Snow tires vs. chains: preparing for winter
Only Mother Nature really knows when winter weather will arrive, sending drivers slippin and slidin on snow- and ice-covered roads.Before drivers find themselves stranded alongside the road in the middle of a snowstorm, theres a checklist of to-do items drivers can address now to get their vehicles winter-ready.
For many motorists, the biggest decision for winter driving is deciding what kind of tires to buy. The choice depends on a persons lifestyle and how often they plan on driving this winter, said Bob Clevenger, owner of Sierra Country Tire & Automotive in Kings Beach.Most people are working and have to leave the house no matter what the weather does, Clevenger said.The majority of Clevengers customers opt for snow tires since they are out driving everyday, he said. Snow tires have a different rubber compound that makes them more flexible in extremely cold temperatures, compared to all-terrain tires, which are better for highway driving, he said.Choosing between all-terrain or snow tires depends on the drivers comfort level in snowy conditions, said Greg Jacobsen, manager of The Auto Doctor in Truckee. On average, snow tires cost $100 a tire for a vehicle such as a Subaru Outback. Prices go up for larger sport utility vehicles like a Chevy Tahoe, Jacobsen said.
For drivers maneuvering up and down steep driveways, studded snow tires are a good choice because they are designed for traction on icy roads. Metal studs can be added to snow tires at an additional cost per tire. However, some vehicles are not equipped for studded tires, Jacobsen said. And a tip for those with two-wheel drive vehicles: Clevenger said to start practicing how to put chains on ahead of schedule.Its not fun to learn when you have one and a half feet of snow in your driveway, Clevenger said.One of the biggest mistakes people make, Clevenger said, is when drivers put chains on the wrong drive axle, rendering the chains useless. For example, make sure to put chains on the front tires if the vehicle is front-wheel drive, he said.
Besides shopping for snow tires, motorists should pay attention to basic vehicle maintenance in advance of plummeting winter temperatures.Jacobsen said to make sure the car battery is in good shape, check coolant levels, and change windshield wiper blades every year or so. The Federal Emergency Management Agency also recommends motorists ensure the vehicles heater, defroster, thermostat, headlights, and breaks are working properly before braving winter roads.