Snow Tires?
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johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
November 15, 2004
Member since 07/18/2001
1,914 posts
This year I am finally thinking about breaking down and putting snow tires on my vehicle. I regularly drive from DC to the Canaan Valley over the winter season and am becoming more and more convinced that I need snow tires: snow on the roads around the valley is the norm, not the exception for the winter. The problem for me is that most other roads are snow free.

Does anyone make this drive regularly with snow tires? I drive a 2000 Prism--not exactly a snow car but with snow tires, front wheel drive, and a low center of gravity, I think it will do ok, even under the worst conditions. Does anyone drive a Honda or a Toyota with snow tires? What's the performance like? How many DCSki viewers install snow tires for the winter season--especially the "West VA" crowd.
jimmy
November 15, 2004
Member since 03/5/2004
2,650 posts
John, My snow tires are on a ford taurus wagon. They're a little more noisy but I haven't noticed a big diff in performance or ride quality. Last year was the first year and they make a big difference. Drove down to TL on a january thursday last year and probably wouldn't have got to deep creek w/all season tires. I am able to make it up to the house on mountainside, but not always into the driveway. Do all four wheels. Now if I could figure out a way to improve vision in a white out!

jimmy
kennedy
November 15, 2004
Member since 12/8/2001
792 posts
I've never driven with snow tires but I did some research on some a while back. From what I understand there are general types, studded and just your plain gnarly knobbly tire. Studded tires may not even be legal in VA, MD and WV because they can damage the pavement where it's not snow covered so around here they aren't a great idea. Most others just seem to be like a regular all season tire just with more aggressive tread especially at the edges. Option three invest in chains or maybe even cables. I'm thinking of picking up cables this year as a just in case, my car is great in the snow (Volvo, gotta love the Swedes) but driving in WV you could always use some extra insurance. I drove to the Shoe last year after that major ice storm on new all season tires and it destroyed all in it's path even up the new entrance. Try www.discounttiredirect.com, I think they have free shipping on tires and they also stock chains.
Lietmotiv
November 15, 2004
Member since 12/31/2001
113 posts
Go to www.tirerack.com and see what tires are available. Most snow tires are fine. But since you don't have a 4x4 you might want to get yourself a pair of tirechains at http://tirechain.com/
If you have the combo you should never get stuck. Even in the deep stuff.
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JohnL
November 15, 2004
Member since 01/6/2000
3,509 posts
Quote:

If you have the combo you should never get stuck. Even in the deep stuff.





Seems that once you get into snow that's deeper than the ground clearance of your car, you'll be getting into trouble, no matter what you have on your tires. If you have a low-riding car with little ground clearance, you could get stuck pretty easily. That's where I've gotten into trouble in the past.
johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
November 15, 2004
Member since 07/18/2001
1,914 posts
I have chains but they are a pain to get on and off. I'm looking for something that will get me through the wind blown snow on 32, 93, and the T-line access road and studded snow tires seem to be the ticket. My mechanic in DC used to live in Sweden and that's what he recommends.

PS I also keep a tow rope in the trunk.
gatkinso
November 15, 2004
Member since 01/25/2002
316 posts
Never skimp when it comes to tires. A good pair of snow tires will do the trick for you - take em off come April and they will last for several years and be worth the price.

For you I would also have a pair of chains as suggested above.

I have a pair of chains, but I drive a Jeep and will probably never need them.
bawalker
November 15, 2004
Member since 12/1/2003
1,547 posts
John - I know for a fact that studded tires ARE LEGAL in West Virginia from October thru April. Although after April you will be ticketed with having them on. The reason I know this is that my friend Bryan used to have a `77 Mercury Monarch (God Bless that car and the memories it gave) and we had up until the last day in april to get the tires chaged at the shop in Wardensville.


Quote:

I have chains but they are a pain to get on and off. I'm looking for something that will get me through the wind blown snow on 32, 93, and the T-line access road and studded snow tires seem to be the ticket. My mechanic in DC used to live in Sweden and that's what he recommends.

