Do I need winter tires for my new subaru?

subaru
impreza

#1

Ok, I am starting early. But I am doing my research and often it is easier to find bargains in this arena in July than in October when everyone up here is thinking snow tires (northern Vermont).

For my last 2 cars I had to purchase an extra set of steel wheels to put studded winter snows on. Both cars came with alloy wheels and “performance” tires -as in flat with relatively little tread new. And the cars were both front wheel drive (1999 Pontiac Grand Am GT, and 2007 Honda Fit Sport).

I just acquired a “new” -ish 2015 subaru impreza sedan this spring with regular steel wheels and good ol’ fat all season tires. The car had 2000k and a rebuilt title on it, so I am assuming the tires are the new default equipment it came with originally. They do not leak, look fine treadwise, etc… I love the car so far.

My father and my uncle are both saying I should try and run it as is when the snow flies rather than lay out for another set of wheels with studded snows.

I am noticing that new/used subaru wheels and new tires seem to be easier and cheaper to come by here than they were for my Honda. Except for the added expense of tire-pressure sensors and of having them reset whenever I change wheels. (I can otherwise do a tire change by myself thanks!) Of course, I am doing my research now in the summer and don’t know if prices will hold true in October/November.

This is my first 4 wheel drive car in this climate. I had a Japan market-only AWD subaru in Okinawa where it was superfluous (sub-tropical island).


#2

If you’re used to studded winter tires, I’d get them. They make a big difference when braking, and the AWD doesn’t matter then. As for tire pressure sensors, what if you just don’t get them, and live with the warning light during the winter, while checking pressures the old fashioned way?


#3

2 million miles? perhaps 200k is correct?

I have a Forester and didn’t switch to snow tires. Managed to get around OK, even in the year when we got over 100 inches of snow. But I’m a conservative driver and I could avoid driving in the worse conditions.

But if you want maximum performance and safety, switch to 4 snow tires.

Note that a FWD car with 4 good snow tires performs better in the snow than an AWD car with all-season tires. (that’s without considering the effect of studded tires). If you are used to driving with 4 studded snow tires, you will find that the Subaru has much less ability in snow and ice, and is much less safe.

Also note that you must keep the tread depth (as well as tire model) equal on all 4 wheels or you will cause expensive damage to the subaru.


#4

If you live somewhere snowy then a set of winter tires on steel wheels is the way to go. Vermont requires TPMS to be operational at time of inspection so you need to either bite the bullet and install TPMS sensors in the new wheels or get your car inspected when the regular tires and wheels are on.

October is when the tire sales will hit and I recommend Tire Rack for snow tire and wheel packages. Typically they will have the best sales and rebates in April and October (a tidbit on tire sale strategy I learned from my Mazda dealer). They will even install the proper TPMS sensors and sell you any necessary registration tools (some cars need them and some cars don’t).

Good luck with your new car!!!


#5

Putting studded tires on an all wheel drive vehicle sounds like it could cause drive line damage when driving on clear paved roads. I would just go with unstudded winter tires .


#6

“studded tires on an all wheel drive vehicle … cause drive line damage”

Volvo, why do you say that? Not that I’m thinking of getting studded tires…


#7

If the tires are identical, the small changes on curves should be handled by the AWD mechanism. But you’re right that any difference in tire diameter will be magnified by having studded tires.

A good set of new winter tires (like Michelins), unstudded, should work fine. Much better than all-season tires.


#8

I’d get the extra wheels and go for winter tires. I would stop using studs. You will enjoy the great winter handling and traction with tires such as Michelin X-ICE. or other capable tries.


#9

There are a lot of factors that go into this decision.

What all-season tires do you have now? What do the consumer surveys on Tire Rack’s web site say about their snow traction? All-season tires can vary greatly in this regard.

You say that the tread looks good, but do you expect to be at or above 6/32 for the entire winter? Many people consider that to be the absolute minimum needed in winter.

What conditions do you need to drive in? Can you wait for the road to be plowed after a heavy storm? Do you plan on driving on back roads a lot?

If you go with all-season tires, you’re definitely sacrificing some traction for the convenience of not switching. Are you willing to drive more slowly and leave more room ahead of you to somewhat compensate for that?

Are you sure that studded tires make sense for you? They are good on solid ice, but you generally end up with worse traction on wet roads, not to mention that they’re noisy and they damage the roads. I’d think you mostly deal with snow in your area, not ice.

By the way, with a Subaru, make sure that you follow whatever instructions your owner’s manual has about keeping the tire circumferences matching. If you don’t, you can cause expensive damage to your car.


#10

My point is: if the driver is used to driving with FWD, 4 studded tires, and switches to AWD winter non-studded tires, he will have to adjust his driving habits as the new setup is not as good on ice or snow.

Switching to AWD all-season tires, an even bigger adjustment.


#11

Okay my typo the car has only 2000 miles on it -so new.

The current tires are Yokohama Avid S33 size is 195 65 15. They look as new as the car. And I’ve worn some of my old tires down to where they wouldn’t pass inspection so I know what good/bad tread looks like.

