4x4 easy to get stuck in snow

I have a 2019 cargo 4x4 with the stock M&S tires. Since they aren't super aggressive studded snow tires like the Hakkapeliitta tires I have on my VW Jetta I'm not expecting crazy good grip on snow - but I was surprised at how little hill angle let me get stuck.

The part that worried me was that even with 4x4 low engaged I could fairly easily get to a place that allowed one front wheel to spin in snow and the other front wheel to remain unmoving on a patch of gravel. I would have expected more braking action on the spinning wheel thereby transferring power to the wheel with grip.

Rear wheels were also doing similar things - one wheel spinning while the other sat idle. The van seemed to me to be acting as if it had completely open differentials on the front and back.

Am I missing something here? I didn't purposefully turn off any features that would have put the brakes on the spinning wheel (I don't even know if you can do such a thing).

Thanks for your ideas!
 

Michlb

Active member
There are better experts than me on 4x4, but I put Blizzaks on my 2019 RWD and 400 lbs in the back, and it made a huge difference. With 65% of the torque going to the back on the 4x4, I think you should think about putting weight in the back as well. Happy to provide details how we did this safely without any moving parts flying around in case of emergency braking.

And yes, my understanding is that the 4x4 has open diffs front and back.

This may be helpful too https://youtu.be/WsqUK_R9v_w

I think the general rule is: Sprinter 4x4 is not great in snow but still better than RWD. Worth the money? Hard to say.
 
The video is pretty much what I experienced also. A little disappointing, but looks like Blizzaks are in order for next year.
 

Michlb

Active member
One tip from RWD driving and starting on packed snow: Accelerate very gently until you get some speed. Once the van is moving, it is pretty much unstoppable. I have managed to get up some pretty steep hills as long as i wasn’t forced to stop. I also found that disabling the ESP provided some help in certain situations where I could brute-force my way out of a slippery spot.

I think one advantage that the 4x4 should provide to you is that the front is steerable. That’s one big disadvantage of the RWDs where you may get traction, but the van slips sideways.

Many people on the forum have said that 4x4 with Blizzaks was a game changer.
 

pdxhiker

Member
I have a 2019 cargo 4x4 with the stock M&S tires. Since they aren't super aggressive studded snow tires like the Hakkapeliitta tires I have on my VW Jetta I'm not expecting crazy good grip on snow - but I was surprised at how little hill angle let me get stuck.

The part that worried me was that even with 4x4 low engaged I could fairly easily get to a place that allowed one front wheel to spin in snow and the other front wheel to remain unmoving on a patch of gravel. I would have expected more braking action on the spinning wheel thereby transferring power to the wheel with grip.

Rear wheels were also doing similar things - one wheel spinning while the other sat idle. The van seemed to me to be acting as if it had completely open differentials on the front and back.

Am I missing something here? I didn't purposefully turn off any features that would have put the brakes on the spinning wheel (I don't even know if you can do such a thing).

Thanks for your ideas!
You are missing snow tires, for a dedicated snow tires get a set of Blizzaks or MichelinIceX’s. Don’t get sucked into the myth that 4x4 will make a vehicle invincible in winter.
 
Yeah, I wasn't looking for invincible but it seems like it would work a ton better if the wheel without traction was braked a little harder. That should transfer power over to wheels that have traction.

Watching a Subaru climb muddy, rutted out hills is fun to watch: As soon as a wheel gets off the ground it spins for a half second and then just locks up as the AWD system puts the brakes on that wheel. When that happens you can see the car move forward as the opposite wheel that is on the ground picks up the power. Open diffs on front and back on those cars and they kick a$$ getting up some crazy stuff.


I'll be getting Blizzaks next year.
 
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VanGoSki

Active member
How much weight did you have in the back of your van when you were having traction issues?
 
Very little. It's a cargo van that I am just starting to build it into a camper.

I'm sure being light makes the van grip less for sure. Weight would definitely help, but so would better braking on the slipping wheel.
 
