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2013 Outback 2.5 Limited
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Discussion Starter #1
Hello folks. I'm looking for some information on snow driving. I have always lived in non-snow states. With the impending purchase of an Outback and the intent for more trips and camping, I'm lacking information on snow driving.

I've seen some threads heckling the poor bastards getting into 20 car pileups during a snow storm. So, I'm seeking information, articles, or videos on how to do it right.

I've searched the forums, but couldn't find a consolidated list. Thanks! :29:
 

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2013 Outback 2.5 Premium 6mt
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187 Posts
1. SLOW DOWN.
2. SLOW DOWN.
3. See 1 and 2.

But seriously, take your time and keep speeds down (especially if you are rusty at driving in snow). It is very easy to go too fast for the conditions in AWD and 4WD vehicles since you still have the challenge of stopping and steering. Also, stay back from other vehicles. Use very smooth inputs to throttle, braking, and steering. Don't do anything sudden. Also, if the ABS kicks in, stay on the brakes and let the ABS do it's job. Do not pump the brakes. Try not to over-correct if your back end gets a little loose (over-correction causes a lot more accidents then under correction).

IMHO, snow isn't so much of a challenge compared to ice. If you suspect any ice and it is safe to do so, try a quick brake check while driving to see how much traction is available (again, only do so if it is safe so don't do it with anyone around). Ice can sneak up on you fast, especially on an interstate trip where you are covering a lot of miles without getting out. Allow PLENTY of space between you and the vehicle ahead of you.

If you are frequently going to be driving in ice or snow, consider upgrading your tires.

Edited to Add: If you are serious about getting out to the mountains in snowy seasons, be very careful. Snow can sneak up on your very fast in higher elevations so always have a plan on how to get out if it starts snowing heavily. In addition, mountain driving on back roads can be very challenging so I wouldn't recommend it for the beginner (in other words, stick to the main roads that are maintained). I would hate to see you become the modern Donner family.
 

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'14 3.6R Outback
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2,345 Posts
If you have the VCD on then try to drive normal but much slower. 45mph on the hwy is normal around by me in the mountain passes. Figure a good 10-20mph slower than the speed limit. If it's really slick turn the VCD off and use the throttle to keep the car going in the right direction. This method takes practice but you will have far greater success and control with the gas petal than the brakes.

# one rule when losing control of the vehicle in snow is steer into the slide and use power ***not the brakes*** to recover. Instinctually you want to use the brakes to regain control because that is what we are used to doing. Resist the urge and use steady moderate power to regain control. As crazy as it sounds I trained myself and others in video games for concept before I went out and played in the white stuff.
 

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2011 Outback 2.5i Premium, CVT, Steel Silver, all-weather package. Upgrades: Tweeter kit, BlueConnect, media hub, remote start, Curt 2" receiver hitch.
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1,127 Posts
We all learn to "steer into the skid," but what that really means is that you can only regain traction if your wheels are pointed the way the car is moving.

Not enough can be said about tires. Snow tires are FAR superior to all-seasons. AWD will help you get moving, but the proper tires will allow you to steer and stop. Remember, you'll need to avoid people who are sliding towards you.

Also, if you can find a nice, big parking lot covered in snow... Go have some fun and see what exactly your car can and can't do.
 

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2002 Outback Wagon 2.5L Auto Weather Package
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1,971 Posts
As I've said in another thread:
Driving a Subaru doesn't make you Ken Block.
The 'steer into the skid' advice came to prominence when rear wheel drive was dominant. It does not precisely apply to front wheel drive or all wheel drive. You can countersteer ('steer into the skid') fairly aggressively without changing your power input as much on a RWD, but if you try to do so as aggressively on a FWD, you'll discover an effect that'll make you think the vehicle is trying to kill you. AWD is somewhere in between, with variables like vehicle stability control and type of power distribution to make it a bit more complex. The rule you'll often hear now is 'steer where you want to go', which still isn't exactly a clear and accurate method to follow.

The ultimate truth is, steering in the direction the car is actually going when you are sliding will regain traction for the steering wheels. The driving wheels will follow based upon which they are in relation to the steering wheels. In a FWD, that means the driving wheels will follow the traction of steering very quickly, and proportionally. In an AWD, you'll get a less pronounced reaction to the input in most cases, but it'll be more immediate than in a RWD.

Of course, the best way to cope with a skid or slide is not to get into one.