PS I also keep a tow rope in the trunk.


catskills
November 15, 2004
Member since 06/29/2004
53 posts
ONe of the better snow tires out there is the Nokian
Hakkapeliitta 2

If you add studs these tires will go anywhere and most important STOP anywhere. 4x4 and AWD doesn't help much when trying to stop on ice. These tires will stop your car in the winter.
rmcva
November 15, 2004
Member since 01/28/2004
187 posts
I have a '99 Honda Accord with a V6 engine. The car came with Michelin MXV all season tires. They do good in snow but not ice. After nearly gettting stranded in WV during a big storm several years ago, I started doing some research and talking with everyone I could about suggestions.

I decided to purchase Bridgestone Blizzak WS-50 snow tires. They are Canadian rated (have the snowflake on the sidwall) and are excellent. It was really hard to believe how much traction they provide. With the Michelins, they'll spin on ice (expecially on an incline) but the Blizzaks have traction as if the road was dry - no lie! They are studless but have a special chemical compound that allows the tire extra traction.

Everyone said to purchase four tires. However I said I would start with two and then see how they perform. As of today, I'm still using two - they're that good. My tires have been able to get me through nearly every major WV and PA storm in the last 2 1/2 years. But their life seems to be about over. I usually put them on just after the Holidays and they are left on until the end of the season. I've had them in some pretty deep stuff, car bottoming out, but luckily it was soft powder so I was able to continue. I've also seen where the Blizzaks on my Honda would have better traction than some of the 4-wheel drives, but of course they would handle much deeper snow.

These tires have been impressive. I ski every big storm I can and I never worry getting there with these tires. Usually the road crews have the roads plowed enough so at least my car doesn't bottom out. The ice - it drives right through it.

From my personal experience, I highly recommend Bridgestone Blizzak WS-50's and will purchase them again when these are gone. I paid about $90 each a few years ago. I also purchased two extra factory Honda wheels from a salvage yard for $75 each (would have been $200 from Honda). Using them, I mounted my Blizzaks on the extra wheels and just leave them on all the time. I them swap the wheels for summer instead of changing tires.
RyanC
November 16, 2004
Member since 11/28/2003
160 posts
I have a '94 Honda Accord with all-season tires. Never had a problem driving in the snow on the way to CV going via 70-68-220-50-93-32. The worst part is the white-out conditions that seem to occur on 93 from mt. storm (appropriately named!) to Davis. Of course, I've never driven there in a true blizzard (at least by CV standards), so that may be a completely different story.
Denis - DCSki Supporter
November 16, 2004
Member since 07/12/2004
2,171 posts
Good snow tires are a must, also good sense, and all the good luck you can get. I ran out of one or more of these things in March 2001. Here's the story;
http://list.uvm.edu/cgi-bin/wa?A2=ind0103c&L=skivt-l&D=1&O=A&P=19123
and,
http://list.uvm.edu/cgi-bin/wa?A2=ind0103c&L=skivt-l&D=1&O=A&P=21501

I am driving an Outback now with another set of Hakkas but this time with studs. And I never take 93 at night if it is snowing or blowing with new fallen snow. I'll go way west and come down 219 thru Thomas even though it costs another 45 min or more. My traditional route was 55 and I still take that unless the weather looks too bad, then 68 to 219.

Recovery and getting back on skis did not take too long, although my finger will never be straight or have normal feeling.
http://list.uvm.edu/cgi-bin/wa?A2=ind0104b&L=skivt-l&D=1&O=A&P=3269

I will also never be able to drive on snow with quite so much confidence again.
gatkinso
November 16, 2004
Member since 01/25/2002
316 posts
Wow that is nuts. I am glad that you got thru it mostly unharmed and that there were no little ones in the car.

Sometimes I feel invincible in my Jeep and want to drive faster than conditions allow, but I always seem to recall stories like this and take that foot off the gas!

