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Winter with AWD

This is my first winter with AWD. Previously, I have had front wheel drive and used studded tires in winter months. I am in WA and have to drive over the mountain pass a few times over the winter, which gets pretty bad.

I cannot find a straight answer on tires to get me through the winter. Are my all season okay? Should I have winter tires; studded tires?


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When I lived in Colorado mountains for my 4WD truck I just used regular winter tires (which were called snow tires at the time), and for my FWD Rabbit I used studded tires all around. I didn’t find the need for studded tires in 4WD.

As far as which particular tire to use, ask people who live there what tire they use. Should be easy enough to do, right? They’d know better than anybody. Friends, relative, co-workers, fellow church-goers, etc.

What shape will the roads be in? Do you have a choice on when you go? I wouldn’t get studded tires. If it’s a major road, and the tires are pretty new, I might go with all seasons. If you know you’ll be driving in snow and snow storms, I’d go with good winter tires, like Michelin X-Ice.


I agree with @texases on the Michelin X ice, they are great winter tires. All season tires are really 3 season tires, spring, summer and fall. They are marginal in snow and ice. They can get you through some minor stuff but not a mountain pass. I am not a fan of studs because they can lose traction on a wet road. On ice and hard pack snow studs are wonderful, but unless your roads are always that bad use caution with studs.


I don’t have problems with my grand touring all season tires. They are satisfactory in Central MD, though farther north or west into the mountains winter tires might be advisable. I spent much of last winter in Northern Utah. The pass we used to go to and from the airport was very bad in the snow, and it often snowed up there when it was not snowing on either side of the mountain. During the worst times, Utah would not allow you on that road without winter tires or chains and AWD/4WD.

I recommend a good set of winter tires, something like Goodyear Ultra Grip, Dunlop Winter Maxx, or Firestone WinterForce tires. Any tire that is designed for winter use will do. I’m not loyal to any brand.

I also recommend a set of four new rims for these winter tires, but being that you usually use studded tires, you probably do that already.

Since you normally use studded tires, it might not be a bad idea to have a set of four tire chains or cables you can install if needed.

Modern winter tires on an AWD vehicle make a huge difference. All of the suggestions above are excellent. I’ve owned three sets of Blizzaks for a vehicle the same type and size as yours and have been very impressed with the performance in all winter weather. Tire makers will tell you, and you can feel with your own hand, that the new compounds are the real trick. The modern winter compounds maintain their characteristics below 20F and all-season tires become much harder below about 40F. The silica in the compounds now takes the role of the old metal studs and the sipes and “tube structures” help on wet ice. The best news is winter tires are basically free. They cost much less than all-season tires and every mile you put on them is one less that go on your three-season tires. As you might tell I am a huge fan. I got the religion when I worked for a company in Quebec. Province law mandates winter rubber there and the residents support that wholeheartedly. I always start at Tire Rack. They can direct you to specific tires models that fit your RDX and then you can read reviews from folks that drove on them in your vehicle and ones like it. You don’t have to buy from Tire Rack to view that valuable info.

Here’s another vote for good winter tires like the Michelin X-Ice. Studded tires are the best on ice, but they reduce your traction on wet roads, make lots of noise, and chew up the roads, so that’s rarely the right choice for most people.

The fact that you’re concerned suggests to me that you should get some good winter tires. I’d avoid studs, for the reasons lion9car mentioned.

My recommendation would be to have the winter tires mounted on a spare set of steel wheels and swap the wheels off when the seasons change.

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Additionally, those studs don’t last for the life of the tire’s tread, so whatever advantage is provided by the studs is limited to a much greater extent than the tire’s tread life is limited.

When I was still “a working man”, I used Michelin X-Ice tires on my Outback, and the combination of those tires and the best AWD system in the business allowed me to drive with safety–even when the roads were icy–as long as I didn’t become overly confident to the point of driving too fast for the road conditions.

