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Tire Chains vs Snow Tires OR Which Tire Chains?

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 

I live in Tucson, AZ but drive to Arizona Snowbowl, Northern NM and Southern CO most weekends to ski.  My car is a 2009 Mercedes ML 350 with full time all-wheel drive with Pirelli Verde All Season tires (265/45/20R).

 

I would appreciate input on the following questions.

1) Should I invest in more aggressive snow tires for the winter since I drive to the snow regularly on the weekends, but still do most of my winter driving in Tucson during the work week?

2) Should I simply buy tire chains for the snow/ice driving while I'm up north on the weekends?

3) If tire chains, which do you recommend from your experience?  Also, are the Thule K-Summits worth the $500 cost?

 

Thanks for your comments.

post #2 of 22

Have you had problems with the Pirelli all seasons?

Assuming that you have (all seasons are pretty unreliable under more demanding slush/snow/ice conditions, especially on any kind of grade).  These days, there are very good studless snow tires that handle dry pavement just about as well as an all season - they do tend to be  a little shorter lived, however.

 

Re chains: does Arizona require chains on all/4 wheel drive that frequently? Here in CA it's very rare, nd usually under the heinous conditions - i choose to simply turn around if that's the case. The Thule K-summits look ridiculously flimsy - especially at that price. 

post #3 of 22

I think it depends on the driving conditions you expect. If your driving is mostly Arizona desert with only the last few miles on a steep access road, all seasons + chains might be OK.  If you are driving a couple of hours on twisty high mountain roads, get snow tires, no matter how much desert driving you do.

Like  @Paul Lutes said, winter tires work OK even in the summer, but for me it's the difference between getting out or staying home on powder days.  YMMV.

 

BK 

post #4 of 22
Thread Starter 

Paul,

Thanks for the reply.  No, Arizona does not require chains.  ADOT "recommends" chains or 4 wheel drive in many instances, but don't require it.  My Pirelli All Seasons work just fine in most snowy or icy situations because I slow my speed and drive in a sensible manner - or even turn around and stay home in the most extreme winter weather - as you suggested.  

 

I started the thread and asked the questions just to educate myself and get opinions.  Thanks for the quick reply.

 

PS - I tend to agree that the Thule K-Summit price is outrageous in any case, and frankly look quite flimsy!

 

Happy New Year!

post #5 of 22

If I lived somewhere where chains were occasionally useful, like where road grades were steep and there was a lot of snow, I would buy a good set of chains and keep them in the car.  The car would be equiped with good snow tires (studded Hakkapalita if allowed, Hak R2s if no studs allowed).

 

Nothing works as well as chains in deep snow.  However chains limit your speed and wear out your tires in an awful way.  Only put them on just before you need them (so you're not crawling around in a foot of snow).

post #6 of 22

If you are mostly on plowed roads, I would go with your all-seasons and perhaps carry a set of chains as insurance.  If going uphill on secondary roads in the snow is common, then winter tires should be on your shopping list.  Note that the Pirelli Verde is an OK but not great tire, with mediocre wet and light snow traction per tests and reviews on Tirerack.com.  

post #7 of 22

X2 for the tirerack reviews.

 

You are not required to use chairs, so you shouldn't need them. Just make sure you have a great all season tires before winter as a minimum. Snows would be a plus if your really looking to drive in any conditions.

 

Having said that, here in the east, driving from CT to VT every winter weekend since the mid 1990's, the only car I've make sure I put snows on is my modified 2005 Subaru Legacy GT wagon, before that even the 1992 Honda Civic Si, 98 Legacy GT wagon and 2000 GT wagon, all took us to VT with a good set of Michelin MXV4's for years, with out any issues. Even had the MXV4's on when we had a big ice storm for the drive home one Feb. about 2002.

 

As you said it's about knowing your limits and how to drive in the snow.

 

 

I currently have my 09 Legacy Spec B with new Conti's DWS's all seasons in VT. we had 9"s of snow last Thursday, the car had no problem.

post #8 of 22

In your shoes, with a reasonable budget, I'd get a set of winter tires that slightly emphasize pavement performance, since that will be the lion's share of their duty.

