Blog Car Care Advice AWD vs FWD with Snow Tires: Which Is Better for Winter?
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AWD vs FWD with Snow Tires: Which Is Better for Winter?

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You might wonder: Which is better for winter driving — an all-wheel drive (AWD) vehicle with regular tires or a front-wheel drive (FWD) car with snow tires?

Well, the answer can depend on the road condition and snowfall levels.

But don’t worry. 
We’ll draw up a detailed comparison of AWD vs FWD with snow tires to help you choose between the two.

This Article Contains:

Let’s go.

AWD vs FWD with Snow Tires: Which Is Better for Winter Conditions?

Your car needs to be compatible with the road condition. 

In winter, that can mean:

So, let’s review what’s better for these requirements:

1. For Quick Braking and Safe Turns

Good handling and control are important in winter to avoid sliding past a red light or spinning out of control on a turn.

Here’s a look at the AWD’s and FWD’s capacity for braking and cornering:

Bottom line: An FWD with winter tires beats an AWD (with all-season or all-weather tires) at braking and turning on snowy and icy roads. 

2. For Powering Through Snow

Getting stuck in a mound of snow isn’t uncommon in winter.

Let’s see how these drivetrains compare in getting you out of it:

Bottom line: Both vehicles offer enough power to drive through light and moderate snow. However, they both struggle in deep snow conditions. You could consider using a four-wheel drive (4WD) vehicle in deep snow conditions. 

3. For Driving Up Slippery Slopes

Traveling through inclines can be hard in winter since snow and ice can increase the risk of sliding during acceleration or braking.

How do these drivetrains perform in such conditions?

Bottom line: AWDs are better at driving uphill. However, the FWD with a dedicated snow tire set will offer more braking potential down the slope.

Next, let’s review how an AWD vehicle can perform with snow tires.

Does an AWD Car Need Snow Tires?

Although an AWD offers enough traction to manage light to moderate snow conditions, it’s not enough to stay safe in winter. 

Winter tires help an AWD overcome its low traction during braking and cornering. This makes snow tires indispensable for daily driving in harsh winter conditions.

Note: You may require tire chains or studded winter tires (studded tires) in areas with severe winters, like the snow belt and some mountain regions.

What about FWD vehicles?

Can an FWD Car Handle Winter Conditions Without Snow Tires?

An FWD system offers good handling since its power comes from front-driven wheels. It helps you turn faster on sharp corners and pull yourself out of snow.

But with regular tires, you won’t have enough snow traction.  

This makes you susceptible to understeer, where your front wheels lose grip on turns, and your car turns less than you want. In slippery conditions, it could land you in front of oncoming traffic on the wrong side of the road.

You can expect something similar if you only use winter tires on the front-driven wheels. You could experience oversteer, where a loss of grip on the rear tires will cause your car to spin and go off the road backward.

That’s why an FWD car needs snow tires (on all four wheels) for winter.

Still unsure about what’s best for winter driving?
Read on to know more.

2 FAQs about Winter Driving

Here are answers to common questions about winter driving:

1. What’s the Difference Between Snow Tires, All-Season Tires, and All-Weather Tires?

The key differences between these tires are as follows:

2. What Can You Do if Your FWD Vehicle Is Stuck in Snow?

Try these steps if you can’t move your FWD vehicle out of the snow: 

  1. Firstly, clear your exhaust pipe of any snow to avoid carbon monoxide buildup.
  2. Shovel away the snow around your tires or add some dry materials around them.
  3. Accelerate gently to climb out of the snow. Use second gear in cars with a manual transmission; its gentle wheel rotation improves traction.
  4. Temporarily turn off the traction control system, which may cause wheels to pause mid-spin.
  5. Turn the steering wheel left and right while accelerating to find traction in otherwise slippery conditions. 
  6. Switch back and forth between accelerating and reversing to gain momentum. 
  7. Let some air out of your tires. This puts more of the tire surface in contact with the ground, increasing snow traction. However, be sure to re-inflate your tires immediately after getting out. 
  8. If nothing works, call for a tow

AWD vs FWD with Snow Tires: Final Verdict

Overall, an FWD with snow tires outdoes an AWD with all-season tires in winter weather conditions, especially at braking and cornering. But remember, adding winter tires to your AWD is also a good choice to keep you safe in snow and ice.

And if you need help to prep your AWD or FWD for winter — AutoNation Mobile Service can come to you!

Contact us to have our expert mechanics address all of your auto repair and maintenance needs right from your driveway.