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Advice: Driving in Snow


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15 replies to this topic

#1 andyhaussler

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Posted 15 December 2003 - 11:31 AM

Well I just got a 2004 Legacy Wagon, planning on heading up into snow country in a week or so and wanted some adivce on driving in the snow. This is my forst subie.

Does anybody know if I can use cables on the Legacy? Also will cables be required in california? Thanks!

#2 mtsmiths

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Posted 15 December 2003 - 12:29 PM

Inless the laws have changed in CA, 4WD and AWD vehicles with high traction tires are chain exempt. Which reminds me of a funny story:

About 1991 we took the family for a ski vacation (from Hawaii) to Bear valley, up HWY 4 in Ebbets pass. I had rented a 'skierized' van from Budget, but when we went to get it they had rented it to someone else and we were stuck with a regular FWD Chrysler minivan with winter tires on it. I stopped at a 'Quick Sign' shop and had them run me two vinyl decals that said '4 Wheel Drive', and stuck them to the fenders just behind the front wheels. When we got to the road check station above Angels Camp, the CHP officer looked at the car and waved us through ... yuck, yuck, yuck.

Later that same trip someone (either the snow plow, or vandals) broke the plastic grille out of the car. I priced one and it was over two hundred bucks. I glued the bits in as best as could, but it still looked pretty crappy, and I was sure I was gonna get dinged by Budget. When I went to turn it in I was praying that the lot attendent wouldn't look too close at the front of the car. He waved me in behind a car and just as I came to a stop and opened the door, the car in front of me revved up and the guy (a Frenchman who had never driven an American car) jammed it into reverse on the way to drive. He shot back and smashed the whole front end of my car, grille, headlights bumper, the works. The lot attendent watched the whole thing happen.

I wonder what the frog did to p!ss off God ... prayer works!

#3 EOppegaard

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Posted 15 December 2003 - 01:03 PM

I don't know about anyone else...however I have been able to drive my friends outback wagon through some pretty deep snow...and up some steep slopes. My advice...go slow. As someone else reminded us..."Subarus are driven from what's inside"

I would also check out cartalk.com's website for some tips.
Cartalk.com

#4 andyhaussler

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Posted 15 December 2003 - 01:10 PM

are the stock tires considered high-traction?

#5 4FOR4

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Posted 15 December 2003 - 02:03 PM

The stock tires are designed for stock driving, no real off road stuff but any kind of snow you'll incounter on a "road".

Being from Buffalo New York, I've seen quite a bit of snowy weather driving. Your choice in autos has put you way ahead of the curve. All wheel drive is tops. I've been able to get through where 4 wheel drive vehicles (which as we know are really 2 wheel drive) got stuck. And pulled them free with the wagon!

Going isn't really your concern, concentrate on the stopping!

On slippery and snow covered roads defensive driving is the way to go. Give yourself plenty of room between your car and the one in front of you.

Slow down through the curves

Don't pump the brakes. Your new Subie has anti lock. When you step on them and the wheels start to slide you'll feel a very unnatural pulsing that will make you want to let up but don't. Practice some quick stops in a place that's open and safe like an empty parking lot. Get a feel for the car and the brakes

If the snow catches your tires or you hit a patch of ice and start to slide, remember to steer into the slide. What I mean is, if the rump roast end comes around to the right (passenger side) steer to the right. If it goes left steer left. This will keep you from doing 360s and help you recover. Take your foot off the gas during these moments of fear, but don't slam the brakes on! Slow down slowly.
Again something to practice.

Above all though, be prepared. Take it from a guy who sat on the Thruway (I90 outside of Rochester) during a storm for 8 hours! The same spot!

-Keep the gas tank full
-Have water and food (snack bars keep well)
-Keep a tow strap in the car for your own use or to pull out others. The benefit of the strap versus a chain is no sudden jerk when it gets tight, more of a sling shot effect
-Jumper cables and a few tools are always nice to have. You can never have too many 10 mm sockets.


Have fun with the new car. Take care of it and it will take care of you. I have 4 subarus and they are all going strong with more than 150,000 mile. Keep the oil fresh.

