Nissan Altima in Snow & Winter Driving? (Explained)

The Nissan Altima is a hugely popular commuter vehicle, that has been in production since 1992.

It boasts a powerful engine, a relaxed ride, good fuel economy, and adult-friendly seating.

In this article we’ll assess the Altimas ability when it comes to winter driving, read on to find out more…

Here is the short answer to whether the Nissan Altima is  good for snow and winter driving: 

The Nissan Altima excels in winter. This is evident due to the incorporation of Nissan’s Intelligent All-Wheel Drive System on most models, and a handful of driver assists to increase traction and stability. The Altima is limited to driving in lighter snow conditions due to its 5 inch ground clearance.

Is a Nissan Altima Good in the Snow? 

For most, winter driving is a drag. Especially for those who would prefer a sedan, but are afraid of how it is going to operate in the white stuff. 

While it may not be a 4×4 truck or SUV, as far as sedans go, the Altima performs well in the snow for a number of reasons.

Starting with the drivetrain, the lower tier trim levels are front-wheel drive. 

Front-wheel drive cars are much easier for the everyday commuter to control,  in comparison to their rear-wheel-drive counterparts. 

Moreover, the higher trim models have Nissan’s Intelligent All-Wheel Drive system. This greatly improves traction in slippery conditions, making the  Altima a great candidate when choosing a vehicle for winter driving. 

When it comes to the cabin, this car does not disappoint, the Altima has:

  • Standard heated front seats
  • Available heated steering wheel
  • Available dual-zone automatic temperature control

Creature comforts are a must, and the Altima delivers on all fronts. 

However, in comparison to trucks and SUVs, the ground clearance of the  Altima remains fairly low averaging 5 inches.

Take this into consideration, because even though the Altima will work just fine in lighter winter conditions, areas that have heavy snowfall might deem this vehicle inadequate.  

Nonetheless, if you live in a region with light to moderate snowfall, and the  roads are plowed regularly, driving an Altima should not be an issue.  

The vehicle comes equipped with a number of assists that were designed  with snowy conditions in mind. 

Nissan progressively continues to develop driver assists and features that improve safety for occupants and help them keep the vehicle stable and under control. 

What Features Will Improve Winter Driving?

Here is a list of features that help the Altima get through the winter:

Intelligent All-Wheel Drive 

During normal driving conditions, the Altima’s power goes to the front  wheels.  

When the vehicle detects loss of traction, especially in poor driving conditions, the power from the engine is also sent to the rear wheels.  

It does this using sensors to monitor wheel speed, and if a slipping wheel is detected, the systems computer can decide if the vehicle needs additional traction or not. 

In simplicity, when AWD kicks in, it means all four wheels are being driven by  the engine, resulting in maximum traction.  

It is worth noting that this happens automatically. The driver can focus their eyes on the road, and the laboring task of winter driving, rather than worry about changing the vehicle from 2WD to 4WD. 

You might also be interested in our article: how long do Nissan Maxima’s last

Traction Control System 

Traction control helps tremendously with keeping the Altima under control. If  loss of traction is detected while driving, the system will reduce throttle. 

This acts as a safeguard, to ensure the wheels don’t spin at a high rate of  speed, causing the driver to lose control of the vehicle, and wind up in an  accident.

Loss of traction is a huge contribution to accidents caused in the winter,  so TCS is a great system to have, to prevent loss of traction from occurring. 

Vehicle Dynamic Control 

Cars can become difficult to handle if an incident occurs such an understeer  or oversteer. 

Understeer is when the driver turns the steering wheel, but the car goes  straighter than the driver intends. 

Oversteer is when the driver turns the steering wheel, and the car turns too  much, resulting in “fishtailing” or a complete spin out. 

Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) can sense these two things occurring within  enough time to correct them, and prevent them from happening.  

It does this mostly by monitoring steering angle and wheel speed. When it detects under/oversteer, it then corrects the vehicle by braking individual wheels, and/or reducing throttle. 

Anti-Lock Brakes 

Driving in the winter requires a lot of experience with the brake pedal. All too often, we misjudge the amount of available traction and apply too much brake pressure. 

When this occurs in a vehicle without ABS, an undesired lock-up of the  wheels can occur.

