All Wheel Drive Auto: Independent Seattle Subaru Service


Seattle Washington Subaru Winter Driving Tips.


Having just gotten back from some fun filled last minute Xmas shopping and carting Grandma around as well I have put a lot of miles on my 1998 Subaru Outback today as well as this week.

With more weather forecasted and this sort of thing not being all that common in this area I thought I would post a few tips that have helped me through the years get good service out of my Subaru and keep my family safe when the need to venture out arises.

Your Subaru has a superior center of gravity and a well balanced power train.   It is amazing how well it will get around in the snow and ice with just normal all season radial tires, but there may be some instances where additional measures may be needed.  There is an older post here about my preferences on chains and snow tires.

What I want to talk about now is mental and physical preparation if you do need to drive somewhere the next few days or anytime in the future.

Let’s start with the Subaru.  If you have it serviced regularly at a shop like All Wheel Drive Auto there shouldn’t be much to worry about.  If that is not the case check the following.

Engine oil level, windshield washer fluid and freeze protection, coolant level and freeze protection, tire pressure and tread condition.  If you have a tire pressure gauge put it in the car as you may want to adjust the tire pressure to the road conditions, if you don’t, buy one for the next time.

If you have chains, maybe practice putting one on in the garage or at least in the daytime.

Pack an extra coat and gloves in case you need to do some work outside the car such as adjust the tire pressure, chain up or change a tire.  Bring some water and no it’s not silly to bring a blanket or sleeping bag for each family member, you just never know how things will go.

Starting out if the engine is cold let it warm up a bit so the idle isn’t too high when trying to brake as this can complicate things a bit and require more braking effort at a time when you want the effort to be minimal.  Turn the defrost on front and rear and obviously have the headlights and if equipped the fog lamps on as well.

 There is a good chance the wipers will become noisy if the windows and the rubber in the wipers get to cold and dirty even if you have winter type blades.  Just be mentally prepared for this and you can stop and use some of the water you have packed and a cloth to try and clean off the blades if it helps. 

Braking, lightly pump your brakes rather than just constant pedal pressure if you find yourself on ice and pointing downhill especially.  You can also use the emergency brake with your thumb on the button as you pull it up so that it doesn’t lock in position.  This can be very use full at lower speeds, turning and braking at the same time as when the front wheel lock up under ice it can be hard to control which direction you are going, by using the e-brake only the rear wheels are used unless you drive a Subaru Loyale, or older XT that is different, as the e-brake is part of the front brake assembly.  Use caution when tying this out and don’t wait until a panic situation to try it for the first time. Kind of like not practicing before you jump out of a plane, you can read all about it and prepare yourself but it may be better to learn how to pull the rip cord a few times first.   

If the roads are so bad you need to chain up remember that some model Subaru’s won’t accept all the wheels having chains and other models shouldn’t be chained at all, remember to consult your owner’s manual for your vehicle specific information.

Have a plan before you venture out; know your alternative roads and routes and be patient with the 4 Wheel Drive trucks and SUVs’ spinning out around you.

Once you are safely back home, take a minute and look at your Subaru and remember once the weather passes take as good of care of it as it did of you and your family out on the road.




2 Responses

  1. Hello James,

    Is it possible there is a ground clearance issue?

    I have only had issue with my 1998 Outback in spots where the snow and ice is so deep that the car actually drags through the snow which is a huge issue for traction.


  2. Hi Justin,

    I have a 1999 Subaru Forester which I keep maintained. I live in Tenino, Washington and we are at a slightly higher elevation than the surrounding areas, so we get snow instead of the seasonal rain, and we have a steep hill to access HWY 507 S. to access the surrounding areas.
    The winter conditions here become quite extreme at times and I have used cable chains in really bad conditions of snow, slush and icy spots, to get in and out from my home, but remove them at the bottom of the hill. This is the first year that I see a marked difference in trying to get out of my driveway and down the road. My car (in ‘Low’) and cabled up, still slides on the ice and snow, at an almost uncontrollable degree. I’ve never experienced this before. Do you have any suggestions?
    The site is great! I will be referring to it often:-)


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