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Old 12-20-2007, 12:52 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Where to put chains on a AWD car?

we have an AWD subaru outback just wondering do you put the chains on the front or rear?

My uncle got in a VERY bad accident in his AWD subaru in the snow. It was determined that because he had the chains in the front it caused the front to stop and the back to swing around and roll 3 times.

Just curious.
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Old 12-20-2007, 01:46 PM   #2 (permalink)
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its an awd car why oh why do you need chains??? put them in the trash and drive without them.. and if you feel you need them u shouldnt be driven in the snow.. good snow tires and skill(drive slow) will do you just fine.. noone uses them where i live cept loaders and logging trucks.. but they take them off then they hit the highway.. with hills around here it goes from 10ft to 1100ft in less the a mile.. and we get just as much if not more snow then anywhere cept Alaska..
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Old 12-20-2007, 01:49 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I'm not too familiar with AWD vehicles. But, from what I understand what you've got basically consists of limited-slip differentials in the fr/rr axles, and a transfer case containing an open center differential to split the power between fr/rr. Key words here are open and differential.

So, what happens with that setup is when one or the other axles loses traction the other loses power. Exactly like how the open differential in a front or rear axle works to distribute load between the right and left wheels(one wheel slips/gains speed, the other wheel loses power/loses speed). Except instead of 2 wheels it's 2 axles that are allowed to change speeds relative to each other(one axle slips/gains speed, the other axle loses power/loses speed). You need to have a way to lock the center differential to be in what is called 4WD, like most standard 4WD transfer cases that have no differential at all. Power is then distributed to the front and rear axles equally at all times.

Am I needing to explain this further or are you getting it yet?

If not, here goes. If you put chains on only one axle in AWD it will cause you to have too much traction on that axle. This will tend to cause a differentiation in the power distribution to both axles, sending more power to the axle with unchained wheels, and less power to the one that's wheels are chained Why? Because, when the non-chained up wheels start slipping and gaining speed before the chained up ones do, and they will without question, the axle with the chained wheels/best traction/not slipping loses power/wheel speed as a result of the central differentiation at the transfer case. NOT GOOD! That's just how an open center differential functions though, not it's fault really. It'd be just like puttin' chains on the left or right wheel only, on an axle with an open differential for example. Pretty soon it's, GOIN' NOWHERE FAST! or GOOD OLD-FASHIONED NO-WHEEL DRIVE!

Anyhow, you'll be putting yourself in worse shape for traction than you were with no chains at all unless ALL 4 wheels are chained. Giving BOTH PAIRS OF DRIVE WHEELS an equal chance at traction, thus minimizing the chances of torque differentiations occurring at the transfer case differential on a full-time AWD or non-lockable/open center differential equipped vehicle. As these would have no true 4WD mode to eliminate the possibility of torque differentiation at the transfer case by which to make it a practical option to put chains on either, or both, pairs of drive wheels. That's all I'm really trying to say here.

Braking however would, undoubtedly, be improved to some extent. Sounds like better with 'em maybe in the rear only, than the front only. Though that seems counter-intuitive as the front brakes work harder than, and hence are more effective at stopping a vehicle than, the rear when braking while traveling in a forward direction. They have to work harder because of the physics of inertia involved in throwing the COG of the vehicle forward, putting it closer to the front wheels and increasing the load on the front brakes. But this may all be irrelevant, because you need to be moving to have a need to stop or slow down.

So...the choice is yours. Chains on ALL 4 WHEELS, or NO CHAINS being the only wise choices. Simple enough?





EDITOLA: Turns out I knows even less about a subaru AWD than I thought. They, the outbacks, DO have a LIMITED SLIP center differential of sorts. Still don't know, or care to, the exact details of it.

So, most of what I said still applies. But it's only entirely accurate in it's description of SOME AWD vehicles.
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Old 12-20-2007, 01:53 PM   #4 (permalink)
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and we get just as much if not more snow then anywhere cept Alaska..
How much ya got so far this season? We've got 52.9 inches already, here in Syracuse, NY. Yeah, that's way above average (26" is average for this date), but we usually get 115" in an average year.

My girlfriend has a Suby Impreza and with a set of Nokian Hakka RSIs on it, it goes just about anywhere. Clearance is the only issue with that car.
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Old 12-20-2007, 02:02 PM   #5 (permalink)
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How much ya got so far this season? We've got 52.9 inches already, here in Syracuse, NY. Yeah, that's way above average (26" is average for this date), but we usually get 115" in an average year.

My girlfriend has a Suby Impreza and with a set of Nokian Hakka RSIs on it, it goes just about anywhere. Clearance is the only issue with that car.
to date so far for my county is 95.5in.. with this months snowfall being 59in.. not sure for then year but its alot..
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Old 12-20-2007, 02:10 PM   #6 (permalink)
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they set the arrow to the previous years nowfall
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Where to put chains on a AWD car?-michigan-mohawk-snow-stick.jpg  
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Old 12-20-2007, 04:45 PM   #7 (permalink)
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I forget what year you said yer Superpoo was, but the dealer said we had to run 'em on all fours with our '06 Outback. The AWD system is so sensitive that if you blow a tire, you will have to replace all of the tires if the wear is over 1/4 in. over stock....something like that, I'm not sure what the exact amount was though.
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Old 12-20-2007, 08:45 PM   #8 (permalink)
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I've gotten an All Wheel Drive aircraft tug stuck in the snow. It probably would not have gotten stuck if it didn't have a plow on the front, but.. I've gotten one stuck before.

