How to Drive a Toyota Prius on Icy Roads

Updated July 19, 2017

Driving a vehicle on an icy road can be a terrifying and potentially dangerous task. It's also sometimes an unavoidable fact of life. Luckily for owners of the Toyota Prius, this vehicle can be easier than some to drive in icy conditions, thanks to the fact that it is front wheel drive. The fact that the tires are pulling the car down the road rather than pushing it can make controlling it in icy conditions a little easier, though the Prius' traction control has been known to cease delivering power to the front wheels in slippery conditions.

Accelerate smoothly and gently when driving a Prius in the snow. The hybrid Prius is not the most powerful car around, which is a definite plus in icy, treacherous conditions, but clumsy use of the throttle can still easily cause it to break traction. One of the goals of smooth driving should be to reduce the interference of the traction control, which cuts power delivery to the front wheels when the computer detects a lack of traction. Accelerate gently and progressively when you take off from a stop, rather than just flooring the accelerator suddenly. If you feel the tires start to spin (the engine rpms will rise abruptly if this occurs), reduce the amount of throttle so the tires aren't spinning.

Use the brakes as sparingly as possible, and look far ahead to where you are going so that you have time to react to any hazards or dangerous situations coming down the road. Leave yourself plenty of room to start braking early and gently to bring the speed down slowly instead of suddenly. Set the Prius to the B setting when going down an icy hill. Downshift the automatic gearbox manually by downshifting from Drive to third, second and then first gear.

Accelerate smoothly and progressively out of corners, which will take advantage of the Prius's front wheel drive layout to pull you out of the corner and maintain grip in icy conditions. Keep accelerating out of the corner unless you feel the Prius start to slide towards the outside of the corner or the tires start spinning from lack of grip.

Avoid driving your Prius in icy conditions where there is also deep snow. The Prius features a low ride-height to maximise its aerodynamics. This is fine in normal conditions, but you run the risk of burying the lower part of the Prius in heavy snow and preventing any forward progress.

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About the Author

William Zane has been a freelance writer and photographer for over six years and specializes primarily in automotive-related subject matter among many other topics. He has attended the Academy of Art College in San Francisco, where he studied automotive design, and the University of New Mexico, where he studied journalism.