Search Auto-Repair-Questions

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Sandbags for traction or no?

I have a 2003 Olds Silhouette minivan. Currently, the traction control & ABS are inoperable more than likely due to needing rear brake work. I don't care about the ABS, but the traction control definitely made a difference. I do not have the seats in the back of the van. My sister, who has TONS of experience driving curvy backroads in the worst of Michigan winter conditions, recommended I get sandbags and put them over the axle & rear wheel wells to aid in traction. I have done so - a friend loaded me up with feed bags full of wet sand, which are laying flat across the width of the van, probably weighing in at a total of between 175 and 200 lbs. But my dad thinks this is either useless or counter-productive, as this is a front-wheel drive vehicle. He wonders if this isn't even maybe causing an ever-so-slight dip in the back that is bringing the front tires every so slightly off the road (as if you put all the weight at the back of a boat, causing the front to rise up out of the water). My tires are ok, could be better, could be worse. I am generally an exceptionally good Michigan winter driver. But I have already ended up in a ditch once and had to have AAA come get me out, and ended up on the side of the road another time and had to dig out from under the tires to get back on the road. I'm now feeling exceptionally paranoid driving in snow, which I never did before. I have seriously never gotten into a skid I couldn't get out of before this. Do you think the sandbags are a bad idea?


  1. Sufficient weight is always better but it doesn't substitute proper snow-ice tires. I've seen better traction from non-studded tires as well.

  2. I personally think its counter weight.... it takes weight away from your front end which in turn removes traction... if you need brake work in the rear that could be causing your abs/traction issue as traction control and abs work off of your wheel speed sensors... if they are inoperable or operating poorly they can affect the way your abs and traction control work... I know rear brakes on your particular vehicle are rather inexpensive and if you need somebody to change them i'm in the jackson area and do great work and reasonable prices and i'm familiar with your type of van

  3. I am going to agree with your dad. Take the sand out but carry some bags of kitty litter should you get stuck in the snow. And if you have an auto trans, never try to spin your way out as this can take out a transmission in a matter of minutes. Back in the '70's a friend bought a new Chrysler in the middle of winter. Slid into a ditch and tried to spin his way out, burnt the trans, was towed to the dealer. The mechanic pulled the trans dip stick, smelled it, and said this ones on you.

    Back in the '90's, I worked midnights at the Hostess plant in Detroit. We had a big snow storm one day, drove to work, and got stuck in a turn around (Michigan left turn) Left the truck and went to punch in, get it later. It was a down day for production, and the boss told everyone to move our vehicles to the truck docks as he had a plow coming to plow the parking lots. Dug mine out and moved it. One guy who had made it to the lot, got in, spinned his wheels from the lot, around the u turn, spinning his wheels all the way. When he got in I told him that was the worst thing you can do for your trans. He said I grew up in northern PA, and I know how tro drive in snow.

    The next day he came in with another car. Asked him why and he said truck is in the garage, because the trans went out.

    One more thing, when driving on hard packed snow ot ice, slow down. Also when you have to stop, shit to neutral or push the clutch in. This gives you 4 wheel braking and no wheels driving. I learned this by accident (pun intended) when I was 13 in 1954.