All Wheel Drive Auto: Independent Seattle Subaru Service


Your Subaru, Snow Tires and Chains Explained

Your Subaru is the best choice you can make when it comes to “what to drive in the snow”. All-Wheel Drive is a superior method of traction and there is no better example of this than driving the Subie up the pass to go skiing or snow boarding. We get a lot of questions about tires and chains so I thought I would provide some tips.

The best scenario in my opinion is a set of stud less snow/ice tires followed up with a set of tire chains in the cargo area as a backup if your Subaru will allow for chains, (you need to reference your owners manual for that information) and not all Subaru’s will accept a set of chains. The next best choice is just a good set of all season radial tires with the tire chain back up. I don’t like studded snow tires on the Subaru very much as the aggressive nature of the studded tire has the potential to damage the All-Wheel Drive system and why take that chance if there are other choices out there. Next the studded tires are never as good the second and third season while the stud less tire seems to hold up very well. Lastly the studded tire takes a toll on the roads.

A good set of chains may never have to come out of the box in your Subaru but sometimes you may be required to have them in your car by the Department of transportation. And is a great, cheap piece of mind to have in the back of the car. If you have never put chains on before try them out before you head off on your ski trip. Or at least verify three times that they are the right size. And than once more for good measure.

Always carry a tire pressure gauge in your Subaru. The first thing you want to consider is that deflating the tire a couple of pounds in each tire can help out with traction. The less air the tire has in it the greater the road resistance is thus increasing traction, so if you normally keep the tires inflated to 32 cold PSI (pounds per square inch) try deflating them to 28 PSI. Just remember to re inflate them after the trip is over or you may be wondering why your fuel economy is lower than normal.

We have a lot of snow on the slopes this year and a good time should be had by all.

Just remember to be safe when driving and keep your Subaru in tip top shape and it will take you too and more importantly back from the slopes this year.


Follow up to an older article:

Most newer Subaru models just dont have the room for chains, as we have made the braking systems larger the wheel size has increased to allow for clearance, this also increased the size of the tire.

The chains in some cases will clear the wheel well but could hit the strut assembly, which would cause the chain to then come loose this is exceptionally true in the rear.  The brake line could be torn off, the abs sensor wiring could be torn out, the chain could hit the body of the car, the chain could do more damage than I can describe if it was to come loose or partially broken.

As to the issue of a one time use, while I understand its not popular to buy Snow tires, if chains are not an option what choice do you really have?

Here is a link to a product that may help.

Here is a great Video that helps demonstrate how much even an AWD Subaru can benefit from Snow tires over just all season.


272 Responses

  1. Hey Justin,

    Im a new sube owner and I had a question for you. We have a 2020 Ascent, the owners manual says no tire chains, you can use spring chains, but only on the front. We are planning to buy a set of Autosocks to be in compliance with traction laws. Should we only use them on the front or put them on all 4 tires?

    Thanks for the help!!

    1. Hey Nick,

      I would just plan on Autosocks in the front. Ive ran them on my 18 Outback that way without concern

      Hope that helps


  2. p.s. to 2002 Forester. Good all season tires have provided adequate traction in all but extreme conditions; e.g. ice everywhere, deep heavy wet slick snow ore recently, both. Then the diamond chains come out.. Location, Southern Washington Cascades. Currently running Nokian “summer” tires and they have behaved very well on snow and ice. Might be a measurable difference on a test track from the all season Toyos I’d used for years, but in driving reasonably in town and on the highway, I honestly can’ say that they differ.

  3. Hi Justin, thanks for all the great information, much appreciated!

    I’m new to the subie world; recently purchased a 2016 STi this past August, and today just installed a set of Nokian Hakkapeliitta 7 non studded tires — 245/40R18. With the recent heavy snowfall in the mountain Passes and winter driving upon us, and the soon occasional requirement for chained vehicles when going up the Pass, I’m concerned whether cable chains may even be an option (as manual specifically says no to “chains” (although doesn’t mention “cables”)), and therefore running the risk of potentiality causing serious damage to the AWD system, or worse, voiding warranty because I failed to follow manufacturers recommendation (I don’t know that to be the case, rather just highly concerned if in fact it may). I agree though, if cables ARE needed, then keep speeds SLOW!!

    So my question is, can I run cables on my car or are they essentially non-optional? If cables are okay, what brand/size is best recommended? Thanks.

    1. Hi Jason,

      You can’t really take the chance and try running chains of any type on your STI (congrats BTW).

      I just posted this to the shops Facebook page, it’s information about alternatives to Chains that meet WSDOT requirement, I am not sure where you live so you will need to check this info against what your state will allow under the chains required statement.

      Hope that helps


  4. Hi Justin,

    I just bought a 2016 Crosstrek with CVT. The car came with the Yokohama Geolanders. They seem to have mixed reviews. I’ve read most of the post and I get that studless tires are the preferred route to go. Not in the budget right now. I live in the Blue Ridge Mountains of VA. I have mile of bad road (mostly steep grades getting out of here). What about cables or even tire socks? I haven’t had an opportunity to really try this thing in the snow, I’m hoping for really good things from it but feel like I need a backup plan. Winters can be pretty rough up here on the mountain.

    1. Hello Bill,

      If you live in an area with harsh winter driving conditions, the Subaru is a great choice, but Tires are also a big deal, I would rather see you spend the money on Winter tires and know you wont have any issues. Tires Socks are more for a emergency and to get the DOT off your back when a mandatory chain message is displayed on your roadway. Cable chains are just not an option for most modern cars.

      Hope that helps and enjoy the Crosstrek


  5. My wife has a new 2015 Outback and we’ve just started visiting Big Bear CA where the winter conditions often require chains (at least the constabulary deigns it so). My first clue came when I learned that chains to fit her Subaru don’t seem to exist. 225/80R18. I have read some of what you have written and the queries regarding chains on front only, rear only, both front and rear, clearances, studded tires et cetera and am beginning to understand the issues involved.
    So if her Outback may very well work better without chains how do we convince the California Highway Patrol, who may not let us pass without having them with us? Should we: a) just carry some cheapo ones for show that don’t necessarily fit, never use them, and pay the fine if we get caught when it is evident that we really do need them or b) do the police, in snow prone areas, know and understand that some vehicles work best without chains or c) is there some kind of official (perhaps legal) documentation that states the vehicle should not use chains, that can be presented to law enforcement? Thanks. Dave

    1. HI Dave,

      If you look here

      You will see the law is you must carry chains, it states no where that a AWD vehicle must have chains installed. This continues to cause confusion, but if it were me Id print it and have it in my Glove box with the section about chains highlighted if you are worried about a ticket.

      Hope that helps


      1. Justin,
        This is a very informative forum. Thanks!
        Just one correction on the law in CA. While the link you provide states that AWD only need to carry chains, it looks like there can be different levels of chain requirements CalTrans can use and some levels require chains to be on AWD vehicle. See
        I think I’ll get some Autosocks for my Outback just to be safe.

        1. Hi Rob,

          Thanks for the link, I do try and stress I only post info about Washington State typically, and drivers need to follow which ever state they live in rules.

          thanks for posting


  6. Hi Justin,

    Great post and thanks for getting back to everyone. I’ve been following along as much as I can since the 2008 posts and have seen a lot regarding the Outback (even as new as the 2016 by Amanda) but nothing on the Forester. Just purchased my first Subaru, a 2016 Forester, and am planning a trip up to our local southern CA mountains that are getting slammed at the moment with storms.

    My main question: do the same rules apply that you gave to Amanda (2016 Outback) about using only Auto Socks instead of spring chains?

    I just bought 2 sets of S class low clearance spring chains (per the owner’s manual) to have in the cargo area. More as a precaution to show the CA highway patrol. This now seems to have been overkill because I’m also just reading on here it’s not a good idea to put them on in the back.

    Second question: If I do happen to use low clearance spring chains since I’ve already purchased them, should I only do the 2 front tires?

    Your confirmation on the best method to go with on my 2016 Forester is much appreciated. I’m having some difficulty sifting through what is the best option (owner’s manual vs. experienced Subaru owners). Thank you in advance!

    Southern CA

    1. Hi Andrew,

      Fronts only if you do put them on.

      I can’t stress enough that typically speaking the term Chains required means in the car, not on the wheels. Every State is different, so consult that states DOT website. I don’t have Experience with the Autosocks on the 2016 Forester, and again it’s really for extremes, in an absolute emergency.

      The best option is winter tires, and I realize no one wants to do that for such occasional use.

      Hope that helps


  7. After retirement, I bought a 2012 Subaru Outback so that I could visit the National Parks and other such places with rough roads and snow.
    Reading these posts, it appears that I have made a bad choice, and I cannot go to places that I have previously been to in a 2-wheel drive sedan.
    For example, I am planning a trip to Yosemite Valley. I know there will be snow on the ground. The Yosemite NP website says that chains may be REQUIRED, even on 4 wheel drive vehicles. That means that THEY WILL NOT LET ME IN WITHOUT CHAINS. I checked the Subaru website and found out that chains cannot be used on my vehicle, as there is not enough clearance.
    What a terrible design flaw, on a vehicle that is supposed to be able to go to places that are likely to require chains!!!!!.
    Likewise, I just found out that wheel slippage WILL damage my AWD: quote

    “Justin Stobb September 28, 2008 at 4:15 pm #
    The only way the All Wheel Drive System will become damaged is if there is wheel slippage allowed to occur, or one or more wheels are allowed to spin at a higher rate of speed than the others.
    Wheel slippage is likely to happen with any car in icy conditions. Cars are built with a differential gear to allow 2 or more drive wheels to rotate at different speeds. If one wheel slips on ice the worst that can happen is that you will totally lose traction temporarily. Some cars have a “Limited Slip Differential” to prevent this loss of traction.
    I find it hard to believe that a Subaru WILL suffer AWD damage if one wheel slips on ice.
    If so, that is a fatal design flaw.
    I have driven 2-wheel drive cars for many years in snow and icy conditions and never had an accident or transmission damage. Sure I have had wheel slippage, but I know how to handle it.
    Now I have found out that I cannot take my Subaru Outback where I have been in a low ground clearance 2WD with chains!

    Bummer! Maybe I should have got a Jeep.

    1. Hello David,

      1. From Yosemite’s Website “If you are visiting from November through March, you should expect chain requirements to be in effect (though it’s possible you may not need to use chains), even if you only plan to visit Yosemite Valley and use the shuttle bus. Any time chain controls are in effect, all vehicles must have chains in possession, including four-wheel drive and rental vehicles.”

      Their policy just like every other one I have read is that you must posses chains, but you do not have to have them installed. This means you buy a set of chains and put them in the cargo area….

      2. Many modern vehicles do not advise the use of chains, it’s not a Subaru thing, perhaps rather then blasting your Subaru you might have a read about most other AWD modern vehicles and chains, due to clearance issues and the use of ABS, there just isn’t enough room. This includes many Jeep Models…

      3. Under normal situations wheel slippage will not damage the AWD system on your Subaru, however if you add a chain to that scenario it could damage the AWD system, which is one of many reasons MOST modern vehicles don’t advocate the use of chains. When I am talking about slippage as it relates to having a set of chains installed that’s different then slippage without.

      4. Many who are to cheap to buy winter tires, can’t afford to buy winter tires, or just don’t want to buy winter tires, they simply wan’t to buy a set of chains instead, chains have always been about extremes however.

      The AWD system on the 2012 Outback is one of the best Subaru has built, you can enhance it with a set of Studless snow tires it will be even better. But no, your 2012 Outback shouldn’t ever have chains installed, I am sorry if that disappoints you. I guess make sure you head over to a few Jeep Forumn’s before taking the plunge, you may be surprised to read that many modern Jeeps can’t use chains either, or if they do they must down size the tires, or buy expensive Thule sets.

      One more time

      Bigger brakes = safer vehicle
      Bigger brakes = the requirement for bigger wheels
      Bigger wheels = less room for chains

      You will spend much more time using your brakes, and taking for granted how well they work, then you ever will in the snow wishing it could use chains

      It’s the era we are in, the days of driving around in a rear wheel drive sedan with a set of chains is kinda going away.


      1. Justin,
        With the low wheel well clearance in my 2015 Subaru Forester, I am having problems with snow compaction. Oftentimes there is no space between the built up snow/ice dams and the tire surface. I’ve seen other owners attacking these snow clumps with ski poles & other tools, slowly whittling away at the problem. I’ve gotten jugs filled with hot water to try & soften the frozen mass & dislodge them. Any ideas? Mazama WA.

        1. Hi Carol,

          I don’t really have a solution for that issue for you.

          I would just be careful with the water idea also, knocking it off with something would be a better idea. This happens to a lot of modern vehicles I will add.


      2. Justin: THANK YOU for so much info. We have ’12 Outback with Blizzaks but have been iced in on hill lane x 2 days. I have been searching for a compatible set of chains. Your advice is NO. Thanks for explanation re larger brakes/wheels/less space. So, more sand and cross fingers. a.

  8. I know this is an old post, but wondering what you recommend for a 2016 Subaru Outback. We will be going to sequoia national park this winter and they require tire chains. After the snow and ice on the road here in Bend this past week I am not feeling very confident with the tires that came on it either (I was sliding a lot). Anyway, I am thinking about the Super Z6 chains that are made for limited clearance vehicles. Of course this would be for an extreme situation where I would only install the two up front and drive very slowly. Just want to know your thoughts on this and if you have any experience with that chain. I am not sure if it is a “spring” chain as recommended in the Subaru owners manual. Thanks.

    1. Hello Amanda,

      At the bottom of my article here I provided a link to Snow Socks? I am sorry you missed it.

