Snow/Ice Driving Tips for Part-Time AWD 360s

Dadwagon

Well-Known Member
I have a Rainier with the part-time AWD and 4.2 engine. The only time I've engaged the front wheels is intentionally spinning on a gravel/rocky area. We don't get any ice or snow in my area. I'm planning a December trip to Reno-Tahoe and want to ask if you folks have any tips for driving these trucks in inclement weather. Beside slowing down and using less throttle, what should I expect when/if the front wheels start to activate? Is there any audio or visual cue on the DIC to indicate the vehicle is engaging or disengaging the transfer case and front CVs (I think it's not an axle?) And how easy is it to get these SUVs stuck in a snow drift?

Additional information: the truck is all stock with 245 17" wheels with Pirelli Scorpion Verde tires with decent tread remaining. All weather tires will suffice except for a major blizzard?
 

Mooseman

Moderator
This system is only good to help you get going or unstuck. Other than that, it's a lame system. And if used too often or violently, it will eventually strip the intermediate shaft between the front diff and the disconnect. Might happen more if on more solid traction than on snow or ice. I didn't like it on the Saab and I don't use the A4WD on the TB for this reason although it's a less violent engagement with the 4x4 transfer case than on the non-selectable AWD version.
 
OP
Dadwagon

Dadwagon

Well-Known Member
I've replaced diff fluid in the rear locker and plan to replace fluid in the front diff and transfer case before the trip. Just want to put my best foot forward. Even in the rain the front never seems to engage in normal street driving. Does it engage much in snowing conditions if driven by a sane person with a young child in the car and a easily startled wife?
 

TollKeeper

Well-Known Member
Generally speaking, I love the A4WD system in my Envoy, although like @Mooseman said, its a bit different than the AWD in your Rainier. I dont drive it any different than my 4x4 trucks I have had in the past, its like driving any other vehicle, you just have to take into account the conditions, and not over drive the vehicle, or your abilities, or the conditions that present.

Get the Transfer Case fluid serviced, and go to it man.
 

Mooseman

Moderator
I've replaced diff fluid in the rear locker

Are you sure it's a locker (G80)? Usually in the AWD trucks, they put the limited slip G86 diffs. If that's the case, it requires the LS diff friction modifier.

The front does engage on a regular basis on snow and almost never on wet or dry asphalt. There has to be rear wheel slip to engage the front.
 
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Dadwagon

Dadwagon

Well-Known Member
I've got the G80 rear end and 3.73 ratio. The big gear inside the locker looked good, one nick near the outer edge of the gear all around but other than that looked in good condition. Had some fine metal goop on the magnet but nothing concerning.
We did the same trip in the family VW Golf 1.8 last year with no problems whatsoever. If there is a requirement for chains and the conditions are that bad, I don't even drive and wait until the chain requirement passes, because those are Very Bad Conditions and I know better.
 

BrianF

Well-Known Member
I cannot offer much advice on the A4WD as I only use it to test the clutch packs as I am not using AT2 fluid. If things are greasy on the road and can allow enough slip, I am locked into 4x4.

Other than maybe adding a touch of balast in the back, have good tires and i turn off all traction control and stabilitrak when things get greasy or i think it might. Just drive it and know you do not have much ground clearance.
 

gmcman

Well-Known Member
Get a spare set of wheels, and mount some Blizzak DM-V2's. It will transform your vehicle, also greatly improving hard-packed, glazed over surface braking.

Anyone here who has driven with them, I'm sure they will concur. If you are concerned about snow and ice, that is your best option for your Rainier.

I would compare it to having a generator for when the power goes out, it's no longer a crisis.
 

TequilaWarrior

Well-Known Member
G80 is what I have as well and I can say one thing.... TIRES.

Tires is what will make you go in the snow. Tires is what will help you stop in the snow.

The AWD is "good" in my opinion, but it might as well be non-existent if your tires aren't up to the task.
I've driven my AWD Bravada through 2 feet of snow without issue. The very next year I replaced the tires due to wear and the new ones were terrifying to drive on unless the weather was dry.
 

TollKeeper

Well-Known Member
G80 is what I have as well and I can say one thing.... TIRES.

Tires is what will make you go in the snow. Tires is what will help you stop in the snow.

