Experiences with installing chains?

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I've got a Subaru and have a little bit of experience driving in the snow. So far I've only encountered Califonria chain checkpoints at R2 chain conditions. They typically looked at the front left tire, noted it was a Subaru, and let me go. However, you're supposed to carry chains or cables (regardless of the vehicle) whenever there are chain controls. Previously I bought a set of Cobra Tire Cables from Quality Chain. These were ladder type cables without chain tighteners, which I think could be used. I bought them in March because I just had a itch to go driving in the snow, and I'd heard that there was a forecast for snow in Tahoe. You can imagine how hard it was to find them in the San Francisco Bay Area in March. Didn't end up using them, but once I did try putting them on in the garage following the instructions. They were to place them over the top and secure at the bottom, drive a short distance, and remove the slack. I couldn't manage even in the garage. I'm wondering what it would be like at night with the snow falling and a dozen or so vehicles around you in the chain-up area with questionable steering control. I've actually heard the best way to install ladder chains/cables is to lay them out and drive over them so they can be secured at the bottom. I bought a set of Security Chain Super Z6 cables last year. I got them when they were cheap ($52) before Amazon hiked up the price. Their installation videos make it look easier, with two connection points - one at the bottom and two at the top. Then tighten with mandatory chain tighteners, which then remove the need for retightening. I saw someone installing these on a pickup (Super Z8 I think) as I was leaving Yosemite and he was entering during winter. The process didn't seem so bad. I like that they use keyhole clips instead of the traditional clips (the kind with several bushings that can be progressively pulled to the next to make it tighter) that don't seem all that secure. Anyone personally have this type of chain? I understand it's somewhat preferred because there's always some contact with the ground unlike ladder chains/cables. These also use coils instead of rollers. I have a fairly new set of Michelin Pilot A/S 3, which may technically bypass chain controls with a Subaru, but I'm not sure if it's such a great idea.
 
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Having driven with chains more often than I care to count living in golden bc I found the easiest way was to lay them out on the ground and drive into them. Then using bungee cords take out all the slack. I've never had any come loose nor come off and because of the bungees they are easy to remove as well. I learned that method from a trucker who saw me fighting with putting mine on the first time driving thru Rogers pass. He laughed at first then asked if I wanted to do it the easy way,or the stupid way. I chose easy,because trying to get them over the tire then driving a few feet so I could clamp them apparently looked to him like the stupid way. I can do all 4 tires in 10 minutes in the dark,in a blizzard now.
 
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Got pointed to these on a Subie forum, they make a lot of sense since many chains don't have the clearance. They're pricey, but apparently very effective. But...I have used chains in the past, Clevy is right...easy way is set them ahead of the tires, drive onto them, and join them up at the top.
 
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if you're going to buy chains and intend to use them-meaning not just a throwaway for the 1 trip to tahoe "insurance" it pays to spend a little more. You definitely want at least auto-tightening, autocentering chains. You also want an install that can be done without moving the car. I personally bought thule cs10 model which is about 4x the cost of the cheapest chains, but have gotten my money's worth in so much reduced hassle. It seems your model can do the install without moving the car too. For these style of chains, I think the tricky bit (as with any chains) is to be sure to lay them out and get everything untangled before attempting your install. When you throw the chains around the tire, whatever tangles you had will just multiply. Even with the thules I have to do this as the most time consuming bit to get all the tangles out. Also don't discount the removal too, as you're now dealing with an ice cold muddy/slushly mess that's been tweaked and torqued. I've personally loaned a leatherman one time and a set of needlenose pliers to other poor folks at the chain control who had cheapo SCC cable chains where the connectors have just binded up and they could not get them undone...then "sold" the tools to them since they could not get things done by the time I finished my removal and had all chains nicely packed away and all cleaned up and ready to roll. (felt sorry for them and did not rip them off, just sold at cost). As far as the subie goes; you do not necessarily need chains for tahoe. It depends what your tires are and what roads you intend to travel. This is the CA mommy state in action. If you stick to the main freeways like 50/80 etc, CalTrans will shut them down before the conditions get so bad that a Awd+decently treaded allseason tires will fail to make it over. If you're going off the beaten path, you may need to fend for yourself and you better be prepared. If you drive like an idiot and have balding or summer only tires or decide to make that sharp turn at the last minute at 40mph rather then saying you missed it and looping back you're your own worst enemy and will be in a ditch. For the same reason, you are actually better off in Tahoe with the thinner cable chains, the roads are so clear that chain-chains are actually overkill and will be giving you a much rougher ride and experiencing more wear and tear then the cable-chains which just roll along.
 
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as far as the super premium items like the spikes or even thule has $400 or $500 devices; you should note is that the same as chains, all traction devices do not last forever. So an extra $400 for something that will wear out about the same time as an already expensive $100-150 set of premium chains for marginal gains is questionable. If you wanted to throw down that much money, and you expect to be in snow that often to use the devices often; You would be better off putting that money towards good snow tires or even renting an SUV. You could also set aside that $400 to chain monkey to throw on your cheapo chains for you those few times that you wanted to use it.
 
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thought up more tips for you. Understand that you need to move the chain when making connections. When making the top connection, pull the chain up and do the connection on top of the tire. Once connection is made, be sure to push it back behind the tire, to get it to the right position before attempting the other connections. For removal, be sure to line up your car so the chain is in the same position as the install, with the connections at dead top and bottom. Don't undo the connections with the connectors sideways, it'll increase the chases the chain will fall funny and potentially get stuck on stuff behind the wheel. You may have to move the car to get the other wheel in the right position for removal. Bring gloves, flashlight(headlamp if you have it), tools in case you get stuck,, trash bag if you need to kneel and practice first at home.
 
