PDA

View Full Version : Best Snow Chains for AWD car?



vinny
22-Jan-2008, 23:31
I'm looking on Amazon.com. I've got a AWD subaru wagon. There are cable and chain versions. Some with stretchy bungees. The easier to install, the better as i'd need to do all for tires i assume.
Can anybody recommend a brand/type?


vinny

Kuzano
22-Jan-2008, 23:48
Typically, cable are easier to put on than chain and are quieter. If a cross strand breaks, they don't cause as much damage to the sheet metal wheel wells. But, chains grip better in snow. When you hit dry pavement for any distance, take them off. The cables run on dry pavement only a few miles before breaking. Chains can break too, but will go a bit longer.

The most important thing about chains is get them with a reasonable amount of slack and then take up the slack with the rubber bungee loops. Tight chains or cables will eat the sidewalls through on your tires and will break faster. They both need room to fly out from the tires a little bit. Also, wide profile tires are worse in snow than narrow tread. My personal choice would be fairly narrow tires with cable chains, rather sloppy fit on the tires and tightened with the rubber bungees.

When installing, there is a tendency to hook them rather loosely on the inside and take up the slack on the outside. That leaves the chains loose on the inside and likely to fly off to the outside. Try to get the hooks evenly distributed to the same length inside as outside. There are various latching mechanisms and you have to look through the choices to see which ones you want to hook up laying on your back in a blinding snowstorm with no help. Be sure to block the car from rolling. Lay the chains out and drive onto them toward one end, then lift them over the tire so that you are working either low on the front, or low on the back to hook them up.

The biggest mistake I ever made on a set of chains was to take the wheels off the car and put the chains on the tires as tight as I could get them. I ruing two perfectly good tires in just a few miles. Loose with the rubber snubbers is good. Live and learn. Story of my life.

Andrew_4548
23-Jan-2008, 04:48
Vinny,

You don't put them on all four wheels - just the front ones for steering AFAIR. I've seen it in the owner's handbook somewhere but skimmed over it because thankfully, we don't get much snow (from a driver's point of view.)

Even though I've got AWD (I've got a blobeye STi) I've got to crawl round in the slippery stuff as the tyres are so wide / low profile for normal performance driving and a spare set of wheels with snow tyres are expensive / rare in the UK...

Andrew

Ted Harris
23-Jan-2008, 06:50
I've got chains on my AWD Explorer right now and they will stay there the rest of the winter. They go on the rear wheels only. Here, where I have to get up a tough hill and bite into a lot of ice at times chains are the only answer some days. Chains with the metal bungy cords that adjust the fit are the best. I could have put them on a different truck but figured the Explorer was the oldest and the one that would suffer the lest from any damage so it got elected. If things get real dicy I park the Yukon at the bottom of the hill and use the Explorer to get up an down .... life in the frozen wastes.

You can drive with them on dry pavement but you need to do so carefully and slowly. Keep it under 30mph and check the fit frequently and you will be ok.

Brian K
23-Jan-2008, 07:24
Vinny don't just buy cables or chains from Amazon. You need to do a little research regarding the exact model car you have, the current size tires you have and the amount of clearance between tire and car body components. The really good companies will have a list of what model chains/cables safely fit what car/tire combinations. Putting a too big a chain on the tire could result in problems far more serious than just tire damage.

Cables tend to be thinner than chains and enable a better fit on a tire with less room. The type that use bungee type tensioners will usually give you the proper tension.

Dakotah Jackson
23-Jan-2008, 09:14
Depending on where you drive, road and packed ice conditions, dirt/mud and whatnot it can make sense to have the chains on all four tires.

Why not go with studded snow tires? Or the Blizzak or enhanced ice tires on the market now? You will have to take them off when it warms up but the safety margin is there by having them on and when you need to add chains you know it is really difficult driving conditions.

If you do go with studded snows put them on all four otherwise you create some dangerous tractions problems with one end sliding while the other end bites into the ice and snow.

Dick Hilker
23-Jan-2008, 11:19
I've driven Audi A6s with AWD in Massachusetts snow for many years without ever needing chains or studded tires, though admittedly not that frequently on steep, icy hills. Some folks don't realize the difference between 4WD and AWD, assuming them to be the same.

Alan Davenport
23-Jan-2008, 12:04
It depends on how stuck you plan to get. :(

I use the heaviest lug-reinforced chains I can find on my pickup, admittedly overkill for a Sube. But there is a big difference in the amount of traction; cables work well on packed snow but not as well on ice or in mud. Deeper snow will respond better to chains, but you'll pay a penalty in ride comfort. Also, IINM, many cables allow higher speeds than true chains, where you're pretty much limited to around 25 - 30 mph.