The AWD is "good" in my opinion, but it might as well be non-existent if your tires aren't up to the task.
I've driven my AWD Bravada through 2 feet of snow without issue. The very next year I replaced the tires due to wear and the new ones were terrifying to drive on unless the weather was dry.
Its actually funny you post that, I was gonna post something very similar. Tires have to be of quality. If you buy cheap tires, your going to get cheap traction. For that matter, if you buy some good tires, your going to get cheap traction. I remember having some Goodyear Aquatreads on a Lincoln Continental back in the day. Great tires in rain, and dry, but a complete nightmare in the snow. Had some Bridgestone Dueler A/T on a Ford Expedition that were great in snow and off road, horrid in rain, white knuckle in the dry. Have some Michelin Defender LTX M/S on my Envoy right now, best all round tire I have ever had. Pricey, but worth it for peace of mind, and they have a awesome treadwear life.
 
OP
Dadwagon

Dadwagon

Well-Known Member
Had a Subaru Impreza years ago and tires made a huge difference. That wagon had no traction control or other driver aids but the full time all wheel drive. The new Subarus have electronic aids like every other new car I guess.
The owners manual speaks very little about traction or stability control. It just cuts power during a slip situation, right? Doesnt apply brakes?
 

Mooseman

Moderator
The owners manual speaks very little about traction or stability control. It just cuts power during a slip situation, right? Doesnt apply brakes?

Actually, it does. If one wheel is slipping more than the other, it puts the brakes to the slipping wheel to send more power to the wheel with more traction at the same time that it's pulling throttle. It especially applies brakes during Stabilitrak activation when it detects sideways slip or yaw to bring your rear end back in line. It will also throttle back if you're trying to accelerate at the same time.
 

02trailblazerLS

Well-Known Member
[
Get a spare set of wheels, and mount some Blizzak DM-V2's. It will transform your vehicle, also greatly improving hard-packed, glazed over surface braking.

Anyone here who has driven with them, I'm sure they will concur. If you are concerned about snow and ice, that is your best option for your Rainier.

I would compare it to having a generator for when the power goes out, it's no longer a crisis.
100% agree with you man, those blizzaks are beastt in the snow like i was driving with them in blizzard conditions heavy snow with 5-8 inches of fresh snow across the whole road, i was in 2wd the whole time cuz i never even needed the 4x4, the traction was always there when i wanted it, i was drifting around doin donuts and havin a blast and it was so nice cuz as soon as you let off while doing a burnout or drift, the tires would catch grip instantly. Even in just 2wd. I was with my buddy in a 2000 grand cherokee with mud tires, and a buddy in a 99 tahoe with ko2s, the chrokee was struggling so bad n had no grip, made it like 3-4 miles before he went back, the tahoe kept up good with me but was sliding not on purpose in some small spots. It was clear how much better the blizzaks were in snow and ice though. I felt unstoppable lol, i got caught in a deep area and got stuck, kicked it 4x4 n got right out no problem. Amazing tires
 

Reprise

Lifetime VIP Supporter
x3 on the Blizzaks. I put a slightly different model on a Civic Hybrid, years ago.
With the OEM LRR tires (and the gutless little engine it had), I got utterly stuck once in a big snowstorm we had (I know there was at least 12"-18" on the ground, and still falling.)

Got the Blizzaks... never got stuck again with that car, nor did the car ever slip / slide again in snow. Drove with utter confidence.

If your traction is marginal with your all-seasons, and you deal with LOTS of snow... it's worth the spend. If you get them mounted on steelies, etc., then it's a pretty easy swapover, when the flakes are about to fall. Get some chalk and mark the positions on the inside sidewall, so you can rotate them properly the next season. Same for your summer tires (which will last a little longer, obviously)

Only downside is that they were a little noisy on dry pavement, but that's pretty much the case with all dedicated snows, I think. They're supposed to wear fairly quickly on dry pavement, but I drove on mine for two seasons, with dry roads about 95% of that time, and they looked barely worn (prolly about 4K miles each of the two seasons, mostly highway)

Because of that, I think they have no mileage warranty, compared to all-seasons / touring / etc.


Back to the OPs current tire (Pirelli Scorpions)... those are considered great tires for the most part, but I don't know how well they do in snow. Check Tire Rack -- they'll have lots of user feedback on them in various conditions.

As for winter driving tips...
1. Drive slower.
2. See tip #1, above. :laugh:

I could get more descriptive, but if you remember that one thing, you've got 90% of what you need. Just remember that 4WD/AWD gets you moving, but doesn't do anything to help you stop.
 

gmcman

Well-Known Member
Also touching on what @TollKeeper said about the Defender LTX, they really are great tires, only set I've purchased back to back.

