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Snow tires for a RWD vehicle

Hi I drive a 2002 Nissan Pathfinder rear wheel drive SUV with 153,000 miles on it. I recently took it to the dealer to diagnose a problem. The car shakes when going around 70 mph and sometimes even around 40 mph, it’s very random. I’ve had the tires and alignment checked and have no issues with them. To fix my issue it will cost around $1200. They said the rear linkage would have to be replaced on the car. . I live in Colorado and due to the age of the car and the fact that it’s a RWD, plus driving up to the mountains in the winter, is it worth it to fix the car and put on snow tires for the winter or look into getting a new carsuv? Thanks for your help.

I’ve lived in Colorado for 34 years and have driven RWD vehicles most of those years. I currently drive a BMW 328i RWD sedan and have 4 Blizzaks mounted on separate rims for driving on snow. I’m a firm believer in that tires are more important than AWD or 4WD. AWD/4WD will help you accelerate faster, but not steer or stop. If you live in the mountains or drive up steep inclines every day during the winter then AWD/4WD is a big plus.

Whether your current vehicle is worth repairing is up to you and is not related to winter tires.


Thanks Twotone. I live in Denver and travel up to the mountains for the ski season so usually the roads are plowed pretty decent. As of now with my current tires, if I drive around here in the winter when it snows I have no piece of mind. I wasn’t sure if dropping a bunch of cash into an older car would be worth it if there was no ‘solution’ to having a RWD car in the snow. Thanks again for your input. I appreciate it!!

The really dangerous place to be in the snow is Miami Florida. If I were there during one of their very infrequent snows, I would stay off the road.

The point is, if you are in an area where snow is likely, the roads will likely be plowed and the drivers snow experienced. The real problems times are when the weather is unusually bad and the local drivers are not up to the weather.

True. Thanks.

Even with the infrequency of snow in Miami…There isn’t a problem driving in snow in any part of Florida…It’s extremely flat…The second highest mountain in Florida is Space Mountain in Disney World. Almost any car with or without snows will get you around in any of the biggest snow storms Florida has ever had…Just have to watch out for the other guy…

A set of 4 winter tires will make a huge difference in your confidence driving in snow. If the SUV is in good shape and the repair fixes the vibration problem then I’d get the winter tires.

Thanks UncleT.

When weighted properly RWD is superior to fwd when climbing hills in snow with the right tires. Shaking problem at higher speeds because of a bad universal joint in the drive train is common. Not that that’s your problem, but it more frequently is as well as drive shaft balance as they age or get damaged. It’s a good car either way with many more miles left and additional weight and appropriate tires will do the trick. It already has good clearance, so fix it. Put tube sand in the back between the wheels; you’ll be fine.

Thanks. The mechanic said the rear upper and lower suspension links were worn and had cracks in them. They recommended replacing the upper and lower links.

Yes pushing a car uphill is better then pulling it up hill…

But fwd does have other advantages…If you get in a rut…with fwd you can turn the wheel and pull yourself out of it…RWD…you’re stuck in the rut…

I also don’t see too many rwd vehicles weighted correctly…As a general rule…I’ll take fwd over rwd in snow any day.

Unfortunately, there are few fwd cars with sufficient clearance to handle deep snow. If people prefer fwd over rwd because they refuse to properly prepare them for winter, that’s their choice. We’re talking about a Pathfinder and not a rwd car when properly weighted will do very well in snow. As a general rule, I might agree with a fwd car v rwd car…but this is a “truck” with better clearance and better weight distribution potential I feel.

BTW, I can’t think of one emergency vehicle that has to travel in the winter that is FWD; either 4wd or rwd with weighted backs; ALL.

Unfortunately, there are few fwd cars with sufficient clearance to handle deep snow

Yup…we are talking about a Pathfinder…I’ll take a fwd Pilot over a RWD-Only Pathfinder ANY DAY…Pilot has more then enough clearance…

In any snow over 5" you don’t want to be in either…You want awd or 4wd…

There are a lot of other reasons they use RWD over FWD…One is control…You have more control in a RWD then FWD when driven to it’s extreme…even on dry pavement…Most of the time there isn’t much of a difference…but when driving at it’s limits…RWD is better…Second…many require a full frame for the extra weight…and Third…I suggest you travel to Upstate NY or upper Michigan…and take a look at the emergency vehicles…You’ll find fwd/awd and 4wd police cars and ambulances.

I’ve personally driven in well over 100 snow storms of 10" or more…and I’ll take fwd over rwd any time…

Like I said IF IT ISN’T 4wd, it’s rwd. There are NO fwd emergency vehicles, other than a few cheapo local town police cruisers and they handle snow conditions poorly when accelerating. And the big reasons for rwd are load carrying, durability and traction. Is there a front drive bus out there ?
I’ve driven emergency vehicles (ambulance and cruisers for years) in snow belt. They are all better snow work horses than any fwd sedan. The ones with limited slip were practically unstoppable. Again, I’m not talking low slung Vettes and muscle cars with over weighted fronts…Pathfinders ! A front drive Pilot is just another minivan and terrible going up hill in snow with any load…it’s just physics and you can’t get around it.

Any time you want…I’ll take you to the hill I grew up on Pulaski NY…No way …no how will you make that hill in a RWD car during one of the 20 or 30 10" storms they get a year…SORRY…NOT going to happen…I’ve personally pulled state troopers out of the ditch trying to make that hill…Only 4wd/awd or good fwd with 4 snows have any chance of making it…