      I have tried these out on a 2012 Outback and they did work.

      Id look into these and only these


  9. Hi Justin,

    I’m glad I found this forum. I have a question with regards to my 2013 Subaru Forester and what Washington state law requires in wintery conditions. What I understand from this forum and other sources is that Subaru cars not only perform well on snowy/icy roads with regular all season tires, but also chains may not be advisable on AWD vehicles. But then we have the law that says chains must be present in the car in the case of highest restriction even if it is an AWD car. What type of chains do you recommend to have in the back of the car and how many sets of them just so that I have something to show to the police so they will let me pass?

    1. Hello Jun,

      You are correct that chains are not approved, and WSDOT does not require chains on cars that cannot be switched out of AWD.

      “I have an all-wheel or four-wheel drive vehicle. When “Chains Required” signs are posted, do I have to use chains?
      No. All-wheel drive vehicles are exempt from chain requirements when all wheels are in gear and are equipped with approved traction devices, provided that tire chains for at least one set of drive tires are carried in the vehicle. See WAC 204-24-050.”

      Now putting a set of something you will never use in the back of the car seems silly to me, so here is a possible solution.

      Here is a link to another post, Traction device alternative for Subaru

      Since my original post I have used them on our 2012 Outback one time on Stevens just to test them out, no issues.

      Hope that helps


  10. Hey Justin,

    So, I was readying myself for the drive up the mountain this morning in my 2002 Outback, when I became a bit nervous due to impending snow arrival, etc.
    Now, I have driven this car a few times in the snow and felt comfortable, but, this storm has potential, so, I want to be safe.
    Anyway, I do have some smaller chains, purchased at Les Schwab, but, I’ve never used them, and only now have I begun researching this whole chains/no chains/vs. studless winter tire issue. .
    So, that’s the context of my story. Now, having read many of your replies, I’m thinking the snow/winter/studless tire to be my best option. However, money is limited, and so I’m looking on Craigslist for a set of used. .
    My current setup is a set of Eclipse(Les Schwab), All Seasons Blackwall, P225/60R-16 97T s. .
    And they are Siped.
    So, my dumb question for you is, when looking at used, or new for that matter, must I look for and get the exact same size, or will a different size work??
    Whew! So much for the simple drive up the mountain . . Btw, I do like your advice of adjusting, ie, dropping the tire pressure a bit for the snowy,icy roads. . I will follow that!
    Thanks in advance, Justin!

  11. HI Justin,

    This is a great resource, thanks! I have a 2014 Forester that says not to use chains in the manual. I live up a very steep mountain road and have been unable to go up it twice already this season due to ice and some snow, with the stock tires. What are my other options to get the most amount of traction. I would only need to use the traction device for the steep part of the road about 1/4 mile and it would be at speeds below 10 miles an hour. Any suggestions that would be safe for the car? I’ve looked at “tire socks” and the low profile chains so far.

    1. Hello Molly,

      Probably Tire socks at this point would be the best bet.

      I have to stress however that its technically the aftermarket cable or sock component company is really the one telling you it will or will not fit.

      Anything you use is kind of use at your own risk.

      I have personally not tried anything as of yet on the 2014 Forester.


  12. Hi,
    I recently purchased 2014 XV Crosstrek (first time with AWD) and was planning to go Big Bear California. I see in the owners manual to not use chains but in some areas the “law officers” require to use chains. which chains (brand) is the best to use? or will the “law officers” be ok if i show them “NO CHAINS” in the owners manual?

    1. Hello Kaz,

      Here are the rules in Washington State regarding AWD drive Vehicles such as your 2014 Crosstrek

      WAC 204-24-050
      Agency filings affecting this section
      Use of tire chains or other traction devices.

      (1) Vehicles under 10,000 pounds gross vehicle weight.
      When traffic control signs are posted by the department of transportation it will be unlawful for any vehicle to enter the controlled area without having mounted on its drive tires the traction device specified by the sign, which must also meet the requirements of WAC 204-24-040.
      (a) Exception for all wheel drive vehicles. When “chains required” signs are posted, all-wheel drive vehicles will be exempt from the chain requirement when all wheels are in gear and are equipped with approved traction devices as specified in WAC 204-24-040 provided that tire chains for at least one set of drive tires are carried in the vehicle.
      (b) Alternative traction devices listed on the patrol’s web site as being approved for passenger vehicles as outlined in this chapter will be considered approved for use when “chains required” signs are posted.
      (2) Vehicles or combinations of vehicles over 10,000 pounds gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR).
      When traffic control signs marked “chains required” are posted by the department of transportation it will be unlawful for any vehicle or combination of vehicles to enter the controlled area without having mounted on its tires, tire chains as follows: Provided, That highway maintenance vehicles operated by the department of transportation for the purpose of snow removal and its ancillary functions are exempt from the following requirements if such vehicle has sanding capability in front of the drive tires.
      (a) Vehicles or vehicle combinations with two to four axles including but not limited to trucks, truck-tractors, buses and school buses: For vehicles with a single drive axle, one tire on each side of the drive axle must be chained. For vehicles with dual drive axles, one tire on each side of one of the drive axles must be chained. For vehicle combinations including trailers or semi-trailers; one tire on the last axle of the last trailer or semi-trailer, must be chained. If the trailer or semi-trailer has tandem rear axles, the chained tire may be on either of the last two axles.
      (b) Automobile transporters are any vehicle combination designed and used specifically for the transport of assembled (capable of being driven) highway vehicles. For vehicles with single drive axles, one tire on each side of the drive axle must be chained. For vehicles with dual drive axles, one tire on each side of each of the drive axles must be chained. For vehicle combinations including trailers or semi-trailers, one tire on the last axle of the last trailer or semi-trailer must be chained. If the trailer or semi-trailer has tandem rear axles, the chained tire may be on either of the last two axles.
      (c) Vehicle combinations with five axles consisting of a truck tractor with dual drive axles and a tandem axled semi-trailer; all tires on one drive axle may be chained or one tire on each side of each of the drive axles may be chained. Chains must be applied to a minimum of four tires on the drive axles. On the tandem axle semi-trailer, the chained tire may be on either of the last two axles.
      (d) Vehicle combinations with five axles, consisting of a truck and trailer, or truck tractor and semi-trailer with a single drive axle, or truck tractor, semi-trailer and full trailer: For vehicles with a single drive axle, all tires on the drive axle must be chained. For vehicles with dual drive axles, all tires on one of the drive axles must be chained. For vehicle combinations including trailers or semi-trailers, one tire on the last axle of the last trailer or semi-trailer must be chained. If the trailer or semi-trailer has tandem rear axles, the chained tire may be on either of the last two axles.
      (e) Vehicle combinations with six or more axles, including but not limited to truck and trailer or truck tractor and semi-trailer or truck tractor semi-trailer and full trailer: For vehicles with a single drive axle, all tires on the drive axle must be chained. For vehicles with dual drive axles where traffic control signs marked “approved traction tires required” are posted, all tires on one of the drive axles must be chained. For vehicles with dual drive axles where traffic control signs marked “chains required” are posted, all tires on one of the drive axles must be chained. In addition, one tire on each side of the additional drive axle must be chained. For vehicle combinations including trailers or semi-trailers, one tire on the last axle must be chained. For vehicles with tandem axle trailers or semi-trailers, the chained tire may be on either of the last two axles.
      (f) All vehicles over 10,000 pounds gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) must carry a minimum of two extra chains for use in the event that road conditions require the use of more chains or in the event that chains in use are broken or otherwise made useless.
      (g) Approved chains for vehicles over 10,000 pounds gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) must have at least two side chains to which are attached sufficient cross chains of hardened metal so that at least one cross chain is in contact with the road surface at all times. Plastic chains will not be allowed.
      (h) On the following routes all vehicles and combinations of vehicles over 10,000 gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) pounds must carry sufficient tire chains to meet the requirements of this chapter from November 1 to April 1 of each year or at other times when chains are required for such vehicles:
      (i) I-90 – Between North Bend (MP 32) and Ellensburg (MP 101).
      (ii) SR-97 – Between (MP 145) and Junction SR-2.
      (iii) SR-2 – Between Dryden (MP 108) and Index (MP 36).
      (iv) SR-12 – Between Packwood (MP 135) and Naches (MP 187).
      (v) SR-97 – Between the Columbia River (MP 0.00) and Toppenish (MP 59.00).
      (vi) SR-410 – From Enumclaw to Naches.
      (vii) SR-20 – Between Tonasket (MP 262) and Kettle Falls (MP 342); and SR-20 between Newhalem (MP 120) and Winthrop (MP 192).
      (viii) SR-155 – Between Omak (MP 79) and Nespelem (MP 45).
      (ix) SR-970 – Between (MP 0) and (MP 10).
      (x) SR-14 – Between Gibbons Creek (MP 18.00) and (MP 108.40) intersection of Cliffs Road.
      (xi) SR-542 – Mt. Baker highway between (MP 22.91) and (MP 57.26).
      (xii) I-82 – Between Ellensburg Exit 3 (MP 3.00) and Selah Exit 26 (MP 26.00).
      Vehicles making local deliveries as indicated on bills of lading and not crossing the mountain pass are exempt from this requirement if operating outside of a chain required area.
      (3) For the purpose of this section, chained will mean that the tire has either a tire chain approved for use under chapter 204-24 WAC or an alternative traction tire device listed on the patrol’s web site as approved for the type of vehicle combination listed in this section.
      (4) The Washington state department of transportation or Washington state patrol may prohibit any vehicle from entering a chain/approved traction device control area when it is determined that the vehicle will experience difficulty in safely traveling the area.
      [Statutory Authority: RCW 46.37.420. WSR 12-17-116, § 204-24-050, filed 8/21/12, effective 9/21/12. Statutory Authority: RCW 46.37.005 and 46.37.420. WSR 08-24-030, § 204-24-050, filed 11/24/08, effective 12/25/08. Statutory Authority: RCW 46.37.420, 46.12.330, 46.37.005. WSR 02-19-055, § 204-24-050, filed 9/12/02, effective 10/13/02. Statutory Authority: RCW 46.37.005. WSR 00-03-081, § 204-24-050, filed 1/19/00, effective 2/19/00; WSR 99-06-023, § 204-24-050, filed 2/22/99, effective 3/25/99; WSR 98-19-042, § 204-24-050, filed 9/11/98, effective 10/12/98; WSR 95-07-137, § 204-24-050, filed 3/22/95, effective 4/22/95. Statutory Authority: RCW 46.37.420. WSR 94-08-069, § 204-24-050, filed 4/4/94, effective 5/5/94; WSR 92-05-016, § 204-24-050, filed 2/10/92, effective 3/12/92. Statutory Authority: RCW 46.37.005. WSR 91-14-004 (Order 91-003), § 204-24-050, filed 6/21/91, effective 7/22/91. Statutory Authority: RCW 46.37.420. WSR 83-21-080 (Order 83-10-01), § 204-24-050, filed 10/19/83. Statutory Authority: RCW 46.37.005. WSR 82-11-045 (Order 82-05-01), § 204-24-050, filed 5/12/82. Statutory Authority: RCW 46.37.005 and 46.37.420. WSR 81-10-038 (Order 81-04-01), § 204-24-050, filed 4/30/81; WSR 78-02-091 (Order 7607A), § 204-24-050, filed 1/30/78; Order 7607, § 204-24-050, filed 9/14/76; Order 6902, § 204-24-050, filed 2/17/70.]

      Now I can oply speak to the laws in the State where I reside, but here a AWD does not have to have chains on when chains are required.

      Maybe spend some time researching the Laws in your state?


  13. JUSTIN

    1. Hello

      So its usually taken as you are yelling when you type in all caps.

      I have always like the Blizzak brand tires, not sure if you have looked at those, and yes some may look like a regular tire but its the composition of the rubber that makes the tire work the way it does.


  14. I recently purchased a brand new 2013 Subaru Impreza Sport 2.0i limited hatchback. I am aware of the clearance issues inside the tire for chains and have been searching for a viable, safe alternative since I live in California and am required to have chains. I contacted my Subaru dealer and they made it clear they don’t recommend chains of any type. What’s your opinion on the Quik Trak ( ? Do I still have a chance of damaging my vehicle since this alternative chain does not go behind the wheel? And if this is not a good option, what would you recommend?

    Any assistance would be greatly appreciated. I’m just terrified over the thought of damaging my vehicle and voiding the expensive warranty I bought with it. Thank you!

  15. I just purchased a 2013 Subaru Impreza Sport 2.01 Limited Hatchback. I am aware that standard tire chains can damage the vehicle due to the clearance. I live in California and it’s required to have chains in the car on the mountain. I have looked into alternatives such as the Quick Trak ( and Spider Spikes. Would either of these chain alternatives still run the risk of damaging my vehicle? I was under the impression since they do not go around the back of the tire, clearance wouldn’t be an issue at all. If these aforementioned options could still damage my car, what does Subaru recommend I purchase in lieu of standard chains? Thank you in advance. I’m just scared to death of damaging my brand new car and voiding the expensive warranty I purchased with it, yet I want to be prepared for the upcoming snow season when I go boarding.

    1. Hello John,

      I need to research out that option a bit before I can really comment on it. I’ll try to follow up after a weekend or two and if I can find a set locally to check out.

      I know this comes up a lot and I’m always a little perplexed on how best to try and explain it, but many AWD vehicles just don’t have clearance for chains and in all reality they don’t really want you to use chains. I know this sounds counter intuitive but in all actuality it’s the individual states DOT that may be behind the times.

      For customers in our state I’ve suggested auto socks, and I tried them out last year, good for an emergency but not sure how long they will hold up.

      I’ll follow up when I can.