 

I guess +3 for the Tire Rack folks.  One of the first questions they asked when I spoke with them recently about new winter tires was about the "split" between dry/warm/wet pavement and actual snow/ice service.

post #9 of 22

One option is an all-weather (different from all-season) tire. It has the mountain/snowflake rating but is designed for year-round use.

 

https://www.nokiantires.com/all-weather-tires/nokian-wrg3/

 

Chains do their job really well but they suck to have to use them. You'd be going 25mph while everyone else is going 50.

post #10 of 22
Thread Starter 

Great input by all.  Thanks for all the advice.  Just to clarify - if winter tires (or "all-weather" tires) are in the budget and then that is probably the best, most convenient way to go - considering my care has all wheel drive?  Tire chains are a good alternative, albeit with a couple inconveniences - pain to install/uninstall, speed limitation, tears up tires over time.  Correct?

post #11 of 22

Correct.  Read this again.

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by Toecutter View Post
 

One option is an all-weather (different from all-season) tire. It has the mountain/snowflake rating but is designed for year-round use.

 

https://www.nokiantires.com/all-weather-tires/nokian-wrg3/

 

Chains do their job really well but they suck to have to use them. You'd be going 25mph while everyone else is going 50.

post #12 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by OnTheSlopeAgain View Post
 

Great input by all.  Thanks for all the advice.  Just to clarify - if winter tires (or "all-weather" tires) are in the budget and then that is probably the best, most convenient way to go - considering my care has all wheel drive?  Tire chains are a good alternative, albeit with a couple inconveniences - pain to install/uninstall, speed limitation, tears up tires over time.  Correct?

 

I would avoid chains if at all possible because of all of the reasons you mentioned above. I think Nokian all weather tires would be a great choice but I don't know if they make them in your wheel size. The 2nd best option would be a "performance winter" tire, which doesn't have quite as much traction as a winter traction tire but also has good dry weather performance. You'd probably want to change to summer tires outside of ski season just so you don't shred the snow tires prematurely.

 

http://www.tirerack.com/tires/types/perfCat.jsp?perf=PPW

 

http://www.tirerack.com/tires/TireSearchResults.jsp?zip-code=85701&width=265/&ratio=45&diameter=20&rearWidth=255/&rearRatio=40&rearDiameter=17&performance=W


Edited by Toecutter - 1/4/17 at 2:26pm
post #13 of 22
I have been driving up to Snowbowl and Sunrise from Maricopa for over ten years. Flagstaff does a great job of clearing and graveling the roads with plows, so I think your AWD vehicle will be fine on the drive up. There are rare occasions when they shut I17 and I40, like Xmas Eve, but they are cleared before they reopen. I have never felt the need for chains in all my trips up there.

The road up to Snowbowl from 180 is about 2000 ft of elevation change in six miles. Again, they do a good job of clearing the road, but it can be steep and icy in places. As you say, they recommend chains or 4WD, but do not enforce it. I think it would be a rare occasion when you would not get up the hill with an AWD and winter tires.

I have a FWD crossover and have had trouble getting up the hill after a storm, even with winter tires. So, I now carry a set of Autosocks. They cost about $100, take two minutes to put on and greatly increase your traction on ice and snow. The down side is that they limit you to about 30 mph and only last about a season. I have used chains in the past and found them to be a messy, time consuming PITA. There is a chain up area at the bottom on the hill. As another alternative there is also a shuttle which leaves from the parking lot by the gravel dump next to the chain up area.

If it were me, I would leave your car as is and trust the plows to do their job. Your AWD should be fine 95% of the time to get up the Snowbowl hill. You could always get chains or socks as insurance, or take the shuttle if needed. Edited to add that I have never felt the need for true 4X4 with chains in AZ, so I don; think an outlay of $500 on chains would ever justify itself.


Edited by MrGolfAnalogy - 1/4/17 at 6:17pm
post #14 of 22

You have a very nice car, and the least expensive fender-bender you might have will cost far more than a second set of winter wheels / tires.

