What Does the Winter Mode Indicator Light Mean?

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Driving in the snow can be a little unnerving at times. To help make it a little more manageable, some auto manufacturers have implemented a snow or winter mode for their vehicles. Not to be confused with your frost warning indicator, which can use the same symbol, this is a driving mode that needs to be activated. This indicator light may be a snowflake or a “W” to show the mode is engaged. Refer to your owner’s manual for specific information on your vehicle.

What the winter mode indicator light means

When you press the button to engage the winter mode, the indicator light on the dash will illuminate to show it is currently active. Press the button again to deactivate the winter mode and the light should go out immediately.

Winter modes may vary slightly between different manufacturers, but generally they will all skip first gear when you are starting from a stop. In the normal first gear, you have a lot of torque which can cause your tires to spin in the snow and ice. With winter mode activated, your car will start moving in second or even third gear so that your tires don’t spin and slip.

Any flashing with this indicator light indicates an issue is present and you won’t be able to use winter mode. In this case, have the vehicle diagnosed by a professional to determine the problem and have any necessary repairs done at the earliest.

Is it safe to drive with the winter mode indicator light on?

Yes, this light is designed to make your life easier while driving in wintery conditions. Use it if your wheels are spinning when trying to set off from a stop. Going uphill may prove difficult with winter mode, but you can turn it off temporarily to get over an incline. This mode is designed to help with very slippery roads and is not necessary for rainy weather. Some vehicles have a wet or rain mode which should be used instead.

The winter mode should deactivate automatically when the engine is shut off, but you should manually deactivate it if you move out of snowy weather. If your car’s winter mode light isn’t deactivating properly, our certified technicians are always available to help you diagnose any problems.


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Matthew

31 years of experience
639 reviews
Matthew
31 years of experience
Chevrolet Impala - Warning Light is on - Norfolk, Virginia
First off he was on time....actually 30 mins early which was great. Everything he described was what I was going through and he knew exactly what I needed before he even looked at the car. Other mechanics i feel were trying to take advantage because I am a woman but he made me feel comfortable. Still have to get work done on it but at least I know exactly what the problem was.
Chevrolet Tahoe - Warning Light is on - Norfolk, Virginia
Very detailed and takes the time to explain what is being done. Willing to answer any questions you may have. I would definitely use his services again and have already been telling my coworkers about this site. I have a unique electrical situation going on with my truck that none of the dealers could assess. Just by Matt doing some general maintenance , my truck is already driving smoother. Matt asked that I monitor things to make sure we don't need to troubleshoot anything else. I feel quite confident.

Robert

11 years of experience
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Robert
11 years of experience
Buick Encore - Warning Light is on Inspection - Manteca, California
He was great because I didn’t have to go anywhere I just stayed at home and he took care of everything

Travis

11 years of experience
309 reviews
Travis
11 years of experience
Audi A8 Quattro - Warning Light is on Inspection - Minneapolis, Minnesota
Very helpful and very knowledgeable will be using this service again thank you Travis for everything trumbs up

Andrew

23 years of experience
148 reviews
Andrew
23 years of experience
Audi A3 - Warning Light is on - Riverdale, Georgia
Great mechanic! Not only was Andrew on time, but he was professional, knowledgeable and very informative. Highly recommend.

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