Jeep Compass Snow Mode: When to Use It?

jeep compass snow mode

Winter driving can be a slippery slope. Snow-covered roads and icy conditions make it hard to control your vehicle and maintain traction. If you own a Jeep Compass, you have an advantage with its available snow mode feature. This innovative setting optimizes various components in your SUV to master winter driving challenges.

But what exactly does this snow mode do? When should you use it? What precautions still apply? This complete guide answers common questions about Jeep Compass snow mode. Read on to learn how activating it provides more grip, stability, and control on snowy and icy pavement.

What Is Snow Mode In The Jeep Compass?

Snow mode is a specialized driving setting designed for slippery winter conditions. It is part of the Jeep® Active Drive 4×4 system that was first introduced on the 2017 Compass model. This system replaced the older model and the Jeep Patriot that were discontinued in 2016.

This smart mode automatically adjusts engine performance, transmission shifting, brakes, and more. These changes allow your all-wheel drive Compass to optimize traction and handling when you encounter:

  • Icy, snowy, slushy, or frosty road surfaces
  • Muddy back roads
  • Snow-covered streets and parking lots
  • Uphill driving on slick slopes
  • Attempting to get unstuck By modifying key components, snow mode aims to give drivers more confidence and stability when pavement becomes treacherous.

Availability Of Snow Mode

Jeep’s Selec-Terrain® traction management system enables snow mode. It only equips the Trailhawk trim of the Compass, which is the most off-road capable version of the SUV. The other trims have a simpler 4×4 system that does not have the snow mode feature.

Selec-Terrain adds driver-selectable modes through a dial next to the transmission shifter. Turning this dial lets you easily engage snow mode when conditions call for it.

How Does Jeep Compass Snow Mode Work?

Snow mode doesn’t rely on just one feature to improve winter traction. It strategically adjusts various Compass components to optimize control:


Snow mode softens throttle response so acceleration happens more gradually. This gentler input helps limit wheel slip when trying to get moving on slippery surfaces.


The transmission uses a different shifting schedule to reduce gear hunting. It selects gears well-suited for low traction conditions. This thoughtful shifting contributes to smoother driving.

Traction Control

Built-in traction control activates more readily in snow mode. This system brakes individual spinning wheels to redirect torque to wheels with grip.

Torque Management

Snow mode varies engine torque output for a balance of performance and stability. More torque reaches the front wheels only as needed.


The antilock brake system has customized parameters to shorten stopping distances on icy or snow-packed roads.

AWD Capability

Compasses with 4WD stay in front-wheel drive while accelerating from a stop. But once sensors detect wheel slippage, 4WD engages automatically to distribute torque to all wheels. This limits drive wheel spin while preserving fuel efficiency.

Through this orchestrated technology, snow mode delivers optimal low-speed traction and handling on frozen, frosty, and mushy surfaces.

When to Use Snow Mode in a Jeep Compass

Snow mode works great in low traction situations, but understanding when to use it optimally boosts its benefits. The following conditions make smart times to turn on snow mode:

Fresh Snow or Slush Covered Streets

Several inches of fluffy powder or slushy snow on the roads reduce tire grip. Activating snow mode combats this lack of traction.

Icy Patches and Black Ice

Spotty ice along the pavement makes traction unpredictable. Snow mode adjusts elements like throttle input so accelerating and turning remain more controlled.

Hard Packed Snow

Snow compressed by tires or foot traffic transforms into very slick terrain. Let snow mode manage wheel spin and torque flow.

Frost or Freeze Over

A thin frozen layer causes surprisingly slippery conditions. Engage snow mode proactively since this deceiving frost provides minimal grip.

Uphill/Downhill Driving

Ascending or descending a slope covered in snow or ice raises the difficulty. Snow mode lends a hand by optimizing your Compass’ systems to meet the challenge.

Stuck in Snow

Whether plowed-in at home or caught in a snowy parking spot, snow mode can help rock your Compass free. Activate it before trying to drive out.