That is most definately a sketchy stretch of road.
johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
November 17, 2004
Member since 07/18/2001
1,914 posts
Dennis:

You sold me on the snow tires, and I hope you sold anyone else who regularly makes this drive. Thank you! My wife spun the car into an embankment just beyond the power plant last year--same sort of deal. She was going slow but had no idea of how slick the road was until the rear tires started skidding. Fortunately, no injuries occurred on that one--just a lot of jittery and shattered nerves. Another contact, a member of the Czech and Slovak Sokal club, spun his car off 33 last January. He ended up being admitted to the hospital in Elkins.

No one thinks they need snow tires until they end up off the road in an isolated part of WV hours away from an emergency room.

PS I re-arranged my schedule so I do not have to drive 93 late at night in the winter. It will mean a little less skiing but that seems like a small price to pay.
TerpSKI
November 17, 2004
Member since 03/10/2004
167 posts
Denis-

I have been considering snow tires on my Outback as well. Where did you get your Hakkas? Do you have them remounted every year or did you get a spare set of steel wheels?
tromano
November 17, 2004
Member since 12/19/2002
998 posts
How annoying are ST to use for a whole season? Is it reasonable to equip your only every day car w/ these given the zeros snow conditiosn here in DC? I have only 1 car and use to for everything including ski outings and a daily commute of 40 miles round trip. What are the benefits / draw backs of using these tires in non-snow conditions? Any ideas?
jimmy
November 17, 2004
Member since 03/5/2004
2,650 posts
Denis, Thank's for the wake up on the dangers of winter driving. Reminds me of a 360 I did coming out of Davis a few years ago. Luck had it that we (my wife, best friend's wife and daughter) stayed on the road. We were travelling with 4WD on. 4WD may give a false sense of security; they go in the snow but stopping and turning are still compromised. Anyway, glad you're ok, were you wearing a seatbelt?

John, Get all four snow tires. Snows on the rear help you stop and turn better. I like the idea of mounting them on used rims if you're going to keep the car for a while.

Tromano, I don't think snows will last as long if you run them 12 months. Heat buildup might be a problem at speed in summer heat. Just my opinion, I'm usaully wrong.

Several posters mentioned limited visibility. I almost ran over someone running in a daylight white out bcause the didn't have their lights on. Lucky for me (him/her) they hit their brakes just in time for me to slow down. If i drive as fast as i can on a clear day it takes me 3 hours 10 minutes to get to the guardhouse at TL. On a bad day it takes 3/45. Buy some snow tires, use your headlights, drive at a speed appropriate for conditions and don't forget to floss.

jimmy

EDIT-Tromano, I misread your question. I run snows all ski season here on the western front. We probably get about the same amount of snow in Wheeling as around DC. I don't think you'll notice that big a difference.
Denis - DCSki Supporter
November 17, 2004
Member since 07/12/2004
2,171 posts
Replies to questions that were asked, and some that were not.

I got my Hakkas in VT, near my daughter's house in Williston. They are very popular up there. The studs make a bit of noise but I don't notice any more except at < 20 mph or so with windows open when they sound a bit like the claws of a dog running on the street. I have run them all year. I've looked for aftermarket wheels a couple times but couldn't find them @ reasonable price; they are 17" wheels. I must be at 50,000 miles on them now and they still have plenty of tread. People say the studs wear down, but they sound the same to me and rubber ought to wear faster than carbide steel. There is a web page that gives the various states regulations on studded snows. In VA they are legal Oct. 1 - Apr. 1. These restrictions are ridiculous in my opinion. Trucks do about 10,000 times the road damage per mile. Nobody knows what they are in VA and I've never been hassled for using them. Previous to the Hakkas I had Blizzaks, which work on the principle of a soft grippy rubber. The tread was gone after 20,000 miles.

I had Hakkas w/out studs on the Jeep. Studs make a difference, as does AWD (at highway speeds), and the longer wheelbase of the Outback is a lot more stable and easier to control.

I was wearing a seat belt, otherwise I'd be dead.

I did have a Thule box on Thule bars on the roof, otherwise I'd be dead. The Jeep crushed like paper on the first foot of the roof but the front Thule bar ran directly over my head and prevented the roof from crushing at that point. The box hinges were sprung but the skis inside were undamaged and I still use them. After I got out of the hospital the next day my friend Laurie very kindly took me to the wrecking yard where I retrieved my skis, clothes and personal things. This might be against the insurance Co. regs. but if you don't tell them I won't.