The Conti LX-20 was pretty good in the snow, the OE Cross-Terrains didn't fare well in deep stuff in hills, but the Defender does well, however.....

The Blizzaks pretty much remove the element of a "burden" from snow and ice, except for watching out for other motorist or pedestrians. I concur with not really needing 4WD, I was able to use 2HI most of the time.

Just remember that 4WD/AWD gets you moving, but doesn't do anything to help you stop

This is huge, and the main reason I get winter tires for our vehicles. When someone slides through an intersection into your lane of travel, what do you do, especially with all-season tires?

The braking performance from the Blizzaks is phenomenal, that level of safety is paramount.

Sorry for the grainy video, was a much older cell phone. This was a panic stop for the sake of demonstration with the Blizzaks on the Envoy. Ambient temp was about 10 deg F, road surface was hard-packed and glazed over, no sand or salt, the potholes had ice, not water. The vehicle in front of me slid partially sideways through the stop sign.

This is a full ABS stop from 25 MPH. Disclaimer.. I did ensure there were no bystanders near the edge of their property beforehand.

No chance I could stop this quick with all-seasons.

 

JerryIrons

Well-Known Member
I have a Rainier with the part-time AWD and 4.2 engine. The only time I've engaged the front wheels is intentionally spinning on a gravel/rocky area. We don't get any ice or snow in my area. I'm planning a December trip to Reno-Tahoe and want to ask if you folks have any tips for driving these trucks in inclement weather. Beside slowing down and using less throttle, what should I expect when/if the front wheels start to activate? Is there any audio or visual cue on the DIC to indicate the vehicle is engaging or disengaging the transfer case and front CVs (I think it's not an axle?) And how easy is it to get these SUVs stuck in a snow drift?

Additional information: the truck is all stock with 245 17" wheels with Pirelli Scorpion Verde tires with decent tread remaining. All weather tires will suffice except for a major blizzard?

I live near buffalo ny, so you can imagine how much snow we get. We have a silverado, the TB (I6 extended), and two rav4 vehicles. Notice all 4wd capable. When my wife drives to work in january during a snowstorm, her preferred vehicle to use is the rusty old trailblazer.

I put AT tires on my TB, for all year use. They work great in the snow. Snow tires would be better of course, but not really needed in my point of view. Also, I keep my trailblazer in 2WD, and switch it to 4 if needed. If you keep it in "auto", there is the danger of going down the road, hitting a patch of ice that the rear wheels slip on, while having the front wheels on dry pavement. The system will engage 4WD and extreme stress will be put on the whole system . I also believe the 4WD is like any other mechanical system, it will eventually wear out parts so I like to keep it used as little as possible. My 06 has 288,000 miles on it, same 4wd components as when I bought it. When you are driving up a hill, and your rear end starts sliding you know it's time to use the 4WD. Or around a turn, or just starting off.

It drives great in the snow, I try not to drive over 55mph in 4WD, and frankly if conditions warrant 4WD you will be driving slower anyway.

Last bit of advice, remember this: 4WD is awesome for starting off and driving down the road, especially up hills. But when it comes time to use your brakes, your vehicle won't stop any better than a YUGO, and in fact because it's heavier will stop worse. 4WD does nothing to help you when it comes time to put the brakes on. (for the most part). We have 4WD vehicles in our area that get stuck all the time, because people forget this.

I keep a shovel in my vehicle just in case. Also a tow strap and clothes to wear when I pull other people out of the ditch. Bags of sand in back for more weight. A bag of cat litter to help give wheels traction as well if on ice. When starting off driving, you go slow at first in the snow or ice, it's not like mud where you spin the tires to clear the mud first. If you hit the gas you'll dig yourself deeper. Also, if you get stuck, you can rock your vehicle back and forth to get out of a bad spot. I have driven multiple vehicles in the snow, and my TB is right up at the top as being trustworthy in bad weather.
 
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OP
Dadwagon

Dadwagon

Well-Known Member
Looks like the Rainier AWD system is more of a last-ditch traction control system. Ooofta! Better my old SUV get battered than the wife's Golf. Last year on this trip, the traction/stability control system never activated during the trip, we stuck to the main roads around Truckee and only hit snow on the local road to get to the cabin. That vehicle had all-weather (3 snowflakes) tires like the Buick.

