How to Drive a Prius in the Winter

Driving during extreme weather conditions brings its own challenges. For example, snow and ice can make roads slippery, causing drivers to lose control of their vehicles. It can also be hard to stop when the roads are too slick.

If you’re driving a Toyota Prius during winter and the roads are snowy or icy, you may be faced with some unique problems specific to the Prius. There are some special features to consider for driving a Prius safely in extreme weather conditions so that you don’t find yourself stranded in the cold or unable to control your car on ice-covered roads.

Method 1 of 4: Use snow tires

One of the great things about a Prius is how little fuel it uses. Part of the reason a Prius gets such great gas mileage is because it is equipped with skinny, low-rolling resistance tires. Although this increases miles per gallon, low rolling resistance tires provide significantly less traction, which results in more slippage on the roads, especially when it's snowy or icy outside. The solution? Use snow tires on your Prius.

  • Note: The Prius is a front-wheel drive car, meaning that over 60% of its weight is in the front of the vehicle. This allows for better control on slippery roads, but due to the low rolling resistance tires, snow tires are highly recommended.

Materials Needed

tire size chart

Step 1: Purchase the correct snow tire. If ordering online, be sure that you’re ordering the right size of snow tire for your Prius.

Your snow tires should be the same size as your regular tires. This chart is a great place to find out what size of tire to order for your Prius based on year.

  • Warning: Many people only want to replace the front two tires with snow tires, but this can reduce traction and increase difficulty of stopping. Replace all four tires with snow tires. This will increase your ability to stop easily and keep control of your vehicle.

Step 2: Install snow tires. Install your snow tires by following the steps below. If you’re purchasing your snow tires in a store, they will usually install them for you.

Use the lug wrench to loosen the wheel nuts by turning them counterclockwise.

Place the jack beneath the car so that the middle of the jack lines up with a secure place in the underside of the vehicle and raise the vehicle slightly off the ground by turning the jack handle:

  • Finish removing the wheel nuts by hand
  • Remove the tire and put on the snow tire
  • Tighten the wheel nuts by hand as much as you can
  • Lower the vehicle back onto the ground
  • Using the wrench, tighten the wheel nuts so that the new tire is secure

For more information about changing your tires, check out our article, How to Change a Tire.

  • Tip: Keep your snow tires fully inflated. Although you will have more control, you can lose up to 10% on gas mileage with four snow tires. Keeping the snow tires fully inflated will avoid additional unnecessary loss of gas mileage.

eco mode in sight

Method 2 of 4: Use ECO mode

ECO Mode in a Prius decreases the acceleration rate and weakens the throttle of the car, making it easier to control and less likely to spin out of control due to accelerating too quickly.

Step 1: Manually press the button with ECO MODE printed on it. The button will be located on the center console, below the radio and in front of the gear shifter.

brake mode circled

Method 3 of 4: Use Brake Mode

Brake mode, or “B” Mode, is a unique feature of the Prius and allows drivers to slow down without breaking immediately.

This mimics the process of downshifting so that your Prius won’t try to stop abruptly, which may result in sliding or slipping out of control on slick surfaces.

Step 1: Shift the gear shifter to the B setting. This must be done while the car is in drive.

It cannot be done while the car is in Park. However, you can shift out of B mode at anytime, whether you’re in another gear or in Park.

prius dash with power button shown

Method 4 of 4: Temporarily turn off Anti-skid mode

The Prius has a built-in traction control technology, which is designed to prevent the wheels from spinning on snow and ice and avoid a loss of traction.

When the traction control is activated, it immediately brakes the front wheels, and the engine will temporarily lose power.

This can cause a problem, especially if driving on a slippery incline. It cannot permanently be turned off but it can be temporarily turned off.

  • Tip: Using the Brake mode mentioned in Method 4 will prevent the traction control technology from activating. Using the Brake mode is much easier than turning off the anti-skid mode.

Step 1: Press the Power button twice. Press the Power button twice without pressing down on the brake pedal.

This will switch the Power button to On instead of Ready.

Step 2: Press the gas pedal all the way down. Press the gas pedal all the way down twice.

  • Tip: Make sure the car is in Park so that it doesn’t move forward. You should also have the parking brake on to guarantee that you won’t move forward when pressing on the gas pedal.

Step 3: Put the car in neutral. Put the car in neutral and press down on the gas pedal twice.

Step 4: Put the car into Park. Put the car back into Park and press the gas pedal down twice.

Step 5: Hold down the brake and hit the Power button. Holding down the brake and hit the Power button to put the car into Maintenance Mode.

maintenance mode light

Step 6: Check for Maintenance Mode and Traction Control light. Maintenance Mode should appear on your display screen.

Also, the Traction Control light should light up on the display screen. Once this happens, the Traction Control mode is turned off.

  • Tip: Avoid areas where the snow is deep. Although a Prius can be driven safely in snow, it’s not a good idea to drive in areas where the snow is really deep. In order to increase the aerodynamics of the car, Toyota designed the Prius to sit very low to the ground. Due to this, the lower portion of the car can get buried or stuck in snow, causing further complications.

Overall, it’s always important to drive carefully in winter weather. If you’re driving a Prius, follow these steps to ensure that you’re maximizing your safety in snowy or icy conditions. Don’t forget that one of our professional mechanics would be happy to assist you with installing your new snow tires for your Prius so that you can drive safely in the ice and snow.


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