      1. I’d appreciate that very much. I wish that Auto Socks were DOT approved in our state, but unfortunately they’re not. I’m just confused as to whether limited chain traction alternatives that don’t go behind the wheel (such as the one I posted) would even damage the car since they are purposely made for vehicles with low clearance…everyone keeps saying that Subaru doesn’t recommend chains, but this doesn’t help me at all in having the chains that my state requires! haha

  16. Hi Justin, thanks for your sharing your knowledge. I too also live in California and required to carry chains for emergencies. I have a 2014 Subaru Forester XT and was wondering if either of these chains would be good to use?

    I wouldn’t hold anything against you with whatever you recommend and I would assume all risks, but I was looking for some guidance. Thank you!.


    1. Hello Henry,

      I have used the Security, but not on your model.

      If the goal is to keep them in the cargo area to be legal that’s a good option, I just worry about clearance if they were to be installed.

      I don’t have any experience with the peerless chains and would worry that the large chain would not clear.


      1. Thanks again Justin. Yeah, I have had experience with the peerless ones before and they are extremely easy to put on and $20 cheaper. But I was leaning towards the Security ones just because it only requires 6mm of clearance, and saving $20 isn’t really worth it if the peerless ones will mess up my car.


  17. This issue is confusing. I am going to spend 3 days in Yosemite for Thanksgiving. It can snow like crazy there that time of year or not. I have a 2012 Outback. Cal trans does require chains be carried at the elevation we go. Am I good carrying a set of cable chains and installing them on the front tires and going very slow if they are needed? Hopefully they will not be needed but 3 years ago the area we are going to got 2 feet of snow in 2 days and they were required on all vehicles. I do appreciate the comments. Most people just say Subaru’s never need them but that answer is not going to work!

    1. Hello Charlie,

      If you look in your Owners manual you will find Subaru’s recommendation for chains. If you choose to go outside of the recommendation you do so at your own risk.

      I posted information about some products than can be used instead of cable chains for those that own Subaru models called the Autosock, I don’t make any claims other than in my state they became DOT approved.


  18. Hey Justin,

    Thanks for all the great info on this site.

    I just got my parents into a 2014 Forester Premium with 17″ wheels. I didn’t see that there were 16″ wheels as an option on the 2014, or even as an alternate size on the tire websites. We have a set of snow tires on 16″ OEM Forester rims from an older model that we are considering using on the new car, but I’m not sure if they’ll fit. Just glancing around, it looks like the brake disk and calipers have enough room.
    I could take one one, or all of them and put them on to see how they fit, but what should I look for to make sure they are clearing safely? Before I drive around on them, I want to make sure that it is safe to do so. I’m worried that although it may appear to fit, I could end up doing damage because something made contact.


    1. Hello Al,

      I have not tried specifically to put 16 inch wheels on a 2014 Forester so I can not give you that advice currently, I will however tell you its hit or miss, some will clear only to cause other issues as the total circumference could be different if you don’t make sure its the same.


  19. Hi,

    Just bought a 2014 forester and live in Portland, OR. I’m pretty confused by this whole issue. Here’s what my owners manual says:
    When tire chains cannot be used, use of another type of traction device (such as spring chains) may be acceptable if use on your vehicle is recommended by the device manufacturer, taking into account tire size and road conditions. Follow the device manufacturer’s in- structions, especially regarding maximum vehicle speed.

    To help avoid damage to your vehicle, drive slowly, readjust or remove the device if it is contacting your vehicle, and do not spin your wheels. Damage caused to your vehicle by use of a traction device is not covered under warranty.

    Make certain that any traction device you use is an SAE class S device, and use it on the front wheels only. Always use the utmost care when driving with a traction device. Overconfidence be- cause you are using a traction device could easily lead to a serious accident

    So, I’m thinking I will buy one pair of these :

    What do you think Mr. Stobb?

  20. You can also use Flex Trax. If you are unable to use tire chains or cables on your car GoClaws and SnoClaw provide the much needed traction you need. Easy to install and can be put on in 5 minutes or less after your first initial installation.

  21. Justin,

    I really appreciate this forum. Thanks for all the good info.

    My question is if you buy a non OEM tire, should you still follow the tire pressure recommended on the door or the pressure on the sidewall of the tire?


    ’04 Forester and ’08 Forester

    1. Hi Ron,

      That’s a great question!

      The answer is difficult, as the max psi rating of the tire may exceed the max psi rating of the oe tire, as such the tire may need to run at a higher pressure than the original set to avoid wear issues. Higher psi can improve fuel economy but negatively effect traction. I usually inflate tires closer to 34 to 36 when they have a max pressure of 44 for example.

      You can experiment in 2lb increments from the suggestion on the door, making sure the handling of the vehicle is not compromised.


  22. First of all – thanks everyone for their input. Very informative and especially thanks to Justin for his ongoing effort!

    I am planning on driving up to AK via ferry and then the last 12 hours at the end of February with my ’99 Legacy Brighton. (Driving by myself I don’t want to do the whole trip at that time of the year 😉
    Reading all the posts, I guess I will put chains in the trunk but also get studless tires for the drive.

    Can I leave those tires on over the summer before I drive back (the whole way this time) mid or end of October with likely snow and ice?
    I can’t bring two sets of tires for winter and summer.

    Or does anyone have a better suggestion?

    Chris D.

  23. Hi Justin,

    My husband and I are going to be driving up to Oregon on the second and we have a 2007 Subaru Impreza, we have Doral all weather tiers 205/55R16. I wanted to ask if you think we will be fine to make the trip since we dont have chains and dont think that chains will fit.Should we deflate them like you had mentioned in other posts?

    1. Only deflate tires if you are stuck and trying to gain more traction.

      Not knowing the weather at the time of travel coupled with the drivers abilities makes it tough to answer that Question. But generally speaking it should be ok.


  24. We put a set of B.F. Goodrich Winter Slalom tires on our 2009 Subaru Forester and it goes anywhere without chains. We carry chains in the back to go to Mt. Hood in the winter because there are rare times O.D.O.T. requires you to carry and/or install chains. We’ve never needed them to date. Those tires are so sticky on ice, it’s amazing. Of course, one shouldn’t get overly confident. I keep my speed way down when driving in ice and snow and don’t make any sudden steering or braking movements.

    We’ve put over 30,000 miles on the tires and can see little to no wear in the tread. I think they’ll last another 60,000 miles.

  25. We just got a 2013 Forester Premium 5 speed and are driving from Seattle to San Fran for Christmas. With the old car (2001 Forester) we have used chains a few times going over the pass between Ashland Or and California. We used to use cables from Les Schwab. Would this same type of cable, properly sized for the larger tires, work for the 2013 Forester. We are running the factory 17″ tires.
    Mike T

  26. I have a 2011 impreza 2.5i and was wondering if I could use the Bridgestone Blizzak LM-25 RFT tires on my vehicle.


  27. Hey Justin!

    Really glad I read this article. A lot of helpful information here. Quick question about wheel slippage. Say the back tires dont have traction but the front do.. maybe trying to pull out of a parking spot or something… will that cause damage?



  28. Hello,

    I have a 2011 Subaru Forester.
    I live in Southern California… So my need to drive in the snow is very limited.
    I do plan on driving to Lake Tahoe this Winter.

    Would my stock tires make the trip back and forth without the need of snow chains?


    1. Joe,

      Dont know the roads you are talking about to anser that Question. I have gone many places in many Subaru’s without traction tires or chains, but Im a good Driver in the Snow and thats a huge part of it.


    2. Hey Joe,

      I live in the bay area and go to tahoe almost every weekend. Buy a pair of chains just to be safe. Sometimes chain control requires that all 4WD and AWD vehicles carry chains even though they may not need them. Also like Justin mentioned to someone else, most chain stores have a policy that you may return them if you didnt use them.


  29. I have a 1999 Subaru Forester L and I have plain city tires(bought them after I moved to the city out of the mountains) installed but I have to go to the mountains to visit family soon. I have chains but would I install them on the front, back or both, or would even need them at all?

  30. Hi Justin,

    I echo the comments above. This is by far the most useful forum on this subject that I have found. And you’re in Seattle. (Me too.) I was just wondering about your comment on the Thule K-Summit chains. You said you’ve used them and they should be used with caution. Can you expand on this? Any more caution required than with other chains? I’m in a 2011 Impreza 2.5i premium.



    1. Hi Erik,

      I “demoed” these chains on Proctor creek road off of Highway 2, and what I found was that in uneven terrain they tended to loosen up a bit. The test vehicle was a 2006 Outback XT with 17’s.

      Because as you well know that in our area snow has sporadic at best the last couple of years, I was not able to do a prolonged drive on the pass or even in Eastern Washington the last couple of years when there was snow I was busty when I have had time its been bare on the roads..

      You don’t want to put them on the rear, there just is not enough clearance and like I always state speeds below 25 mph.

      Chains on your Era Subaru are for OMG situations only.



      1. Thanks Justin,

        I appreciate your response. I would just as soon never put them on. I don’t intend to ever use them unless required by law enforcement types. The Impreza’s awd with stock tires have already literally saved us from life-threatening injury this winter, so I have a lot of faith in the car even without chains. Planning a winter trip to Yosemite next year, but we’re not likely to leave main roads. Just want something to give us a little more security in an emergency situation without inherent risk to vital systems. I think they will do the trick.

        Thanks again!

  31. Hi,
    I recently bought an Impreza 2012. IAW the owner’s manual, p. 8-11, it is said to not use chain. However it is also stipulated that if you chose to use chain, they need to meet SAE class S clearance specification. It also say to use it ONLY on front wheels. I do not want to create a debate of using chain on 4 wheels vs 2 wheels but I want to know why not on all 4 wheels? Is it only a clearance issue or it does not have any mechanical effects?

    1. There is less clearance for the rear than front, the tire sits very close to the strut in the rear of the vehicle.

      You need to understand as does anyone else reading, if you need to put chains on a Subaru you need to be going 5 to 10mph max and proceeding with much caution, you cannot go 30mph with chains on or you will pay for it.


  32. My question has to do with my daughter-in-laws new 12 outback. She lives in Philly and does not want to have a separate set of wheels for snow tires. Her folks live in upstate new York and have adopted a policy of buying blizaks and leaving them on all year long. She has a youmg child and I am sure she wants to be a safe as possible. I wonder what you think of this and whether you think B;ozals would be the best bet. I guess dry performnce is now also a consideration. Appreciate your thoughts..

    1. You can buy Ice tires such as the Blizzak and use them year round but you wont get very many miles out of them, there are some tire companies that offer tire storage maybe look for that option.


  33. Justin,

    I recently traded in my ’04 Outback base for a 2011 Legacy Premium. I live in an area of Upstate NY that can (in non-La Nina years) get up to 300 inches of snow per season, so snow tires are pretty important here.

    To save some cash, I’d like to be able to mount my Outback’s snow tires on the new Legacy. The Outback uses a 225/60-16 tire and the Legacy takes a 205/60-16. Will this cause any issues other than my speedometer being off by a mph or two? I’ve been told this can disrupt the ABS’s performance, but shouldn’t damage the drive train as long as all 4 are the same size (they are). Please advise?

  34. Justin,

    Thx. Good advice all around. Am looking into some stud-less tires for my 2011 Outback.

    FWIW… there is one cable chain out there which I used over the Donner Pass in 2009 for a rental car (bought in a pinch during a “snowy” Tahoe ski trip) which has VERY LOW clearance requirements; i.e. 1/4″ all around. The Super Z6 by SCC.

    If anything will work on just about any car, these will. They are also very easy to put on/take off. Would be a good choice to keep in the back of many a car for the extreme emergency.

    I’ve eyeballed the clearances both front and back on the Outback and it seems as though these cables should fit, but I’ve not tried them yet.


    1. Scott,

      I dont have any experience with that chain, I do have a 2012 Outback and there is really no room for chains unless you find a 16 inch rim that will clear the brakes.


      1. Hmmm…

        The way these cables (not chains) work is shown on the website’s video. They interconnect on the inside of the tire and stay well away from the center of rotation near the axle (just alongside the tire rubber on inside). There’s really no opportunity to foul with the brakes. The only places I could see there being an issue would be:

        1) cables possibly rubbing the wheel well

        2) cables possibly rubbing the strut (on front tire) that comes down vertically.

        I’ve ran my fingers along all the possible clearance choke points and there seems to be enough room here.

        The rest of the steering struts/linkage/brakes/etc. would not be open to entanglement from what I remember.

        I live in NJ, and have no plans to buy these, and so I cannot test my assertion, but if I lived in the Sierras, I definitely would give them a try on a 2011 Outback (and I’d buy two pairs for AWD… roughly $120). Worst case you just have to send them back.

        BTW… I have P225/60R17’s on my 2011 Outback.


        1. What happens when the cables come loose? Thats what I mean by no room for chains or cables, Rubbing on anything and than coming loose, possibly tearing out the brake hose, then maybe losing the brakes will not be a good time. Coming loose and hitting the wheel well and doing $500.00 to $1000.00 in body damage.

          If you look at the 2010 to 2012 Outback you will see there is not much clearance, have a gander at the front and back of the front wheel well VS the top of the wheel well.


          1. Agree with that… if the cables break, it would NOT be good. 😉

            As you mentioned in an earlier post, for me (if I lived say in a really snowy area), these would stored in the back and used ONLY if I was otherwise going to stranded somewhere.

            By far, the best choice is stud-less snow tires for virtually all winter driving.

          2. Hi Justin, I live in southern California, and I have a 2011 WRX- I had been using the SCC Super Z6 cable chains as well for trips to the mountains 2 winters ago (last winter was too dry to need them). They performed fine, but I think the set on the rears were rubbing the wheel wells at anything over 20mph.