Lock up under braking is bad for two main reasons; the vehicle takes much longer of a distance to stop, and the vehicle does not turn when the driver  turns the steering wheel. 

ABS can detect lock up, by using the same wheel-speed sensors used for  TCS and VDC. When it detects a lock-up, it eases the pressure from the brakes to allow the wheels to spin again, ensuring more traction under braking. 

This feature has been around for a long time, and for a good reason. It works  well. 

Does the Altima Have a Snow Mode? 

The Nissan Altima does not come equipped with a “snow mode”. 

Even though the Altima is lacking a snow mode, or a snow button, does not  mean it is not fit to drive in the snow.  

A snow mode may give you additional comfort and confidence, but the  Altima already has a wealth of driving aids to keep the vehicle stable. 

Can You Install Additional Snow Gear on Altima? 

You can install snow gear on the Altima. Depending on what is available and  legal in your region, you can install: 

  • Snow tires 
  • Studded tires 
  • Snow socks
  • Snow chains 

Ensure you know what tires you need before buying snow tires/studded  tires. This includes knowing proper size, speed and weight ratings.  

Confirm your tire size before buying chains or socks. 

With snow socks and chains, do not exceed speeds of 30 MPH.  

Also, be wary of installing chains, studs or socks without knowing if your  region allows them on the road. Many regions have strict laws regarding  snow gear. 

Please read our article: How long do Nissan Altima last and 11 Nissan Altima facts and statistics

How Much Snow Can an Altima Handle? 

Each Altima trim level has a different amount of ground clearance. The  lowest is the SR VC-Turbo, sitting at just 5 inches from the ground. 

This is relatively low in comparison to trucks and SUVs. With that said, if you need more ground clearance, you will probably have to avoid most sedans altogether and look for a truck or SUV instead. 

How Do Altimas Handle Low Winter Temperatures? 

The Altima should have no problem starting in the wintertime. Electronic fuel injection is standard on all new Altimas, which means you won’t have to operate a pesky choke to get it started. 

Keep in mind, winter can be hard on any vehicle. You might want to keep an eye on your battery, have your service technician do a routine test on it before each winter. Cold weather and car batteries don’t mix. 

If you live in the extreme cold, an engine block heater might need to be considered. Engine block heaters prevent engine damage when starting in extremely cold climates. 

Can a Nissan Altima Drive on Ice? 

In general, no vehicle performs well on ice. With that said, Altimas that are equipped with snow gear, and have all-wheel drive will probably fair better on ice. 

Does the Altima Have 4WD? 

The Altima does not have a traditional 4WD as you would find in an old pick-up truck. The Altima has AWD, which only sends power to all four wheels when it detects a loss of traction.  

Nissan has chosen to only offer AWD models in Canada. South of the border, however, the Altima can be purchased in front-wheel or AWD.  Check with your local Nissan dealer, or go to Nissan’s website to find out what may be available in your country. 

What About Older Altima Models and Winter Driving? 

Most older models would be suitable for winter driving. However, the  Altima did not come with ABS until 1995, and even then, it was still just an 

option you had to pay extra for. ABS remained an option on the Altima  until the late 2000s. 

On top of that, the Altima did not have traction control equipped on earlier  models either. 

I would refrain from driving an older Altima in the wintertime. Though it can be done, and you can find them with ABS and TCS, a new Altima would be the best choice for winter driving. 

Do Altimas Need Snow Tires? 

Snow tires can make all the difference regarding vehicle safety. While all-season tires can get you through the winter, the optimal choice for driving an Altima in the winter would be to slap a set of snow tires on it. 

The tread pattern of a winter tire is designed to prevent hydroplaning.  Also, snow tires have more grip at temperatures below 45 °F. 

Related: 11 Most Common Nissan Altima Problems (Explained)

Can You Mount a Snow Plow on an Altima? 

Snow plows cannot be mounted on the Altima. If a snow plow is what you  require, you will have to buy something else, such as a Titan.


Best & Worst Years For The Nissan Altima


  • Ian Sawyer

    Growing up with a father who was a mechanic I had an appreciation for cars and motorcycles from an early age. I shared my first bike with my brother that had little more than a 40cc engine but it opened up a world of excitement for me, I was hooked. As I grew older I progressed onto bigger bikes and...

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