Now get out there and play!

#6 northguy

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Posted 15 December 2003 - 02:39 PM

All of the advice in the world does not substitute for experience. A 1" snowfall in South Carolina will prove that everytime. When braking in snow, don't do like my wife - do not push the clutch in. Let the motor help to slow you down and keep the AWD engaged.

#7 NV Zeno

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Posted 15 December 2003 - 03:33 PM

Sometimes the California guys check to see if you're carrying chains (or cables). You'll never have to put them on, but sometimes you won't get past the checkpoint unless you're carrying them. They don't even need to be your size. Borrow or maybe rent some, just for that trip.

All the above driving techniques are correct. Be very careful, the temptation to go 50 MPH is powerful..take it slow.

#8 andyhaussler

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Posted 15 December 2003 - 03:45 PM

Thanks for the tips. I allready have some cables that will fit from my prior car...i will carry them and drive slow, sierra nevada snow here we come!

#9 alias20035

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Posted 15 December 2003 - 05:01 PM

Snow chains can NOT be used on the Outback. See the tire notes near the rear of the owner's manual where this fact is stated. Chains will strike the front strut causing tire and strut damage.

The regular Legacy can use chains, but like all other Subaru's, only on the front wheels. Only the cable type can be used, not the chain type.

Winter/snow tires with the Rubber Assocation of Canada (RAC)snowflake/mountain logo are exempt from snow chain requirements everywhere that I have been, and I have been all over. The RAC logo was adopted in the US about 5 years ago. Most US states now recognize high traction snow tires that have this logo as being snow chain exempt. I have been waved through high mountain passes in Washington, Oregon, Colorado and Wyoming in my Michelin Arctic Alpin equipped Outback, even though the "snow chains required" light was flashing. Mounting the snow tires on regular rims without hub caps is a good way for the police to identify snow tires from a distance. Mount snow tires on the alloy wheels and they WILL stop you to check.

BTW: You should NOT use snow chains on snow tires, snow tires are soft compound with a very thin and weak sidewall, and the snow chains can easily damage the tire.

Studded tires are great on ice, but illegal in most places except Quebec and Alaska. The studs destroy pavement, and good snow/ice radials come reasonably close to matching the performance of studded tires.

#10 EOppegaard

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Posted 15 December 2003 - 05:09 PM

May I remind people to also use the search engine of the board?

Check out this link for a very indepth...and rambling discussion of tire chains

http://usmb.ultimate...=&threadid=8075

#11 99obw

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Posted 15 December 2003 - 05:32 PM

Originally posted by 4FOR4
The stock tires are designed for stock driving, no real off road stuff but any kind of snow you'll incounter on a "road".

Being from Buffalo New York, I've seen quite a bit of snowy weather driving. Your choice in autos has put you way ahead of the curve. All wheel drive is tops. I've been able to get through where 4 wheel drive vehicles (which as we know are really 2 wheel drive) got stuck. And pulled them free with the wagon!

Going isn't really your concern, concentrate on the stopping!

On slippery and snow covered roads defensive driving is the way to go. Give yourself plenty of room between your car and the one in front of you.

Slow down through the curves

Don't pump the brakes. Your new Subie has anti lock. When you step on them and the wheels start to slide you'll feel a very unnatural pulsing that will make you want to let up but don't. Practice some quick stops in a place that's open and safe like an empty parking lot. Get a feel for the car and the brakes

If the snow catches your tires or you hit a patch of ice and start to slide, remember to steer into the slide. What I mean is, if the rump roast end comes around to the right (passenger side) steer to the right. If it goes left steer left. This will keep you from doing 360s and help you recover. Take your foot off the gas during these moments of fear, but don't slam the brakes on! Slow down slowly.
Again something to practice.

Above all though, be prepared. Take it from a guy who sat on the Thruway (I90 outside of Rochester) during a storm for 8 hours! The same spot!

-Keep the gas tank full
-Have water and food (snack bars keep well)
-Keep a tow strap in the car for your own use or to pull out others. The benefit of the strap versus a chain is no sudden jerk when it gets tight, more of a sling shot effect
-Jumper cables and a few tools are always nice to have. You can never have too many 10 mm sockets.