BTW, if you need maximum control in a slick situation, and only have one set of chains, put them on the front axle so you can use the steering to pull yourself out of trouble. This is especially effective in mud.

Best of all, of course, is chains on all four tires. For a lightweight car, try cables on the front for driveability, and chains on the rear for max traction.

mrladewig
23-Jan-2008, 12:49
I've driven Audi A6s with AWD in Massachusetts snow for many years without ever needing chains or studded tires, though admittedly not that frequently on steep, icy hills. Some folks don't realize the difference between 4WD and AWD, assuming them to be the same.

What do you mean exactly. Both systems provide essentially the same capability and there are lots of variations in AWD and 4wd systems. I'm a jeeper and have a very good understanding of the various drive systems. AWD and 4WD are essentially the same except that AWD uses a differential to transfer power between front and rear driveshafts and is always engaged while 4WD is essentially a locked system and can generally be deselected in the transfer case. Now you can get into all sorts of limited slip and locker systems, but the basics apply to both systems in that all 4 wheels are powered by the drive train.

And as to the OP's question about the Suby, my wife has owned an Outback wagon for 6 or 7 years here in Colorado. Her previous cars had snow tires for the winter so she got them for the Suby the first year. That was the only time she ever used them, only using an all season tire. She drove that Suby 40 miles in 18" of fresh snow during the 2003 Denver blizzard and did not get stuck. Pretty impressive to me and I would usually choose her suby over my jeep with 33" tires any time it snows.

Is it especially icy where you are? If not, you may not want to spend money on cables/chains if you'll never use them.

On the suby, since all four wheels a driven by limited slip, you'll probably want chains on all four corners. Most limited slip systems require you have some traction somewhere in the system in order to drive the other wheels. You can "create" traction by carefully applying brake pressure, but if you can just run chains on all four corners this won't be a problem.

Otherwise the advice about chains versus cables is consistent with what I know.

Eric Woodbury
23-Jan-2008, 14:59
I don't mean to hijack this, but had I put different tires on my 2wd 1 ton van, would I have still gotten stuck in the gravel? I couldn't believe how fast and easy that was. I had regular street treads. Would snow tires help? Would I buzz on the pavement with snow tires?

Paul Metcalf
23-Jan-2008, 16:18
I use these on my truck. Install easy, handle higher speeds, and work in mud as well.http://www.flextrax.com/

Bob Jones
23-Jan-2008, 18:33
I have an Outback wagon and there are a couple of considerations that haven't been mentioned. First, there are chains and then there are chains. I've used both cables and chains and personally I prefer chains. IMO chains are far superior for traction.

Having said that, you should check your owner's manual for recommendations about chains. A lot of recent cars can only use "S-class" chains due to limited clearance between the tire and the suspension. If you try to use regular chains on such a car, you'll likely do damage.

Studded snow tires are an option, but depending on where you are going they may not get you past a roadblock. Here in California there are "chain stops" run by Caltrans or the highway patrol entering the higher-elevation areas of the mountains (where I live is at 6100'), and studded tires are NOT considered to be "traction devices" by the state. What is strange is that good studded tires are probably at least as good as cables, but cables pass muster and studded tires don't. Check the rules where you intend to go.

As for what wheels to put chains on, when I chain my Outback I put them on the front, since it helps to have the traction to pull the front end in the direction I want to go. When I chain my Toyota 4x4 truck I usually put them on the back, since that is where the truck is lightest and needs the most help. I carry chains for all four wheels for the truck, and there have been a very few occasions where I chained all four wheels. It's pretty amazing what you can get through with good snow tires and chains all around on a 4x4 with ground clearance. I'd just plan on using one set on your Subaru, you'll end up more limited by snow depth vs ground clearance than you will by lack of traction, as the Outback AWD is really pretty good.

In many areas of California, in moderate snow conditions you can get through a stop if you have all-weather tires and 4WD or AWD, but you must have chains with you, and often you'll have to show them to the officer. The officer can decide that everyone needs to chain up no matter what they are driving, and if you don't have chains on in such conditions they can cite you. YMMV, depending on where you are going. Also bear in mind that AWD helps you go, chains help you stop, and it's usually the stopping part that's going to keep you from wrinkling metal.

Ted Harris
23-Jan-2008, 19:05
Also bear in mind that AWD helps you go, chains help you stop, and it's usually the stopping part that's going to keep you from wrinkling metal.

The most important point, chains to stop, especially going down the icy hill. When things are not totally awful the Explorer with chains sits by the barn and the Yukon with 4WD goes down the hill in 4 wheel Low in first or second gear.