Cold, Snowy Starts

Take advantage of snow mode’s benefits right from startup on frigid mornings. Icy surfaces present low traction immediately.

In scenarios like these, snow mode really earns its salt. A few tips for maximizing its usefulness:

  • Activate it proactively, don’t wait until you’re having issues
  • Use below 30 mph – it focuses on low speed stability
  • Drive gently with smooth inputs
  • Brake early and gently
  • Downshift to 1st gear manually if stuck

And remember, snow mode complements safe winter driving habits, not replaces them. Adjust your speed and spacing appropriately for conditions.

How to Turn On Snow Mode?

Using snow mode is simple in compatible Jeep Compass models:

Step 1: Locate the Selec-Terrain dial next to the transmission shifter. It features icons for auto, snow, sport, mud/sand, and rock settings.

Step 2: Turn the dial to align with the snowflake icon to engage snow mode.

Step 3: Check your instrument cluster for the illuminated snow mode indicator.

That’s all it takes to prep your Compass for optimized snow and ice traction! The snow mode icon remains lit until you turn the dial to exit snow mode.

Pro Tip: Warm Up First

For best performance, let your Compass fully warm up before activating snow mode. Cold engines idle higher and may cause some roughness or stumble if engaged right at start up in frigid weather.

Once up to temp, snow mode smooths out throttle response and transmission shifting for optimal control. This prevents issues with cold drivetrain components.

Tips for Using Snow Mode Effectively

While snow mode works its magic automatically in low traction situations, a few simple techniques make the most of it:

  • Accelerate, steer, and brake gently – snow mode can’t repeal the laws of physics, so smooth driving remains important. No sudden inputs.
  • Allow extra distance – increase following distance and braking room compared to dry conditions. Snow mode improves stopping, but doesn’t eliminate slide risk on ice.
  • Don’t wait until you’re stuck – activate snow mode at the first sign of snow, slush, or ice on the road to utilize its benefits proactively, rather than reactively.
  • Check road conditions frequently – if pavement conditions change, reconsider whether snow mode remains needed or if auto mode would optimize drivability.
  • Downshift to 1st gear manually – when attempting to get unstuck, manually downshifting combine’s 1st gear’s torque with snow mode’s traction assistance.
  • Avoid high speeds – snow mode focuses on low speed stability, so keep speeds below 30 mph. Higher speeds in snow mode reduce tire grip and plow depth perception.
  • Use dedicated winter tires – snow mode and winter tires complement each other extremely well. The tires’ deeper sipes add traction while snow mode smooths out power delivery.

Following these tips will keep you and your Jeep safely headed where you need to go even when snow and ice stand in the way.

Understanding Snow Mode’s Limits

Snow mode has distinct advantages for winter traction, but also limitations Jeep Compass owners should recognize:

  • Doesn’t wholly prevent getting stuck – in very severe conditions, deep snow may still immobilize your Compass. Snow mode improves odds, but guarantees no miracles.
  • Not a substitute for good judgment – smart winter driving habits still apply. Smooth braking, steering, and acceleration remain crucial.
  • Provides no additional ground clearance – snow mode only optimizes drivetrain components. It doesn’t lift or protect the Compass’ undercarriage from deeper snow or ice chunks.
  • Minimal benefits on packed snow/ice at higher speeds – snow mode focuses on low speed stability. At 30+ mph, traction benefits decline sharply.
  • Does not replace purpose-built winter tires – while helpful, snow mode is not equal to tires with deep winter tread and advanced rubber compounds. Prioritize proper tires.
  • May still struggle for grip on smooth ice – snow mode mitigates slippage but cannot alter the laws of physics. Smooth ice offers minimal tire grip regardless of mode. Exercise extreme caution.

In summary, snow mode bolsters traction and control in winter conditions but should not encourage overconfidence. Drive smartly, watch your speed, and invest in dedicated winter tires if possible.

