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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default Chains are NOT Wonder Woman's Bracelets

    As someone with a fair amount of experience with driving on snow and ice (I lived in Maine and central New York for a combined 20 years), I cringe whenever I see quotes such as the following, taken from recent posts:

    From a Phoenix resident:
    Not much snow is around these parts. Are snow chains recommended (there)?

    From a Dallas native:
    I will be leaving tomorrow. I will go ahead and purchase chains.

    From an Angeleno:
    Would we need chains for snow at all?

    The first thing you have to understand is that chains are not some magic accessory that will let you drive through any weather or road conditions that you might encounter no matter what your level of expertise. Since they are only on the rear wheels, they help not at all in controlling the direction your car is heading. And they are simply not capable of pushing your car through snow that rises above its front bumper.

    Chains have their place, and in the right conditions with an experienced driver can make the difference between getting through and getting bogged down, which is why they are required on certain roads at certain times. But simply buying a pair, even if you practice putting them on in ideal conditions before you go, will not guarantee that you will be able to complete a trip. Please, if you have little or no experience with winter driving, seriously consider how much you need to or want to make the journey that you are setting out on, and read up on both winter driving and, if appropriate, mountain driving before venturing out into conditions that can and do get people killed.

    AZBuck
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 12-21-2006 at 04:40 PM. Reason: Format for emphasis

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,064

    Default Well Said

    Well said. Buck.

    I will also say that despite living in the west for a couple of years and in the Northern Midwest and Plains for the rest of my life, I have never actually put snow chains on my car. Some of that is good timing, but much more of that is simply that I've had the good sense to stay off the roads when the conditions so bad that chains are truely needed.

    (That said, I've also had a couple of occations where I wasn't driving, but was a passenger and wished my driver had been using chains, as I walked several cold miles to find a phone and a tow truck.)

    Since they are only on the rear wheels, they help not at all in controlling the direction your car is heading. And they are simply not capable of pushing your car through snow that rises above its front bumper.
    Please correct me if I'm wrong here, Buck, but I believe that tires go on the drive wheels, which would be the front tires for most cars these days. I also believe you are supposed to use chains on all 4 tires if you have a car or SUV that uses an All Wheel Drive system.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,060

    Default Drive wheels!

    Quote Originally Posted by Midwest Michael View Post
    Please correct me if I'm wrong here, Buck, but I believe that tires go on the drive wheels, which would be the front tires for most cars these days.
    Yes, they go on the drive wheels -- More important, than having chains is knowing how to recover from a skid. Here is a link to a recent MSNBC column I wrote that addresses both understeer and oversteer skid recovery, (look at page two -- although you might enjoy reading the story of the "frozen parka" on page one! Like you, I am a firm believer that if I carry chains I won't have to put them on. Doesn't always work -- but I am, luckily out of practice -- even though I carry chains 365 days a year in my truck.

    Mark

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default Yes, but...

    Actually, now that you mention it, I never used chains in my years of snow driving either, but I did always have front wheel drive cars. Subarus in particular were a very popular car in those locations. And it's true that chains go on the drive wheels, whichever or however many they may be. But don't count on even service station mechanics knowing that. When I bought my first set of snow tires for my first car at a nationally recognized auto parts store, I returned to find them proudly installed on the rear wheels of my SAAB 93. (Note that that's a "ninety-three", not the current "nine three". Yeah, the old three cylinder, two-banger.)

    AZBuck

  5. #5
    RoadTripper Brad Guest

    Default I might add...

    Having grown up in the Cascades of Washington, and had to use chains several times to get out my neighborhood, I've had plenty of experience with chains in my relatively short driving history. In areas where snow is common and chains are a part of the culture, tire shops are well versed in the process of chains and chaining-up.

    Yes, buying a pair and getting to know how to use them will NEVER guarantee you will be able to cross the passes, even with an experienced driver. However, if a road gets to the point where a passenger vehicle with chains cannot safely cross, the State Police usually rolls out the barricades and close the road. This may happen less on side roads and country roads, but if you've made the conscious decision to drive out there, then it is your responsibility to gauge the conditions. The major highways, where most of our visitors will be traveling, the DOTs and State Patrols do the gaugeing for them.