            Your comment about possible body or brakeline damage from the cable chains breaking scared me, but I’ve looked into Blizzak winter tires, and gave bridgestone a call to see if it would be appropriate to use them all winter in southern california, even though it can get pretty warm on the roads on the way to the mountains (2 hours away). The representative told me that so much driving on warm, dry highways would probably wear out the winter tires in 1 season.

            Is this something that you’ve found with all studless winter tires? I wouldn’t want to spend several hundred dollars on a set, only to have them wear away on warm highways.

            Thanks for any advice you can offer!

          3. Yes winter tires can wear out if used a lot on warm dry roads, wouldn’t think in just a few months however.

            I would get a set of extra wheels to make the transition to winter and all season tires a snap based on what you have said, its actually what I do anyways as we travel over the pass a lot and I want as many miles out of my snow tires as possible.


          4. Thanks Justin! That’s a great idea- i’m now leaning toward a set of Michellin X-Ice winter tires, which are rated for 40K miles, and a set of steel rims so i can swap the tires easily. If I can even get 20K miles from them in southern california, I’ll be happy, as that would last me at least 5 winters.

            Factoring in the fact that it means I won’t be wearing out my summer tires as quickly, it now seems like a no-brainer.

            Thanks again!

  35. Great site Justin, thanks for this info! My question is: Are you aware of significant snow/ice handling differences between Legacy and Impreza? I ask since I live on a very steep hill in Bellevue. My ’97 Outback was awesome: only one loss of control in 8 years up and down these hills. But my ’07 Impreza (with M+S all season tires) is a different story: major collision last year, and very sketchy this storm (Jan 2011); sliding sideways down the not-too-steep driveway from zero speed. I haven’t changed 🙂

    1. Hello Kurt,

      Yes a 1997 is going to feel better in thew snow than the Impreza. Also if the Impreza has 16 or 17 inch wheels that will make a huge difference in how it fells over the skinny 15 inch wheels the 1997 Outback.

      The 2007 Impreza utilizes a 50/50 torque split the 1997 Outback a 70/30.

      I will also add that living in the same part of town as you this one was very slick.


  36. I have a 2005 subaru legacy sedan AWD. Should I put any weight in the back to help with traction in the 20″ of snow we got today or am I good to go?

  37. Great site with great info, thanks Justin for taking the time out of your day to help answer all these questions!

    I have a 2003 Subaru Immpreza and got a set of Z chains on it. I live in the NW and winter storms are coming – few days ago when there was snow/ice all over the roads, I put on the chains on my FRONT set of wheels. Since it has AWD, I assumed front is better since it’s the steering pair. But since then I’ve read a lot about it’s either all chains or no chains and putting them on the front can cause the back to swing out, getting into a bad accident. My question – is it bad to put chains on only one set of tires and if I must use them, what’s better, front or back?

    I also drove about 10 miles of way without any snow, going 30-35 mph max with the front chains still on, is that bad? How can you tell if you’ve damaged your AWD? Thanks!!

    1. Shouldn’t use chains at all unless you are in snow, chains on dry or just wet roads= costly repairs the effects may not be immediately apparent.

      Have you considered buying some studless tires, keeping the chains in the cargo area and not having any worries?

      The truth is that chains should only be used in extreme conditions, and not in mild ones because the roads change so much you really need to take them off and put them back on as the road conditions change.


      1. Thanks so much for your response! I generally don’t use chains, I really just keep them in my trunk as a back up if required by the state on certain roads. However I also live on hills so I throw them on to get out of the area I live in, but didn’t take them off when I got out to the big roads that was cleared up – it was about a 8-10 mile drive and only that one time. Didn’t think about it at the time but then got worried after reading up on it. Will I be able to tell if there was damage done or the AWD is messed up? How can I tell?

        We don’t usually get snow often so I didn’t want to buy a set of snow tires just to use for one day out of the year IF we even get snow. My subie usually does pretty ok, but this year we happened to get hit with quite some snow so that’s why I put them on. Today I used them but the conditions were worse and majority of the roads were snow covered, so I think it was ok.

        Again, thanks for your answer, much appreciated!

  38. Hello. I recently bought a used subaru impreza outback sport 1997. How do I put my car into AWD? I know that there is a small chip under my hood, but im not sure if im suppose to take it out or put it in.

    1. Hi Amber,

      Its always in AWD, if its not working properly there may be something wrong with the system. The AWD fuse holder under hood is to deactivate the AWD system electronically for testing purposes when a fuse is installed..

      Hope that helps


  39. Hi Justin

    A lot of great info here. I just have a couple questions. As I was reading down through the forum, I noticed there is a lot of talk about “wheel slippage” damaging the AWD systems. I was wondering how this damages the system. Sometimes while driving in snow, my tires are spinning at different rates, depending on which tire is getting traction. Now I have only had my 2008 Subaru Legacy for 9-10 months or so, and it is my first AWD car. So I am still pretty new at the AWD thing and love reading up on how everything works.

    The other question I have is. Do you have any words of wisdom in buying a set of Stud-less Winter Treads? I live in Central Pennsylvania and the amount of snow we get each winter is always hit or miss. I’m not quite 100% dedicated in forking out for a set of dedicated winter tires if there is only a couple snow storms “salt and peppered” throughout the winter. But I love going out and playing in the snow.

    Last year I got along O.K. with the OEM Yokohama All-Seasons. But they are wearing down fast and will need new tires regardless before winter hits.

    Any info would be greatly appreciated!



    1. Hi Derek,

      The main issue is excessive slippage and then only one wheel catching, this done a few times can damage things. This happens more so with chains and Studded tires.

      I am a fan of the Studless snow tires, if you are planning on keeping car you can expect to get 4 to 5 good solid years out of the Stud less tires if you use them seasonally.

      Hope that helps


  40. Hi Justin,

    Great blog! rapid, factual, real-life updates are much appreciated.

    I’m shopping for snow tires for a 2011 Subaru Forester. I plan on getting the Bridgestone Blizzak WS70. My question concerns size. I originally thought to stay with the same size wheels/tires that came with the all-season tires currently on the vehicle – 225/55R17. However, a coworker said I should consider the 16’s as less surface area provides more “bite” on icy conditions. Since I will be travelling from Seattle to Mazama several times a month, I will be going over 2 mtn passes to Winthrop and then totally compacted snow surfaces for the last 15 miles. Do I get the R16’s or the R17’s? And do I keep the tires inflated at 32psi until winthrop and then drop down to 28psi for the remainder of my commute until I get back to Winthrop?

    Thanks for your advice!

    1. Hi Carol,

      The 16 is an option as long as the steel snow wheels you select clear the calipers and the total circumference is matched.

      The lower the tire pressure the better the traction will be, if you struggle at 32 psi then drop it down to 28 psi and see if traction improves.

      Hope that helps


  41. Hi, Justin-
    2006 Baja Sport here, just moved to NW Montana from KY and new hubby [an “ol’ Montana fart”] says I’d be much safer with studs. If I keep my speed controlled and don’t spin the tires will my Baja be fine with studs?

    Also, can I safely go with 15″ wheels and tires rather than 16″ if they clear the calipers and have similar offset?

    Thanks much in advance,

    1. Hello Eleanor,

      I do prefer the Studless tires on the 2006 Baja but if you use Caution you will be Ok with Studded tires. I would also stick with the 16’s.

      Hope that helps


      1. Thank you very much for the quick reply and good advice. This is the most informative and honest site I’ve run across. Your ability to admit you don’t know something makes you all the more credible when you DO make a definitive statement-please keep calling them as you see ’em!

  42. Hi Justin,

    I’ve read through all of the posts and replies and find the info really helpful – yet I still want to ask my question that is very similar to many you have already answered. I just moved to Bozeman, MT and I am going to be spending a lot of time on snowy roads (for back country and front country skiing). I have a 2007 AWD Subaru Forester. The advice from my friends around here (all grew up driving these back roads on a daily basis but not in subarus) is that I should get studded tires – that it is the safest option. However, based on what you have been writing it seems that studless snows are the best option to ensure not damaging the car. I guess I am just worried because yeseterday I went up with my friend in her 2005 AWD subaru outback (only had all season tires) and we spun out 4 times (she is a very experienced snow and ice driver, was driving very very slow and being safe, it was just very bad conditions). It seems that most of your questions come from people in the maritime climates where people are driving on snow once a week to go up to the mountains (I grew up in Portland, OR – skiing and driving in that area and never had studded tires and was fine). Do you have any different advice for someone who is in the drier snow climate of Bozeman, MT and will be driving on the snow on winding roads, often near creeks 5-7 days a week? Thank you for your time and help!

    1. Hi Molly,

      I was just in Montana for the first time a couple weeks back way up in the Snow. For the 2007 Forester either way will be ok, I do still like the added benefit of the way the Stud less tire works on the ice, but also appreciate how well the Studded tire works in Compact snow and ice much like you have in your part of the country, also Montana wont be outlawing Studded tires anytime soon like many states are (including Washington state).

      I don’t worry about studded tires as much on a Forester as I do a newer Outback. As always however as I am sure you are aware just keep your speeds moderated in sketchy road condition’s and you will be just fine with the Studded tires on your 2007 Forester.

      Hope that helps


  43. I recommend never to put chains on a Subaru, unless the manual specifically states its ok. I just spent 3000 fixing a center diff after running chains on my 09 wrx on just the fronts during a huge snow storm out here in Seattle last year. I have since ran my car in the snow with summer tires and even on those, which are much like plastic at those temps, had more traction than the other cars on the road. As long as you know AWD doesn’t mean you have AWS (all wheel stop) and understand simple dynamics of driving in low traction environments (see dirtfish rally school if you are in the PNW) you will have the most grip on the road.

    Drive safe.

  44. If you have a 4 wheel drive Subaru, I would purchase snow tires with an agressive tred such as the Toyo Observe G02 and forget the chains. Chains are too much of a hassle and if you break a cross link, there could be damage. Remembrer, an all wheel drive will not take you everywhere, it is far superior to a two wheel drive but if it’s icy, nothing will perform really well and sometimes, just stay home. You will find many snow tire performance tests advertised on the internet but the majority go on and on about pricing and very little on performance. Winter driving depends on the nut behind the wheel, not the nut on the wheel!

    A. Irwin
    Halifax, Nova Scotia

    P.S. We get lots of that wonderful snow, sleet, rain high winds, just take your pick.

  45. Hi,

    We are needing to replace our 2001 Outback. We had several very frightening experiences in the snow last year, due to slipping trying to get up our snowy 1.5 mile gravel driveway (not going fast) with newish all season tires, and were dismayed to find out that tire chains were not an option on our car. We do not keep snow on the ground all winter (live in NC) and feel that snow tires would wear out during the longer warm spells.

    We are now looking at a new Legacy, Outback or Forester. My thinking is that if we can’t use chains or snow tires, the extra height of the Outback and Forester won’t be beneficial and we might be more comfortable in the Legacy. (I’m a bit tired of the Outbacks waggly handling too, and I hear the new ones are even larger) If we are going to slip in 2″ of snow, we’re going to slip in anything over that too.

    Is there any weight benefit with the Outback or Forester that might help them in snow more than the Legacy?

    Do we just have to have another set of tires and plan on replacing them often, to get the most out of the Subaru?

    Is the extra height that much of an advantage with snow tires?

    What are your thoughts?


    1. I like Stud-less snow tires used for 5 to 6 months a year and used for an approximation of 4 to 5 years. That is really the best way to go about increasing the traction on a newer Subaru or really any newer car.

      Pick the model that suits you the best, feels the best to drive and is the most comfortable. The CVT in the Outback is compelling when you factor in the Fuel economy but now that its available in some other models its even more so. The only thing I will say about that is that no matter who builds the car, its generally my advice to avoid the first year of a new or revamped model unless tips to the service department are fun for you. Its usually unavoidable even if its just for software updates.

      So when looking at the new Forester or Impreza its hard for me to steer you this direction, all will most likely be ok, but their may be some frustration if little things that pop up here and there.


  46. Justin,
    this is good stuff!
    From what I see you recommend using a studless snow/ice tire for all wheel drive cars. I live in Portland and go up to the mt. about 10 times a year and drive over the pass to go to bend and snoqualmie a couple times a year. I recently purchased a 2011 2.5i outback. If I purchase a set of studless tires how often would you recommend changing them with the all purpose tire? What is the the typical cost/procedure for changing them as I realize that driving with the studless will wear out the tread and usefulness of the tire. Any help regarding tires and driving this vehicle is appreciated.

    1. Hi Martin,

      Thanks for the feedback.

      If you keep the stud less tires on for the winter and the winter only, you will get quite a few years out of them. Its about $70.00 or so with the TPMS system reset to swap over tires each visit. If you buy wheels with tires you wont have the $140.00 a year but will have a higher expense at first.


  47. Good day,

    I wanted to recommend a great set of snow chains from Thule in case it was not already mentioned in this thread (they are kinda new). The K-summit 33’s fit perfectly onto the 215/65 R16; I used to have them fitted for an 08 Mitsubishi Eclipse with 245/? R17’s; though they might need a bit of adjustment (seemed a bit tight-easy to adjust)… I am not sure exactly how tight is too much… The owners manual for my former Eclipse did not recommend using tire chains and so I did some searching (back in late ’09 I think, maybe early ’10) and found out why chains wouldn’t work. Ended up finding the a really cool little chain setup.