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In the late 50s we sold chains at my Dad's Western Auto Store, maybe 6 bucks, and no instructions, we used them some on our old Plymouth ....always a delight to put on...
 
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spikes spiders are nice.... though, I always had issues with the mounting clips (as my car uses lug bolts) stripping out their bolts. The spikes spider sport gave me awesome traction for climbing up steep hills when they are covered with packed snow (where my snow tires would not be of much benefit, and I have a lowered FWD car), and likewise, braking down the same hill. the my tip for removing them is.... reach down into the clip and get your index finger under the release clip (red), then pull. Much more leverage. After too many hassles of the mounting disc, I got the Thule K-summit. So much easier, but it just doesn't have the same traction like the Spikes SPider Sport. Many AWD cars/suv's including subarus, do not have much rear suspension clearance, so they only recommend front only, even on AWD... so a Spikes Spider and Thule K-Summit is good for those applications if you want chains all around. For regular chains.... the Europeans have it down. They have chains that are easy to install and easy to remove, even self-tensioning & aligning ones. So, check out the Thule chains also. http://youtu.be/Y9xhvZamNP8
 
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what subaru? many dont have clearance for chains. you also need to use chains on all 4 wheels.. or you could damage the awd. IMHO if you need more than studded snow tires w/awd.. you don't need to be on the road (continental usa)
 

y_p_w

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Originally Posted By: Rand
what subaru? many dont have clearance for chains. you also need to use chains on all 4 wheels.. or you could damage the awd. IMHO if you need more than studded snow tires w/awd.. you don't need to be on the road (continental usa)
2004 WRX. 205/55R16. I can't find my owner's manual, but I recall it said chains on front only because of clearance issues. However, the Super Z6 are supposed to need less clearance than any other tire cable on the market. My understanding is that as long as it's on the snow, the amount of slip should keep the AWD system from damaging itself with chains on the front, but that one really wants them off as soon as there's dry pavement. I remember one chain checkpoint where I drove on and was left wondering why. It was basically clear - no snow or ice at all except for maybe a couple of patches of melting slush. My tires are what concern me. I had some Continental ExtremeContact DWS, which I thought was a poor excuse for an "ultra high performance" tire, but supposedly are better than most all-seasons in the snow. However, they were worn out (in the wrong places) so I went with Michelin Pilot A/S 3. The reading I get is that they're marginal in the snow and some even warn not to drive them in the snow. Supposedly they're fine in near-freezing temps, but not in the snow. My first experience driving in the snow was with my WRX and a set of Pirelli PZero Nero M+S. They basically didn't change the tread pattern. Frightening experience in the snow, but I took it easy.
 
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the reason why the new Michelin Pilot A/S 3 are marginal is the same reason why the P-Zero Nero AS (the ones you had, not the newer ones) aren't that great in the snow is, aside from compound, the relatively lack thereof siping. There are some coastal CA people... who also run snow tires, for when they want to go to Big Bear Lake, Mammoth Lakes, Lake Tahoe, etc. in particular the "performance winter" tires, from Dunlop Wintersport 4D, etc... even cheapo Nexen Winguard Sport works decent enough in this category Dunlop Wintersport 4D
 
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I'd get a separate set of wheels and snow tires before buying chains. IIRC(on the MT) If you only use 2 chains you may end up spinning the rear tires excessively and overheating the viscous coupling. Also that car has very low inside shoulder clearance for chains.. if you have one flop around from getting loose.. even a little bit you will be tearing the car up.
 
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the other question is... how often does Caltrans really have the R3 condition? I heard it's not too often, so get snow tires and carry a set of cheap chains (for the R2 check). If it's R3 condition... probably best not to drive.
 
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Originally Posted By: Donald
My snowcat has tracks. I think they work better than chains.
but, when y_p_w starts his trip from San Francisco, I don't think your snowcat works as well, or street legal for interstate use.
 
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Originally Posted By: UG_Passat
Originally Posted By: Donald
My snowcat has tracks. I think they work better than chains.
but, when y_p_w starts his trip from San Francisco, I don't think your snowcat works as well, or street legal for interstate use.
Details...details. It does 28 MPH.
 
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Originally Posted By: UG_Passat
the other question is... how often does Caltrans really have the R3 condition? I heard it's not too often, so get snow tires and carry a set of cheap chains (for the R2 check). If it's R3 condition... probably best not to drive.
There will never be R3 on the main touristy highways around tahoe. Especially 80 is an interstate, so it is a "national security" interest to be kept properly open. So they'll close it first before risking a crash that will shut it down completely and not by choice. 50 is also but i think of a 2nd priority. R1 is also never on 80/50. If it is dangerous they'll jump right to R2. R1 will be declared on the smaller roads that aren't always controlled, but left to driver judgement. Often it can just be a sign that says when flashing put on chains, but really left to you.
 
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Originally Posted By: raytseng
Originally Posted By: UG_Passat
the other question is... how often does Caltrans really have the R3 condition? I heard it's not too often, so get snow tires and carry a set of cheap chains (for the R2 check). If it's R3 condition... probably best not to drive.
There will never be R3 on the main touristy highways around tahoe. Especially 80 is an interstate, so it is a "national security" interest to be kept properly open. So they'll close it first before risking a crash that will shut it down completely and not by choice. 50 is also but i think of a 2nd priority. R1 is also never on 80/50. If it is dangerous they'll jump right to R2. R1 will be declared on the smaller roads that aren't always controlled, but left to driver judgement. Often it can just be a sign that says when flashing put on chains, but really left to you.
I heard Mammoth Lakes does a great job of cleaning up the roads, to ensure smooth visits to Mammoth mountain.
 
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