Originally Posted by Mark Gallagher
I've been reading your auto/car talk threads, and loving them.
I'm in buyer's prepurchase remorse, and trying to figure if I can just get by on my SF to Tahoe commutes with a FWD Mini Cooper, Spikes Spyders, a roof rack and some M&S rated tires.
The alternatives have me trading the Mini in on a Subaru Outback (probably a 2014 2.5) or keeping the Mini and grabbing something radically different from the Mini, such as a 2004ish 4runner for Winter Tahoe and Summer fun.
Cheapest to keep the Mini, and I love that car...but El Nino is coming.
To be fair, most trips would be directly to ski resort or a casino. Every now and then to a rental where it could be hit or miss with the snow plow reliability.
I go to tahoe in a Honda Fit, it works fine-even back in 2010season when it was record breaking (so not just the last 3 drought years). And perhaps my situation is similar to yours as it was only to the resort or hotels that were plowed, versus needing to go to unplowed area.
A lot of depends on how many people you are taking and if they will fit, and fit comfortably and have a good ride up.
I go solo or with 1 other person mostly, so Fit is enough car for me.
Get good tires. If you want an allseason tire I went with continental dws, which is the best non-snow tire for snow; (aka still worse then the crappiest snow tire). You still need good tires as you do not want chains on all the time.
Get good chains, in terms of it's ease of use to put on without needing to move your car, auto-tightening auto-centering.
Get a good job where you can call in and say you're snowed in to extend your trip.
As far as your specific post, Spikes Spyders are overly expensive solution in my opinion for what they offer.
Chains are an investment, so yes, if you intend to use them more you should get a good set with more features. But chains are also consumable devices.
You are better off buying a set of already (really premium) $150 chains that are already (pretty) easy to put on; and replacing it when it wears out. Instead of 1 set of $500 chains that may get worn out or stretch/break after 10uses or a season. Especially since it's caltrans which forces you to put on chains even if all you see is a little slush on asphalt.
I use the thule cs-10 chains, which also has a quick release feature, as chain-off is also an ordeal for folks.
If you're going to futz with needing to spend $500 for spikes spyders because the $150 chain systems are too hard, then yea, rent a 4wd at that point, cause you're still going to need to take off the muddy spikes spyders at chain-off, or throw on a cold slushy pair if there's 2 chainups.
Put together a box that has all your chain stuff, tools, emergency gear so you are ready to throw them on.
Practice, the more you go the better and faster you will get at it.
Let's be honest, car with chains is safer then 4wd without chain; just that you're stuck going at 25mph or slower, so the main thing you need to bring is patience. If the pass closes to clear a wreck, you're stuck there same as all the folks in their 4wd SUVs or following a CalTrans snowplow pilot car anyway.
Edited by raytseng - 9/19/15 at 10:00pm