    The K-summit model is extremely low profile and doesn’t wrap around the inner side of the wheel. So they are great for cars that have very little clearance in that area. Definitely check them out; they offer a variety of different sizes; just really expensive. I can confidently say that these chains are extremely different from most other chains/cables in that they are very easy to mount and add little in terms of diameter to your tire.. I was able to drive my 08 FWD Eclipse in some nasty snow and ice because of these.

    I also did just see an amazing video of a Forster literally plowing through some snow with 4 chains on it; Forester = good stuff..

  48. 2010 Forester: Any word on the Security Chain Company Super Z6?

    I am heading through the mountains and need them in case of emergency.

    1. The chains are ok to leave in the cargo area, there are no chains that can be installed on any newer Subaru I am afraid. If you read the fine print on the DOT website you may discover that AWD vehicles are exempt from the Chain thing.


      1. Exempt from putting them on (if all wheels are in gear and equipped with approved traction devices (like snow tires)… but not exempt from having to CARRY them.

        WAC 204-24-050: “Exception for all wheel drive vehicles. When “chains required” signs are posted, all-wheel drive vehicles will be exempt from the chain requirement when all wheels are in gear and are equipped with approved traction devices as specified in WAC 204-24-040 provided that tire chains for at least one set of drive tires are carried in the vehicle.”

        1. At the start of the article and many times through out I have suggested a set of chains in the cargo area for emergency’s. If you Subaru’s owner manual states you cant chain up the car, you cant or you will damage it.

  49. Hi Greg,

    You need to consult the owners manual, if you r car doesn’t currently have an owners manual , I would suggest looking on Ebay or Craigslist. You will over the years have many questions like this come up and you need to inform your self about you car.

    More than likely the 1996 L would accept chains, but if the tire size, wheel offset, or the like has been changed then they may not clear in the rear.


  50. I have been living in the USA since 3 years. I am an experienced driver on winter driving(I born in Finland and grew up at Norway?) and an Subaru WRC maniac. First, I saw many people driving not paying enough attention on the roads. My biggest advice for the people is, know your car limits, now the road limits. AWD or 4WD are plus but you still have to stop on wheels and ice and snow weathers are very challenging conditions. Winter tires are always good especially studded ones but you need to remember that you need inches of snow to use the studded tires efficiently so I always prefer stud less tires. Chains are good to leave at the back, just in case If someone asks. Otherwise drive safely with winter tires and drive a subaru

  51. Thanks Justin.

    Yeah the “Er. 55”. I have since discovered is really “Er. SS” for speed sensor. Probably from the wheel spin on super packed snow trying to get a grip.

    Funny,unrelated, but at the same time I was periodically getting “ILL.5” or “ILL.6” which I have since learned is related to the illumination level of the dash, which it seems sometimes under cold conditions, shows up because a switch contact is not making a stable contact and the dash thinks there is an attempt to change the dash level setting.

    On the winter tires, what brand/model would you specifically recommend ? I haven’t decided if I will just take the M&S that are currently on it (as listed above) or get an extra set of rims and out dedicated snow tires for the winter months when I plan to go skiing a lot. Any recommendations for a good second source of winter rims ? (I am rather pragmatic and don’t have to have “nice” wheels, but focused on functional.




  52. Andy,

    Most likely you did not do any damage in that instance. The lights may go off with a little time but could also need to be reset with a scan tool, each occurrence will be different.

    The best advice I have is a set of winter tires, and yes you can put it into sport mode and hold a lower gear to an extent, the trans may force an upshift to protect it self.

    You may be increasing temperature enough to heat up some residue not normally hot enough to cause an odor.


  53. P.S. On #2 above. What I meant by concern over wheel spin, is that at times, the rear wheels did spin to try to get traction, whereas the fronts were not spinning. This happened a few times. How bad is that ? Isn’t this a likely occurrence during the winter ? How much tolerance can the Subarus handle wheel spin ?

    Thanks again,


  54. Hi Justin,

    Great thread, I’ve read it from top to bottom. I saw some references you made to the brand (bridgestone) of winter stud less tires you recommended, but can you be more specific about which model ?

    I am thinking of getting winter tires, but here is my dilemma.

    Every weekend, I start my 3.5-4.5 drive (depending on traffic and conditions) on dry pavement in about 60-70 degree weather (San Francisco area. No snow) and head up to Lake Tahoe for skiing. I’ve been using the Michelin Primacy MXV4 M&S 225/60R16 front and back that came with the 2005 Outback I bought a few months back. At about the 2.5 hour mark, I start getting into snow country.

    Whereas many fwd cars, buses, trucks were putting on chains, the awd and 4wd cars/SUVs continued on.

    1) would you recommend I switch to winter tires ? Or stick with my current set-up ? Or change to another set-up (I do carry a set of cables-chains, and lucked out that I haven’t had to use them yet, but will use them on the fronts in a dire emergency.

    2) your statement about wheel spin scares me a bit. All four wheel as and tires have the same tires and virtually the same tread wear, so I am good there. However, last weekend, I got stuck on a patch of packed snow on a street and tried to “rock” myself out by going reverse, then forward, then reverse, then forward, etc. Eventually I got myself out, but then noticed that the abs light was On, the check engine light was on, and the cruise light was flashing. Tried the brakes and sure enough abs wasn’t working as I could lock up the brakes. Turned car off and then back on. Check engine light stayed on, cruise light flashed. Drove it anyways for 10 minutes to get to ski hill. Half day later, all lights went dark again. It’s as if nothing happened. All fluid levels were normal. Called the Subaru dealer to see if I should bring it in, but they said if the indicator lights are off, it’s probably ok. No need.

    How can I tell if any damage to the drive train , etc. Has occured ?

    3) I have an auto. I’m used to a manual when going down hill to use the lower gears for compression. And also, when starting in slippery snow, often starting from a start in 2nd gear instead of first. Does using sport mode to control the gearing make sense ?

    4) similar to what “Meta” said up above. Sometimes while climbing into high elevations (at first I thought it was because I was using sport mode to stay in lower gears to help with compression on steep grades, or to stay in a lower gear for more torque when climbing, instead of letting the auto tranny shift up too soon, only to have to kick down when I stomp on the gas a bit more) … I too,get this “hot smell”, like some kind of liquid is heating up on something. When I pop the hood, I see no evidence of leakage, nor fluid levels going down significant enough for me to notice.

    Thanks in advance Justin !!!


  55. So, I just got home from Tahoe in my 2010 Outback 2.5i (CVT) Premium and was met with icy, snowy, and windy conditions. My Subie rode amazing even with OEM tires!! (Previous Subie:2009 Forester 5-MT with GY Triple Treads. I was amazed that the OEM rode great on my trip and it’s good to know that my Outback will even ride sweeter when I upgrade her to Good Year Triple treads. Highlight: 60mph on snowy slush on flat road with turns. No other car was able to keep up. I love my Subaru!!!!

  56. Hi Justin,

    My Subaru 2008 Outback manual says we can chain up two front tires but never on real tires. Do you think it’s ok?

  57. EXCELLENT site!!! I am picking up my ‘new to me’ Subaru Forester this Sat and was totally confused about the chains and studs or no studs and then I found your site.
    No studs, deflate tire pressure to 27 and take ‘er easy.
    Thank you for your info.
    From a ‘don’t know much about cars’ driver.

  58. Meta,

    I wonder if you check your DOT Website if AWD vehicles are required to use traction devices which is chains or Winter tires.

    Its A clearance issue, on your vehicle, you could rip the brake line off amongst other things..


  59. Hey Justin,

    I have a 2004 Forester XT, but I am lowered on WRX struts and Tanabe Springs. It was about a 3.25″ drop. Tire size is 215/60/16. Can I still fit Chains on the car? Now with an Open front diff and rear Visc. Diff. Do I need all 4 chains? I will be tkaing a trip to Cali this Dec, and just don’t wanna get fined in the Siskiyou Pass.


  60. Thanks for all the info on this site. Just bought a 2011 outback and have the same question about chains but in reference to the new body design. Would it be correct to say that even though the manual says to never use chains, I would be OK in an emergency to drive slowly with them on the front only?
    Thanks for your help

  61. Justin,
    Like everyone has said, great info – thank you! I’ve read all the posts and info you gave. I live in So Cal mountains, so sometimes we have no choice by law but to put on chains, and also some horrible frozen rain conditions occur. I hear you clearly on studless tires, and chains on the front at low speeds when necessary only.
    I’m now rather alarmed because I’ve been driving my 05 Outback 3.0 Sedan daily for 4 months on mountain roads with different tires on the front and back – non M+S on the back, a brand called Sunny in pretty good condition; and Goodyear Assurance M+S on the front that are very worn – these are what the used car superstore had on it when I bought it. I was planning on getting new tires today. Sounds like I need to replace all four? (ouch) There is a hot smell after the 5000 foot elevation climb and now I’m more alarmed about that too. How will I know if I’ve damaged my AWD system?
    Also, to clarify: chains/cables/spiders may damage the area inside the wheel even if it appears to clear under the fender around the tire? Smaller rims are a better answer than smaller tires when faced with the unavoidable necessity of putting on chains and needing to create clearance?
    I’m sorry if you’re having to repeat yourself – I’m really trying to take in all this great info.

  62. Justin,

    Thanks for all your information. I just moved to Northern Oregon from California and this will be my first real winter. I have a 2009 Imprezza Outback Sport with the orignal tires (10k miles). After talking with the local tire shop, they recommended carrying chains with the standard tires. After your suggestion I checked the manual and it says no chains. So I was going to go with something like the Observe winter tire. My question is do I still need to carry chains even if I can’t put them on? I’ve never had a car that you can’t have chains on it (especially a AWD car, so I’m kind of at a loss.


  63. Hi Jessica,

    You can put Studs on a 1995 manual transmission and probably be ok, if it has an automatic transmission I would shy away from the Studded tires and go with Studless.

    I will also state my preference is really studless snow tires.


  64. HI Kyle,

    I really think you should stick with a set of Stud less Snow tires and never look back.

    We have tried just about everything on the market and the cables just sit to close to the Strut.


  65. Hi Justin, this is an awesome site!
    I see that you’ve beaten the chain and tire thing to death here. .. except it’s all for newer models. I have a ’95 legacy wagon.. which is AWD. It drives very different from my ’86 wagon that is 4WD (and still running 280K miles later!) Anyway, my boyfriend is wanting to get me studs for the 95- and I told him that I can’t put studs on an AWD car.. can you settle this for us? Thanks!

  66. Hi Justin, super site, great info. I own a 2004 Subie WRX with all-season 205/55/16 and carry Shur Grip Z cables in the trunk. Have used the cables on front with mixed results (mostly not good than good). Last year, got caught in the snow without my cables and ran into slippage problems (I was on a hill). So, now looking to prep for this winter and am seriously looking into a set of studless tires. Though I heard that sometimes they can be problematic in wet conditions, hydroplaning, etc. What’s your take since we mostly face rain in the NW with few days of snow/ice (in town that is)? Also, my manuel says chains with SAE class S type are okay…are you aware if the Thule CS10 chains fit the bill? Thanks in advance. Kyle

  67. Hi Mikaela,

    You have a sticker on the drivers side door pillar that indicates the tire size for your Forester, it is the same for any car you will own, and I point this out so you will know where to look for the information the next time.

    I like Studless snow tires, and really nothing else for that car.


  68. Hi Malcolm,

    You have to be careful that the smaller wheels clear the brake calipers.

    If you down size the overall diameter it will change the speedo readings.

    I like the idea of studless snow tires.


  69. Sorry, I forgot to ask about sizing tires in my last comment. I was looking online and found recommendations for 16″ tires….would you agree with that suggestion for my 2007 Forester?

  70. Hi Justin,

    Thanks for all the great info! I have a 2007 Subaru Forester 5-speed which I absolutely love. I am headed up to Alaska soon for my first arctic winter and am in need of some new tires. I will be driving the Alaska highway and am thinking about getting winter tires for obvious reasons. I am just wondering if the suggestions you have made on earlier comments (stud less) is still a good recommendation for me? Also, is it a bad idea to keep winter tires on all year? Or would using winter tires during the summer greatly reduce my gas mileage?

  71. We bought a lightly-used 2009 Tribeca, but it has no snow tires and we need some. Nephew is automotive engineer who says it’ll drive better if we downsize from big 255/55 R18 to 17″ winters (I think 215/55 or 235/55 profile); he claims the bigger tires can almost act like snowboards whereas narrower & smaller provide better handling like skiis. Sounds logical to me but my wife is concerned we stay with original size, even for winters(despite big $$). Your advice, please? Is it true that 17″ wheels will give false speed & odometer readings as she fears? THANKS!

  72. Justin,

    I’m really glad to have found your page.

    My family and I just relecated from Florida to the Seattle area. I am now in the process of shopping around for a sedan-type vehicle for my wife. In addition, we’d like to be able to take this vehicle to the mountains during winter and enjoy the recreational opportunities here in the Northwest.

    Being from Florida, I’m not an expert in winter driving, though I do have some experience, and I have a lot of questions.

    I’ve been trying to digest through the information out there and before I buy a car, I just want to make sure my family is safe during winter.

    I am looking at Subaru Imprezas because of AWD but I was discouraged by the fact that the owner’s manual states not to put chains on the tires.

    Is the AWD capability with all-season tires enough for most situations? What about using cables instead of chains?

    I was also wondering about snow tires. I was reading that one shouldn’t drive winter tires above 50mph. So what is the answer for say, a road trip where we go on the interstate for a while? Do we have to change tires when we’re getting ready to go up in the mountains? Are winter tires safe for interstate driving?

    Thanks for your patience with us Florida transplants. Any info you may give us will be greatly appreciated.


  73. Hi Justin (or anyone),

    Any advice for mud conditions?

    I’m in New Mexico…it’s a clay based mud. I’ve got a 2001 Subaru Outback wagon with Yokohama geolander A/T-S 215/50R16 (went smaller at advice of mechanic).

    The problem I’m having is the back end sliding more than i think it should on the dirt/rock road I live on(when muddy). It helped a bit by placing weights in the back of the car. I did have my mechanic check that the AWD was working and he said it was.

    Also, I have noticed significantly more tread wear on the rear tires after a year and a half.

    Any advice on tires or the situation?

  74. Hi, just found this string and am eager to get some info.

    I have a new 2010 Impreza Premium 5 door that is about a month old. We are planning a trip to the snow, and see the owners manual says NO to chains on the Impreza due to clearance issues. I live in CA and CA-DOT has certain chain requirements. One of which says you have to use chains even if your manufacturer says you shouldn’t – you can use cables or Spike’s spider(?).

    My main question is what is the best way to equip myself for the snow and stay compliant with both Subaru and DOT?

    Any info is appreciated. We are hoping to take the Buarsu up to the snow instead of my Tacoma (which has clearance for chains/cables), but want to be safe compliant.

    Thanks for any assistance.

  75. Hi Leo,

    If it was me I would get a set of Stud less snow and Ice tires on a different set of rims.

    The 2 hour drive will not mess up stud-less snow tires, that is part of the reason they are such a good idea.

    Hope that helps


  76. Hi Lyle,

    The first gear thing was probably not the best way to go as it kind of creates a increased wheel torque situation, I would first lower the tire pressure down to 24 psi the next time, and try that.


  77. Hi,

    I live in Los Angeles and I’m the owner of a 2006 STI. I would love to go up the mountains in Big Bear but I dont have winter/snow tires. I currently have Nitto Neogen tires (all season tires). I’ve read that chains are not recommended for the STI for various reasons. Am I good to go up the mountains in the tires that I currently have? Or do I need winter tires? Also, If I do need winter tires wont the 2 hour drive up to Big Bear mess them up?

  78. Just got a 2009 Forrester. Have a house in the Catskills in New York State with a very steep driveway (very steep). Also have a Audi A4 and had a Jeep Grand Cherokee. the Audi (With Blizzak WS60 snow tires) and the Jeep did pretty well on the driveway.

    The Forrester coming up the drive with about 3 or a little more fresh snow, slipped and spun but made it. I shifted it into 1st gear before going up. Was the 1st gear the right ting to do or any advice on another approach?

    1. Turn off VDC and lower tire pressure and you should be good to go. Remember that tires provide traction and the stock tires are not as well suited as either the tires on the Audi nor the Jeep. The Audi has winter tires and the Jeep likely has a fairly aggressive M&S tire even though you did not say.

  79. Carlotta

    I really don’t like the idea of different tread patterns and depths on a Subaru.

    If the tires are close in tread design and within 2/32 of tread depth difference from the front to the rear I would say it’s a calculated gamble if they are not its a much larger gamble you wont damage the AWD system.


  80. Jocelyn,

    I really have not tried any chains on a 2010 Outback as of yet.

    I will comment that those are one of the sets I have been trying to demo this year, but we have had such limited snowfall this year its just difficult to get it all done.


  81. Hello,All,
    Very glad to find this site. The information here is very valuable. My Subaru is a 2002 Legacy wagon and I just love it. I live in Toronto Canada but I do a lot of driving a few hours North and East of the City where Winter road conditions are always a challenge and this car has never ever let me down.
    I hope my question hasn’t been repeated too often. Recently one of my Hakkapeliita winter tires (rear) was damaged beyond repair and I couldn’t replace it as it’s no longer available. Due to budget considerations, I purchased only
    two of the TOYO G2s for the rear and am still using two “Hakkas” on the front. For the sake of my car’s drive system, do I need to replace the front tires with two more TOYOs right away or can I drive it this way through the Winter and get the matching front tires next Fall? Thanks for your patience, everyone. I welcome your comments.

  82. Justin,

    Great comments and advice. I have a 2010 2.5i Limited Outback. Will the Super Z6 cable chain made by SCC work for this car?
    They are made for limited clearance:
    Security Chain Company Super Z6, SZ139


  83. Hi Max,

    We have had some real week snow this year, I have tested 2 sets on my 06 GT, and 02 WRX. I don’t have any thing nice to say as of yet, but have not had as much time to devote to it as I had hoped. Its tough when you have to go look for snow.

    I tore of a piece of wheel well trim on my GT with brand X.

    If we get some good mountain snow and I can go local and test on a Sunday soon I will post results.

    There is that real expensive set that Thule makes which I believe is an option, and is one of the sets I would like to test if they would only send me a set for free, I would have already done it already.


  84. Hi Justin,

    Thanks for taking the time to answer all of these questions! In comment #62 you mentioned that you were testing chains back in December. Curious what you learned… i have a 2006 outback and need to pick up a set of chains soon.



  85. Regarding snow chains if required the Manual for the 2009 forester says NEVER put chains on the rear tires only on the front tire or it could cause damage the train
    again READ YOUR MANUALS!!!!

  86. Thank you Justin for this site and the clarification of my issues as to clearance and which axle to chain up. A few weeks ago, due to California’s statewide extreme ice and snowfield I put on chains for only the 2nd time in 26 years of owning a Subaru with M/S tires. I chose to put them on my 2002 WRX wagon front axle because it had more clearance and it made sense to me for better skid control for traveling 2 miles down hill from my home, at a 3,000 foot elevation. My “color coded easy on” regular link chains from Les Schwab installed easily, the self-adjusting tighteners behaved perfectly, and nothing came loose or caused any apparent damage, even at 25 mph. Happy New Year!

  87. Hi Justin,

    I am leaving for a two week trip through Utah Idaho and Wyoming at the beginning of January. I expect to be encountering a lot of snow and ice on the trip. I live in the California bay area where it never snows and cant decide whether it is worth it to buy winter tires for the trip. Can I keep the snow tires on during the winter and use them in the bay area or would the warmer weather wear out the tires too quickly?


  88. Irish Wood Chuck,

    I don’t have any specific Information on the product on the page in the link, I ill admit, my gut tells me they will probably not hold up very well, but in a pinch something is better than nothing, and there is no cost to not becoming stranded in the cold.

    I would love it if you tried them and let us know what you thought, there are just to many products to keep track of.


  89. Anne

    Dont Stay home! Your Tribeca was made for that kind of weather.

    On the Tribeca, the Michelin has worked out well.

    I think with a good set of Studless tires, and some practice you will have a lot of confidence.


  90. Justin,
    Very impressed with your comments regarding the chains and studless tires. We appreciate your advice. Thank you.

  91. I have a question I do a lot od hunting on my own land and I have a dirt road in NW PA where it just can become trecourous and covered in ice and snow if we get hit hard. I know that the chains are required in some states but dont do much good on ice. I was on another website however and saw that they sell strap on studs are they compatable with my 05 forester? I mean this road I am driving down can be more like an off roading road when the weather is bad its not pathed and is dirt, ice, and snow. What do you think would this product be benifical for me? I have great tires on the forester now.

  92. Thank you so much for this informative blog. I’m Canadian, and all too familiar with snow tires. But in Northern CA it’s a different issue now. I am looking at purchasing an 07 Impreza WRX to replace my trusty 00 Honda Civic – the awd thing…we go to the mountains in the winter and chains are a must with our current car. I understand that we will have to carry chains regardless. I will be breaking down and purchasing a set of winter tires on rims to run from Christmas to end of ski season. I will be looking at Blizzaks. Your chain info is invaluable. I will keep it in mind. Thanks again for all this info!

  93. Great information!
    I have a 2007 Tribeca and live on top of a hill with an unpaved drive way that does not get plowed when it snows. I use Spike Spiders when it is really bad, but not to deep. Three times now I have gotten 3/4 of the way up & got stuck. I put on my spiders & still couldn’t get traction. My husband came in his chained up truck & helped me the rest of the way up.
    Do I need to turn off the anti skid (I think that’s what they call it) feature?
    Is there a tire you would recommend for me to switch to in the winter?
    I may stay home for the rest of the winter!

  94. Hello Katt,

    There are many choices for chains for the 2001 Forester.

    With the tires you already have, you probably won’t need them, so a good set to have in your cargo area would the easiest to obtain and install it sounds like, maybe look into the security chains, one of the more common brands but also found under other names as well.


  95. Hello Chris,

    There are so many different tires out there, I would encourage you to try looking at the tire rack for the best user reviewed tires and take it from there.

    I like the Bridgestone winter tires, but only the winter tires; I also like the Michelin and Continentals.


  96. Hi, we have a 2005 Forester XT. We live in Florida, but have a place in the mountains that sometimes gets snowy and icy. We would like a set of chains in case of an emergency. Can we purchase chains for this car and if so, what kind. Thank you, Debbie

  97. Great web site! Got here to look for info about using chains on my 01 Forester. Do you have any recommendation on snow tires (I have now Firestone Winterforce tires).

  98. Hi Justin, Thanks for all the useful information. I was hoping you could help me find the best studless snow/winter tire for my Subie, I have an 08 Outback Limtied w/VDC and have the stock Bridgestone P225/55 R17 tires now. I wanted to get some decent snow tires for the winter and after reading your comments i don’t think I should go for the Studs Do you have any Suggestions or know where I can find test results or ratings for the Best tires on the market? Any help is Greatly Appreciated, Thank you

  99. TJ,

    I would look at the DOT websites for the areas you are traveling.

    I understand the not wanting to spend the money on traction tires, But I have to tell you based on what I have been seeing in the industry for the last few years, unless someone comes up with a affordable solution for the tight tolerances in the newer cars I am not sure how its avoidable.

    I am not aware of any chain options for the Tribeca as of right now. But stay tuned.


  100. Mike,

    Yes clearance is one of the issues, I cant really comment on the chains your are calling out in your question, I am just not familiar with that brand. I am currently trying out 4 different chains on an 06, 08 and 09 model Subaru and hope to provide info over the month of December.

    Thats just the best I can do right now


  101. Great website, it has taken me forever to get some of the questions answered regarding the two Subaru’s my wife and I own. I too am currently having trouble figureing out what chains to get for this winter, we have never needed them but will be making a lot of trips through Idaho, Montana, and utah this winter. We will be using the Tribeca 09 and if anybody has info on the chains that work I would more than appricate the feedback. Looked at the studless tires but would rather not spend the money since I have never needed traction devices, just want to make sure I dont get a ticket if forced to have traction devices. Again great website with lots of informative answers. Thanks

  102. HI Justin,
    Hate to belabor the chain issue. Am considering purchasing a 2010 Forester. I bought a set of Auto-trac self-adjusting chains for my Honda Civic and used them last year. They seem to snug up and stay tight. Since the highway department can decide at any time to require chaining up an AWD vehicle, is there any way or procedure to use to see if this type of chain doesn’t cause a clearance problem. I am assuming that clearance issues are why Suburu says in their manual that chains cannot be used. By the way I live in southern california and am planning a winter driving trip to Bend, Oregon. Thanks for your website

  103. Cauck37,

    We are currently looking into a few different chain options.

    But as of yet, I really cant comment on if there is a real solution to the newer Model Subaru chain issue.


  104. Hello~!
    Do you have any experience with the Thule summit K series tire chains on Subarus?

    I have an 03 Baja that I use to commute from BC to Calif. and need to get over the passes in winter without having to worry about being stopped at chain control stations!

    I came across these new designs on another site and thought that they might be a solution to the whole clearance issue.

    Any comments?

  105. Nice job you are doing, here!
    I own a 09 Forester. I am mainly concerned going downhill with snow. The car is heavy. Should I use snow chains for snowy mountains roads? Only front? The 7 mm chains are appropriate (I belive I have 210/65/16 tires) or the 12 mm are preferred? Thank you.

  106. Justin,
    Thanks for your answer. I know that snow tires are the best, I was using them in my home country (Turkey) for a fwd and never had problems on snow. But as I said LA is too warm to use snow tires even in winter. I bought a new set of Goodyear Tripletread which are said to be very good on snow. I will also be carrying a set of cable cahins in my trunk.

  107. Berk,

    Chains should really only be used at very slow speeds, and in extreme situations.

    There just isn’t a easy answer or an inexpensive one.

    If it was me and this is a trip I would be taking often I would buy a set of studless snow tires on a extra set of rims.


  108. Hi Justine,
    I saw your web site now and it is very helpful.
    I bought a 05 Legacy with 205 55 R 16 tires. it says in the manual dont use chains. I will be travelling to ski resort and I live in LA so it iis too hot to buy snow tires here:) What can I do. Can I use chains on front wheels or isnt there enough clearance. I found some chains saying that for low clearance cars. What about these?

  109. If the differential can be damaged by different wheel speeds and differences in pressure can can cause weight distribution issues, can drastic inflation pressure differences wreck the differential as well?

  110. One of the overlooked things with the viscous differentials like my 03 WRX wagon has is that even minor differences in tire diameter and weight over time can damage the differential. SOA(Subaru of America) states that the maximum allowable difference in circumference (not diameter) of the tires must be less than 3/32nds of 1 inch or differential damage can occur. The same goes for differences in the weight of the tires and wheels. Running the temporary spare for more than a dozen miles or so at anything above residential speeds can damage the differentials, as can running mismatched wheels or one tire of a different brand etc. i won’t even run any type of flat repair/sealant product in my tires any longer than it takes to get to the tire dealer. As Justin pointed out speeds need to be kept to an absolute minimum when using chains, and I wouldn’t recommend running them for any longer than it takes for you to get unstuck or to a safe spot to wait it out. the fact that they throw the balance of the tire/wheel package off is not something the diffs will tolerate mile after mile. You may want to look at a ‘approved chain alternative” like SnoClaws, Auto Socks, Spike-Spiders, Snow Boots, etc as these lighter weight products reduce the chance of damage due to extra weight or tire/fender clearance issues.

  111. Bruce,

    It is a popular thing to reduce the width of the tire for winter driving, as a narrow tire may give better traction in snow, same vehicle weight distributed over a smaller footprint may help some with traction in the Snow.


  112. I have an 05 impreza rs and would like to know if it is a good idea to put chains/cables on? Also, by any chance would you happen to know if in california i can get by chain checks with all seasons and the awd? or will they make me throw on chains/cables?

  113. I have just brought over a 2006 Tribeca to Finland. I will be purchasing winter tires, as required by law. I have been told that I should get them in a narrower size than the factory equipment that came with the vehicle. Does that make sense?

  114. I drive a 1992 Legacy L wagon. Awesome car in all weather conditions. I live in the foothills of the Cascades and work and play in the mountains.
    I use studs on all 4 and carry chains for legal purposes. Chains are still new in the package, never used.
    The important thing to remember about driving in hazardous conditions is to reduce your speed and if possible stay in a higher gear to control wheel spin.
    If you only drive in the snow when it snows at home or when you travel for the holidays, get stud-less snow tires on a cheap set of wheels that you don’t mind get corroded or pitted. Keep your summer/ or warmer months set on your nicer wheels and protect your investments. This allows you to swap tires yourself at your own leisure, or some tire stores will do this for free as well with out the expense of buying wheels.
    Hope that helps people.

  115. For studless snow tires for your Subaru, I recommend the Toyo Observe/Garit. They have walnut shells (microbits)imbedded thru the full depth of the tread. They work superbly in all conditions except for for compacted/rutted ice with a layer of rain on top… in which case it’s safest to chain up, even with studs. Plus you can run them past the April 1st studded deadline. (Snoqualmie Pass commuter).

  116. Thanks Justin. You’re doing a great job here. I can assure you that boxer diesel is just great. And it sounds like a boxer! Hope you have it very soon in USA too.

  117. Gabriel,

    Wow thats great, all the way from Romania! I am jealous you have a Diesel Subaru as we won’t see that here for a while yet.

    There isn’t enough clearance on the newer Subaru’s for chains on the rear, if the suspension compresses the chains will hit, could come loose, cut the brake hose and or abs (anti lock brake) sensor wire as well.

    As far as what I have understood the Diesel spec Outback has an open front differential and an LSD in the rear.


  118. Jim,

    I’m sorry but what can I say? I didn’t design it and the 09 Forester isn’t the first Subaru to have a no chain suggestion.

    You really shouldnt chain up your late model AWD Subaru anyways unless there is no other choice, the best way to go is studless snow tires.

    My advice is always the same, studless snow tires and a set of chains in the cargo area for an emergency.


  119. You haven’t addressed the two people with ’09s that mentioned the manual says they can’t use chains. A Subaru that can’t even use chains? What’s the deal?

  120. I have an MY’2008 Outback Diesel (yes! I live in Romania-Europe) and in my Owner book is written to don’t put chain in any circumstances on my rear wheels. Only on the front ones.
    I’m convinced that probably there are very few chances to need chains on my Subaru but I would like to know (for my information) why the book says that? What happens if I put chains on rear axle. And another question: what kind of diff do I have on my rear axle? Open or LSD? The dealers here have not the same opinion. The car has VDC system. Thank a lot and congrats for the site.

  121. Just wanted to add in case it hasn’t already been mentioned, but Hurricane Ridge currently requires ALL cars to carry a set of chains, AWD or not. It goes on to recommend cables over chains for AWD vehicles with lower clearance.

    Also, to clarify about driving up the passes….”Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 204-24-050, which states that, for vehicles under 10,000 gross vehicle weight:
    When “chains required” signs are posted, all-wheel drive vehicles shall be exempt from the chain requirement when all wheels are in gear and are
    equipped with approved traction devices as specified in WAC 204-24-020
    provided that tire chains for at least one set of drive tires are carried in the vehicle.”

  122. I live in Alaska where studded tires are a given and chaining up is standard procedure for a couple months of the year. I’ve been chaining the front to get up and down a distance of a mile, and wondered whats better front or back? Definitely I have more control in the front coming and going. thanks. Scott

  123. Hey Maggi,

    The rear of your Subaru doesn’t have the clearance required between the tire and strut and the tire and the fender, if the suspension becomes compressed. The chains can do all sorts of damage. As long as the speeds are minimal it should be fine.

    Most of the time chains are installed on the front as that is where the weight is, thus traction and the ability to enhance the likely hood of steering in the snow and ice.

    But if you have developed a comfortable driving style with the chains on the rear so be it. Just be mindful of the potential clearance issues.


    1. Hey just do you have any insight if a 185/70 14″ Subaru steel wheel fit on and over the brakes of a 1999 Impereza Outback Sport? Thanks and always enjoy your site and blogs.

  124. I’m happy that I just came across this site. With the passes and surrounding areas bringing all sorts of rain, I don’t think I’ll be heading to Stevens this week. About the tire chains,I got the Shur Grip Z chains and they have plenty of clearance. I didn’t use them going up the mountain a couple weeks ago, but for the icy descent, I put them on the back. Everything I’m reading here seems to indicate ” front” only. Why? I figured (my research lead me to this)I’d have better control coming down with them on the rear. Great tip about letting air out of the tires!

  125. Thanks Justin for the info and great site!

    I just bought a 2009 forester. I live north of Seattle and drive across snoqualmie pass every weekend. In the past I have used 2wd vehicles (with chain backup) As long as the pass is open I go, but will leave a little later in the day etc., at times to let it get cleared up.

    I am wondering if I really need a set of snows. I think I’ll give the forester a try with oem tires and see how it goes.

    Does anyone know if oem tires qualify for not using chains (when chains required) on Wa. mountain passes?


  126. Hey Peter,

    Thanks for the feedback on our site.

    I am partial to Bridgestone actually, but the Goodyear should be fine. What I worry about most with the Subaru is how long will the tire remain in production for the reasons below.

    Food for thought. Because the Subaru is AWD if you get a blow out or experience an unrepairable tire you could be faced with buying all 4, do to this I usually try to suggest not going to crazy with the tire expense. Buy good tires but when faced with deciding between 80k tires and 50k tires, focus on the best traction for the money but I wouldn’t be as concerned with longevity guarantees as the likely hood of having to replace three tires that are only half worn out to match the one that is the replacement for the blow out is actually really good.

    If a blow out happens fairly early in tire life and the tire is still produced you may only have to replace one.


    1. So Justin, Great insight and I totally agree with everything you write. I am a toyota guy but my girlfriend has a 2004 legacy wagon which she bought 50k mile studded tires for winter before I met her. Problem: Shes been swapping back and forth on one rim set here in Alaska and the damage of irons has added up. We lost one and had to do an emergency replacement. This is very bad? we now have one very expensive, very new hankook studded tire and 3 multi-season studded. We are so broke. WHAT SHOULD WE DO! Is she at grave risk of destroying AWD tranny this winter?

      P.S. I rotated this brand new tire with more studs than the rest to rear axel to reduce the vehicle pulling to the right.

      sincerely broke students in AK.

      1. Hi Brian,

        I know you want to me to tell you your set up currently is ok, but I just cant in good faith tell you that. I would be worried about transmission and AWD system issues. I cant see the tires from here to know the tread depth and type to know how significant the difference is.

        I know money is hard to come by but it could cost you more in the long run


    2. Hi Justin,
      Thanks for all this Subaru info. I need new tires for my ’05 Outback XT and wondered what you would recommend for all season use. You mentioned that you prefer Bridgestone. Which model do you prefer?


      1. Bridgestone Potenza G019 GRID

        I have had this tire on our 2005 Outback XT, I thought they worked well and were better than the Yokohamas I took off. I have read some reviews that seem to claim they were noisy, others that stated they cupped, I havent experienced the cupping and well Ive never considered any Subaru Ive owned to be very quiet so I guess any extra tire noise wouldn’t bother me that much either. Because with the XT we need a performance type tire for handeling but need to balance that with a good all season I thought this was a good balanced tire for the vehicle.

        Not the best in the snow, but not the worst. Id say a 3.5 on a scale of 1 to 5
        Handles well in rain and dry and lastly you feel confident going around the corners to fast. Id say a solid 4.

        Hope that helps


  127. Thank you for the work on this very informative site. I just purchased a ’06 Outback and need a new set of tires. I’ll be moving to serious snow country next year (upstate NY) and would like to hear your comments on what all season tire is the best to go with – I’d like to try the first year without studless snow tires. I’m leaning towards the Goodyear Triple Treads. Any thoughts?

  128. Awesome site! I just purchased my first Subaru and it’s the 2009 2.5i Limited Outback. I could have used this car about a week ago in Portland. With all this info on traction devices, I’m ready for the next snow storm or a trip to the mountains. Thanks Justin!!


  129. Hey Marea,

    That area is very difficult in snow and ice even with a Subaru. If you don’t have to go out I wouldn’t. The roads should start to get better soon. The area you are in is just so hilly its hard to pick a route that is safer than the next.


  130. Hello all, and yes this site is a great resource.

    I’m on a steep, unplowed hill in Seattle that’s received about a foot of snow total, and I haven’t ventured out with my 2008 Impreza (AT) for almost a week. It seems very clear that I should not under any circumstances try to use chains. I don’t know that anyone can say anything new, but as a California native with very little experience driving in snow, I’d love to hear comments from any seasons Subaru drivers about how likely it is that I’d fare well getting in & out of a hilly neighborhood of untreated roads (Madrona/Leschi, for any of you who might know the city).

    So that’s my question. Any feedback or advice would be much appreciated!

    Thanks much, Marea

  131. Can someone suggest a snow chain that will work for the 2009 Forester 2.5X Limited with 225/55R17?

    I was looking at the Super Z6 chains, but I’m not sure what the clearance issue are with my car. Is it the body, the struts, etc. I’m certainly willing to buy two pairs of chains to get all wheels involved the same, but my Subaru (Beaverton, OR) dealer said absolutely NO chains on the rear let alone the front.

    Is it possible to notch down to a R16 and then use chains more easily?


  132. Deanna,

    Chains just dont clear very well on a lot of newer cars all that well especially on the back, and driving to fast with only one set of chains on can damage the AWD sysem.

    We have gone fron 14 inch wheels and tires on the origanl Legacy to 17 inch on the newest models, as Subaru has made the wheel size larger in part to increase the brake size mind you, the foot print of the tire has also become larger which creates clearence issues.


  133. Hi Justin,

    I own an ’02 legacy gt and was also told that chains are a no-go. Have read your posts & appreciate the info, but was wondering if you can explain why chains can’t be used on some models?…is it just a matter of clearance or are there other issues?

    Thank you!

  134. Thank you for being a great resource for this topic. I did an exhaustive search for this exact topic and this was among the best references I could find.

    I purchased my Subaru in July of this year after moving into the Great NW from Georgia, purely for the situation which is hitting the NW right now!

  135. Hey Jenny,

    I am not a big fan of the spiders and I also am not sure they will clear especially in the rear.

    Studless snow tires are still the best way to go, followed by deflating your all season tires a bit to increase traction.

    We have the same weather here to the north of you, a lot of Subies out and about with no problems. AWD is superior to 4WD in my opinion especially in a Subaru, the balanced powertrain and low center of gravity really creates a unique driving experience in the snow and ice.


  136. Hi Justin
    This is a great site. Lots of info.

    So live in Portland, OR and we are having a lot of snow and ice right now. We have a 06′ subaru legacy gt. We go up to the mt alot and have had no problem with our subi. When we had our new tires put on we asked for the best ones for the snow they also mentioned that we can’t put chains or studs on. The said the spiders would work better. What do you think about those and do you need 2 sets for front and back.

    What about the ice. Does all-wheel drive make a difference.

    Thank you

  137. Hey Nina,

    Yes the Saab model you own is a Saabaru. It has the exact same drive train as the Impreza.

    They key to driving with one set of chains is to remember that you have enhanced the traction on two wheel s only and the road will be the same for all 4. This is why it is important to keep the speeds down so that no damage occurs.

    Speeds above 15mph with one set of chains are only okay if there isn’t a lot of wheel slippage. I am not sure that chains will clear on the back of the Saab either. There are alternatives to chaining up you can try first.

    For example, I own a 1998 Subaru Outback and live in a Suburb of Seattle we are getting hammered with snow right now. We ventured out today and really only had one spot of trouble on a very steep hill with a host of spun out vehicles. Rather than chain up the front wheels I elected to deflate the tires down to 27lbs and had no more trouble.

    If deflating the tires doesn’t seem to help and you don’t want to spring for studless snow tires check your owners manual for chain instructions, if all 4 are allowed then go that route, but do remember that speeds above 40mph with chains on can also be hard on the car as a general rule you should also look at the recommended speeds that the chains themselves are rated for.


  138. Hi Justin-
    I have an ’05 Saab 9.2x- which is really a Subaru Impreza-I think. Do I assume that it has the same all-wheel-drive system as other Subaru’s? I’ve been wondering about chains with all the ice we have now. I have one set, but if you put on two sets- what is the top speed you can drive? I don’t want to damage anything, but I need better traction on the ice. I also anticipate needing to drive over 15 mph if this ice keeps up. Thanks for any input.

  139. Hey Erika,

    Thanks for the feedback, I prefer studless snow tires on the newer Subaru’s due to the decresed tire profile. Only if you are going to be in severe weather conditions.

