All Wheel Drive Auto: Independent Seattle Subaru Service


Subaru Fall and Winter Driving Tips


With some real snow forecasted  for the mountain passes and quite a bit of lower level rain and wind  coupled with this really being the first significant storm of this fall and winter 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  in bad weather arises.

For questions about traveling the Mountain passes in the Snow.

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 in inclimate weather anytime in the near 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 there is no time like the present.

I cant say this enough tires with less than 5/32 of tread life remaining will most likely cause you to hydroplane in the rain and slip in the snow!

If you have chains and are planning to travel in an area where they may be needed and you actually have a Subaru that can still use them, 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.

Thoughts for Traveling over the mountain passes or in areas with a lot of snow on the roads.

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 however you own a Newer Subaru  such as a 2010 and Newer Outback or Legacy the E brake trick wont work for you.

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.

Some things to consider while driving in Western Washington Rain showers during a storm.

I want to reemphasize that tires with less than 5/32 may cause your Subaru to Hydroplane, and on the 2005 and newer Subaru Vehicles that have the 50/50 torque split this may be the first time you have ever hydroplaned in a Subaru.  I say this because I have owned Subaru’s most of my adult life and until recently had really never hydroplaned in one but now that I own a 2005 as a daily driver it has happened and its all a result of the change in torque split in order to try and achieve better fuel economy.  Next keep your wipers clean, when you aere refueling your Subaru in addition to checking your engine oil level and tire pressure you should take a moment and lift the wiper up from tje glass and give it a quick wipe, it will greatly increase your visibility in the rain.

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.

As always thanks for reading


All Wheel Drive Auto

Helping your get more out of your Subaru!


4 Responses

  1. We have a 2014 Forester that we absolutely love. It’s our first Subaru and our first AWD yet I have had and have driven lots of 4×4’s over the too many years. Like Washington, here on Vancouver Island we can have rain one day and ice the next. My question is with deceleration on black ice and how I notice the Subie tends to drift somewhat uncontrollably. This was first noticed last winter with the stock Bridgestone tires but I have since replaced them with the Nokian WRG3 SUV. Thinking I was all good the other night driving into an area I noticed the frost sparkles and, when I naturally decelerated to lose some speed, I immediately felt the drifting happen. I get the 50 / 50 torque split and the AWD compared to the two wheel drive 4X4’s. I love the ability to get going but it really concerns me when the traction is gone while trying to slow or stop. I know not to panic and to keep the wheels turning relative to speed to regain control but I am concerned for my wife should this happen to her. I’m a little surprised I don’t find a lot of Subaru owners talking about this. Something I’m missing or is it just me?

    BTW, Great Site.

    1. Hi Dale,

      I think I understand what you are describing, and I wonder if you manually down shift into a lower gear and let the engine assist with slowing if that will help you at all? I haven’t experienced any more or any less slide on black ice under no load situations in a older or newer model Subaru or any of the other types of vehicles I have owned through the year.

      That’s really all I can offer and thanks for the feedback on the site.


  2. We have a 2006 subaru baja, just moved to northern Arkansas from California. We have not been in snow with it in Ca. but we are expecting some weather here this week.I’ve been reading that chains are not a good idea and can’t decide if I should change tires for the winter. I have all season steel belted P225-60R16 tires on now (think Big-O). Any ideas would help. James

    1. Hello James,

      I am not familiar enough with your climate or DOT rules to really answer that Question accurately.

      Typically speaking a good set of Al season tires with more than 5/32 of tread life remaining should work, but in more serious weather a set of Stud less snow tires may be the best option, and yes for your 2006 Baja chains cant really be or should be used.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *