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do I need chains on a all wheel drive car?

post #1 of 35
Thread Starter 
i have a Audi Wagon with all wheel drive and all season tires.  i ski Tahoe mostly and drive there from the bay area.  I have heard conflicting info on if i will need chains or not. I would hate to get learn this the hard way, any thoughts here?

thanks in advance.
post #2 of 35
Your definitive answer can be obtained by calling your local CHP.  Ultimately it's their decision.
Here in SoCal the rules are that 4x4 on SNOW tires are typically not required to use chains, however, if the CHP decides that the conditions are extreme, they'll force you to use chains.  And I have to say they're fairly reasonable about that.
Since you're on ALL-SEASON tires, you don't stand much of the chance if the going gets tough...

But logic doesn't always enter into the equation.  On many weekends, I've seen a road block forcing drivers to install chains about 20 miles before the snow level.  Then you get to watch sparks flying, cars sliding into ditches and general mayhem, all at the neck breaking speed of about 20 mph.
post #3 of 35
Even on the day where 4WD is enough, CHP requires  you to carry chains.  Buy 'em, figure out how to put them on, toss them in the car somewhere in case you need them some day.  That should put you into compliance with the law.

Now, if you actually want to be able to drive in the snow (as opposed to just keeping the cops off  your back), replace your crappy all season tires with actual snowtires.  4WD is no substitute for snowtires. 
post #4 of 35
You need to bone up on Tahoe driving and the CHP restrictions scale.

Here's the Caltrans winter driving page.

Bear in mind that I've never seen I-80 go to R3 -- chains required on all vehicles.  It goes from R2 to closed.  So from a restriction point of view, you probably will never use them.  But if you get stuck, you might.

One option that's easier to deal with if you plan on keeping with the all-season tires is Spikes Spiders.

You also need to have this site available in the car. I keep it in a binder.
post #5 of 35
I skied I80 for 24 years and saw it go R3 once. There was a huge dump between Christmas and New Years and the road was closed for over 24 hours.  They went R3 westbound to let people get home. Normally you're right it's R2 to closed.
Quote:
Originally Posted by TheDad View Post



Bear in mind that I've never seen I-80 go to R3 -- chains required on all vehicles. 
post #6 of 35
 Another thing to keep in mind is that chains won't even fit on a number of modern cars, due to clearance issues with the fender liners and shocks/struts.  Check your owners manual.  

And then go buy a set of snow tires, if you're planning on spending any significant amount of time driving in the amounts during the winter.  A set of tires will be cheaper than your insurance deductible after you stuff it in the ditch on all-seasons.  There are plenty of speed-rated snow tires that are awesome on snow/ice and still reasonably good on dry pavement.   
post #7 of 35
Thread Starter 
 thanks, seems like snow tires are the way to go, any recommendations?
post #8 of 35
The Bridgestone Blizzak and the Nokian Hakkepalleta are the gold standards of winter tires.  Some others also rate well, but I haven't used them.  Basically, any tire that's designed to be a winter-specific tire will smoke anything that's designed as a "compromise" tire.  Don't buy "all-season" tires and think that they're snowtires.  They're not.

See www.tirerack.com for reviews and technical articles.
post #9 of 35
One more thought, if CA is like OR and WA, even though you don't normally have to put on chains with AWD the comment above is right that you are required to carry them. I specifically know that OR's chain laws say AWD doesn't need to put them on as long as you can maintain control of the vehicle, or something to that extent. This means that if you crash and don't have chains on, you most likely will get a ticket. Not saying I advocate putting chains on when you don't *have* to... just food for thought.
post #10 of 35
My dad and i made it up to the slopes several times in whiteout conditions with our FRONT wheel drive cadillac with all season tires. We had chains in the car obviously but if we didnt see CHP we didnt put em on. All wheel drive is even better than front, its pretty much the best thing you can have for snow. What is funny is the CHP might make you put chains on just because it is a car, when they let lifted pickup trucks with 4WD and mud tires go through. Mud tires are HORRIBLE for snow, i know because my lifted Jeep slips around like crazy when it gets real bad.

4WD is different than AWD, 4WD isnt as good on snow because the tires wont re-catch themselves if they slip on ice, the idea with 4wd is when 1 tire slips, the other 3 should hopefully keep u on the road. AWD on the other hand lets each wheel do what it wants to, so there is a possibility if a tires slips that it will catch itself again, being indepentent from the other 3.

Like everyone else said, buy chains and throw em in the car so if worst comse to worst you can put them on and get home, (its not rocket science btw, just takes time and gets u all dirty from crawling around on the ground).

