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I just picked up my first Subaru Outback a couple of weeks ago and I'm wondering whether other people in climates like Michigan's change to a set of winter tires during the winter months. I've never driven a Subaru during the winter at all, but I do know that winter tires often just work better in cold temps due to the rubber being a different formula. I"m sure there are must be some people who use them and some who don't so I"m hoping you'll share your experences and findings.
 

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17 Outback Touring 3.6R blue 18 Chevy Silverado High Country and a 11 Dodge Challenger SRT 8
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I use 4 on my two outbacks in upstate NY. The snows are a more aggressive tread to handle the snow and also steer the car better in deep snow. The factory tires are pretty much the least aggressive tire they can get away with to get the MPG ratings up. Least resistance on road better mileage.
 

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2017 OB 2.5 Ltd ES
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I was pleasantly surprised by the performance of my '17 Ltd with OEM tires this past winter. OEM tread only had about 2500 miles of wear. The Portland area had an unusual winter with a number of snow/ice days. It took intentionally aggressive driving behavior to cause the OB to lose any control. This was in snow and ice conditions that stranded most FWD sedans not using chains, and in straight stops the OB would engage ABS with moderate+ brake pressure. There was expected but mild understeer, and traction control (and its dash icon) were subtle but present in starts and turns. FWIW, the Portland area does not have a snow plow fleet comparable to typical midwest and east coast cities, and (with only recent and rare exception) does not salt roads. Instead they apply a magnesium chloride gel ahead of predicted snow/ice.

TL/DR.. I felt very comfortable commuting with just the OEM tires. I still plan on purchasing mounted winter tires for next season for increased confidence, especially as the OEM tread wears.
 

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On the Super Mod Squad
2002 3.0 VDC Wag + 2018 2.5 Leg Ltd
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Michigan people on here and they have snows tires. without them what you get is 4 wheel spin, and in the 2nd winter on those OEM tires its really going to suck. when they are not so fresh anymore.


so yeah snows, preferably on their own rims, so no need to pay to remount,

some here like steel rims for snows, ...= cheap to replace if you get a dent from a spring pot hole and they say they shed the snow better. However they seem to be made of very thin steel that dents easy when they are on cars local to me,....and I have never damaged a typical 16" subaru alloy.


__

as a newer alternative thought, I am seeing a few threads of people driving on year round snows. ones of a compound that is designed not to melt in summer,..."all weather" tires, Nokian has made them for a few years, cheaper toyo calls them Celsius. I don't know how long they last as safe snows in miles/kms.
 

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Your Outback (on all-season tires) can go better on snow and ice than your last car, presumably also on all-season tires.

Your Outback cannot stop any better than your old car in snow and ice. They both have all-wheel brakes, after all.

Either car would stop and go better on ice when equipped with snow tires. They amplify what you've already got. And that's most of what you need to know.
 

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Brucey
'17 3.6
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Michigan people on here and they have snows tires. without them what you get is 4 wheel spin, and in the 2nd winter on those OEM tires its really going to suck. when they are not so fresh anymore.


so yeah snows, preferably on their own rims, so no need to pay to remount,

some here like steel rims for snows, ...= cheap to replace if you get a dent from a spring pot hole and they say they shed the snow better.


______

as a newer alternative thought, I am seeing a few threads of people driving on year round snows. ones of a compound that is designed not to melt in summer,..."all weather" tires, Nokian has made them for a few years, cheaper toyo calls them Celsius.
We run Michelin X ice 3 year around on the Baja.
 

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2013 Outback, 2.5i Limited w/ Moonroof
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Studless winter tires for winter. All Season tires for rest of year.

I went through the decision with my wife. She asked why we needed winter tires on a Subaru. I had to show her the research I had done, that shows that winter tires make a significant difference. There are at least two or three different studies that I have found, that show a very big difference between All Season and studless winter tires. Winter tires make such a difference that a FWD car with winter tires will outperform an AWD car with All Season tires. And by a significant margin.

And I can tell the difference. I can go places where I never would have thought about going without the winter tires. A definite yes for me. As long as I live in a climate with snow and ice, I will never own a car again without a set of winter tires.

Start shopping for a set of used aluminum wheels. I picked up a set off an '06 Baja for only $100. A new set of steel wheels would cost me more than that. My Discount Tire store loves it when I come in, with all the winter tires already mounted with their own set of TPMS sensors.

The only down side is keeping track of tire rotation.
 

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2018 2.5i Limited w/EyeSight
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I'm new to the AWD club, but my feeling is that at this point I've spent $30k+ to have a vehicle that is good in the snow. Cheaping out on the last $600 and noticeably hampering the car's ability to handle the snow seems like a bad deal!

One thing I haven't figured out yet is if it's better to stay with 18" wheels, same as the stock on the Limited or to drop down to 17" for the snow tires. 18" wheels and tires seem to be notably more expensive than the 17" alternatives, but I'm not sure on the pros and cons. What are people doing in this situation?
 

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2012 2.5i Premium CVT
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I figure Anchorage is probably similar to Michagan in winter; maybe a little milder actually. I run AT tires April-September and studded snow tires October-March, or there abouts.
 

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Winter traction is not about forward progress. It is about control. I watch countless OBs (as well as plenty of other cars) ... BOBSLED through the shady, icy intersections. Like they are under full throttle...just skating. That hard pack and ice will get you every time.

That is where the all-seasons fail miserably. Oh, and if it's a street tire (AS) not some open tread AT tire...they will epic-fail after a few inches of white stuff starts packing the treads.