I am used to studded tires in winter. I don’t necessarily like them. It’s like listening to and feeling a dog tap-dancing on hard wood floors… The impreza seems to handle and drive a bit better than my Honda Fit did especially on long trips. Its heavier. Not that the honda was bad, it just wasn’t as good as the Grand Am which was a stunningly good winter car with studded snows. The Fit was also missing traction/stability control which the Grand Am had until the ABS system went down and the subaru has plus the AWD.

I do have to drive in winter in snow ice and whatever mix you can imagine. I work in customer service so I don’t often get snow days or get to wait for plowing. I often work in retail in the early mornings doing stocking. Often the state roads are fine but the town roads are awful. Back roads are a must in VT. The choice is often driving through town where it might be plowed but you have to do more braking for lights, other people being idiots vs taking the back way into town with less or no lights and less traffic but ski slalom like roads that may not be plowed or salted or sanded yet.

I think I am a good winter driver. Never had an accident. I’ve lived here my whole life excepting 4 years in Okinawa.


#12

Very few places NEED snow tires. Boston and Southern NH isn’t one of them. But upper Vermont does. Vetmont is just one big mtn range. And upper VT sees a lot of snow.


#13

Studded tires are illegal in many jurisdictions. So keep that in mind if you travel. Winter tires came on the scene many years after studded tired were invented.


#14

If you used winter tires on your previous vehicles, I think you should use them on your Impreza. Depending where you drive, you might not need the studded tires. Regular winter tires might work just as well.


#15

Your current tires are fine, but winter tires are better for winter driving. A winter tire uses a softer rubber compound in the tread area for better traction. Cold temps make rubber harder and an all season tire can harden up significantly in the kind of cold you get in VT. Also the tread design of a winter tire handles snow and ice better. I run Michelin X-ice on a couple of my cars and they are a terrific winter tire, mine are not studded.


#16

When I lived in Colorado near a ski resort I only needed studded snow tires on my 2WD rear wheel drive vehicles. For my purposes anyway I didn’t need studs to get where I was going in the winter on front wheel drive or 4WD vehicles. Just normal snow tires is all.


#17

No need for anything new in the way of tires. You will be surprised at how well the AWD works in snow and on ice. One thing to watch out for in snow is oversteer when pulling into street traffic on snow. If you try to leap forward, the rear wheels could slip and steer you right into the snow bank. What really pulls you in is the pull of your turned front wheels with their great traction. Take it easy there and you will be in great shape, or be quicker than I am with a steering wheel.

I have a Rav4 with really slippery looking tires that go really well in bad conditions. Now that they have 30,000 miles on them, I will be switching to a more agressive tread style. I hope to install Dunlop Signature 2 tires before November. They don’t look like winter tires but I expect great performance in snow. The Dunlop Grand Trek tires are still good but nobody can guess how well they will do NEXT winter.


#18

You can see videos on Youtube comparing cars with and without AWD, snow tires versus all-seasons, studs versus non-studs, etc. Watch to your heart’s content and take them for what they are worth. Tire rack, CR, and Road and Track have some info as well.

Summarizing what I remember about the above info:
–Well-made snow tires seem to do much better in fresh snow and ice but do give up some dry and wet traction so you may need to drive more slowly when the winter weather is good.
–Consider traction cables, tire chains, socks, etc. [If you know there is going to be a bad storm coming, consider putting on the traction devices before the storm. I have worked on a reservation that didn’t have enough money to clear the winter roads, and my studded snow tires and positraction were useless until I put on the traction cables. When I used them I passed many stuck 4WD cars (I passed them slowly since 20 mph was top speed with the cables on) ].
–When you store your of-season tires don’t expose them to direct sunlight.
–If you have a tire mileage warranty, document when you change the tires.
–CR tested several cars and found Subarus are better than most cars for snow, but they get stuck too.

I’d suggest exploring if you have any steep hills that you must traverse, because unsuccessfully braking downhill is not a pleasant option (also, look out when you approach an intersection with a steep downhill section on your right or left in case someone isn’t stopping appropriatelyl).
When the first snow storm hits, head for an empty parking lot and practice turning, braking, and emergency maneuvers before you need to do them for real. If it’s icy enough to worry about snow tires, it’s icy enough to carry a set of microspikes or yaktrax for your own shoes so you don’t fall.


#19

@Squeakykitty:
Getting snow tires is like buying insurance. It all depends on how protected you want to be for if and when you’ll ever need it.

In an earlier post, you mentioned:

I do have to drive in winter in snow ice and whatever mix you can imagine. I work in customer service so I don't often get snow days or get to wait for plowing. I often work in retail in the early mornings doing stocking. Often the state roads are fine but the town roads are awful. Back roads are a must in VT.

There will be snowfalls where an aggressive set of snow tires will get you through, while all-season tires will not. If you absolutely need to get to work on those occasions before the roads get plowed, snow tires are your friend.

Also remember, when it comes to braking and accident avoidance in snow, AWD is the same as FWD. Both have 4 wheel braking. In those cases, aggressive snow tires makes all the difference.


#20

@Squeakykitty, do you need to drive in bad weather? If not, you can just wait until the roads are passable. Depending where you are, that could mean being stuck in your cabin for a week or two. If you really must drive, you should buy snow tires mounted to an extra set of rims so that they can be changed near the star of snow season.