For driving on flat surfaces take a look at Green Diamond tires (http://www.greendiamondtire.com/). We've got them on all the vehicles.

hamiltoncs
14-Feb-2008, 21:26
I have a question, I too have a Subaruu, a legacy, and I have studded tyres for the winter, however, I am planning a trip down a seldom plowed icy road 60 miles into the bush, someone mentioned in that case I should also get chains does anyone know if you put chains on studded tyres? It seems a bit redundant but with temps down to -40 I really don't want to get stuck....:confused:

Dave Parker
15-Feb-2008, 06:23
I have a question, I too have a Subaruu, a legacy, and I have studded tyres for the winter, however, I am planning a trip down a seldom plowed icy road 60 miles into the bush, someone mentioned in that case I should also get chains does anyone know if you put chains on studded tyres? It seems a bit redundant but with temps down to -40 I really don't want to get stuck....:confused:

Yes,

You can run chains on Studded tires, I have had to do it quite often living where I live(I currently have 7 feet of snow in my yard!) Chains and studded tires are something we deal with year in and year out, due to the snow environment. I also carry chemical ice melt as well as a shovel in the winter time around here and a survival box in the car with me, just in case all else fails, the box contains small food stuffs and water, a small one burner propane stove and a couple of bic lighters.

Dave

David Karp
15-Feb-2008, 10:26
Vinny,

I have a Forester. We use Shur Grip cables by SCC. They seem to have worked fine when we have used them in Yosemite. If I recall, they go on the front tires only, and you can go about 35 mph. This information is undoubtedly in the owner's manual.

paulr
15-Feb-2008, 10:37
I'm so happy to stumble onto this thread. I have the least snow-worthy car imaginable, and it's been making frequent ice climbing trips to the adirondacks this winter. we'be been lucky most of the time. but one trip was an exercise in death defiance. the car is small, front wheel drive, and has no limited slip in the transaxle (so if one wheel spins, the other just sits there). i'd like to get my hands around someone's nece at general motors.

but anyway. would the chains/cables under discussion here be suitable for a car like that, for the front wheels? i'd want something to keep stowed in the back just in case.

Dave Parker
15-Feb-2008, 10:41
David,

I have successfully used cable chains with pretty good success here in Montana during the winter on front wheel drive, The 4wd went out on one of my subaru wagons and I only had front wheel drive and was able to get back and forth with just the FWD and chains for two winters, just make sure to get a set that is the correct size and make sure they are tight enough not to spin out and off the tire..

But yes, they do help, even in the traction dept when needed. And I live with snow and ice from October to at a minimum of late April every year, this year, it will probably be late May before I see the green yard again! LOL

Dave

JPlomley
15-Feb-2008, 12:24
My wife has owned an Outback wagon for 6 or 7 years here in Colorado. Her previous cars had snow tires for the winter so she got them for the Suby the first year. That was the only time she ever used them, only using an all season tire. She drove that Suby 40 miles in 18" of fresh snow during the 2003 Denver blizzard and did not get stuck. Pretty impressive to me

I've had similar positive experiences with the Subaru. I picked up a 2006 Outback and this winter have put it through its paces with 6 major snow storms. I've put four Michelin X-ICE 16" tires on Subbie stainless steel rims (saving the Aluminums for fair weather driving only). This Subbie is like a hot knife through butter! Having come from a Toyota 4Runner, I was a bit skeptical about the performance I could expect from the Outback. All I can say is that the Subaru is the best vehicle I have ever owned. Throw a Thule Expedition carrier on the roof and you double the cargo capacity. Hard to justify the high cost, gas guzzling, maintenance intensive 4Runner when the Subbie can be be had for roughly half the price.

Andrew Eschbacher
15-Feb-2008, 23:52
I'm looking on Amazon.com. I've got a AWD subaru wagon. There are cable and chain versions. Some with stretchy bungees. The easier to install, the better as i'd need to do all for tires i assume.
Can anybody recommend a brand/type?


vinny

I can't recommend a brand but I bought my chains at: www.tirechains.com.

For those who notice that I live in South Carolina, I don't need them down here very often. I bought them for use when I'm out west in the late fall and early winter.

Hope this helps,

wfwhitaker
16-Feb-2008, 09:24
Take a look at the Spikes-Spider (http://www.spikes-spiders.com/). They're expensive, but they're nice and more convenient than chains. I had a VW GTI on which I could not use chains, so I had to use the Spikes-Spider. I belive mine was the "Quick" model.

