Rear Wheel Drive Cars and Snow

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Rear Wheel Drive Cars and Snow

Post by HeatIndex » Mon Apr 05, 2010 5:51 pm

Do any of you buy snow tires for your RWD cars if you live in areas that get a lot of snow?

I love the Infiniti Q45, however, I live in Chicago and its fun winters. Every few weeks I talk myself out of buying a car. This is the off-week where I am looking at car websites. I've always loved the Q45 (No later than the 2001 body style). My brother had a '95 or '97 Q45 years ago and I liked his as well. I am currently driving a '98 Nissan Altima SE. I only drive it on the weekends and not even every weekend. It has between 158,000 and 160,000 miles on it. My mother drove most of those miles, but now has a car of her own. I vowed that I would drive this car until it died. However, I am almost 40 and almost 6 feet tall and the jarring "sports" ride is getting to me as well as the lowness of the car seats. It seems I am plopping down in it and climbing out of it these days. Why didn't I notice this when I test drove it as a 28 year old? I probably could hold out for another year or so before replacing it. We'll see.

I am keeping my options open. I really don't want to spend more than $10,000 for a car since I need to be investing heavily to make up for the years when I didn't. This means a low mileage used car will do just nicely for me since I buy cars every 10-15 years. My Dad mentioned snow tires for RWD cars would help. The only negative I really care about with this car is the RWD, but I see plenty of Lexus LS400/430s in Chicago so RWD can't be a deal breaker.


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Post by polaar » Mon Apr 05, 2010 6:34 pm

My mother in law's FWD Honda Accord climbs our steep (Michigan) driveway in the winter. My Father in Law's RWD Chrysler 300 C.... well, he doesn't even try anymore. Maybe snow tires and sandbags in the trunk would help but it's too much of a hassle for him. Our cars are AWD. I wouldn't buy RWD for everyday use in the snowy Midwest.

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Post by FrugalInvestor » Mon Apr 05, 2010 7:07 pm

Snow tires and sandbags in the trunk for weight/added traction and in case you should you be stuck (sprinkle sand in front and/or rear of tire) will certainly help. Exactly where you drive will also have a significant impact on how well you will be able to get around in a RWD car. Are there steep hills, are the roads regularly cleared, etc? Most important is how skilled you are at driving in snow/ice conditions. If you know how and when to modulate the throttle and how to steer properly you'll be fine. If not, you'll be stuck or wrecked!

Remember, there was a time that almost every car on the road was RWD and most of us got around just fine (it snowed then too). That doesn't mean that FWD/AWD/4WD aren't nice to have.
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Post by tibbitts » Mon Apr 05, 2010 7:20 pm

We didn't used to have FWD cars. Somehow we got by without traction control, ABS, or even limited slip differentials, although all those things are nice to have.

Some years I used snow tires, some years not. If allowed in your area, studded tires are likely to help, as is added weight over the drive wheels.


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Post by TranceLordSnyder » Mon Apr 05, 2010 7:39 pm

Personally, after driving a Mustang GT (RWD) for 4 winters I highly recommend weight in the trunk. I never used snow tires, but had all season tires on. I also kept about 200 lbs of extra weight in the trunk during winter months. Sure, it brought down fuel efficiency, but it drastically improved winter traction. I was only ever left stranded twice. Once the snow was too high to drive through. The other time I got stuck at the bottom of a hill, and would you know both ways of the road were uphill. I had to get a ride. If you don't HAVE to drive a car with RWD don't. If you just love the car to death, then go for it.

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Post by sport » Mon Apr 05, 2010 7:47 pm

I live in the part of Ohio known as the snow belt. I haven't had a RWD car since 1986, and have no desire to go back to one. When I did have them, I considered snow tires to be a necessity. For a FWD car, all season tires are fine.


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Post by MWCA » Mon Apr 05, 2010 8:36 pm

jsl11 wrote:I live in the part of Ohio known as the snow belt. I haven't had a RWD car since 1986, and have no desire to go back to one. When I did have them, I considered snow tires to be a necessity. For a FWD car, all season tires are fine.

My 76 Cutlass was the best RWD car I ever had. Of course it was like driving a tank :lol:
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Post by tim1999 » Mon Apr 05, 2010 8:50 pm

Growing up, my parents owned a late 1980s Lincoln Town Car, which is RWD. It could not it make it up our slightly hilly driveway without studded snow tires on the rear and some sandbags in the trunk. I imagine today's RWD cars have traction control and all sorts of other gadgets. Still, if I were buying a BMW 5-series, Lexus GS, Mercedes E-Class, Infiniti G, etc. I would go for the AWD version as we can have snowy winters here.

