Front wheel drive vehicles for driving in western mountain states

darcytribe

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I recall reading in some threads a while back that many folks who live in the mountain west drive front wheel drive vehicles, even through the winter with snowy roads. Several commented they got around just fine, even in a foot of snow. This got me thinking about what sorts of things would one look for in a front wheel drive vehicle so that it can be run through snowy, western winters. I’ll throw out a few questions that come to my mind to see if any of you with experience can enlighten me. Then there may also be some things I’m not considering. For contex I‘m talking paved and maintained gravel roads for this discussion.

1. when the snow is flying, I assume folks driving fwd are using chains/cables of some sort on the front wheels Correct?
2. would chains be recommended also on the rear wheels?
3. is a minimum ground clearance hight suggested? If so, what height would be minimum?
4. Are there any makes and models that seem to excel in this context.

Also, are there other consideration am I missing? Thanks for any info you can offer on this topic!
 

BBob

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Snow tires not all season tires. If you’ve never driven a car in ice and snow with real snow tires be prepared to be amazed at what you can do compared to regular tires. Night and day. I spent a lot of time up in CA with some Quebecers in winter, was and still amazed at what a front wheel drive car with snow tires will do.

A foot of snow? Mby not but I’ve been through some not too far off from that with them in a Honda Accord. Those people know how to drive in snow 🤣
 

Poser

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Tires are where it’s at and all that really matter. As long as you are staying on plowed streets and highways, you’d likely have no issue with a FWD vehicle with the right tires.
 

hunterjmj

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Drive a fwd car to work everyday without chains or snow tires. Rarely put my pickup in 4wd. I can only think of a few times I've driven on maintained roads with a foot of snow. That is an exception. My dad drove a 2wd Ford pickup for 20 years without chains or issue. Speed and common sense. If the roads have that much snow or they are really dangerous then you just stay home and wait till plows do there job or conditions get better.
 

Vandy321

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Just buy the right tool for the job...a FWD car is not the right tool for winter driving in the rockies.

That's like buying a .223 to hunt elk, sure, you may be able to get away with it, but a .30 cal magnum would make more sense.
 

hodgeman

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There's a lot of nuance to the question, requiring nuance to the answer.

A lot of folks get around just fine, even in Fairbanks AK, with a FWD car. Modern traction controls, vehicle stability, ABS system, dedicated winter tires, chains or cables, all stack the deck in your favor and you'll be just fine 99% of the winter. That remaining 1%? Yeah, you're not going anywhere or shouldn't be trying to.

The 4WD comes into it's own with deep snow. This past winter, we got 16" overnight- my Tundra and my wife's 4Runner did fine. A lot of the FWD crowd, and even the Subaru folks, were just stuck until the plows cleared the roads. Even then, parking lots were a disaster for days.

A FWD is fine as a daily driver, just know that sometimes you're not going anywhere. Likely fine if you're only in snow country for a year or two. If you're going to be in snow country for several. years...just get a 4wd or AWD and be in better shape all the way around.
 
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FWD in a foot of snow? Maybe if it's powder. Ain't no way your getting anywhere in a corolla in a foot of the wet heavy snow we get here in the Sierras. Even with chains on. They do however go pretty good in up to 4-5 inches if you know what you're doing.
 

Tradchef

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Back when i was a kid growing up in Vermont i used an old VW Jetta with either Nokian's or Blizzaks. Never had any issues with shitloads of snow and ice. Out here i have my truck for hunting but i wouldnt hesitate with a solid front wheel and really good snows on the cars. Most people out here use Subaru which i know is AWD but a lot of the kids still use VW and Toyota and the more wealthy use Audi, Volvo, BMW and the list goes on. The only issue i would say is getting back on some of the single track roads that arent maintained. They can be tough on the trucks let alone a car. some of the drifts we get can be super deep too. But for highway and maintained dirt you wont have issues as long as you know how to drive in it
 

Ralphie

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I drive a Corolla all over wyoming all year with fwd and 4 studded snow tires In the winter. Now that’s on paved roads, but fwd with real snow tires is awesome. I have two awd vehicles and a 4x4 as well. On paved roads I’d rather have the corolla and studded snow tires than any of the other three with all seasons. Now a awd with studded snow tire is the best.
 

Marmots

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To answer your questions in order:

1) On a daily driver, you tend to carry chains with you and only put them on for short patches of gnarly conditions, like going over a pass or up an unplowed driveway. Most FWD vehicles don't have the clearance to run legitimate snow chains. You'll probably be stuck with cables. Cables are not particularly durable, so you'll want to break them out even less often than someone putting v-bars on a truck.

2) No, chains go on the drive wheels.

3) You can often squeeze a couple of inches of ground clearance out of any vehicle by removing the piece of plastic aerodynamic trim under the bumper.

4) The type of tire you have mounted is infinitely more important than the make and model of car you're driving.
 

Fatcamp

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12" of dry powder that fell straight down a FWD is probably just fine. Anything plowed they rock. We had a Camry for years with Blizzaks that was a ball to drive. All vehicles we drive now have more lift and AWD.

If you have a job where attendance is optional it's a lot less important.
 
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darcytribe

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Thank you for this feedback. The consensus seems to be tires make all the difference. Next questions are out of ignorance. Snow tires- are all snow tires studded? Would you use studs in the front and rear? What are some good snow tire make and models for front wheel drive vehicles? Thanks!
 

zion zig zag

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Snow tires are good enough now a days that you don’t often need studs, but this is somewhat dictated by where you are using them. Conditions vary widely. But yes, whatever you use, you need them on all four.

I put Nokians on my wife’s car, I think they make the best snow tires. Milne are Firestones I think, they are just ok.
 

Fatcamp

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Bridgestone Blizzaks are kind of the gold standard. We did all four. We did not use studs and they got around amazing, both accelerating and braking.

We used them year round which is expensive. They are made from softer rubber which wears really fast in the summer.
 

Nickofthewoods

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No, not all snow tires are studded.

When I was about 20 and living at 9,000 ft in Colorado I spent an entire winter driving a rear wheel drive SUV with only 2wd and just run of the mill all terrain tires. It sucked but miraculously I never actually got stuck. It can be done but.... Is a 4wd vehicle with decent clearance not an option for you?
 
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