    As far as chains go Tire stores usuually have a “return them if you don’t use them policy”


  140. Hi Justin,

    I’m so glad to have found this forum at a dealership, no less; I’ve been searching for this information everywhere! I have a 2005 Subaru Outback 2.5i and will be taking her on an 800+ mile roadtrip for the holidays this week. Would you recommend that we upgrade to winter tires (studless) or simply throw some chains in the trunk? We currently have all-season tires, but time is definitely a factor as we’re leaving Monday. If chains, where can we purchase a set that will fit the standard tires well?

  141. Hey Linda,

    I am guessing you are in the great N.W.

    Obviously you want to proceed with caution even though the Subaru will really get around well even with all season tires, but you can also deflate the tires a bit as well, say down to 28psi in each tire this can really increase traction, just remember to inflate the tires back to specs after the weather passes.


  142. Just found your website. I bought my first Subaru last spring–’05 outback xt limited. My husband doesn’t quite trust it’s ability to handle snow and ice with regular tires–what can I tell him to reassure him that we can get out and about if we are careful?
    Thanks for all the good info.

  143. Steven,

    Sorry to take so long to respond. So in the early 90’s when Bridgestone came out with the Blizzak tire I was able to demo the tires on ice up against studded tires. Studless tires are great on ice and are really the best way to go with AWD. The studless tires will grip ice better than a siped all season due to the compound of the rubber, but as a result they wont last long driven on dry pavement, so its important to treat studless tires as a winter season only tire.

    All season should be ok but if you want the safest set up go with Studless.


  144. Orlando,

    Sorry it took a bit to reply, crazy busy at the shop and snow on the ground.

    I wouldn’t chain up the STI,if you need more traction buy a set of stud less snow tires. I know thats an expensive way to go but it is the best advice I have. Chains may rub especially on the rear and cause all sorts of problems.


  145. Thank you Justin, for sharing your expertise on winter tires! I’m getting my Mother a Subaru 2006 xt limited tomorrow. it needs tires and I want to get the best winter tires for safety. I was strongly biased towards studded tires, but your info on potential AWD damage will steer me away from them. She lives near Spokane, where snow and ice are common. How big a gap – as far as safely increase- is there between studless snow tires and getting all season tires with them siped?

    Thank you again for sharing your knowledge. Regards, Steven

  146. Also, my owners manual says to only use chains on the front wheels, but I would think that it being awd you should chain all 4 wheels, right?

  147. I have an 05 sti and upgraded my tires to 245-40-17 and was wondering if I can still use snow chains/cables? Has anybody run into this dilema before? Will I run into a clearence issue?

  148. Scott – I just noticed the same thing in the owners manual. However, my dealer told me at the time of the sale that I ~could~ put chains on my 2009 Forrester.

  149. Hey Aaron,

    This is exactly what I have written

    “The only way the All Wheel Drive System will become damaged is if there is wheel slippage allowed to occur, or one or more wheels are allowed to spin at a higher rate of speed than the others.”

    I am explaining what wheel slippage is, wheel slippage one spinning faster than the next will damage the AWD system.
    Studded snow tires have the potential to damage the AWD system as well do to their aggressive nature. Which is a big reason stud less tires have become so popular

    What I was pointing out to the owner of the 09 forester was even if they chained up two wheels instead of 4 the only way they would damage their AWD system was to let the unchained wheels slip.
    It was specific advice based on my experience with Subaru’s and their question about them.

    How have I contradicted myself? Every situation or question is a bit different so advice about a particular situation will differ a little as well. Stating my opinion about what I like to use as traction enhancements then answering someone’s question with an explanation about their particular unique situation is far from contradictory.

    With studded snow tires and varying road conditions especially axle to axle you can create issues with the AWD system if a studded tire is spinning on ice and then catches abruptly on dry pavement much more so than a set of stud less tires or all season tires will create. You can try it for yourself if you would like, buy a set of each tires mount them on wheels, go find a good stretch of road particularly going uphill such as a mountain pass with snow and ice. Early in my career I worked for Bridgestone/Firestone and was able to demo the difference in each type of traction device.

    Having made a lot of repairs to the AWD systems in a Subaru, when they break mechanically it is almost always from one tire spinning faster or slower than the others.

    I do my best to fit in everyone’s questions in addition to running a busy shop, and when I do, it is to help that questioner out with their question and if another reader has a similar situation maybe their answer lies in a previously answered question as well.
    If you read every question and answer in this website you may find I have answered other questions with a degree of difference and that is because every question has behind it a specific piece of information yearned and that is what I try to address for free, at night after my family has gone to bed, after 12 hours of work at the shop, so that people such as your self can call me out as contradictory without spending an extra minute reading the question and answer. Maybe the next time state you don’t understand and ask for my position and I will happily respond as I can, instead of implying you know more than I by telling me have I contradicted myself, it just comes off rude.


    1. What a load of CRAP! Have driven Subies for more than 20 years, wheels off ground, opposite wheel spinning, diagonally opposite wheels spinning, no damage what so ever. Explain yourself better of stop bullshitting! Do you know what a diff is by the way?

      1. Well Hello and good day to you as well Grey,

        So while you may be a professional driver, I have been working on Subaru’s for longer than I really care to think about. Have you ever taken out the Subaru owners manual and had a read or attended any training put on by Subaru? Or is your extensive knowledge about the AWD system and how it functions based on the seat of your pants?

        Here’s a fact, we and every other Subaru shop whether its at the Dealer level or Independent do in fact make repairs to the AWD system based on damage due to neglect or circumstance, last month we performed $3500 worth of extensive transmission repairs to a late model WRX that had one wheel (the right rear) come to abrupt stop when it struck a curb. The Viscous coupler came apart within 500 miles of the event. Had the event never happened the viscous coupler would not have failed in this way. We see these type of repairs accelerate during the winter months and almost always there is some sort of a spin out, curb or abrupt event that occurs.

        The good news for everyone is that from now on we will be suggesting every customer here or readers anywhere starts sending the invoices for all of these repairs to Grey’s home address to pay as its all a load of crap..

        I try to provide a little advice on how to avoid expensive repairs that can come up from neglect or circumstance things based on what I have seen since 1986 in the industry, I am sorry if you don’t agree, but again and as usual I have these things called facts backed up by the Manufacture of the car. By the way, wheels up in the air and spinning are not under the same load as one wheel spinning on pavement while the other locks up. Which is what needs to be avoided one wheel coming to an abrupt stop while another one or several are still spinning.

        Here’s the thing Grey, You can believe its okay to get drunk and climb up a ladder all you want, even though it sounds dangerous to most of us, you can do this many times Grey, and probably never have a bad experience, I just hope the next time you get drunk and fall off the ladder you don’t hit your head again.

        I personally do not understand your hateful rant to someone trying to help Subaru owners avoid a painful expense, I am not your school teacher, its not my responsibility to stick with the material until you understand. I put out the information, you either read it and get it, or you don’t and move on.

        All the best


        1. Very nice, professional and informative reply to a fairly ignorant statement…you have practiced patience, Grasshopper! On behalf of all normal human Subaru drivers, I thank you.

          1. 2x
            Not only is Justin rising above the nonsense, he does so in an eloquent manner!
            Kudos to Justin from the far right coast!
            : )

        2. Thank you for the advise and as said very eloquent way of handling what could have become a back and forth bs session. I have a 2014 Outback and just love the thing. Good to be aware of wheel spin issues as I have heard of this. Bravo sir! Good show!

      2. Grey,
        You must be dealing with terrible stuff in your life to post such an unjustified angry response to someone trying to share knowledge with you. Consider getting professional psychological help.

  150. You just stated “The only way the All Wheel Drive System will become damaged is if there is wheel slippage allowed to occur”. So, studs are not going to damage it? You have contradicted yourself. Please explain.

  151. I just checked my 2009 Forester owners manual and it says chains cannot be used on P215/65R16 and P225/55R17 tires (which it came with) because there isn’t enough clearance. Are they for real? Who designs an SUV that can’t use chains? I may never need them but I want them in case I get stuck or am required to have them. This is stupid! I’m going to give the dealer hell about it for not mentioning it. This is the NW for Pete’s sake and people go the mountains.

  152. To be clear, you SHOULD chain up all 4 tires. Or none at all, my preference is stud less snow tires and no chains.

    But in a emergency, chaining up the front tires, keeping the speeds slow and not allowing the tires to slip will not damage the All Wheel Drive.

    I am not suggesting to drive it at speeds over 15 mph or for any extended period of time.

    If you have to stop and chain up with an All Wheel Drive Subaru, you had better be taking it slow.

    The only way the All Wheel Drive System will become damaged is if there is wheel slippage allowed to occur, or one or more wheels are allowed to spin at a higher rate of speed than the others.

    Lastly if you look at the amount of wheel well clearance you will see there really isn’t a lot of clearance in the front at all and chains are a means of last resort.

    1. HI Justin, Going a little crazy trying to find an answer on this topic. I have a 2015 Outback 2.5i Premium. My manual says very low clearance chains ok on FRONT only! However, I’ve read from several Subie gurus, etc, that this will damage the differential and not to do it. They say chains on 4 tires or no chains. I’m thinking of the AutoSock for a chain so clearance isn’t an issue with them, but it is expensive to get 2 sets $200). So do I need two sets? It seems crazy that the Subaru manual would recommend something that is bad for the differential but I’ve heard this from enough people to believe it’s a problem? Thanks!

      1. Hi Adam,

        Other than Auto Socks I have no suggestions. You are better off with 4 Snow tires and the Auto socks in the Cargo area.

        Hope that helps


        1. Hi Justin

          I stumbled on your website searching for an answer to the question of snow chains on a 2018 Outback. Subarus are not very common here in the UK unfortunately and I’ve been struggling to get a definitive reply on whether they can be used. Your reply here seems to confirm that they shouldn’t be, so thanks for the info, however as I’m planning to take the car to France this winter where chains can be mandatory in the Alps, I need a solution that will not put the drive system at risk.

          I had also reached the conclusion that Autosocks might be the way forward on the front wheels (the car will be fitted with snow tyres), but also found these which are very low profile and claim to be compatible with ABS and DSC systems:

          Any thoughts on them as possibly a slightly more hard wearing/effective alternative, or should I be going with the socks as the thinnest possible solution to minimise any risk to the CVT?


          1. Hello Seedy,

            I am not familiar with the rules in the UK. In the US its kind of just window dressing in my opinion, as for example when you really dive into the rules, in Washington state, chains required is mostly except for AWD cars and trucks like Subaru and even then just means they are in the cargo area and not on the tires if the tires have the Mud and Snow rating.

            I think the link you have provided seems like a good option, but you would want to make sure they qualify as chains in what ever version of the DOT here in the states you have there.

            Hope that helps


  153. i just bought a 2009 Forester and was told to NEVER put chains on just two wheels – regardless whether the front two or the back two… if you absolutely need to chain up all four tires must have chains or it will damage the 4 wheel drive system…

  154. Heather,

    Really It all depends on how its going to be driven. Most likely you won’t need chains at all but if you do here is what to keep in mind. At slower speeds having chains only on the front should be ok but as the speeds increase it is really a better idea to have all 4 chained or none at all. I usually suggest a set for the front and keep the speeds down if you have to put them on.

    1. I need chains on my 2011 Subaru Forester in order to get down an icy downhill gravel driveway 3 or 4 times during the winter season. I would use them for less that 1/4 mile. I’ve been told that the very expensive Spikes-Spiders Sport model self-mounting tire chains would not damage my 2011 Forester. Are you familiar with them, and do you agree that they would work on the front tires of my vehicle? They mount to the outside of the wheel with the chain against the outside 6″ of the tire. No part of the chain goes behind the wheel. I need the safety of chains to get down this hill when there is ice- snow tires are not enough to prevent me from sliding. Your thoughts are greatly appreciated.

  155. This may sound strange, but do you need chains/cables for all 4 wheels? I never thought about it before with my subaru forrester, but heading to snow this weekend.


        1. Hey Kanadea,

          Yes on older Subaru’s it did state just that in the Owners manual, modern Subaru’s is a no go.



          1. SAE Class S traction devices such as the Konig CL-10 snow chains on the front wheels. It’s in the Owner’s Manual.

            You’re welcome.

          2. Hey Alf,

            Thanks for posting. However this is a broad based post, the information you have mentioned is not in fact in most Subaru owners manual at all.



          3. I have a 2005 sti. What is the best thing I can do . And the safest for my sti. When it comes to tires and chains for the snow.

          4. Hey Eric,

            Studless snow tires and an alternative traction device such as the Autosock in the cargo area.

            Hope that helps


          5. Is 2006 considered an oldrer subaru ? So would o put cords or snow socos on all 4? Or only front?

          6. Hi Kate,

            I cant answer this question without more information.

            Which 2006 Subaru do you have?

            Have you looked in the owners manual? The information will be there, and it would be quicker for you to get that information that way.

            If you are unsure after looking in the manual or don’t have one, let me know the Model and trim level of your 2006 and Ill try and help from there.


    1. 2002 Forester here. Was told when purchasing the car that cable chains or low profile diamond tread chain ok on front axle, not enough clearance on rear. Used the diamond treads three or four times on front axle since 2002. Results? This little car becomes a little army tank. It will climb about any hill or churn through about anything on the streets here after an ice storm or deep, heavy wet snow. Limited by manual tranny, ground clearance and engine power. For slow speed slogging, auto tranny is preferable. Chains used only for short trips, less than 15 miles. Note that rear axle may want to slide out on turns when power is applied with this set up. Keep the power on to straighten things out, opposite instinct from rear wheel drive. Dropping power in a slide with chains on the front can hasten the rear to front moment.

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