When I would drive to work at a sane speed in my winter tire-equipped Outback, I would frequently be passed by drivers of speeding Blazers, Jeeps, and Explorers who thought that they were…invincible…but I usually saw them sitting in a ditch a few miles later, while I motored past them in safety.

Ditto to that statement. I commuted for decades, and could not estimate the times I’ve seen this.
Me, I take it real easy in bad weather, and even with 2WD (and good tires) I always made it to my destination safely…

Except for one storm in Buffalo in '74 when the icy, driving blizzard drove ice crystals into my distributor on the highway, stalling the car. Fortunately, I was at an exit with a hotel within view. Once the tow truck guy got it started, I headed straight to the hotel and stayed the night. Can’t foresee everything!

In most parts of the country AWD with all season tires would be fine. But in high snow areas like mountain passes then you’re going to need good winter tires. 4wd over AWD is also preferred

Dedicated snow tires are constructed to stay soft in cold temps, making then more effective for winter driving than having all-season tires.

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I vividly recall driving from NJ to Michigan in–I think–1982.
Luckily, I had equipped my new stick-shift, FWD Chevy Citation with snow tires, because while driving across Ohio, a sudden blizzard cropped up.
Apparently, the State of Ohio was saving money that year by not doing any snowplowing on the Ohio Turnpike, because I saw not even one snow plow during the 5 hours or so that I slogged across that state at…maybe…30 mph.

I was able to keep going because I drove in the tracks left by the 18-wheelers, but even many 18-wheelers wound up off the road in that storm.
The shoulders and median of the road were littered with an absolutely incredible number of cars and trucks that had spun-out, but by simply being…slow and steady…leaving a lot of distance between my car and the car in front of me…and being cautious, I never lost traction and–eventually–made it to St. Clair Shores, Michigan.

When I got there, I almost had to peel my hands off the steering wheel because I had been gripping the wheel non-stop for so many hours, and my back was in pain from the stress of enduring so many hours of hazardous driving conditions, but my car was unscathed!

Overall, that Chevy Citation had a lot of problems, but traction–especially with snow tires–was not one of its problems.

The heavy fwd made it plow through snow easily. But it’s solid rear axle caused the rear-end to loose traction and cause it to slip from side to side.

Snow is forecast for tomorrow but leaves are still not all down and the grass is still growing, I’m not looking forward to trying out my new AWD.

Could it be tightened with a wrench?
I hope so, because otherwise somebody might lose that loose axle!



Depending on where in WA you are (closer to the coast where winters are mild as opposed to high elevation with frequent snow), I’d say you might do fine with all season tires on your AWD car. If you’re only driving in the mountains occasionally, you can always keep a set of chains in the trunk - some places require them regardless of your drivetrain and tires.

But if you’re in a place where you’ve felt the need for studded tires, then you probably need snow tires. Here in Michigan, studs and chains aren’t even legal since they tear up the roads, though there is a provision in the law that allows for them if the road is impassible otherwise.

Based upon the capability of an awd car to accelerate in slippery weather, without snow tires faster then a fwd car with, it becomes a recipe for disaster to drive awd cars in slippery weather without the best tires for conditions. That means winter tires.

It is exactly the same comparison you would make with a highperfomance sports car in summer time driving. Putting crappy tires on a Vette or even a Miata which you planned on driving up to either’s capability, is equally short sighted.

I did a lot of off road driving and you use off road tires on off road vehicles if you go off road. You use winter tires on cars designed for winter driving if you actually drive in winter conditions. It’s a no brainier decision. The right tires allow the vehicle to perform as it was designed more then any other single factor.

Unless ice and very steep inclines are a daily concern, modern studless winter tires should be more then sufficient and allow the car to perform better on dry pavement.

So if I kept all seasons on an awd car, I would take the same winter precautions as a fwd car with all seasons.

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I have used AT tires on trucks in the winter with good success. Some makes and models can be very good in snow compared to all seasons, but little to no better on ice. If they make them in your size, you face snow and not much ice and you don’t mind the added noise, it’s a cheapo option.
Some even have the mountain / snowflake emblem.