Jim MacKenzie
16-Feb-2008, 10:22
Tire chains are useful, but I really recommend that people first try winter tires. They are so much better than all-seasons in colder weather, even without snow and ice on the roads.

Studded tires are actually a liability these days. There have been some tests done that indicate that even on clean, fresh ice (the experiment was done on a freshly-Zambonied ice surface), non-studded modern winter tires do better than studded tires. Studs also increase your stopping distance on bare pavement, since none of your rubber is in contact with the road.

I run Nokian Hakkapeliitta RSi tires on both of our cars. I happen to think that the Nokian tires are the best on the market (they are marginally inferior to Bridgestone Blizzaks when they are new, but as they age, the Blizzaks degrade quickly whereas the Nokians stay pretty consistent for several tens of thousands of km of driving).

If winter tires alone don't give you the traction you need, then get chains and use them on the winter tires. You'll get the best of both worlds.

Make sure to use four tires, not two. Starting up is not the big issue with winter driving. Controlled stopping and lateral control (i.e. avoiding skidding out of control) are what are important, and you need proper rubber on all four wheels to do this.

Jon Wilson
16-Feb-2008, 11:43
If you have access to a Les Schwab Tire Store (located in the West), you can purchase their easy to install chains and in the event you don't use them this season, then you can return them for a full refund after April 15th. Jon

resummerfield
16-Feb-2008, 15:02
......Studded tires are actually a liability these days. There have been some tests done that indicate that even on clean, fresh ice (the experiment was done on a freshly-Zambonied ice surface), non-studded modern winter tires do better than studded tires. Studs also increase your stopping distance on bare pavement, since none of your rubber is in contact with the road.......With about 10 years experience in Alaska, I'll have to disagree with that. I find studded tires on all 4 wheels better than snow tires for regular driving on ice and snow. I leave my studded tires on from November until May. Several times each winter the road conditions are too bad for even studded tires, and I use chains--usually just the front axle on my 4x4, but sometimes all 4 wheels.

Dave Parker
16-Feb-2008, 18:52
Try www.edmunds.com . Your asking the wrong guys. If you have a problem with your car, the guys there will diagnose for you (also tires too). Asking in here is like asking your mechanic about medical problems. Need diagrams to build a flux capacitor, they got it.

Wrong Van,

I live in an area that averages over 200 inches of snow a year, I am well versed in the the art of driving in snow and ice as I get to do it at least six months of the year! And I am sure, Eric, who lives in Alaska is very well versed in all kinds of adverse conditions!

:D

Dave

Dave Parker
17-Feb-2008, 14:38
"Wrong Van,

I live in an area that averages over 200 inches of snow a year, I am well versed in the the art of driving in snow and ice as I get to do it at least six months of the year! And I am sure, Eric, who lives in Alaska is very well versed in all kinds of adverse conditions!"

Shees, I get snow here too. So does that make me an expert? One day out in snow can kill you, so what is the difference? So you own a car, does that make you a race car driver? If you own a camera, does that make you a pro photographer? Wow, you bought 4 tires and your an expert.

At Edmunds you woil find tehcnicians, reports, studies, resellers, distributors, everthing, guys to help you repair your vehicle. I'm also sure there are a few guys at that forum that also live in Alaska (it doesn't snow just in Montana). You'll find tons of information, tests, on tires, different brands of vehicles, etc. Just because you drive in snow doesn't mean you know anything about tires, just about driving.

Wow,

You sure took that WRONG!

I will remember that next time!

Based on that I won't even go into my knowledge level on the different subjects you brought up

Talk about quick to pull the trigger!

By the way, I did mention resummerfield as well, who does live in Alaska..by the way, I didn't say "expert" I said well versed.

What the hell is wrong with people now a days, poke fun at them, and they turn their butt hole inside out to jump on you!

Glad that edmunds works for you, but don't tell others they don't know what they are talking about! Because I am sure there are many here that know what they are talking about on a wide variety of subjects..

:eek:

walter23
17-Feb-2008, 15:45
Snow chains? 33 years in western Canada and I've never used such a beast ;)

Jim MacKenzie
17-Feb-2008, 17:35
With about 10 years experience in Alaska, I'll have to disagree with that. I find studded tires on all 4 wheels better than snow tires for regular driving on ice and snow. I leave my studded tires on from November until May. Several times each winter the road conditions are too bad for even studded tires, and I use chains--usually just the front axle on my 4x4, but sometimes all 4 wheels.

What kind of snow tires?

The video is on youtube. It was done on a British automobile show. It asserts that studded tires' design is dated and much less efficient than that of modern studless winter tires.

