Kitty litter as a traction device? It's a myth, folks.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Jan 01, 2002

Dear Tom and Ray:

Please advise your readers. Winter is here, and I've heard this "advice" again: Carry kitty litter in your car as a traction aid. I assume the idiot giving this advice doesn't live in the North, like I do. With a brief perusal of the contents of a bag of kitty litter, one discovers that it is basically clay. What happens to clay when it gets wet (like between the tire and the ice on the road)? It turns to mud. Very slippery mud. I tried kitty litter exactly once as a traction aid, and it only made things worse. -- Don

TOM: Yes, and there's also the problem of shooing away all those cats that gather around your spinning tire in anticipation.

RAY: Kitty litter is basically clay, and it does turn to mud when it gets wet. It might provide very-short-term traction. But if it doesn't work right away, the friction from the spinning tire will heat up the surrounding snow and will turn the whole concoction into a slippery mud bath.

TOM: So you're much better off carrying sand as a traction aid. Plus, it's a lot cheaper. Some communities even give it away for free in the winter.

RAY: And if yours doesn't, you can always make a covert, midnight raid on the local playground.

Get the Car Talk Newsletter

Got a question about your car?

Ask Someone Who Owns One