How can you avoid that? Two key ways: behavior and equipment.
As noted above, take it easy, control your speed, and be smooth and deliberate. AWD will help you get going, but it won't make you stop better. It will help a bit with steering, but only under power - but that's not a license to attempt a Scandinavian flick to avoid a problem. Remember, you aren't Ken Block.
Also noted above, tires are going to matter a great deal. If you're going to spend serious amounts of drive time in snow and ice, winter tires are worth every penny. They'll do the most to help you steer and stop when it gets bad. Be sure your brakes are in good working order, and the ABS system is actually working. If the ABS light is on, fix it or don't go on that snow adventure.
 

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2009 OBXT, 5MT, SWP
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As with anything you need to gain experience which means you need to get out in it. That doesn't mean you have to do it during rush hour. Get up early, or stay up late, and find an empty lot to practice in, but make sure you are learning and not just having fun. Try to imagine making stops and turns starting at 10-15 mph and working up to 30 mph. Turn off your stability control so you get an idea of what the car does without the electronic help. Then try to find an empty 2 lane or more road (2 lanes each direction) with plenty of run off room and practice staying in your lane and making lane changes (always nervous about those lanes changes and going from wet cement to the slush hump in between the lanes). Follow the flow of traffic. You don't want to be the fool in the ditch that moments before had just blew past everyone, nor do you want to be the slowest because now others have to concentrate on the road AND what your car is doing. Keep in mind that during snowfall one lane is usually better than the other because it gets more traffic and the cars keep it clear (usually the right lane or slower lane). If traffic is moving to fast, then find a slower secondary road though those aren't cleared as quickly as the main arterial roads. Create as big of a space bubble around your vehicle as possible. That means more distance between you and the car in front of you. If you are pacing a car in the adjacent lane, slow down or speed up so you are running parallel to an empty space. Winter driving is different. It is not just a dry road vs wet road. There are wet roads with icy slush, hard snow-packed roads, ice covered roads, roads covered by fluffy snow, roads covered by wet/heavy snow, iced roads with 1-2" of fresh snow on top, deep snow >8" (or even 5-6" if it is heavy snow). You can do it. There will be hundreds to thousands of other people on the road with you doing it. Just like normal driving you will get better at it the more you experience (practice) it.
 

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2017 Outback 3.6 Touring, which replaced '05 Outback XT
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841 Posts
You can gently steer, OR you can gently brake, OR you can gently accelerate. Do any two of those together and you may lose control of the vehicle.
 

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2013 Outback 2.5 Premium 6mt
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With all the talk of counter steering, I just want to say again to not over-correct. Far more vehicles wreck due to over-correcting then under-correcting. On slippery surfaces like snow, ice, or gravel, under correction will work just fine to bring things gently back in a straight line. Over-correction on the other hand will whip your rear end back way too fast and you will be skidding and spinning out of control. The more slippery the surface is, the slower and less violent the skid will be. Don't panic and jerk the wheel and/or slam on the brakes. Remain clam and gently steer into the skid. Whatever you do, don't slam on the brakes or else all hope will be lost.

It will take some experimenting to figure out throttle positions during a skid. In my older RWD work cars, taking your foot off the gas cured 90% of the skid if you caught the skid early enough. In some FWD cars, a tiny amount of gas may actually help since the driveline friction acts as a brake to the wheels. Each vehicle differs so you will have try it out with your own vehicle.

Also, here is one more tip that hasn't been covered. When driving in slippery conditions, focus your eyesight way down the highway. It is not the time to be looking directly at the ground or snow flying directly in front of you. By looking far ahead, you will notice a skid happening a lot sooner so you can take easier corrective actions while the skid isn't even a skid yet. In addition, by looking far ahead, you will notice dangers on the road a lot sooner as well.

Finally, if you get caught in a snow or ice storm, there is no humiliation in stopping and resting until the storm passes and the roads get plowed and/or sanded.

Edited to Add: Radar's above post is beautifully written. It is simple but covers a lot.
 

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Outback Executive 3.0 MY08 (VTD/VDC/LSD)
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915 Posts
All season tires are a bad idea, as well as summer tires
Get a set of dedicated winter tires and don't take the cheapest ones, take the best ones
Use them only two seasons
Adjust speed, but don't overexagerate, it is just snow
Accelerate gently
Static friction is better than dynamic friction - so don't give to much gas, learn to feel the right amount of wheelspinn - if its ower, its over, backup and try again, more gas is not the way
If you are stuck, don't stomp stupidly on the gas, hoping it is going to help, because it will not help, it will only make it worse. Try to reverse, get out to see what the problem is
In severe conditions, try to avoid stopping, as starting from a full stop can be delicate, especially uphill
Make more room to other cars, as stopping distances are longer
Go slow into a turn, accelarate after
Get a feeling of how the car behaves - e. g. on an empty parking lot
Learn that snow <> snow - fresh snow is different to old snow, wet and heavy snow is different to fresh powder
Don't steer too brisk, this will cause understeer
Lern to react on understeer (open steering wheel a bit, release accelerator) and oversteer (countersteer) - but don't overreact, do it gently
Don't forget that AWD does not help you braking
Leave VDC on
If ABS begins acting, stay on the brake, let it do its thing, the harder you brake the better ABS works!
etc. etc.