Alternative Driving Modes in Winter Weather

Beyond snow mode specifically, Jeep Compass models with Selec-Terrain offer alternative settings that could benefit winter driving scenarios:

Sand/Mud Mode

Choosing this mode allows more wheel spin before traction control activates. The extra slip may help power through slush or shallow unplowed snow when carefully completely necessary.

Sport Mode

Sport mode sharpens throttle response. Combined with proper tires, this can provide a touch of addedacceleration for merging onto cleared roads.

4WD Lock

Locking the Compass in four-wheel drive could help get unstuck. But this lacks the tailored traction optimizations of snow mode, so avoid using it preemptively.

Normal Auto Mode

Once road conditions improve, return to auto mode. This lets the Compass tailor power delivery, transmission shifting, and traction control for ideal everyday performance.

While the above modes have selective benefits in winter, fully utilizing snow mode is recommended to combat most low-traction situations faced in snowy or icy conditions.

Does Your Jeep Compass Have Snow Mode?

With snow mode’s advantages, it’s natural to wonder if your Jeep Compass has this feature equipped. Use this guide to identify if your model offers snow mode:

Model Years 2016+

Most 2016 and newer Compass models feature Selec-Terrain with an available snow mode setting. Exceptions include base front-wheel drive Sport and Latitude trims.

Trailhawk Trim

The Compass Trailhawk comes standard with Selec-Terrain, providing access to snow mode. This makes it the premier choice for winter traction capabilities.

Latitude, Limited, High Altitude

These trims typically offer snow mode when optioned with the Active Drive 4WD system. Verify if your model has a Selec-Terrain drive mode dial.

2014-2015 Models

Compasses from these years do not include snow mode since they pre-date the feature’s 2016 introduction.

Check for the Selec-Terrain system to confirm if your Compass allows using snow mode. This smart winter setting first appeared as Jeep continued expanding the model’s 4WD capabilities.

Frequently Asked Questions About Snow Mode

Snow mode raises common questions for Jeep Compass owners. Here are answers to some often-asked FAQs:

Is snow mode completely necessary for winter driving?

No, normal auto mode remains capable for many winter conditions depending on driver needs. But snow mode provides noticeable benefits in traction and stability when roads get slick.

Can I use snow mode on dry pavement?

We don’t recommend it. Snow mode is designed to maximize traction on slippery surfaces. On dry roads, it may inhibit performance and fuel economy.

Do I need 4WD engaged to use snow mode?

No, Compass models shift into 4WD automatically based on slippage. Snow mode works initially in front-wheel drive.

Does snow mode work with winter tires?

Yes, snow mode complements winter tires extremely well. Together they offer the best snow and ice traction.

Can I use sport mode instead of snow mode?

We don’t advise it. Sport mode allows more wheel spin which is counterproductive on snow and ice. Stick with snow mode when pavement is slippery.

Does snow mode work on ground clearance?

No, snow mode only optimizes engine and brake components. It does not physically raise or protect the Compass’ undercarriage. Ground clearance remains unchanged.

Is snow mode worthwhile in 2WD models?

No, snow mode relies on the ability to engage 4WD based on conditions. It provides minimal benefits without 4WD capabilities.

We hope these commonly asked snow mode questions help you understand how to maximize its capabilities and limitations for your Compass. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your dealer for any other queries.


Snow mode represents clever engineering by Jeep designers to master slippery winter conditions. Available in properly equipped Compass models, this specialized setting automatically adjusts throttle, transmission, traction control, brakes, and torque flow. This optimization allows your front-wheel drive Compass to maximize stability, grip, and control when driving on snow, ice or slush.

By proactively engaging snow mode based on conditions, drivers gain more confidence navigating winter hazards. Understanding proper use cases, techniques, and limitations further improves its effectiveness. Pair snow mode with smart winter driving habits and proper tires for an unstoppable cold weather combination.

With this detailed snow mode guide at your fingertips, you can look forward to safe travels no matter what winter throws your way. Jeep owners have an edge when snow starts falling, so leverage your Compass’ capabilities to their fullest. Stay warm and keep your traction this season!

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