Have fun with the new car. Take care of it and it will take care of you. I have 4 subarus and they are all going strong with more than 150,000 mile. Keep the oil fresh.

Now get out there and play!



I have to dissagree about the tires, I can make better time in a FWD car with snow tires than an AWD car with all-seasons on all but the steepest of terrain. If you want to drive in the snow use snow tires, it's that simple.

I slow down BEFORE the curve, then proceed through the curve while applying a slight amount of throttle, just enough to maintain speed or slightly more. Braking in a curve is a bad idea.

Countersteering is difficult to learn, so I recommend learning to avoid putting yourself in situations where you need to countersteer to recover. Practice countersteering in a parking lot before trying it on the road. You really don't have a very good chance of recovering at speed, so this should be considered a last resort.

Driving in snow is all about dynamic equilibrium. The car can move in a straight line at a very high speed and only exert a very small force on the road via the tires. It takes something like 8 HP to move a car down the road at speed, so that tells you how little force is required to drive down a snowy road in a straight line, and that is why the AWD provides little benefit once the car is up to speed. Turning, accelerating, and braking require the tires to exert a much greater force on the road. Anticipate curves and stops, keep all of your movements smooth and subtle, slow down before bridges.

The rest is good advice.

#12 mtsmiths

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Posted 15 December 2003 - 05:38 PM

in all the northwestern (lower 48) states, from (varies) November thru mid-April or so. That's certainly true in Montana. And, since my car has Montana plates I can drive anywhere in the US during the (Montana) legal period on my studded snow tires ... and I do.

Never been stopped at any other state chain inspection station, and anyone can tell I'm riding on studded tires by the whirrrrrrr when I go by.

Slap a set of agressive tread snow tires with studs on an AWD Subaru (or 4WD, for that matter) and go anywhere at any ('reasonable and prudent') speed.

Our '87 5-spd D/R wagons have been great (including the 208,000+ one I'm still driving), but the '00 AWD is the best snow car I've ever owned ... and it's number nine! [1. 1951 Dodge Power Wagon, 2. 1967 Jeepster, 3. 1967 Toyota FJ Land Cruiser, 4. 1978 Subaru Wagon, 5. 1982 Nissan King Cab 4WD, 6. 1987 Gl Wagon (Click), 7. 1987 Gl Wagon )Clack), 8. 1988 Turbo Wagon, 9. 2000 Legacy wagon (Honu)].

#13 jamal

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Posted 16 December 2003 - 03:44 AM

Yes, drive slow and all of that, but one thing you should be aware of is snap (/liftoff?) oversteer, that can occur if you take your foot off the gas in a slide. Sometimes, if you start to slide while turning, giving it more gas can straighten the car. It's probably best that you experiment in an empty parking lot. Driving slow and trying to keep yourself out of such situations is of course best, but you should definitely find out how your car behaves when it does happen.

#14 mtsmiths

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Posted 16 December 2003 - 09:20 AM

but I sure as hell have in a RWD Chevy S-10 pickup. Let off the gas and totally lost it on Hwy 93 a few years ago.

Same thing happend a few years later in a FWD Buick (company car) on I-90. Some guy in a Caprice lost it right next to me, I let off the gas to avoid hitting him and started fishtailing before I ever touched the brake.

The moral of the story is stay slow, and anticipate so you don't have top do ANYTHING abrupt.

#15 northguy

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Posted 16 December 2003 - 09:48 AM

I can't believe I forgot three of the most important aspects of driving un snow:
1. WEAR YOUR SEATBELT
2. bring an extra set of warm clothes or a sleeping bag - here we call it survival gear as it could be a day or two before you'll see someone come by if you arehopelessly stranded in the ditch

and 3 - "going 90 ain't so scary long as I got the Virgin Mary mounted on the dashboard of my car" :lol:

#16 1ABAJA

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Posted 16 December 2003 - 10:48 AM

Hey Andy, don't be afraid to play with your e-brake!

Have fun!:brow: :brow:

Josh!




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