The most commen mistakes I always see are way too much gas and non adjusted speed.
 

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2004 Outback Wagon, Mystic Blue Pearl
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DO: Slow down.
DON'T: Assume anyone else can stop, or know's how to drive in snow.

That's all you really need to know.
 

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06 OBW 2.5, 05 Forester, had 03 H6 OBW
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A basic truth of ABS is that it will often not help you stop faster in snow, but will let you steer while just nailing the brake pedal.

If you are going down a slick hill that is slick enough and steep enough, ABS can actually keep you from stopping.

My advice along with what the others said is find a safe location and play, play play! I mean, practice, practice, practice!

To become truly skilled at something you must explore the limits, and to explore the limits you must occasionally go beyond them, so do so under conditions of your own choosing. I don't mean go 50 in a big open parking lot and do huge drifting turns around the entire mall, but get to know what it feels like when you do lose traction, and what ABS will and won't do for you.
 

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2012 Outback 2.5 i Premium
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Everybody has their own methods for dealing with snow and ice but the logic is the same. Here are some tips for a driver new to snow and ice.

Don't try to beat physics. A vehicle that loses traction is going to have a harder time regaining it than one that is driving conservatively. Watch your speed and be careful when braking. I'm sure you've seen plenty of youtube videos featuring spinning vehicles on icy roads. You've probably noticed that most if not all of them had their foot placed firmly on the brake pedal. A little gas and some finessing the transmission can usually help you when counter steering if you lose traction.

A good set of snow tires can keep you on the road but they're more for those of us that have to deal with winter weather for the entire season. For a weekend trip to the mountains you can still make due with your all seasons. You simply have to drive within your limits. Don't think you can keep up with the mountaineers and their grippy tires.

If you can't get going try a different gear. Manual or CVT you can start in 2nd. This should allow you to start off with a little less power and keep your wheels from spinning. Your AWD should compensate though so don't think you have to do this all the time.

AWD is not a free pass. Don't think you can overcome the conditions. If it's icy you're not going to get very far. The same goes for white out conditions. Sometimes you just have to stay in.
 

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2012 Outback 3.6R
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There has been a lot of good advice given so far. I hope this is not a repeat but if it is does not hurt to mention again.

Never ever use cruise control on ice or snow. It is easy to be in cruise control and then get into icy conditions and forget you are in cruise control.
 

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2006 Outback Wagon 2.5i 5spd MT Atlantic Blue Pearl
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I think everything has pretty much been said, so I'll basically just second (or third/fourth/etc) everything.

SLOW DOWN. This cannot be overstated.

Get proper snow tires. AWD = go, snow tires = turn/stop. I felt safer in my Civic with Blizzaks than my Outback with all-seasons. My stopping distance was 2-3 times longer in the OB with AS vs the Civic with Blizzaks. Nowadays, I've turned through icy intersections where other people slide, and due to snow tires, AWD, and DRIVING SLOWLY, I didn't slip at all.

PRACTICE. Whip the car around in an EMPTY parking lot to see how your car handles in the snow. Break it loose, regain traction. Learn how YOUR car with YOUR tires handles. To get the general idea of what you're supposed to do, go play a racing video game where you have to drift and then straighten out (Forza, Gran Turismo, etc). It's the same principle, just on a surface with less friction, less speed, and less supercars :-(

Assume everyone else is speeding in a RWD muscle car with summer tires. Somehow, even in New Hampshire, people forget how to drive in the snow. Case in point: How In Snowhell Could You Crash a Car Like This? (Updated) By assuming everyone else sucks (or is using the worst snow equipment possible), it keeps you more alert and aware of your surroundings. When someone else loses traction and is going to hit you, there's (usually) nothing they can do about it, which means you need to be ready.

After the light turns green, wait an extra second before entering the intersection. Seriously. Sometimes, the light changes, and normally you'd have to hit the brakes hard to stop in time. Sadly, on the snow, that doesn't work as well, and IF you were able to stop, you'd be in the middle of the intersection. When you hit the brakes and nothing happens, you just have to keep going. At that point, it's about going on the correct path and not hitting anything, and less about the red light.
 