I was in 4WD going ~ 35 on a straight flat stretch when it happened. 93 has wide gravel shoulders but when it snows and blows you don't know where the boundary is between pavement and gravel. The pavement is about 2" thick and raised off the gravel. I drifted off the pavement with 2 wheels (the right side wheels) and when I drove back on the 2" step going back onto the pavement threw me into the skid and I was unable to bring it under control. That's all it took.
JohnL
November 17, 2004
Member since 01/6/2000
3,509 posts
Dang! A lot of mishaps and close calls reported on this thread. Glad everyone is still in one piece.
bawalker
November 17, 2004
Member since 12/1/2003
1,547 posts
I think what Denis said in regards to driving speed AND the subaru go along way as a great combo to get anywhere as long as a driver doesn't worry about speed. I say this from personal experience when I went to timberline this past February. I believe it was the 16th and when I left Wardensville it was nice, bright, sunny, and I borrowed my mom's `95 subaru legacy wagon. This thing is AWD, hangs low to the road, and if driven slowly with snow tires... will get me anywhere.

Well when I left Wardensville it was sunny. CorridorH was sunny as well as Moorefield. When I reached Petersburg it started getting cloudy and my optimisim for a great snowday jumped. Mind you there was snow on the ground from Wardensville onward, but the roads were clear and most of it was melting. When I got to Seneca Rocks things started changing. It was darker, more blustery, and winds were really kicking up. The roads were still clear when I turned onto 33 ... for at least 4 miles.

When I started to ascend the Allegheny mountains making that right hand turn and going up the hill I found something very surprising. The road went from bare and dry at the bottom of the mountains to going around the turn and becoming a solid sheet of white WITH an 18wheeler coming at me whose trailer was starting to slide out from him. My first decision was did I want to turn back or press forward to Timberline. Mind you this was around 9am when I was starting my ascent.

Route 33 was completely covered white with at least 2" of snow that had NOT been plowed as of 9 that morning so I simply geared the subaru down into low/first gear and climbed that 3 mile mountain in about 25 minutes creeping at an ever slowly 5mph speed at max. That alone scared the crap out of me going up that mountain ridge with an unplowed road only to keep glancing over to the very very steep drop off past the guardrails. Once I got to the top I was simply amazed to see this 15-20' snowdrift blowing across that narrowed the normal 3-4 lanes of road down to a barely passable 1 lane. I always knew that crest of the mountain there had lots of snow, but never did I imagine that much.

The best part about the ascent was that the subaru never once slid. It never tried to get away from me, it never spun, nothing. I credit that to proper snow tires, gearing it down and going as slow as humanly possible, and the fact that it's an AWD subaru that has a low center of gravitity. Personally my next vehicle purchase (after my Ford Explorer) is to get a Subaru Legacy Outback wagon just to have for treacherous winter driving.

Moral of the story... drive very very very slowly, use snowtires, and use an 4WD, or AWD vehicle. I figured I'd throw in my story of trips to TL since everyone else is.
johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
November 17, 2004
Member since 07/18/2001
1,914 posts
I think the moral of these stories is how insane things can get once you hit the Allegheny highlands. We love the insanity because it makes for great skiing, but it can be a truly shocking experience for those unaccustomed to this environment. You go from Mid-Atlantic weather to Vermont weather in 4.5 miles when you climb the Allegheny Front, and you MUST be aware of this situation in the winter. Every mechanic I've spoken with says that front wheel drive with 4 snow tires trumps AWD with no snow tires every time. Obviously, the best situation is AWD plus 4 snow tires, but short of that combo, there seems to be no substitute for a good set of snow tires.
gatkinso
November 17, 2004
Member since 01/25/2002
316 posts
Disregard my advice to get a "pair" of chains if you drive a front wheel drive vehicle. Get all four.

