. This includes poor road conditions such as roads covered in snow or ice. 

Traction Control

The Traction Control system on Ford Transits prevents wheels from slipping and losing traction on wet surfaces. Since wheel slippage happens more on slippery pavement, Traction Control is useful in winter.

Traction Control measures the rate of acceleration on the wheels and compares it to that of the vehicle. Wheel slip occurs when a wheel(s) starts moving faster than the vehicle itself.

When your wheels slip, your vehicle starts to lose its road grip and may slide off the pavement. Traction Control’s job is to minimize wheel slip and stop your vehicle from losing control.

Once Traction Control detects wheel slip, it does the following

  • It “chokes” the engine, i.e., it stops the engine from supplying power to the wheels
  • It applies brakes on the slipping wheels

Through these actions, Traction Control can reduce wheel acceleration and eliminate slipping. This lets your vehicle maintain its grip on the road and prevents it from losing control.

Electronic Stability Control

Like Traction Control, the Electronic Stability Control feature on Transits keeps the vehicle stable while you drive. The ESC system monitors vehicle operation to detect loss of stability. If ESC senses that your vehicle is becoming unstable, and may leave its course, it will kick in to maintain stability.

It will reduce engine speed, which leads to a reduction in your vehicle’s acceleration. By reducing your van’s speed, ESC makes it easy for you to regain control.

Also, if your van is moving away from its original trajectory, ESC will apply the brakes to correct its course. Here’s an illustration on how that works:

Imagine your van went out of control while you were making a left turn and is now drifting rightwards. The ESC will apply brakes on the wheels on your van’s left side and leave the others spinning.

This stops your van from moving to the right, and returns it to the correct course (the left).

Anti-lock Brake System (ABS)

The Anti-lock Brake System prevents your wheels from locking up when you apply the brakes.

Because stopping on slippery winter roads requires stronger braking, you have to apply the brakes forcefully. While this allows you to stop your vehicle faster, it could cause wheel lock.

As it can cause your vehicle to skid, wheel lock at high speed is hardly what you want. Fortunately, the Antilock Brake System guarantees your wheels won’t lock under hard braking.

ABS monitors wheel motion as you brake; if a wheel is about to lock, the system releases the brakes. This reduces the effect of braking on the wheel and stops it from locking mid-transit.

Electronic Brake force Distribution

The Electronic Brake force Distribution arguably does the same things as the Anti-Lock Brake System: stop your wheels from locking. The difference between the two is how they stop wheel lock.

ABS will regulate brake performance to prevent wheel lock. However, EBD will spread braking power across wheels proportionally. This prevents excess application of brake power on a wheel which causes wheel lock.

Automatic Emergency Braking

The Automatic Emergency Braking aka Brake Assist makes braking safer. Essentially, it will maximize braking power and decrease the time it takes your van to stop.

Many drivers complain that the slick nature of roads in winter makes it difficult to halt vehicles. The Transit’s AEB system ensures you don’t experience this problem as it makes for faster stopping times.

Please also read our article about how long Ford Transits last.

Does a Transit Have Snow Mode?

The Transit has a Selectable Drive Mode system. While it doesn’t have a specific mode for snow driving, you can adapt the other modes to enhance performance in snow.

The Selectable Mode system has a Slippery Mode, which when pressed adjusts vehicle performance for greater stability in slippery conditions.

Since snow-filled roads are typically slippery, the Slippery Mode should come in handy in such conditions.

Can You Install Additional Snow Gear on Transits?

You can fit your Transit van with extra snow gear to improve its stability and control in snowy road conditions. Particularly if your Transit is an RWD model, snow gear can make a world of difference when driving in snow.

Snow gears you can install on your Transit include snow tires, snow socks, and snow chains. The last option is very advisable if you commute in heavy snow. Snow chains can increase your tire’s road grip and prevent it from slipping in snow.

How Much Snow Can a Transit Handle?

From what owners say, how much snow a Transit can handle depends on the model. Pre-2020 models were all RWD and are generally poor in heavy snow. Newer Transits are still RWD, but can be bought with AWD.

An AWD-equipped Transit is better in snow as it is less susceptible to wheel slip. Based on this, we’d say newer Transits could handle heavy snow, while the older Transits can handle light snow.

Make sure to also read our articles about 11 Ford Transit statistics your should know.

How Do Transits Handle Low Winter Temperatures?

The Transit uses an Electronic Fuel Injection system for its engine, which allows it to achieve operating temperatures faster. Cold weather won’t affect the Transit because the EFI ensures it warms up quickly, even in the cold.

This means your Transit will have no problems running in low winter temperatures. If it does, then it may be due to a fault in the system.

Can a Transit Drive on Ice?

Intelligent AWD allows Transits drive with ease on icy surfaces. In addition, the presence of Traction Control and Electronic Stability Control ensures your Transit doesn’t slip or skid while traveling across ice-covered payment.

Does the Transit Have 4WD?

Transit models come standard with rear-wheel-drive, but have optional all-wheel-drive.

What About Older Transit Models And Winter Driving?

Older Transits had RWD drivetrains, which limited their ability to drive in winter. Particularly they were more prone to “fishtailing” and skidding on winter roads. 

Still, they have features such as ABS, traction control, electronic stability control, etc., that enhance winter driving. Thus, we won’t say older Transit models are very bad at winter driving.

If you’ll be using an old Transit for winter driving, be careful not to over-speed or make sharp turns. Such actions can easily cause your vehicle to slide off the surface.

Do Transits Need Snow Tires?

If you’ll be driving in wintry conditions, you will need to buy snow tires. This is because snow tires provide better traction and stability on winter roads. Your stock all-season tires are generally poor on wet surfaces and are hardly practical for winter use.

You should also read our article about whether winter tires wear faster in summer.

Can You Mount A Snow Plow On A Transit?

Ford doesn’t say that the Transit is designed for plowing. As such, we’ll encourage you to consult with your mechanic before mounting a snowplow on your Transit.

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