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pdxhiker

Member
Yeah, I wasn't looking for invincible but it seems like it would work a ton better if the wheel without traction was braked a little harder. That should transfer power over to wheels that have traction.

Watching a Subaru climb muddy, rutted out hills is fun to watch: As soon as a wheel gets off the ground it spins for a half second and then just locks up as the AWD system puts the brakes on that wheel. When that happens you can see the car move forward as the opposite wheel that is on the ground picks up the power. Open diffs on front and back on those cars and they kick a$$ getting up some crazy stuff.


I'll be getting Blizzaks next year.
I have Yokohama Geolanders on my Outback and they have been pretty good as a all year around tires. I am thinking about swapping the stock tires on Sprinter with Michelin Agilis Cross Climate, its a pain to swap tires since we only need winter tires for occasional trips to the mountains. I may just carry traction socks thingy as a backup just in case.
 

Michlb

Active member
From a RWD owner who needs to swap tires: It is indeed disappointing that you would also need to do this for half-way serious snow applications of the 4x4. Of course, in California the 4x4 still allows you to pass chain controls, but the additional $8000 just for this convenience is maybe justified for some, but I would again think about it (but likely still buy the 4x4 if I had the opportunity).

No doubt that the 4x4 runs safer on snow, as long as it’s not stuck. But my RWD with Blizzaks is pretty good too. Obviously, there are these moments when it is well-advised to chain up, irrespective of chain control.

I get the feeling that if you want to take the van into messy terrain in summer it is a good investment. But just for snow (my major use case), it seems questionable (but still would have bought the 4x4 just for resale value).

I’m curious what we hear about Transit AWD application. So far, the pictures and stories that are shared about use of the AWD through “major snow storms” is a bit of a joke. The Transit seems to have a more modern system that allows to quickly shift torque between the wheels. Or so they say ...
 

Onefin

Well-known member
My 2017 170” 4x4 with BFGatKO2 has had zero issues in all winter road conditions based out of Telluride Colorado.
Everyone else I know that has a 4x4 sprinter in the mountains has had no issues on the BFG or similar tires.
Most have minimal builds and overall light weight Vans.
Dedicated snows have way too many hassles and concessions for my sprinter uses.
Chains suck...everything about messing around with chains sucks.

Nokian makes very good (the best?) snow tires if you need dedicated snow tires.
Any upgrade from the stock sprinter tires will see an improvement in snow. The stock continental vancos are horrible In snow....but thats well known.
 

Michlb

Active member
I don’t understand why the 4x4 reports vary so widely. Many happy owners who use them in snow, but also quite a few users who report about its deficiencies. That’s what influenced me not to get one. I was on the fence, mostly because of the money.

The product should be bullet proof at this price, but apparently it is not. From all I learned, the 4x4 improves the driving in snow quite a bit, on top of a already pretty stable RWD drive. But the weak point seems to be starting on hills because there is just not enough power in the front, and moving torque to where it is most needed by braking spinning tires is not as good as in modern AWDs.
 

pdxhiker

Member
I don’t understand why the 4x4 reports vary so widely. Many happy owners who use them in snow, but also quite a few users who report about its deficiencies. That’s what influenced me not to get one. I was on the fence, mostly because of the money.

The product should be bullet proof at this price, but apparently it is not. From all I learned, the 4x4 improves the driving in snow quite a bit, on top of a already pretty stable RWD drive. But the weak point seems to be starting on hills because there is just not enough power in the front, and moving torque to where it is most needed by braking spinning tires is not as good as in modern AWDs.
IMHO 4x4 will only help to gain traction only if the tires are capable, and 4x4 will not help to stop the vehicle in a balanced mode. There are thousands of FWD drivers in high snow regions who get by fine with a pair of good snow tires. My Outback is AWD, driving in snow it doesn't provide much confidence with snow worthy tires, Michelin ICEX was great but I get by with Geolanders in most situations.
 