While 4wd and Rwd vechicles with chains on the rear tires get thru the snow and ice fine, they don't stop or steer well but generally are ok if you keep the speed down.

However chains only on the front (or any car actually) is flat out dangerous and is asking for an accident as the rear tends to fish tail.

I have never driven with chains w/ Fwd only with Rwd - a friend today informed me of my error.
tromano
November 17, 2004
Member since 12/19/2002
998 posts
Well, I am sold ont he snow tires idea. I am asking my parent for them as a christmas gift. It's pretty strange as a gift but it sounds like the are a potential life saver, and since I am still in Grad School I can't afford to blow $400 on tires, when I just bought the car last summer a Newsed 2003 Suzuki Aerio.

Is there any consensus on the best type of snow tires? There are options! Studded or nonstudded w/ silaca embedded etc... any thougts?
TerpSKI
November 18, 2004
Member since 03/10/2004
167 posts
I called NTB & they don't stock them, but you can do a special order. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, this isn't exactly the great white north. Does anyone know a retailer n the area that carries them?
bawalker
November 18, 2004
Member since 12/1/2003
1,547 posts
Check stores in the Shenandoah Valley including Winchester. This area does seem to stock studded snowtires from Sept to late spring and your best bet would be to check around up here.
tromano
November 22, 2004
Member since 12/19/2002
998 posts
Quote:

Go to www.tirerack.com and see what tires are available. Most snow tires are fine. But since you don't have a 4x4 you might want to get yourself a pair of tirechains at http://tirechain.com/
If you have the combo you should never get stuck. Even in the deep stuff.




I just ordered a 4-pack of the Micheline X-Ice tires and 14ingh rims for my car from these guys. They are goign to be delivered mounted and balanced for $460 and change. Seems like a good deal. I am driging to quebec this winter so I figgure these are necessary. I will look into buying chains as well. Question,

Do I need chains? What chains from this page should I get? I was planning to ge tthe cheapest ones. http://tirechain.com/P185-65R-14.htm

Thanks in advance, tromano
TOMF
November 22, 2004
Member since 11/17/2003
60 posts
I purchased chains for my Jeep Grand Cherokee from tirechain.com a few years ago. I got low-profie chains in a diamond pattern. I have been very happy with them and have subsequently ordered other things from that company. As far as I can tell, its a good company that sells good products.

Tom
kennedy
November 22, 2004
Member since 12/8/2001
792 posts
I read the owners manual for my Volvo and they expressly state that you should only put snow chains on the front tires. That may just be a Volvo think, I think it may be something to do with the fact that the rear springs don't have dampers and it may make the ride too rough. A mechanic on a Volvo specific website said that with Hakka's on 12" of snow was nothing. Those things must be great.
gatkinso
November 22, 2004
Member since 01/25/2002
316 posts
That is interesting. This inspired me to search for an answer (moot for me as I have 4wd and have never needed the chains)...

Anyway I found many links most of which (but not all) said no to the fromt only (could it be that there are clearance issues with the Volvo?)

Either way, I found that in many states the only legal configuration is all four wheels.
TOMF
November 23, 2004
Member since 11/17/2003
60 posts
I found an Austrian study of acceleration and braking on hard-packed snow using (1) snow tires, (2) snow tires with studs, (3) chains on two wheels, (4) chains on four wheels. The key conclusions are that chains on all four wheels are clearly superior to any of the other three choices, and studded snow tires don't perform much better than snow tires without studs. Here is the link to the study: http://www.4x4abc.com/ML320/ml_chainss.html

Tom
tromano
November 23, 2004
Member since 12/19/2002
998 posts
Chains it is,

Who pretty definative article. Thanks for the info Tom. I gues s I will be be geting chains after all.
johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
November 27, 2004
Member since 07/18/2001
1,914 posts
I just got my snow tires: 4 Winterforce tires for $489 installed. I got it done by Rock Creek Exxon. I know all the mechanics there and trust their work.
TerpSKI
November 27, 2004
Member since 03/10/2004
167 posts
John, Where is Rock Creek Exxon? Do recommend them for general mechanical work?

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