But i have never seen it at R3 either. 80 just closes instantly when there's snow and wind. Highway 50 usually stays open no matter what because its pretty sheltered in the canyon, but it wont get to R3, if its really that bad they will close it. 88 is the same as 80.

Most likely you wont ever need the chains, but as a safety issue should you run into a snowbank or something, buy em and stick em in the car.

As for snow tires, unless ur driving up every weekend its probably a waste of money, its not like you live in Wisconsin. I dunno much about them though, never had them, so dont take my word for it.
post #11 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Walt View Post

The Bridgestone Blizzak and the Nokian Hakkepalleta are the gold standards of winter tires.  Some others also rate well, but I haven't used them.  Basically, any tire that's designed to be a winter-specific tire will smoke anything that's designed as a "compromise" tire.  Don't buy "all-season" tires and think that they're snowtires.  They're not.

See www.tirerack.com for reviews and technical articles.
2nded.  I really like my Blizzaks (on a AWD Highlander).  abertsch runs Blizzaks on his A4.  You might PM him for details.    With my A4, it is secondary ski vehicle that only makes a few ski trips to Tahoe a year. So, I just run the factory M+S tires.  It does fine up i80 in snow and it did fine had in 6" new snow on some side roads.  If you have a steep or long hill to deal with I would put on Blizzaks. Otherwise, just make sure you regular tires are M+S rated and are in good shape.   

If you feel like you need something better, you might look at smaller upgrade than Blizzak/Hakkepalleta option.  On an XC70, I was able to get a M+S tire with better tread (more aggressive) for snow, but not a snow only tire like a Blizzak.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jaobrien6 View Post

One more thought, if CA is like OR and WA, even though you don't normally have to put on chains with AWD the comment above is right that you are required to carry them. I specifically know that OR's chain laws say AWD doesn't need to put them on as long as you can maintain control of the vehicle, or something to that extent. This means that if you crash and don't have chains on, you most likely will get a ticket. Not saying I advocate putting chains on when you don't *have* to... just food for thought.

Yes, CA is the same

>> from the CHP page
Requirement Two (R2): Chains or traction devices are required on all vehicles except four wheel/ all wheel drive vehicles with snow-tread tires on all four wheels.
(NOTE: Four wheel/all wheel drive vehicles must carry traction devices in chain control areas.)
>>>
post #12 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by StormDay View Post


Otherwise, just make sure you regular tires are M+S rated and are in good shape.   
 

Be careful..... The M+S rating is very very misleading..... Some tires good in snow, some horrible..... dont think that by having the M+S rating your tires are any good.
post #13 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Walt View Post

The Bridgestone Blizzak and the Nokian Hakkepalleta are the gold standards of winter tires. 

Agreed, also add Michelin X-Ice XI2 to this list.....  Currently the best all round rated winter tire on tirerack.com.... And thoroughly tested by me on the Calgary - Banff/Golden/Pincher Creek run!
post #14 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by opimian View Post

 thanks, seems like snow tires are the way to go, any recommendations?


Michelin Primacy Alpin PA3's.  Just as good as the Blizzaks and I've heard of SOME people leaving them on all year AND getting 40,000 + miles.  I just put them on a newer civic and drove over Vail pass (GJ to Boulder) and we were having WAY less problems than nearly everyone else.  i.e. some 2 wheel drive pickups were spinning their tires coming BACK DOWN THE HIGHWAY at us.  Semi's were stopped in the middle of the highway, 1 was plowed into the mountain going the other direction.  The stopping ability of these tires on snow is AMAZING, and on ice is very impressive (I always play around on snow and ice to get the feel of cold weather driving).
post #15 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by opimian View Post

i have a Audi Wagon with all wheel drive and all season tires.  i ski Tahoe mostly and drive there from the bay area.  I have heard conflicting info on if i will need chains or not. I would hate to get learn this the hard way, any thoughts here?
 
I drive a heavy 4WD Chevrolet pickup truck. This thing weighs 6,000 lbs empty, and it's no slouch at getting through snow. It has the "magic" transfer case that gives me the option of an "automatic" four wheel drive that engages the front end if it detects slip (via the ABS sensors, and it's set tight - you can't turn a tight radius without having it attempt to engage, but it works very well on the highway). This is similar to many (but not all) AWD cars. They are in two-wheel-drive until the system detects slip and uses a clutch to engage the unpowered end, either front or rear, depending on the vehicle.

The pickup also has the options of conventional two-wheel-drive and fully locked-up 4WD, both high and low range.

