Snow chains not required/recommended on Outback?


Asked by Oct 27, 2015 at 08:19 AM about the 2010 Subaru Outback 2.5i Limited

Question type: General

I've noticed that the owner's manual specifically states that you cannot put
snow chains on the Outback, so,   how bad is this car in the snow with all
season tires.   If you're on a road trip,  it doesn't make sense to carry an extra
set of winter tires along just to switch them out if you encounter snow?     
Finally,  have any of you experienced driving the CVT transmission in snow?  
How well does that work?

13 Answers


They make special snow traction devices for subarus, they are called traction spyders, they are expensive, there was a vid on you tube about them. I have been told that if it is really slick the tranny can overheat and burn up, but I have never seen this nor had any experience with a CVT myself

3 out of 3 people think this is helpful.

Hi Mark, The CVT doesn't "know" anything, except equal rolling radii protects the center and rear AWD diffs from overheating. So just don't mix different HEIGHTS front/rear. Newer OBs like yours suffer from spongy 17" tires, so you'll be "stuck" with even spongier, overly heavy, squirmy winter tires if you go that route. If your winter surfaces frequently involve driving on ice or deep snow then you will benefit from the so-called studless ice and snow recs from The TireRack et al. If you simply want low temperature high speed performance with only occasional deep snow or pure ice I'd get a quieter, better winter tire like the Mich X-Ice3 (pretty quiet!), or the new Conti SI that looks great for the money. Graspics and Alimax are louder. Blizzaks and Pilots $$$. If you have the optional 18" wheels you have many more high performance options, allowing high speed touring on nicer days without hurting your ears. I fear blowig your head up b telling you that you can mix brands front-to-back, so long as you keep the slightly TALLER ones (whether different brands or simply more tread) up front so that squeeze down (60F/40R weight distribution, remember?) to match the rears. Then the CVT is stupidly happy. And don't bother with the stupid "starting in 2" mode on ice if you have a gentle foot. It's just a computer alogorithm, unlike the previous discrete multi-gear autoboxes.

4 out of 4 people think this is helpful.

TheSubaruGuruBoston, thank you. I actually live in Los Angeles, so, aside from trips to the mountains and other locale with snow, we don't have any local problems in SoCal. I do travel to Michigan, but, have not had any reason to bring my Subaru there. Who knows? But, your suggestions are very appreciated. I was surprised that in the owners manual it specifically says that chains are not recommended, but, a couple of people told me that these cars are so good in the snow that they show up pretty much everything else.

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.

LA? Then just use decent All Season Tires that are on the aggressive side of the summer-winter continuum. TireRack's surveys can be helpful here. Problem is lots of UHP tires don't come in the new OB's stupid tall and soft sizes.

2 out of 2 people think this is helpful.

If you do not have cables or chains of some type the California Highway Patrol will not let you go to certain snowy areas, all wheel drive, 4wd or not.

10 out of 10 people think this is helpful.

While the 2006 Outback manual (p. 8-11) says there is insufficient clearance for chains with P225/55R17 tires, it goes on to say that when required (the Sierra in severe conditions) to mount Type S (low profile) "chains" (more likely the cable type) on the front wheels. When selecting chains be sure to check for potential interference with suspension components such as strut mounts.

12 out of 12 people think this is helpful.

I have the 2015 Outback with the 225-60R-18 Nokian WRG3 All Weather tires. I recently explored whether I could put chains or cables on the tires. Kal-tire, my go-to tire experts worked through this with me, and I referred to the car Manual. It says explicitly in the manual that you CAN NOT use tire chains because of the clearance issues which is true for many similar cars. However, there is a tire cable that can be used, and they are to be put only on the front tires. The recommended product is the "Super Z6" and it is easy to put on. They are rated for no more that 50Km/hr, but I suspect if I need chains I will be going considerably slower than that. Hope that helps! Jon


NEVER asymmetrically load a Subaru AWD like that!


When checking snow cables like the "Super Z6" by SCC (Peerless) for interference include checking whether the inner side cable interferes with any part of the suspension, such as the strut mounts. This is a problem with my 2006 Honda Civic and I had to use the radial cable type. I haven't yet tried SCC diagonal (Z) style with my "new" 2006 Outback though I intend to. I've used SCC diagonal style cables for many years on RWD Volvos and they smoothly and very effective and durable.


Ken, the primary issue is that you most probably will set up unequal rolling radii, stressing the tranny unforgivingly, as it won't tolerate more than a 1% asymmetry at speed. Even if you assure symmetry any sustained slippage due to uneven traction will also risk tranny wear if chronic. At the very least ensure that the SMALLER tires go up front WITH chains/belts, then be sure to rotate back to stronger tread up front to maintain equal rolling radii with Subie's 60F/40R weight distribution. Do NOT take my warning lightly, as used trannies are $2k installed.

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.

Grasshopper, for YOU I'd suggest carrying an extra set of loaded winter tires/wheels just in case you encounter that upcoming freak storm in La La Land....


Thanks "The SubaruGuruBoston", I'm concerned about the asymmetry issue. In the most severe road conditions in the Sierra mountains the CHP requires/enforces the use approved traction devices, generally chains or cables. Other than not driving there is no getting around this and sometimes one must drive for several hours this way. (The cold air may help with transmission overheating). The 2006 Outback owners' manual cautions against chains on some models and tire sizes, citing interference. It also states that when chains are necessary to use Type S chains on the front wheels and limit speed to 19mph. It would seem the asymmetry concern could be satisfied by mounting the same model of S chains/cables all around, but I don't know whether this might stress the transfer system in some other way - it would be interesting to hear the experiences of owners of 5sp. automatics who use chains.


I think you'd be ok with identical systems on all 4 locations.

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