 

You also chose the oversized 20" wheels, which (forgive me if this is insulting) are a 'vehicle' for sucking your wallet dry.  The entire automotive industry is going to larger wheels because they look cool, but at the expense of crappy ride comfort and short tire life.  It allows for huge brakes, to stop cars with unnecessarily large engines. Neither immense engines or brakes do much when stuck in traffic, which has become a fact of life in this former cow-town.

 

45-series rubber cannot handle on ice or in rutted snow anywhere as well as taller tires, no matter what kind of tires you have.  The high profile tires do something yours do not; they flex.

 

I regularly preach to friends and strangers alike to MINUS-SIZE their wheels, not plus size them, especially if they are a second set dedicated to snow use.  I have a close friend driving the ML-350 who dropped from 19 to 17 inch wheels, spends half as much now on tires and brakes, and loves the ride improvement.

 

Your ML-350 can run a 17" wheel.  The tire size would be 235-65-17. A Michelin Xi2 in that size is less than half the cost of the 20" variant, last twice as long, and is far safer.  The difference in tire price alone will pay for a second set of wheels in short order.

 

Chains are a horror.  You will be soaked, cold and miserable by the time you get them on, if not killed first by errant traffic. Two years past a close friend teaching full-time at Vail made the conversion to snow tires, after two weeks reviewing what chains to buy and three days using them.  (Digs in the Vail Valley are tres chere; his affordable winter rental was up a nasty steep driveway, impassible on his summer tires but easy on the Hakkas he finally bought). He had been on all-season tires all his life, and discovering winter tires made him born again at 65. 

 

We're skiers; it's all about catching first chair. May the traction be with you.

post #15 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by OnTheSlopeAgain View Post
 

I live in Tucson, AZ but drive to Arizona Snowbowl, Northern NM and Southern CO most weekends to ski.  My car is a 2009 Mercedes ML 350 with full time all-wheel drive with Pirelli Verde All Season tires (265/45/20R).

 

I would appreciate input on the following questions.

1) Should I invest in more aggressive snow tires for the winter since I drive to the snow regularly on the weekends, but still do most of my winter driving in Tucson during the work week?

2) Should I simply buy tire chains for the snow/ice driving while I'm up north on the weekends?

3) If tire chains, which do you recommend from your experience?  Also, are the Thule K-Summits worth the $500 cost?

 

Thanks for your comments.


Does the ML350 require chains on all 4 wheels?:  If so, then it's over $1000 you'll be spending.

post #16 of 22

$500?  Wow. I think I paid $70 at walmart for chains.  I haven't used them yet and debating on getting something like the sox above.  I have Michelin X Ice as they have a harder compound that will last longer when I go back to Phoenix.  One of the only snow tires with a tread warranty.  

post #17 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by NPhoenix View Post
 

$500?  Wow. I think I paid $70 at walmart for chains.  I haven't used them yet and debating on getting something like the sox above.  I have Michelin X Ice as they have a harder compound that will last longer when I go back to Phoenix.  One of the only snow tires with a tread warranty.  

 

chains that don't wrap behind the tire are expensive in general.  SUV sizes are even more expensive.  www.spikes-spider.com is another alternative, which also is quite pricey.

 

I have Peerless self-adjusting chains for my Tiguan also, that I hope I never have to use with snow tires.  But, I got them off-season, for less than $30.  It helps I have a small 215/65r16 size.

 

 

Thule K-summit on my old FWD car...  I put them on once a year, to refresh my memor.

post #18 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by AlpineImages View Post
 

You have a very nice car, and the least expensive fender-bender you might have will cost far more than a second set of winter wheels / tires.

 

You also chose the oversized 20" wheels, which (forgive me if this is insulting) are a 'vehicle' for sucking your wallet dry.  The entire automotive industry is going to larger wheels because they look cool, but at the expense of crappy ride comfort and short tire life.  It allows for huge brakes, to stop cars with unnecessarily large engines. Neither immense engines or brakes do much when stuck in traffic, which has become a fact of life in this former cow-town.

 

45-series rubber cannot handle on ice or in rutted snow anywhere as well as taller tires, no matter what kind of tires you have.  The high profile tires do something yours do not; they flex.