Anyway, I've used Nokkian Vativa tires, an all-season tire, for several years. This year, I swapped out the Vativas for the winter and put on Cooper Discoverer snow tires, complete with the Canadian snow flake symbol which is on all "officially" approved snow tires in this country.

Understand, the Vativa is a good tire, and I've never had any trouble from the RCMP (they periodically stop people to check tires, seatbelts, registration, etc.), and I've never had any trouble getting up the hill to Whitewater, BC, a place known to have just a little powder once in a while.

Nonetheless, the difference in snow between the Vativas and the Discoverers is astonishing. And the Discoverer is not even one of the highly rated tires being discussed in this thread. In my case, it's a load range E truck tire.

One thing that hasn't been emphasized enough in this thread is this minor business of, um, well, you know, stopping. AWD gives you no advantage. As far as I know, everybody has brakes on at least 4 wheels. And stopping is a Biggus Dealus!

Get snow tires. Audi or Ford, you'll stop better on snow.
post #16 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by jhcooley View Post

One thing that hasn't been emphasized enough in this thread is this minor business of, um, well, you know, stopping. AWD gives you no advantage. As far as I know, everybody has brakes on at least 4 wheels. And stopping is a Biggus Dealus!

Get snow tires. Audi or Ford, you'll stop better on snow.
 

When I was researching snow tires, AWD vehicles and such, I was surprised to find out that a light, front wheel drive vehicle with really good snow tires is better at everything except for accelerating, mostly due to the added weight of an AWD system, which adds to momentum, making it tougher to turn or stop.
post #17 of 35
   Quote:
Originally Posted by ramzee View Post




Be careful..... The M+S rating is very very misleading..... Some tires good in snow, some horrible..... dont think that by having the M+S rating your tires are any good.


 

Yes.  M+S is really just a minimum requirement met kind of standard.  You need M+S to get through chain control. 

Given my experience with my AWD A4, I would assume that Audi put decent m+s tires on the car.  But, the OP needs to check and make sure there is plenty of tread left. 

For most vehicles you will have some options between the least aggressive M+S and full-on Blizzak type snow tires.  Given someone's driving patterns, they need to figure out what is best for them.


For me, on both the Toyota Highlander and the Volvo XC70 the original tires were M+S.  I thought both set of tires were not good enough in the snow and upgraded them to a more aggressive tread.  In the case of the Highlander the only option last year was the Blizzak.    For the XC70, I got just slightly more aggressive tire.  It was good enough for around Tahoe and didn't have the dry and wet road performance issues of the Blizzaks.  Which is important since most of the miles are around the Bay Area and up i80 below chain control or not in chain control.

ymmv...
post #18 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by StormDay View Post

Yes.  M+S is really just a minimum requirement met kind of standard.  You need M+S to get through chain control. 
 

M+S is really just the designation for all season tires.  The mountain and snowflake logo is what indicates a real snow tire.  Almost everyone's tires are M+S, unless you run summer-only tires, but most people don't do that.  So yes, you have to have M+S tires, but that does *not* mean they're snow tires.
post #19 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by ramzee View Post




Be careful..... The M+S rating is very very misleading..... Some tires good in snow, some horrible..... dont think that by having the M+S rating your tires are any good.


 

M+S is not a snow tire. I find it interesting that CHP qualifies it that way.  Snow tires show a mountain logo like this -



I use studded Nokians chains are irrelevant.
post #20 of 35
I think M+S also has to do with the rubber compound. It has better traction in cold weather and will grip better in snow. The summer tires that came on my bimmer had a warning not to drive in cold weather below a certain temp, can't remember exactly what it was, or at least the traction was compromised below a certain temp.
I have had no problem driving in some pretty nasty snowstorms with  good relatively new M+S treads and AWD, in fact the road has been closed behind me so it was about bad as it gets. A dedicated snow tire will obviously have superior traction, so if you want the extra security it's the best way to go, but with careful driving a good all season should get you by, especially on fairly well travelled roads. 
 
 
 
 
 
post #21 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by nstelemark View Post

I use studded Nokians chains are irrelevant.
 

That depends on your state and whether or not you have AWD.
post #22 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Westcat View Post

I think M+S also has to do with the rubber compound. It has better traction in cold weather and will grip better in snow. The summer tires that came on my bimmer had a warning not to drive in cold weather below a certain temp, can't remember exactly what it was, or at least the traction was compromised below a certain temp.

