Tahoe Top 5: Car experts explain chain control laws and snow tire selection (video)
Winter in North Lake Tahoe-Truckee can bring heavy snowfall and icy road conditions. The Auto and Tire Doctor and California Highway Patrol urge motorists to be prepared and follow the law on the roadways this snow season.
“First and foremost, chain control keeps roads open and keeps you safe. We’re making sure we can keep the people of California going where they want to go and keep commerce going throughout the state,” said Peter Mann, public information officer for the California Highway Patrol Office in Truckee.
Mann said chain control regulations are dependent on snowstorms and enforceable only on state highways and freeways unless signed in town, like on Northwoods Boulevard in Truckee.
“California state law is pretty cut and dry. You are required to carry chains with you any time you’re driving through a mountain area from Nov. 1 through April 30, our snowiest time of year, by the letter of the law,” Mann said.
While weather conditions dangerous enough to warrant putting chains on four-wheel drive vehicles are rarely seen in this area, he said it is every driver’s responsibility to be prepared to safely maneuver through winter weather conditions.
The Auto and Tire Doctor in Truckee is one location to have your vehicle properly outfitted for winter, and general manager Jason Epperheimer says there are several things to keep in mind when purchasing snow tires.
1. Case by Case
“For anyone who comes in asking about snow tires, there are some things we need to take into consideration like: ‘Where do you live?’, ‘Do you have a flat or a steep driveway?’ For people who have a hard time getting up the driveway, studded tires might help,” Epperheimer said.
The decision between snow tires and studded snow tires has many variables to take into consideration, including how often and how far you travel on icy roads, how much experience you have with winter driving, and even how long snowfall is anticipated to last during the season. The longer you have studded tires, the more susceptible they are to being worn down and needing to be replaced.
2. How they Work
Epperheimer said while dedicated snow tire technology has gotten so good that they are on par with studded tires, there is still a demand for studded snow tires among drivers for added grip and sense of security.
Tires are studded using a pneumatic air gun, which pulls open small, pre-marked rubber pockets and embeds small metal studs into the tread.
After April 30 when the roads are clear, Epperheimer warns that studs are no longer allowed to be on your vehicle as they can chew up the asphalt and damage roadways.
He also explained how tires are made to direct snow to the outside walls of the tire, keeping it from caking up and causing you to lose traction. Siping patterns in the rubber help to grab snow and push it away, the “sipes” or slits in the rubber allow the tire to grip the surface, while open shoulder tire design helps keep the snow moving away from your path of travel.
3. Know Your Vehicle
Both Mann and Epperheimer agree the end goal is to keep drivers safe and prepared. They urge people to know their vehicles, know the weather, give themselves plenty of additional time to get where they’re going safely, and always follow the law.
While snow tires and studs are necessary dependent on the vehicle and weather conditions, they both suggested two-wheel drive vehicles have snow tires or studded snow tires and, of course, carry chains.
Epperheimer said he knows locals who’ve lived in the Truckee area for over 30 years and like the added sense of security they get from snow and studded tires, while he also knows of locals who drive big Toyota Tundra trucks with all-terrain tires year-round as they know how to maneuver their vehicle and how to properly drive in snow.
4. Consult the Experts
For advice on tires that will best serve you and your vehicle, visit your local auto professionals, in-person. They will examine your vehicle and the kind of tires you currently have while also assessing your home, work and travel situations to find the right tire for your driving needs this winter.
5. Pay Winter Preparedness Forward
Snow tires aside, The Auto and Tire Doctor is taking winter preparedness to a whole new level for one local family. Each year during the holidays they gift a vehicle to a family in need in the North Lake Tahoe-Truckee area.
This year they would like the community to submit nominations for local families who could benefit from having a refurbished white Subaru Outback to get them where they need to go, safely, this winter season.
Submit your nomination in-person, by mail, or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cassandra Walker is a features and entertainment reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at email@example.com, 530-550-2654 or @snow1cass.