 

I regularly preach to friends and strangers alike to MINUS-SIZE their wheels, not plus size them, especially if they are a second set dedicated to snow use.  I have a close friend driving the ML-350 who dropped from 19 to 17 inch wheels, spends half as much now on tires and brakes, and loves the ride improvement.

 

Your ML-350 can run a 17" wheel.  The tire size would be 235-65-17. A Michelin Xi2 in that size is less than half the cost of the 20" variant, last twice as long, and is far safer.  The difference in tire price alone will pay for a second set of wheels in short order.

 

Chains are a horror.  You will be soaked, cold and miserable by the time you get them on, if not killed first by errant traffic. Two years past a close friend teaching full-time at Vail made the conversion to snow tires, after two weeks reviewing what chains to buy and three days using them.  (Digs in the Vail Valley are tres chere; his affordable winter rental was up a nasty steep driveway, impassible on his summer tires but easy on the Hakkas he finally bought). He had been on all-season tires all his life, and discovering winter tires made him born again at 65. 

 

We're skiers; it's all about catching first chair. May the traction be with you.

Another vote for the X-ices. I run them year round, and got 40k miles on my last set. Right now I have them on a Subaru. Previously i ran them on a rear wheel drive Infiniti G35, and was skiing 60 days a season. Great tires. Worth the extra cost and minor increased wear rate.

post #19 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Toecutter View Post
 

 

I would avoid chains if at all possible because of all of the reasons you mentioned above. I think Nokian all weather tires would be a great choice but I don't know if they make them in your wheel size. The 2nd best option would be a "performance winter" tire, which doesn't have quite as much traction as a winter traction tire but also has good dry weather performance. You'd probably want to change to summer tires outside of ski season just so you don't shred the snow tires prematurely.

 

http://www.tirerack.com/tires/types/perfCat.jsp?perf=PPW

 

http://www.tirerack.com/tires/TireSearchResults.jsp?zip-code=85701&width=265/&ratio=45&diameter=20&rearWidth=255/&rearRatio=40&rearDiameter=17&performance=W


the All-weather tires from Nokian would be the WR G3 SUV, which is a directional patterned tire.

post #20 of 22

Minus-size to 17" wheels and any good snow tire you like!

post #21 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by AlpineImages View Post
 

Minus-size to 17" wheels and any good snow tire you like!


that's if the op wants to deal with 2 sets of wheels... and in certain cases, remember not to lose the wheel bolts and centering rings for the winter set, if using aftermarket wheels.

post #22 of 22

Interesting thread.  My sister lived in Sedona for a few years, and my son and I visited her during the winter with the intent on doing some skiing at Snow Bowl.  Well, as luck would have it there was a huge snowstorm that did close the interstate for most of the day.  We ended up going sightseeing locally instead.  Got up to Snowbowl the next day, had incredible conditions.  Made the drive to the Grand Canyon the next day, simply beautiful with the snow around the top.

 

As far as tires, since you only need them for ski trips, get a second set of wheels and a snow tire that is more oriented towards pavement  The Michelin X-ice series is good (we have had a few sets over the years) and just this week we put a set of Pirelli SottoZero 3s on my wife's new VW Alltrack (she commutes 100 miles a day, so the tires on her car spend 98% of their life on dry pavement). Blizzaks are probably a touch better in snow but they tend to wear more quickly, especially the first half of the tread depth.

 

I have a floor jack and an electric impact gun, so it takes me all of 20 minutes to make the changeover.  You can leave the regular tires on until you are ready for a ski trip, then change them back over when you get home.  They'll probably last you at least 5 or 6 years at that rate. A friend of mine lived in Portland Oregon and did the same routine with studded snows.

 

As far as the centering rings and lug nuts/bolts, some wheels will use the OEM nuts, some use a different seat. I use a heavy plastic zip-lock bag to keep the nuts in and keep them with the wheels. For the centering rings, just glue them in place in the wheels.  It's not that hard.  I have 3 vehicles I have to do this for, so I spend about an hour twice a year.

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