Thanks for the pep talk and personal accounts. I'm mainly going to be worried on the Pass and summit where the black ice is on the highway.
 

gmcman

Well-Known Member
I'm mainly going to be worried on the Pass and summit where the black ice is on the highway.

If you plan on keeping the Rainier for awhile, especially for winter, again IMO the tires are your #1 option.

I was able to find a set of 4 OE aluminum wheels on ebay for $350 shipped, albeit not in the best shape finish wise, but those wheels for the GMT360 are everywhere. The hassle of mounting and balancing each time you want to mount them for the winter is a pita and $$$, not including going back to summer tires.


Of course you need room to store 4 wheels/tires.

Keep us posted.
 
OP
Dadwagon

Dadwagon

Well-Known Member
The fear will hit me big time when my wife takes over at the wheel. If I get tired and want to switch off, I'll have to make sure she doesn't do the Donner Pass Summit section of the highway. She drives in a manner that makes me think she has never gotten hurt before, she has no fear. I've been in motor vehicle crashes before and the pain is real!
 

C-ya

Well-Known Member
@Dadwagon As said, with snow tires (am I the only who doesn't use Blizzaks?? Too rich for my blood!), 4WD is rarely needed. I have an EXT with a 5.3 and with the snows, I rarely use 4WD. For you, it doesn't make much sense to get extra wheels and snows for a one-time use. If you were closer, you could use mine as I'm driving my Touareg this winter. I didn't even swap wheels on the TB.

Here's the way I drive when in A4WD. I give it some gas to see what the rear wheels do. If there is traction, I keep going. If it starts to slip, I back off a little and then apply enough gas to slip the rears and engage the front. I have a G80 as well, so I try to get them spinning just enough to lock. Folks here call it a "slip/bang" system. I have only had mine "bang" in once due to trying to avoid someone and really gassing it. If you know what to expect, you can work with the system. Since you have no option, and since it sounds like your engagement is a bit different, I would experiment a little when you get to some snow to play in. Since you also don't have the option of going to a real 4WD, it may be a little more fun. Let your wife try to get a feel for the engagement as well so she isn't surprised. Some folks feel a drift or push starting and when the fronts start helping, they don't know how to respond to it.

Have a good trip. I like your idea of parking if it's too bad. I did the same thing when driving back and forth from Memphis to SW Michigan in the winter in a 2WD GMC 1500. If it was bad enough - snow, ice - I'd get a room. Only had to do that once, but having experience driving in snow helps, so it took a little for me to call it unsafe.
 

Mooseman

Moderator
As said, with snow tires (am I the only who doesn't use Blizzaks?? Too rich for my blood!),

You're not alone. I bought a set 30 years ago at Sears. On bare wet surface, the wheels just locked up (pre-ABS vehicle) and it just slid everywhere. Brought them back and excanged them for a set of regular winters. Haven't looked at the Blizzaks since. Just got a set of Cooper AT3's that are winter rated. Not much snow experience with them yet but so far so good. And what I like is that I won't have switch come spring time.
 

gmcman

Well-Known Member
it doesn't make much sense to get extra wheels and snows for a one-time use

I agree.

This is not an accusation, but in regards to my statements, that's why I mentioned if the OP was going to keep the Rainier for awhile.

If you use it for winter and have concerns for safety, then the 4,5 or maybe 6 seasons you get from the tires, MORE than pays for itself to have a cheap set of wheels. Four seasons would be 8 mount and dismount, balance fees, including the time to take to a shop.


On bare wet surface, the wheels just locked up (pre-ABS vehicle) and it just slid everywhere

FWIW, I cannot speak for them 30 years ago, but I will say the Blizzaks now, namely the DM-V1 on our platform is an incredible tire. Snow and ice performance is off the charts.
 

linneje

Well-Known Member
I ran my Envoys with all weather tires year round for a few years. Eventually I had to get new tires, and had a great deal on some summer tires. But I had to get winters, and bought an extra set of steel wheels. Much better in the winter, it was worth it. We do get quite a lot of snow here, and when we have our big storms it is sure nice to have winter tires and 4WD. The last storm it was the only vehicle in our household that could get around the city for a day and a half.

I do have access to a heated shop and a tire machine, so I could have just mounted and unmounted the tires every fall and spring, but it was really worth it to just get the steel wheels for the winter. I can do it right in my garage. But yes, you do need the space to store them.
 