That is correct when compared to a summer tire.  Summer tires are downright dangerous when it's cold, even if the road is bare, because the rubber compounds get very hard in the cold temperatures.  However, a proper snow tire has rubber compounds that are even that much better than all-season tires in the cold.
post #23 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Westcat View Post

I think M+S also has to do with the rubber compound.
 


Not quite.  To qualify for the M+S designation the only thing that matters is the tread pattern.  What makes a genuine  snow tire is the softer rubber compound (in addition to the tread pattern) which is very grippy on cold surfaces.  This softer compound will also wear faster, especially at high temperatures.

At the other extreme is a dedicated performance summer tire, which offers superior handling on dry hot pavement but is useless in cold and snow.

An all season tire will be made out of a compound that is a compromise - it grips ok when it's cold but doesn't disintegrate when you try to drive in 100 degree weather.  Most tires are in this category.
post #24 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by opimian View Post

 thanks, seems like snow tires are the way to go, any recommendations?

The only catch being, you're going to wear out the snow tires fast by driving to work Monday to Friday in the the Bay Area.
post #25 of 35
Thread Starter 
 yes, this is the primary dilemma.  i go to Tahoe 2-3 times a month during the snow season.  the rest of the time the car trucking around the kids to school and back. snow tires seem like a good ting, put them on in december and take them off in April.  lots of food for thought here, the other issuse is that AWD dont seem to like chains much, i guess you need them on all four tires or it can damage the car...  and here i thought having the AWD would solve all these problems.
post #26 of 35
I think what it comes down to is:
what will be your added cost of the weight of chains plus the cost of chains
vs
what will be the cost of a ticket (no, dont need chains if you have 4wd and snow tires, but you dont think the cops will give you tickets just to raise revenue?)
post #27 of 35
 chains are cheap.  just get a set to cover your butt because, yes, sometimes they do require chains.  or if you really want to push it, gas stations along the way and close to the enforcement zone usually rent them.  
on another note, my michelin primacy alpin pa3's are pliable down to -30.  This is part of the reason that snow tires can really suck during the summer.  if something is made to be soft at -30, imagine how soft they will be roasting on 125 degree pavement.
post #28 of 35
"Snow tires seem like a good thing..."  

You are in snow country four times a month.  AWD and 4WD do not help you stop, very marginally effect steering and don't keep you from sliding sideways off the road, which I've seen on several occasions.  What your car has on its feet can make a huge difference in your day. 

I don't like chains as a band aid fix.  Who enjoys getting out in the cold on the side of the road for an unscheduled stop to do anything?  What are the odds that the chains will still be the trunk when you need them most?  My bottom line is that driving is very serious business and the ability to stop and turn is actually more important than being able to "go".  I've been swapping winter wheels and tires onto my cars for the last 10 years and have been using Blizzaks because they are continually rated the best by The Tire Rack.  The Tire Rack takes BMWs and Porsches out on the ice each year with all of their winter tires and tests them.  With Blizzaks on I rarely have to slow down in snowy & slick conditions.  The grip is incredible.  For three years I even drove over a mountain pass twice a day from my home at the base of Snowbasin in rear wheel drive two-seater sports cars (BMW M Roadster and BMW M Coupe).  I zipped right along and never had a problem even if I beat the plows out in the morning.  It would have been another story completely with different tires.  As soon as spring rolls around I put the summer performance tires on.  

My .02
Edited by Canyonlands - 12/3/09 at 8:58am
post #29 of 35
 It is as much the tire compound as it is the tire tread. A true snow tire will have a compound that is designed for the colder weather. 
post #30 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Canyonlands View Post

"Snow tires seem like a good thing..."  

You are in snow country four times a month.  AWD and 4WD do not help you stop, very marginally effect steering and don't keep you from sliding sideways off the road, which I've seen on several occasions.  What your car has on its feet can make a huge difference in your day. 

I don't like chains as a band aid fix.  Who enjoys getting out in the cold on the side of the road for an unscheduled stop to do anything? 
 

I agree

A further thought how long does it take to put on chains? Let's say 15 minutes for the sake of my point. So you are on the way to the resort and in many places everyone else on that road is also going to the resort. In 15 minutes how many cars pass you on their way to the resort?

If we are talking my local hill it means that on a weekend day there might be 100 people who have passed me on the way to the parking lot. And once those chains are on you really can't go more than 25 mph. With good snow tires one can do 45 safely under the proper conditions. I found that out at Mt. Bachelor a couple of seasons ago-I was forced by the flow of traffic to go that fast

So relying on chains for someone who skis on a regular basis is not a great idea.
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