Subaru in the Snow: Do You Really Need Winter Tires?

As winter approaches, Subaru owners in areas with cold winter weather may be wondering whether they need to invest in winter tires. After all, most Subarus come equipped with all-wheel drive, which can already provide extra traction and stability on snowy and icy roads. However, all-wheel drive alone may not be enough to fully optimize your Subaru’s performance and safety during the colder months.

The Difference Between All-Season and Winter Tires

Before we delve into the benefits of winter tires, let’s first define what they are and how they differ from all-season tires. All-season tires are designed to provide decent traction and handling in a range of weather conditions, from dry and hot to wet and mild. They are typically made from a harder rubber compound than winter tires, which makes them less flexible in colder temperatures. On the other hand, winter tires – also known as snow tires – are specifically engineered to perform best in temperatures below 7°C (45°F) and in winter conditions such as snow, slush, and ice. They have a softer rubber compound that allows them to grip the road better in cold weather, as well as deeper grooves and biting edges that can improve traction and braking.

The Benefits of Winter Tires

So why should you invest in winter tires for your Subaru? Beyond the obvious benefits of improved grip and traction on snowy and icy roads, winter tires can also enhance your vehicle’s overall performance and safety in cold weather. Here are some specific advantages of winter tires:

  • Better braking: Winter tires can help your car stop up to 30% shorter on snow-covered roads, compared to all-season tires. This can make a crucial difference in preventing collisions and accidents.

  • Improved handling: Winter tires can also improve your car’s steering response and overall stability, even on dry cold roads. This can give you more confidence and control when driving in winter weather.

  • Longevity: By using winter tires during the colder months, you can extend the lifespan of your all-season tires. This is because winter tires are designed to handle the harsher conditions of winter, while all-season tires may wear out faster in those same conditions.

  • Reduced wear and tear: Winter tires can also help reduce wear and tear on your Subaru’s suspension, brakes, and drivetrain. This is because they can provide better grip and prevent sliding, which can put additional stress on these components.

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When to Switch to Winter Tires

So when should you make the switch to winter tires on your Subaru? Generally, it’s recommended to install winter tires once the temperature consistently drops below 7°C (45°F) and stays there for an extended period of time. This could happen as early as October or as late as December, depending on your location and climate.

It’s important to note that winter tires are not just for driving on snow-covered roads. They can also improve safety and performance on cold and dry roads, thanks to their softer rubber compound. Conversely, using all-season tires in very cold weather can compromise your vehicle’s grip and handling, and may even put you at risk of accidents or damage.


Here are some frequently asked questions about winter tires:

Q: Do I need to buy four winter tires or can I just get two for the front or back?

A: It’s best to buy a full set of four winter tires, as this ensures optimal handling and performance. Mixing different types of tires on your car can create imbalances and affect your Subaru’s all-wheel drive system.

Q: Do I need to replace my winter tires every year?

A: Most experts recommend replacing winter tires every 3-4 years, or sooner if they show signs of wear or damage. This is because the rubber compound in winter tires can degrade over time, especially if they are exposed to sunlight and heat in the off-season.

Q: Can I use winter tires in the summer or vice versa?

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A: It’s not recommended to use winter tires in the summer, as they can wear out faster and provide less grip and stability on dry and hot roads. Similarly, using all-season or summer tires in the winter can compromise your vehicle’s safety and performance.


In conclusion, winter tires can make a significant difference in how your Subaru performs and handles in cold winter weather. By providing better grip, traction, and braking, they can improve your safety and confidence on the road. If you live in an area with harsh winter conditions or simply want to optimize your Subaru’s performance year-round, investing in winter tires is a smart choice.

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Peter Banks

With years of experience as a professional mechanic and Subaru specialist, Peter is one of the most respected members of our team. He's written several articles on Subaru maintenance and repair, and his advice and tips are always practical and helpful. When he's not working on cars, he enjoys cooking and trying out new recipes.

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