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Post by jstat » Mon Apr 05, 2010 9:01 pm

One snowy winter in upstate New York my RWD pinto with snow tires was the only car that could make it up the steep snow covered driveway to a party. All the FWD drive cars with all season radials were stuck at the bottom of the hill.

My Subaru with all season tires is mostly unstoppable in snow, but I think it would be unstoppable with real snow tires.

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Post by nickbelane » Mon Apr 05, 2010 10:19 pm

When considering FWD vs RWD and winter tires vs all seasons, people tend to mostly focus on starting traction - not getting stuck in snow.

However that really misses the huge overall safety advantage of winter tires in turning and stopping traction, independent of drive wheels. RWD car with proper winter tires will out-handle and out-brake a FWD or even AWD car with crappy all-seasons in nearly all emergency situations on snow or ice (AWD can have an advantage in some handling situations, even with inferior tires, but none whatsoever in braking - if anything, AWD cars tend to be heavier than comparable RWD or FWD models, and will thus require even longer stopping distances).

For this reason alone, I would recommend a second set of wheels with winter tires to anyone who regularly drives in snow or icy conditions, whether RWD, FWD or AWD - in fact it is mandatory in many European countries.

Using winter tires also enables one to use proper summer tires during the rest of the year, and ditch all-seasons altogether - notably one area where summer tires can significantly outperform all-seasons is wet traction - and can provide better handling and significantly shorter braking distances during wet weather emergency situations.

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Post by Dagwood » Mon Apr 05, 2010 10:23 pm

Go to and check out a winter tire and wheel package that will work with the car you want. I have a RWD BMW that I regularly drive through snowy winters - including the most recent one -- and take skiing. Four wheels with snows mounted is all you need. I put them on in late December and take them off in early March. IIRC, they cost me about $1200 six or so years ago.

AWD is great, but if you don't need it -- and you don't 90% of the time -- it is a potential source of expensive repairs as a car ages. HTH.

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Post by nougat » Mon Apr 05, 2010 10:43 pm

I drive a rwd G, lived in the city for years and now out in the burbs. Bought a set of winter tires and haven't looked back. with the snow tires mounted on a cheap set of wheels, it takes about 30 minutes to swap between the two sets twice a year.

nickbelane is on the mark, driving conservatively you've got more control on snow in a rwd than a fwd.

Drove to Wisconsin through ice storms (which wasn't smart...) and 12" of snow; I was down in Cincinnati a few months ago when the big snowstorms hit this year. No problems.

Only time I got stuck was once when 3" of ice accumulated in front of my garage ( I was out of town for 2 weeks ). A rut developed in the alleyway in front, got the front wheels stuck in the rut and the rears spinning on the ice trying to back into the took a 20 lb bag of salt, an icepick, and 30 minutes to get unstuck.

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Post by HeatIndex » Tue Apr 06, 2010 10:34 am

Thanks for all of the comments and suggestions. I will be city driving mostly with no hills and inclined driveways that I know of so I won't rule out the Q45, but will come back to this topic when I finally decide to buy a car.
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Post by Chuck » Tue Apr 06, 2010 10:40 am

I drove a Mustang with Bridgestone Blizzaks, and it was like driving a snowmobile. Not a single problem with snow and/or ice, even hill climbing. Modern snow tires are astoundingly good. I wouldn't hesitate to own a RWD car in any weather.

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Post by gotherelate » Tue Apr 06, 2010 12:13 pm

The best real wheel drive car I ever had for driving in the snow was my 1971 VW Beetle. :-)

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Re: Rear Wheel Drive Cars and Snow

Post by fsrph » Tue Apr 06, 2010 8:13 pm

HeatIndex wrote:Do any of you buy snow tires for your RWD cars if you live in areas that get a lot of snow?

I owned a few RWD cars in the past, a '69 Firebird, '79 Vette and currently a 350Z. They all were poor performers in the snow. If you want to improve winter driving as much as possible, put some weight in the trunk and get some good snow tires. I had studded snow tires for the Firebird but I'm not sure if these are still legal to use. Then again your ability to get around in the winter is dependent on how far you must travel .... to work, activities, etc.. I got by driving the Firebird year round for many years but not without many slips on ice and snow covered streets. The Z can go OK in small amounts of snow mostly because it has new tires. I also have an older Eagle Talon and that thing (FWD) goes thru most snow like it is nothing. RWD will always be a compromise in winter weather.


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