Anyways, I'm thinking you'd have to chain all 4.


On another thread someone mentioned chaining the rear wheels of a FWD car in a mocking way. here in NM, if you buy snow tires for your FWD, you have to buy 4. They won't mount 2 in front because your rear end will lose traction and the front won't as easily, then you have the situation described above. Same with chains I'm sure.
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Old 12-21-2007, 06:26 AM   #9 (permalink)
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I bet the owner's manual states not to use chains period,this was the case with my AWD DSM.
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Old 12-26-2007, 10:48 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Thanks all. We may need to look into studs or snow tires.

My mom is a nurse at providence in portland so not driveing becuase of snow/ice is not an option.
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Old 12-26-2007, 10:54 AM   #11 (permalink)
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I got around decent with all seasons up in the mountains for 4 winters but with your mom needing to get somewhere you'd probably be fine with a set of good snow tires and the studs might be overkill and isn't the best for driving on dry surfaces. AWD+good snow tires should enough.
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Old 12-26-2007, 10:58 AM   #12 (permalink)
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I bet the owner's manual states not to use chains period,this was the case with my AWD DSM.
A friend of ours has a forester, and it also says not to use chains. He was told it was a wheel clearance issue. Maybe at full suspension travel the tires get to close to the fenders, I don't know.
If it has a limited slip center diff, you'd get traction to the axle with the chains. The diff would take a beating, and probably generate a lot of heat. Not something I'd try on long distances, that's for sure.
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Old 12-26-2007, 11:01 AM   #13 (permalink)
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I got around decent with all seasons up in the mountains for 4 winters but with your mom needing to get somewhere you'd probably be fine with a set of good snow tires and the studs might be overkill and isn't the best for driving on dry surfaces. AWD+good snow tires should enough.
Thanks, it doesn't snow much hear, but we get a good coat of solid ice every once in a while this is what i am more worried about. We will probably go with a snow tire. (easer on our roads)
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Old 12-26-2007, 11:06 AM   #14 (permalink)
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Most AWD cars if not all don't recommend chains due to their wheel clearance which isn't much on some of the newer AWDs with larger rims and minimal tire sidewall.
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Old 01-02-2008, 01:34 PM   #15 (permalink)
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I have never seen anyone use chains around here except on 18 wheelers and obviously we get a lot of snow. My girlfriend's roommate has a FWD Passat with snow tires and that car can go anywhere in the snow. It's all about the rubber.
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Old 01-02-2008, 02:41 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Quite a few roads around here it mandatory to carry chains certain times of the year. At a local ski hill the police will check for it, or turn you around if you don't have them.
They are a good thing when it's compact snow on inclines.
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Old 01-02-2008, 07:40 PM   #17 (permalink)
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I drive with summer tires on my car in the snow/ice, But I dont drive like its still the summer, my car is FWD and so far so good.

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Old 01-02-2008, 07:51 PM   #18 (permalink)
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im not too familiar with chains. the only times we ever used them is when i lived on Mt Lassen. when it snows good, they block the road and require everyone to have chains or 4wd. once we got up the road far enough the chains came back off

anyway, on an awd i don't think i would use chains, but if i had to i would probably put them on the rear, just to keep them off the steering end. wouldn't airing down help too? or is larger footprint bad in snow/ice?

people use chains for mud here
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Old 01-02-2008, 10:25 PM   #19 (permalink)
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wouldn't airing down help too? or is larger footprint bad in snow/ice?

people use chains for mud here
airing down wont help.. you want a small footprint.. it forces the weight of the car to a smaller point. allowing the tire to dig in better.. rather then just spin over the top.. ever seen a rally car with snow/ice tires.. four or five inches wide with studs....
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Old 01-02-2008, 10:54 PM   #20 (permalink)
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airing down wont help.. you want a small footprint.. it forces the weight of the car to a smaller point. allowing the tire to dig in better.. rather then just spin over the top.. ever seen a rally car with snow/ice tires.. four or five inches wide with studs....
Yes, I have. But, I've never seen such a vehicle deal effectively with more than a few inches of snow either.

So, that's debatable. Many have found that airing down in the snow and/or using flotation width tires with larger footprints to be of much benefit in certain conditions. Myself included. But, I haven't noticed the bulk of the effects of doing so in snow less than a foot deep. And to be of very little benefit, if any, on solid ice or hardpacked snow. However, when it comes to plowing a pair of tracks through some deep snow, I've seen many a skinny-tired rig founder where my truck excells with 12.5 wide tires, aired down or not. It's not about digging in that situation, that would be bad. My truck get's up on plane, like a boat, in those instances. Allowing me to NOT dig myself a hole to be stuck in, and to float it on up/down the line. So to speak.
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Old 01-02-2008, 10:54 PM
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