Learning how to handle a new pickup truck in heavy weather is always tricky, but a new owner of a 2017 Ram 1500 reached out to a popular truck forum for some pointers. Jeb writes “Thinking ahead to driving my new 4x4 QC 1500 up icy mountain highways this winter (always a white knuckle drive). Is it better to leave traction control on in 4x4 High mode - to maintain the most traction - or turn it off to avoid "the dance" that sometimes happens with TC on ice? Also, can someone recommend the best (lightest and easy to install) chains for big tires - 35x12.5?” Smart questions and it is great that he is thinking ahead because in the mountains, the weather changes pretty quickly!
Ram 1500's Traction Control
Grizz, from Alberta, was the first to respond and he says you should trust your traction control. “From someone who drives on icy mountain roads, I would leave it on and let it do its job.”
A Montana driver says “My personal opinion is your best bet is a good set of snow tires and weight in the bed (~300 lb). Then leave it in 2WD until you need it. 4WD helps you go, does nothing to improve stopping and if the steer tires are spinning good luck steering.”
Gab, also from the Canadian snow country, says “I drive on the ice for 8 months out of the year up here, don't even have winter tires. 4wd isn't going to do @#$% for you once you hit ice, all it's good for is getting you up a gnarly hill if you've spunout or have to stop on it. Chains, although unnecessary will provide very good piece of mind if you need it. Ultimately though, you shouldn't need chains if you pay attention and drive to the conditions (or stop driving). If you're at the top of a hill and don't have chains and you HAVE to get to the bottom and it's a sheet of ice... If I didn't trust my braking foot I would put it in 4lo and let it idle down the hill, and keep a set of tires in/on the shoulder.” I tend to agree with Gab’s recommendation for keeping one set of tires on the shoulder. If you are dealing with glare ice, try to find snow or something to help boost your traction.
Dan, also checks in from snow country, this time Alaska. He recommends, “I’m up in Fairbanks and we pretty much live on the moon. Driving is like driving on a hockey rink for most of the winter (about late oct-late march). I have Blizzaks on my stock wheels (off road wheels and rubber separate) and pretty much live in 4x4 with traction control all winter. I suggest leaving it on, I do dance around sometimes but I feel that is a better option overall.”
J84 also claims to have experience on wintry roads. He says, “I drive icy/snowy mountain roads regularly in the winter and always leave traction control on. It exists for a reason is pretty much my only thought on it. Never even considered turning it off.
As for chains, I have never used them on my truck so can't speak to that. But I'd say just get a good set of winter/snow tires and throw a couple hundred pounds of weight in the back and you'll be good.”
Owners who spend a lot of time in heavy weather were great about offering advice. Smiley, from North Dakota, adds, “I would keep it in 4WD to help with fish tailing especially when you take off or accelerate. I personally use tow haul mode and manually select my gears when on ice as using the engine brake is best way to slow down. When to hit brakes on ice that is what gets you. We drive ice about 6 months a year and honestly it normal for people here. Avoid brakes if at all possible and guide the vehicle do not jerk the wheel or slam in brakes. You cannot truly turn off traction control unless you pull the fuse and I wouldn't on ice anyway as it helps keeps things straight.”
Not big on chains
Only one owner actually made a recommendation about using chains. That driver uses something called “Super Z8 8mm Commercial and Light Truck Tire Traction Chains”. They are also frequently referred to as cables, rather than the heavier chains. Several of the owners point out that using chains can void your warranty, because if they are too heavy, too large or installed incorrectly, they can affect your calipers and wheels. Several owners also say that the most important thing about using chains is installing them correctly. If you buy chains, practice installing them on dry pavement, ahead of time, before you need them. In crummy weather, on the side of a road, in treacherous conditions, is no time to learn the correct installation.