    Winter driving is full of risks and such, but it does not mean the roads are always bad.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Western/Central Massachusetts
    Posts
    1,703

    Default Thank you

    Well put, Buck.

    I blame advertising and the lack of emphasis on physics as a topic of study in the public school system as a couple of reasons many people choose to drive in conditions that are beyond their experience level or even outside the realm of reason.

    Driver education goes a long way towards correcting this - does anybody ever wonder why, by and large, the local police don't have problems driving around all winter in their rear-drive Crown Victorias while the rest of the population is out smashing up their SUVs?

  7. #7
    RoadTripper Brad Guest

    Default Professional vs. "expert"

    Driver education goes a long way towards correcting this - does anybody ever wonder why, by and large, the local police don't have problems driving around all winter in their rear-drive Crown Victorias while the rest of the population is out smashing up their SUVs?
    I've seen winter police drivers training in WA... those guys literally are taken out on an icy course and given a 'spin cycle'. They quickly learn how light of a touch it takes to drive without having problems. At least in cold-weather climates and mountainous areas.

    Of course, knowing this, it is safe to assume if the cops won't drive a certain road, no one should. Thats basically the rule I follow.

    In areas where it rarely snows, I've had cops give me the one-fingered howdy for going only 10 over the speed limit, and not 110 (California). I guess the police driver training varies by state and climate.
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 12-22-2006 at 09:17 AM.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula
    Posts
    3,318

    Default Great topic...and clever title!

    Living on the coast, we rarely get snow. But ice is more common. Especially black ice which is a very thin veneer of ice that you can't see. It always surprises me how many drivers end up in ditches when conditions are ripe for black ice. The most worrisome thing I continually hear people say is "no problem, I've got 4WD". Yikes! 4WD doesn't keep you from sliding on ice. You have to be just as careful as with 2WD.

    Then, when we do have snow and ice, the cars in ditches multiply. I don't understand people who don't change their driving style in accordance with road conditions. I've never ended up in a ditch. Maybe some of it is luck but I believe most of it is because, while I have a need for speed, I only indulge in that when road conditions are close to perfect. At all other times, I modify my driving to meet the elements.

    I appreciate you bringing this up and I hope folks will read the information and learn from it.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Keithville, LA
    Posts
    638

    Default We're not even going to talk...

    about what I thought the title of this post was at first. Lets just say that I did NOT read it as bracelet. :)

    OK - I'm in Louisiana - when it does sleet, snow or ice over here I stay at home as much as possible. I know that I don't have enough experience to drive in that kind of weather.

    I've seen people do the most incredibly stupid things on slick roads. Being in such a wet climate many of the roads are raised roads therefore they freeze immediately and shut down many main throughfares. Then there's the problem that many of the ground roads have tall bridges that also freeze immediately.

    Forget the talk of snow chains or 4WD here. Its - "oh, it's Louisiana - the roads can't really be frozen can they? The police are just being silly and overly cautious closing off all of those roads. I'm just going to drive around the barricades." That's why every ice storm produces some sort of "amazing" crash video that often winds up going national.

  10. #10
    RoadTripper Brad Guest

    Default In Arizona, our videos are of water

    Here in Arizona, our local geniuses seem to think that 'road closed' on a flooded road means "If you have a tall truck or drive really fast, you'll make it". Needless to say we get our fair share of videos that go national every time we get a good rain.

    I begin to wonder if some drivers suffer from a Vehicular Invincibility Complex. Too many drivers become oblivious to all dangers and find things like weaving in out of traffic, not slowig down on ice and snow, or diving headlong into a flooded road perfectly safe.

    I'm not sure if more testing would help with this, but anything is better than Arizona's current drivers license expiration dates. Mine doesn't expire until 2050, by then I'll be nearly 70 years old!

    -Brad

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