What should I buy to climb mountains?

I live at 7,000 feet above sea level and get snow all winter. The incline up the mountain is steep, and I have had trouble with my Subaru overheating. I need a car that's good in snow and also good at climbing steep mountains.

Shirley S.

Rest assured, many others have experienced overheating engines when climbing mountains, especially in vehicles that have several years and thousands of miles on the odometer. A steep climb in thinner air makes engines work harder.

Before you ditch your Subaru, you should have it checked out by a good mechanic or a radiator shop. Perhaps you need something simple such as a new thermostat or radiator cap that seals better, or there could be an air pocket in the cooling system or calcium deposits that are clogging your radiator. These are common issues that can cause overheating in high-stress situations such as mountain driving. You also could try turning off the air conditioning and running the heater to draw heat off the engine.


You didn't say which Subaru model or engine you have, but if it's a four-cylinder model maybe — and we emphasize maybe — a more powerful six-cylinder model would be better suited to mountain climbing. Six-cylinder vehicles also overheat during steep climbs, so we don't suggest that as a cure-all. However, on the 2013 Subaru Legacy and Outback, the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine develops maximum torque of 174 pounds-feet, and the available 3.6-liter six-cylinder produces 247 pounds-feet. Torque is what pulls you up a mountain, and the extra oomph of the six should help.

It also should help to operate your engine at a speed that is close to where it produces maximum torque (we're talking engine speed, not vehicle speed). For example, the current Subaru 2.5-liter produces its maximum torque at 4,100 rpm, so you should select a transmission gear or a vehicle speed that keeps the engine running close to 4,100 rpm as you climb the mountain because that's where it produces the most power. Specifications for the engine in your Subaru should be in the owner's manual.

If you decide a six-cylinder would be better, several other passenger cars offer all-wheel drive and a six-cylinder engine, from luxury models such as the Acura TL and BMW 535i to more modestly priced sedans like the Ford Fusion and Taurus. In addition, literally dozens of SUVs are available with six-cylinder power and all-wheel drive.

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Answered by Rick Popely on March 5, 2013 in What Car Should I Buy? | Permalink

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