Wrinkledpants

2017 144WB 4x4
Very little. It's a cargo van that I am just starting to build it into a camper.

I'm sure being light makes the van grip less for sure. Weight would definitely help, but so would better braking on the slipping wheel.
That's your problem. You need weight or super aggressive snows. If you do start slipping a tire, your need to keep your foot on the gas and give the ABS system a few seconds to move power around.

Our van at 8k lbs with MS rated AT tires is the single best winter vehicle we've ever owned. When we first got it (no weight, stock tires, stock air pressures), it was close to the worst.
 

Wrinkledpants

2017 144WB 4x4
I don’t understand why the 4x4 reports vary so widely. Many happy owners who use them in snow, but also quite a few users who report about its deficiencies. That’s what influenced me not to get one. I was on the fence, mostly because of the money.

The product should be bullet proof at this price, but apparently it is not. From all I learned, the 4x4 improves the driving in snow quite a bit, on top of a already pretty stable RWD drive. But the weak point seems to be starting on hills because there is just not enough power in the front, and moving torque to where it is most needed by braking spinning tires is not as good as in modern AWDs.
The van is extremely light in the rear when empty, even more so than a truck. If you plan on keeping the van really light, then you'll want snow tires. If you're heavy, the 4x4 system works great - on road and off.
 

dubless

Member
Any upgrade from the stock sprinter tires will see an improvement in snow. The stock continental vancos are horrible In snow....but thats well known.
This ^^ right here!! This past winters first Big Bear trip on stock "M+S" Michelins had me nearly turn around and go home. How those or the Vancos could be rated for snow or ice is beyond me. Switched to some Falcon AT3W's for the next trip and voila, traction for days!
 

ddunaway

Member
I got the Blizzack LTs. Seem pretty awesome to me....first season. I finally got them to slip a bit briefly on ice in 2WD. In 4WD, with snow tires mythe Sprinter seems to perform great. I have had a variety of 4WD vehicles in the past. No complaints here.

Before the Blizzack LTs I had some Studded Wintercats. I like the studless Blizzacks soo much better. So quiet silky and smoothe. The only downside is that the sidewalls do not look as cool as the BFG ATKO2s. I'm going to get those in the spring though. I finally wore out those stock Vanco tires! Forced myself to do it.
 

Mathewst

Member
I own and owned multiple cars most of them 4x4. Sprinter is by far worst 4x4 I have owned for snow and steep. It is just too heavy and 4x4 system is "stupid".
Best car for snow I own is bmw 520diesel xdrive (2018). Places it goes through, sprinter just sinks in. But instead of rolling one tire bmw rolls 4 :/.

I have been even pulled by ratrac out off deep snow this season with sprinter.
But Iglhaut diff lock is installed, hoping for some snow storm to come. In mud it seems way better, lot more power going to front with diff locked.
https://ibb.co/rybGCdr
https://ibb.co/BGz2wTZ
 

JFC

New member
I own and owned multiple cars most of them 4x4. Sprinter is by far worst 4x4 I have owned for snow and steep. It is just too heavy and 4x4 system is "stupid".
Best car for snow I own is bmw 520diesel xdrive (2018). Places it goes through, sprinter just sinks in. But instead of rolling one tire bmw rolls 4 :/.

I have been even pulled by ratrac out off deep snow this season with sprinter.
But Iglhaut diff lock is installed, hoping for some snow storm to come. In mud it seems way better, lot more power going to front with diff locked.
https://ibb.co/rybGCdr
https://ibb.co/BGz2wTZ
Were you able to buy just the rear locking diff ?
The only answer i had from Iglhaut was the only sell complete kit at about 75k
 
Curious how you guys think a 4x4 144 with a complete interior build-out (20 gal H2O tank and house battery system) towards the back of the van will do in snow this winter? It has 275 / 65 / 18 BFG K01 on it. Any ideas or suggestions?
 

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