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After the light turns green, wait an extra second before entering the intersection. Seriously. Sometimes, the light changes, and normally you'd have to hit the brakes hard to stop in time. Sadly, on the snow, that doesn't work as well, and IF you were able to stop, you'd be in the middle of the intersection. When you hit the brakes and nothing happens, you just have to keep going. At that point, it's about going on the correct path and not hitting anything, and less about the red light.
Been there, done that, only I was the guy that went through on the red. Downhill, slippery, FWD car. Even at a reasonable speed for the conditions there was still no way I was stopping in time. I HAD been on the brakes, once I realized I wouldn't stop I let off the brakes and powered through. Fortunately it wasn't a busy intersection.

Also, and it's not as easy in the OB, engine braking can save your bacon. Different vehicle (4WD pickup), icy road, person in front of me wasn't paying attention. Even with a safe following distance, because of unexpected ice, not enough stopping distance. Slammed the gearshift to 1 and used the engine to aid in slowing down, and stopped in time.
 

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2013 Outback 2.5 Limited
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Discussion Starter #17
Great advice, everyone! Living in San Diego... we never encounter snow (unless I drive up into the mountains). I'll have to find a safe place to practice without the added pressure of vacation or passengers (family).
 

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2006 Outback Wagon 2.5i 5spd MT Atlantic Blue Pearl
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Been there, done that, only I was the guy that went through on the red. Downhill, slippery, FWD car. Even at a reasonable speed for the conditions there was still no way I was stopping in time. I HAD been on the brakes, once I realized I wouldn't stop I let off the brakes and powered through. Fortunately it wasn't a busy intersection.
Heh...that exact same situation happened to me...even the downhill, slippery, and FWD car.

Also, and it's not as easy in the OB, engine braking can save your bacon. Different vehicle (4WD pickup), icy road, person in front of me wasn't paying attention. Even with a safe following distance, because of unexpected ice, not enough stopping distance. Slammed the gearshift to 1 and used the engine to aid in slowing down, and stopped in time.
Dude...seriously....are you watching my life or something? This happens all the time! This was one of my main draws to finding an OB with a MT (as well as the permanent 50/50 front/rear power ratio, and the fact that a stick is more fun than an auto).
 

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2011 SSM Outback 2.5i Premium
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Heh...that exact same situation happened to me...even the downhill, slippery, and FWD car.


Dude...seriously....are you watching my life or something? This happens all the time! This was one of my main draws to finding an OB with a MT (as well as the permanent 50/50 front/rear power ratio, and the fact that a stick is more fun than an auto).
Only mine was an automatic and I did that. Gave me a jolt, but I wasn't moving SO fast that it over-revved or dropped the transmission.
 

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2000 OBW, 2002 WRX wagon
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I learned to drive in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada in both FWD and RWD vehicles where there was a lot of dry snow and lots of ice (very very cold...so cold that road salt doesn't work)...we didn't have snow tires back then either, well at least not til I was in high school...even then they were only M&S rated blocky looking truck tires...siped tires didn't show up til many years later. I've lived in Ottawa, Ontario Canada for most of the rest of my life where we get heavy, slushy snow and freezing rain.

If you have trouble getting going, most autos (including the 4EAT) will start in 2nd gear if you leave it in 2. This will help your take off without as much wheelspin. However, put it into 3 or D after you take off, or the engine braking may be difficult for you to get used to at speed (will decelerate too quickly).

Driving on ice is like trying to run on a skating rink with rain boots on: normal movements result in absolute chaos. If you are in this situation (driving on ice haha), don't panic...not much else you can do other than brace for impact. Driving in slush and/or heavy snow can pull your car to the side that the tires first go into if you are trying to change lanes through the piles. If so, make it a slow, but deliberate lane change by taking firm hold of the wheel and hold it steady, but do not move over too quickly.

If the car fogs up more than usual, turn on A/C or select the full windshield setting where the A/C automatically activates (the light might not light up, but it should turn on).

If the snow is really wet, you could get a lot of accumulation in your wheel wells and it may also rub against your tires. Just get out and kick it off. Remember to wash the underside of your vehicle to remove all salt and road debris...preserve that oh so delicious Cali underside...I can't tell you how much I envy the underside of cars down there....any Gen 1 or Gen 2 OB up here is absolutely chock full of rust every- and anywhere.

Also, get some good rubber mats and a cargo liner to protect your carpet!!

Cheers
Trevor aka Nanook of the North :D
 
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