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Dadwagon

Dadwagon

Well-Known Member
So it turns out I was naive and stupid.
Went to change the transfer case and front differential oil last week. Couldn't find it, what am I missing?? Turns out the guy who sold it to me told me it was AWD and I believed him. Nope, it's just rear drive, those were CV joints in the front. My fault for not knowing what to look for. Bummer.

Regardless, we had a successful drive to and from snow country. Had to put chains on the back tires at the summit, was very glad there's lots of clearance around the tires so it was "easy" to do.

I'm disappointed in the lack of 4wd/Awd, but this is my reality so I will take it with stride. I have my health and the truck now has a higher towing capacity and one less thing to fail! :smile:

The Scorpion Verde tires worked fine on the main roads and cleared local road we drove on where chains were not enforced. Felt a couple slips in places I could physically see ice, just go slow at low throttle, no problemo. Even McDonalds had lots of ice and basically required a "lifted" truck to get into due to a huge dip at the entrance, our stock height Rainier a-ok. Wife commented the tires were noisy when we first started driving at about 40mph, it went away over time but apparently that's a known complaint of this tire model.
 

C-ya

Well-Known Member
So it turns out I was naive and stupid.
Went to change the transfer case and front differential oil last week. Couldn't find it, what am I missing?? Turns out the guy who sold it to me told me it was AWD and I believed him. Nope, it's just rear drive, those were CV joints in the front. My fault for not knowing what to look for. Bummer.

Umm... unpossible? Unless someone removed it all. Why would you have CV joints in the front for a RWD vehicle? Yes, there are CV axles in the front. To remove the xfer case, you would need a longer driveshaft. Again, doable, but not many folks do that - most just pull the front drive shaft and CV axles and drive on.

Is that what you mean? The AWD has been neutered?

Look for videos of xfer case fluid change, front disconnect removal, and front diff fluid change and see if you have those components.

As an example, here is one for a disconnect removal.

 
OP
Dadwagon

Dadwagon

Well-Known Member
The bottom of the engine has little metal indentations where I assume the drive shafts would go. I think the guy who sold it to me either was not truthful or just didn't know it was RWD only. This car was babied and never modified from what it seems.
 

Mooseman

Moderator
Do you have a large nut in the middle of the front hubs? You can see it at the beginning of that video. And on the driver side, you can see the front diff. If you have the axles, they have to terminate to the diff. A 2WD would have an empty hole in the oil pan going completely across it. They used the same pan for 2WD and 4x4 minus the hardware for it. This is the passenger side where the disconnect bolts in.



It would be weird that a Rainier came without AWD from the factory but I guess anything is possible. If it was disconnected because of something defective, like the diff, the most likely scenario is the transfer case was left there but the axles and front driveshaft were removed. The front diff is usually just left there because it's a PITA to remove. Even if the diff is removed, removing the transfer case is an even bigger PITA because they would also have to replace the transmission and driveshaft. Easier to just leave those there. There would also be some evidence of the previously existing system with connectors left dangling for the transfer case and the TCCM would also likely still be there.
 
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Dadwagon

Dadwagon

Well-Known Member
Nope my front brakes don't have that spline drive "hole" in them. And the place the axle would pass through the bottom of the engine is just a metal bump. It's just a rear drive truck. Another reason to do more thorough research when buying a vehicle, especially when you are rushing and without sleep! Without there being a Hi/Lo gear selector in the Buicks it was something I took for granted given I couldn't test engagement on paved roads.

To clarify, there is no transfer case. Thus, no drain holes to find :wink:
 

TollKeeper

Well-Known Member
OP
Dadwagon

Dadwagon

Well-Known Member
I'll add that the road trip was fun, we were in comfort the whole time and I enjoy driving this vehicle a lot. Returned about 19mpg for the trip including plenty of idling with all accessories on and I'm very happy with that. I plan to run the vehicle as my daily driver for as long as I can.
 
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Dadwagon

Dadwagon

Well-Known Member
RWD Rainier are rare, but are out there..

Heres another one, I was almost going to bid on, until I saw that it was RWD..

I paid too much for mine by about $500 at least given it is not AWD. But $2500 was reasonably within the budget. Given current COVID pricing on SUVs that aren't absolute garbage money pits (truly it's the pits for car buyers right now unless they are wealthy) it all worked out. I like turning off traction control and spinning the tires so life is good!
 

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