Blog Car Care Advice Winter Tires on FWD Cars: Are They Good in Snow?
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Winter Tires on FWD Cars: Are They Good in Snow?

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Winter tires on FWD car: Will this combo work well in snow? 
Can I use only two winter tires on a FWD car? 

These concerns might loom in your mind if yours is a front-wheel drive and snow flurries are skipping their way down your lane.

Here’s another one:
What do I do if my FWD vehicle gets stuck in snow?

Well, we’re here to help you find answers. Keep reading.

This Article Contains

Let’s get some traction.

Winter Tires on FWD Car: Does This Combo Work in Snow

The quick answer is yes, it does. 

Winter tires deliver better traction in snow and ice (than all-season tires or a summer tire setup), regardless of FWD vehicle or otherwise. Your tires are what contact the road surface, so they’ll determine how well you stop. 

How does this apply to FWD?
Most of the car’s weight is above the driving axle in a front-wheel drive vehicle. This makes it easier for the wheels to dig in and gain traction when the vehicle starts moving, as they’re “pulling” the car (as opposed to a rear-wheel drive vehicle, which “pushes.”)

With winter tires, you’re also less likely to oversteer — which happens when the vehicle’s rear slides out while cornering, resulting in a sharper turn.

The verdict?
A FWD car with snow tires will drive fine in winter conditions — provided you’re not going off-roading or trying to traverse deep snow. You may only have problems going up steep inclines from a dead stop. However, even that is solvable if you can get a running start.

Let’s explore how many snow tires you need, next. 

Can You Use Only 2 Snow Tires on Your FWD Car?

Installing only two winter tires can be dangerous. 
While it’s physically possible and may seem like a budget-saving move, we’ll explain why you shouldn’t:

A. Snow Tires Only on the Front

While this setup may work for straight-line braking and acceleration in your front-wheel drive car, it can create a sense of overconfidence when turning. With winter tires only on the front axle, you’ll risk oversteering and rear-fishtailing when cornering or braking. 

Even on a FWD car, your rear tires still play a role in turning and braking. When the tires on your rear axle aren’t winter tires, they’ll stiffen in low temperatures, lose traction, and skid easily. 

B. Snow Tires Only on the Rear

This setup can cause you to understeer. The only time it may work is if your car is rear-wheel drive (RWD). Even then, it’s not recommended. 

With regular tires on your front wheels, they’ll have less traction than the rear, so it’s harder to steer and stop. Moreover, installing winter tires only on the rear axle can cause your vehicle’s ABS and traction control (TC) to malfunction, which is counterproductive. 

All said, putting winter tires on all four wheels will probably be cheaper than any cost incurred by a collision. 

However, even winter tires may not prevent your front-wheel drive car from getting stranded in heavy snow.

What to Do if Your FWD Car is Stuck in Snow?

Getting stuck in deep snow is no fun. 

But before calling for a tow, here are some things you can try:

  1. Shovel off the snow around the tires, then accelerate gently. Don’t floor the pedal, as that can dig you deeper into the snow or, worse, jump you dangerously into any traffic ahead.
  1. Rotate the steering while accelerating. This allows the wheels to find less slippery surfaces to grip on.
  1. If you have manual gears, try starting in 2nd gear instead of 1st. 2nd gear has a gentler wheel rotation, which can help you gain traction.
  1. If your wheels pause mid-spin, temporarily disable your traction control. In low traction conditions, TC limits powertrain output or engages the brakes — but you need the wheels to keep spinning so you can pull out of the snow.
  1. Accelerate forward and then reverse to generate a back-and-forth motion. This can create momentum and help your tires gain traction. 

In this situation, of course an all-wheel drive vehicle might do better. 
But let’s not knock off the FWD entirely.

What Are the Benefits of FWD (With Winter Tires) Over AWD? 

When faced with a heavy, snowy condition laced with icy roads, a FWD car with winter tires is definitely preferable over an AWD car (all-wheel drive)

Here are more ways a FWD may trump an AWD vehicle:

Next, some tips for safer winter driving. 

6 Tips for Driving in Snowy Conditions

Even with a full set of winter tires, snowy, slippery conditions can be challenging. 
Here are some tips to help you out:

  1. Drive your car fluidly. This means gentle steering and minimized brake tapping (unless you really need to stop.) Avoid oversteering, and don’t panic if you start to drift. Try to gently course-correct.
  1. Brake softly. Your wheel can lock with hard braking and send you into a skid.
  1. Accelerate smoothly and gradually, ensuring your tires maintain grip. Sudden acceleration can cause your tires to slip and lose traction, making it harder to move forward.
  1. Slow down and allow ample space between you and the vehicle ahead. This gives you more time to react if road or traffic conditions change, which could make the difference between a collision and safety.
  1. Anticipate the road ahead. A wet section might be slippery but could be easier to drive through than snow. Shiny spots or dark glossy patches (on what appears to be dull pavement) can signal dangerous black ice
  1. If you do start sliding, take your foot off the brakes. Pressing it will actually reduce your tires’ chances of regaining grip.

Still have questions?

5 FAQs Related to FWD and Winter Tires

Let’s get more answers on drivetrains and winter tires:

1. When to Install Winter Tires?

You should pop on your winters when the average daily temperature dips below  45oF, typically in late October to early November. The rubber compound in the all-season tire or summer tire will harden and lose traction at this temperature. 

Winter tires work the way they do because their rubber compound stays flexible under 45oF. They’re designed to deal with cold, slippery conditions; some are studded tires for better traction. 

2. Are Snow Tires Necessary With AWD?

This depends on how much snow you’re driving your AWD vehicle in. 

If you’re facing heavy snow and icy roads, then swap your regular tires for winters.
In minimal snow, all-season tires may be sufficient for your AWD car. 

Remember: AWD helps you start moving, but dedicated snow tires will help you start and stop. 
Tire reviews can help you pick the right winter or all-season tire set for you. 

3. How Does RWD Perform in Winter?

Rear-wheel drive is less ideal for winter conditions. Most of the weight is on the rear tires, and on slippery surfaces, the rear can slide. You’d have to countersteer to prevent a spin. 

What’s a typical rear-wheel drive vehicle?
This drivetrain allows better weight distribution and handling, so you’ll find it on muscle cars, sports cars, and trucks. 

4. When Is Four-Wheel Drive (4WD) Needed for Winter?

A 4WD system is “part-time” (unlike AWD). You’ll likely need it if you drive over steep hills or unplowed, unpaved roads.

4WD is great for getting you out of a tough spot in winter. However, using dedicated snow tires can prevent you from getting into that tough spot in the first place. 

5. Are Tire Socks as Good As Tire Chains? 

On hard-packed snow, tire socks and tire chains perform about the same. 
On black ice or fresh snow, snow chains win. However, tire socks are easier and faster to install.

Snow chains (tire chains) are placed over the tire tread and work with the treads. Tire socks go entirely over the tire, and traction comes from the sock’s fabric. Tire size will determine if special chains are needed or if socks can go on them.

Stay in Control With Winter Tires on Your FWD Car

Having the right tire type installed is crucial for safe winter driving. Winter tires will give you an edge when driving in winter conditions, regardless of your drivetrain. If yours is FWD, you should be fine tackling moderate amounts of snow with them on. 

Need help with a tire rotation or some other car issue?
AutoNation Mobile Service can lend a hand. We’re available 7 days a week, and we can get your vehicle woes solved right from your driveway.

Contact us for a tire service, engine service, or even if it’s just a blown headlight bulb.