I admit that I was surprised. Intuitively, studless winter tires should do much better than studded tires on bare pavement (rubber on bare pavement is better than studs only on bare pavement), but I expected that studded tires would be somewhat better than winter tires on ice.

Jim MacKenzie
17-Feb-2008, 17:38
Snow chains? 33 years in western Canada and I've never used such a beast ;)

I'd buy a set of chains if I lived in a really hilly area, but I'd expect to seldom need them. My Nokians really do the job.

We get weather here as cold as -40 C (and I'm not counting wind chill; wind chill doesn't affect cars except to cool them down to ambient temperature a little quicker). Traditional all-seasons turn to hockey pucks in that weather and have terrible traction. Proper winter tires are immensely better.

Dave Parker
17-Feb-2008, 21:57
Van,

My point about being wrong was that you made the statement that asking here was like asking a mechanic for medical advise...I feel there are a good number of people here as well as other websites that do know what they are talking about when it comes to snow country living and driving, the individual who asked the original question was asking about chains and the various types.

As far as Edmunds, so what they have various tests and people to offer advise, so what..there just another website, what makes their experience any more valid than those that live in the environment and post here, is it because they call their website an automobile website and this one is called a photography website? What makes our opinions and advice any less valid? I feel that good advise comes from experience on what works in a particular instance. Based on the various posts in this thread, there seems to be a lot of people who have that experience.

As far as anyone being an expert in snow driving, I don't think anyone can claim that, there are to many variables and changes that happen on an instant, but I do think that there are people who are more experienced than others. Skill comes from experience, just as with anything else. I can tell you right now, I would be piss poor driving in the bumper to bumper traffic in LA or any other large town as I don't do it...

But that is here nor there, small tiff, taken wrong on both sides.

Anyway, I hope the original poster gleaned some information that he finds valuable.

Dave

BrianShaw
18-Feb-2008, 06:55
I can tell you right now, I would be piss poor driving in the bumper to bumper traffic in LA or any other large town as I don't do it...

It's not as difficult as one imagines. Several simple rules: don't try to exceed the speed of the flow of traffic; don't "flip" anyone off; don't honk the horn; don't get upset about being late (it's likely to happen no mater what); don't yak on the phone, read maps, or be indecisive about lane changes; and don't forget to have soothing music playing.

Bob Jones
20-Feb-2008, 09:31
Try www.edmunds.com . Your asking the wrong guys. If you have a problem with your car, the guys there will diagnose for you (also tires too). Asking in here is like asking your mechanic about medical problems. Need diagrams to build a flux capacitor, they got it.

I've used Edmunds a lot and they are a good source of information. However, they are located in Santa Monica, California within spitting distance of the Pacific. Down there, winter driving is safer because the girls aren't wearing their skimpiest bikinis, and the only thing you'd need chains for is to get through the mudslides on PCH.

I really don't know why people who drive in winter conditions aren't pretty good sources of information about winter driving. Reports and specs are fine when there's no one with real world experience but IMHO nothing beats finding someone who has been there on a daily basis for years. People representing a pretty wide range of experiences have commented on this thread, which beats having Edmunds send someone up into the mountains to go skiing for a weekend and write a report about snow driving.

Martin L.
27-Feb-2008, 18:41
May be a little late in the year for these (unless you live in Cleveland or upstate NY)
http://www.autosock.us/
I was out west a few weeks ago and got turned around at the rockies. I picked up a set of these in Denver just for insurance. I haven't personally had to use them yet but the 3 people who had them swore by them. Said they were better than chains. I can attest to how easy they were to install. The test fitting took less than 5 minute to put them on and take them off.

vinny
2-Mar-2008, 18:14
Thanks everybody for the suggestions. I grew up in northern Michigan where chains are illegal and no one except plow trucks have them. It's also a much flatter state than California. I only planned on using them if i'm asked to put them on by the police or my wife.
I was going to hold off making a purchase till the fall but while on a day trip to Ojai yesterday i came across a pair in a thrift store. Cable type. Brand new in the bag. Never even unwrapped! In the range of my tire size. $6

vinny

eddie
3-Mar-2008, 04:07
i use SCC (security chain company) for my escort wagon. they work great in deep slushy snow. i have a very steep and twisty driveway so they really help there. they are cable chains as my car is an "S" class and i do not believe they make proper chains to fit an "S" class...but i may be wrong. i would think your subaru would be similar.

these cables have no tighteners. you put them on and drive a car length and then tighten them down. easy! i drove 40 miles last snow storm at up to speeds of 30mph with no problems.

i am in the catskills, in NY. i only need them on several occasions per year, but they are sure handy when i do need them.

eddie