I have been driving a car legally for over 30 years. I have owned many Subarus. I have always lived where there can be very rough winter days. NE Pennsylvania, Boston, Colorado...I am firm believer in dedicated snow tire. I am actually a big fan of studded-ice tires.

Because...when the A/S wearing other OBs are sliding directly at me, crossing and intersection, against the light...I enjoy the control I have to avoid your sliding rig, as well as the other moving obstacles.
 

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One thing I haven't figured out yet is if it's better to stay with 18" wheels, same as the stock on the Limited or to drop down to 17" for the snow tires. 18" wheels and tires seem to be notably more expensive than the 17" alternatives, but I'm not sure on the pros and cons. What are people doing in this situation?
I recommend smaller wheels with higher aspect ratio tires to achieve the same outer diameter as the stock combination.

This does two things:

1) You gain access to a wider variety of lower-cost tire choices

2) The higher aspect ratio is more forgiving of rough surfaces. You're less likely to pop a bead or crack a rim when you get to March and the roads are full of potholes.
 

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2017 Outback 2.5i Limited, Ice Silver
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I have been driving winter tire/wheels for over 20 years and would never drive without them. The control and traction is night and day different. Makes winter driving virtually stress free. Until this past winter I only had front drive cars and never had issues driving in all but the deepest snow where I was plowing snow with the bumper but last winter with the Outback that thing was a beast. Like I was not even driving on snow and ice. Drive on them once and you will never look back.
 

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2013 Outback, 2.5i Limited w/ Moonroof
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I'm new to the AWD club, but my feeling is that at this point I've spent $30k+ to have a vehicle that is good in the snow. Cheaping out on the last $600 and noticeably hampering the car's ability to handle the snow seems like a bad deal!

One thing I haven't figured out yet is if it's better to stay with 18" wheels, same as the stock on the Limited or to drop down to 17" for the snow tires. 18" wheels and tires seem to be notably more expensive than the 17" alternatives, but I'm not sure on the pros and cons. What are people doing in this situation?
The 17" would be a much better choice for snow tires. Tire Rack explains it best.

https://www.tirerack.com/winter/tech/techpage.jsp?techid=126
 

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2019 2.5i Limited Forester (hers) (4th Subie), 2014 Impreza Premium (mine)(#5)
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I just picked up my first Subaru Outback a couple of weeks ago and I'm wondering whether other people in climates like Michigan's change to a set of winter tires during the winter months. I've never driven a Subaru during the winter at all, but I do know that winter tires often just work better in cold temps due to the rubber being a different formula. I"m sure there are must be some people who use them and some who don't so I"m hoping you'll share your experences and findings.
I had one of the first Outbacks we ever produced off the line, and while with NEW factory tires it handled 3" of snow fine, the second winter I had the car I got a set of snow tires. It drove a LOT better. (That was obviously when I lived in Lafayette, Indiana and worked at the factory building these things.)

Down here in Oklahoma, there's no need for the one day of nasty weather we get. They just shut the state down anyway. What's more fun is making sure you have tires that can channel the water from the torrential down pour rains we get.
 

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For the Boston area, I've been happy taking the middle way: all weather (not all season) tires. These have snowflake symbol and perform far better than all seasons on snow and ice, yet they also make very good summer tires.

I use Nokian WRG3's. They wear like iron and do great in all conditions. Of course there is some compromise compared to dedicated winter tires. I might not use WRG3's if I lived in a heavy snow belt, or a place with frequent iced roads, or I was an emergency responder, etc. But it's a great compromise for many people I think. A little louder than stock, and not cheap, but otherwise excellent.

Where I live dedicated winter tires would arguably be less safe overall since almost always the roads are dry, and so winter tires wouldn't perform as well. Plus no need for seasonal changeovers. Some people use the stock tires as summers and the WRG3's as winters, another sound option if you don't mind the changeovers.
 

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2018 2.5i Limited w/EyeSight
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I recommend smaller wheels with higher aspect ratio tires to achieve the same outer diameter as the stock combination.

This does two things:

1) You gain access to a wider variety of lower-cost tire choices

2) The higher aspect ratio is more forgiving of rough surfaces. You're less likely to pop a bead or crack a rim when you get to March and the roads are full of potholes.
The 17" would be a much better choice for snow tires. Tire Rack explains it best.

https://www.tirerack.com/winter/tech/techpage.jsp?techid=126
Thanks for the advice guys. I'll be on the lookout for some 17" wheels and 225/65R17 tires.

As a follow-up question... how does changing over the TPMS work if you swap the rims? Does it need to be reprogrammed the first time the new wheels go on? Or every time?
 

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2017 Outback 2.5i Premium
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I just picked up my first Subaru Outback a couple of weeks ago and I'm wondering whether other people in climates like Michigan's change to a set of winter tires during the winter months. I've never driven a Subaru during the winter at all, but I do know that winter tires often just work better in cold temps due to the rubber being a different formula. I"m sure there are must be some people who use them and some who don't so I"m hoping you'll share your experences and findings.
We have a '16 Honda Odyssey and a '17 Outback that we just bought in January. I went to Tire Rack to buy winter tires for the Odyssey last fall and they made a HUGE difference in the traction. The rubber compound is much softer than all season, with a more aggressive tread. I bought them mounted and balanced with the TPMS installed. All my local guy had to do is stick them on. Much easier than swapping out the tires on my OEM rims. I've been confronting the same dilemma as you: whether to get winter tires on the Subby. I think I will because of my experience with the Odyssey. Good luck!
 
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