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4WD in Tahoe?

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
I'll be heading out to Tahoe the second week of March- landing in SanFran and then renting a car. Is it recommended that I have a 4WD or will a regular car do? How are the road crews at keeping the streets clear?
post #2 of 12
caltrans and ndot are pretty good about keeping the roads drivable on I80. you don't need a 4wd, but ask the rental agency to provide chains with the car, just in case. even if we get a major storm, you should be able to get over the pass w/ no probs, and unless it dumps you should be able to motor around tahoe w/ little trouble, or at least make it to reno, pretty easy. hope this helps, have fun!
post #3 of 12
Let me expand a little on howderpounds comments. While 4wd is not a necessity, chains or 4wd would be handy if is snowing. Anytime it snows on I-80 over Donner Summit Caltrans requires vehicles to have either chains or 4Wd with snow tires. The roads around the Lake and to the ski areas usually will only require chains or snow tires, 4WD not a necessity. The access road to Alpine Mdws is steep in places and if there is stop and go traffic, frequent on weekends from about 0830 to 1100, you'll want chains or 4wd handy. NDOT never has chain checkpoints, Caltrans almost always has them, though I'm not sure if they have them on 28 and 89, the road around the Lake.

[ February 24, 2003, 09:40 PM: Message edited by: desertdawg ]
post #4 of 12
I never ran into check points on 89, but they do close 89 at Emerald Bay when it dumps. Most rental agencies are more williing to rent a 4WD than to provide chains (they claim chains damage suspension, which is true of some cars; it's just a better deal for them: 4WD is more expensive to rent). A couple of times I saw people being turned around on 50 if they didn't have chains or 4WD with snow tires. In March, we usually get a final dump storm around the first/second week of the month. Not as heavy as in the winter, but more slick (wet snow).

Sometimes I wonder if chains would not be a better solution (better ice traction), but keep driving my Subaru: got too lazy lately to get out of the car in the middle of nowhere and - usually - in the middle of the night [img]redface.gif[/img] Especially so when driving up the Alpine Meadows road: NOT the most pleasant drive, but the place is worth it.
post #5 of 12
Thread Starter 
I suppose the best thing for me to do is check the forecast before renting and go from there. The difference in cost between full size sedan and 4WD is another $160 or so.

I'll be renting the car in SanFran, so I don't want to rely on the rental company having chains.
post #6 of 12
You can always buy chains aftr you rent a car. They're only $25-$40 for a set at any auto parts or department store. Defintely watch the forecast and then make your decision. March can be a snowy month.
post #7 of 12
In december I decided to brave it to N. tahoe in my van with chains. It was a horrendous day. I was involved in a number of spinouts (with my chains on) and finally the chains broke.

So here is what i do since then:

1) make a reservation for a 4wd with a car company (not thru the internet). you do not need to pay any deposits. In your case i would make another reservation with another car company for a regular car.

2) based on the weather forecast on the day of departure to the mountains - decide at the airport on what you are going to take. Even if there is the remotest chance of snow - take the 4WD.
post #8 of 12
I saw some people even put 2 pairs of chains on their front-WD vans: the van is too big to stay steady with only front wheels chained. I had an opportunity to test it. After that we bought our Subaru.
post #9 of 12
I was there in April 3 years ago and rented a 4WD at Reno which was the best investment I made that trip. It snowed a number of days and when it did, on the California side, the check points were only allowing you through with chains or 4WD and snow tires.Alternatively you could have bought a set of chains from the guys who set up a roadside stall just next to the check point- I didnt check the price but if you add that and the hassle which you dont need on vacation taking chains on and off, not something I am expert at, I thought the extra for the 4WD, given we had kids in the vehicle as well, was worth it.
post #10 of 12
Thread Starter 
I think I'll sit tight and make my decision based on the forecast. Plus, a couple of people in our group will have 4wd- if we all have to pile into a two vehicles w/4wd, so be it.
post #11 of 12
Caltrans has a toll free number with current road conditions / chain requirements / closures, etc: 1-800-427-ROAD
post #12 of 12
Originally posted by ski_steep:
I think I'll sit tight and make my decision based on the forecast. Plus, a couple of people in our group will have 4wd- if we all have to pile into a two vehicles w/4wd, so be it.
I agree with what was said above. If it snows more than 4-6 inches overnight there are chain controls on highways 50 and 88 (I rarely travel on 80, 88 takes you from san fran to kirkwood.)
On highway 50 the chain controls would generally be gone by 10-11 AM if the storm was small/warm. If there is a significant price differnce b/w 4wd and fwd get the fwd, and you can always buy chains on the way (will cost you around 50 dollars if you buy them in the mountains, otherwise around $35..) If you get them from Kragen or some place like that you can return them if unused. Also if you feel confident driving in snow, and it doesnt snow too much you could probably just take a front-wheel drive and do fine (although if its a weekend and theres a lot of traffic I wouldnt do that since there will be more stopping.) Hopefully by the time you come there will be a storm so big that you won't be able to get to tahoe even in 4wd [img]graemlins/evilgrin.gif[/img]
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