Forum: Advice / Cars & Driving

Snow chains or winter tyres?
By reel_faerie85member has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Wed Dec 08, 2010 08:07 AM

Considering the awful weather we have had and the fact I need my car for work and have been unable to get in, I have been considering purchasing some snow chains.

I don't know where to start or what to get. I have a Ford Focus 1.6 hatchback.

I asked Dad and he suggested getting winter tyres as the main roads in the UK usually clear pretty quick and I would have to keep putting snow chains on and off, whereas I could keep winter tyres on all winter and they are suitable for driving on clearer roads.

What is your experience and any ideas on where to get started?

7 Replies to Snow chains or winter tyres?

re: Snow chains or winter tyres?
By Live4Dancemember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Wed Dec 08, 2010 08:22 AM
Get snow tires. They are much safer, and will help you on ice as well.
Just make sure to change them for your summer tires, as soon as the weather gets warmer (like March...) they will last you longer.
re: Snow chains or winter tyres?
By pondflyPremium member
On Wed Dec 08, 2010 09:33 AM
You need to make sure that it is legal to drive on the roads with chains as they do damage to roads not designed for them. The other thing is that you can only drive at low speeds, highway speeds are not compatible to chains which lead to damage to the car.
re: Snow chains or winter tyres?
By Trout
On Wed Dec 08, 2010 10:08 AM
I'm guessing the UK probably wouldn't allow you to drive on most roads with chains. Although snow tires are kind of expensive, they're a lot less fuss. If you do want to invest in this, go with snow tires.

I have a lot of experience driving in tundra conditions as that's how the weather is here from November to March. We currently have about two feet of snow and most of the roads are iced over, and the asphalt usually doesn't show through again until the spring because it's too cold to melt. In all reality, it's really not the tires you have on your car as much as how you drive in the winter. If I need new tires I wait until just before the first snowfall and then get some all-seasons tires. I've never used snow tires or chains and I've never been in an accident.

If you keep a good distance from the car in front of you and know how to brake on ice, you might not even need snow tires. I saw the thread in General and your pictures about the weather you are having, and personally I wouldn't invest money in new tires for that. It looks mostly like wet snow, and that is the easiest to drive in.

If you start to skid, don't slam on the brakes because that will only throw you into a spin. Pump on them until you're able to stop. If you do find yourself in a spin, don't turn the wheel, just keep it steady and wait until you come to a stop. From what it seems like in your pictures, getting stuck will be your main issue. Carry a shovel in your trunk and some of the gravel kitty litter. If you do get stuck, don't slam on the gas to get going, just gently rock back and forth to create a little indentation for your tires. Sometimes that's enough to get traction and get you unstuck. If that doesn't work, clear out some of the snow with the shovel and put down some litter, and usually that does the trick for getting you out.
re: Snow chains or winter tyres?
By reel_faerie85member has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Wed Dec 08, 2010 10:16 AM
Thanks for the advice, I am more for the tyres. There are no laws in the UK that say when/if you can use such tyres or snow chains although I am aware that chains damage roads and possibly the car if used wrongly.

The snow isn't too bad, its the ice which is causing chaos, its still about 4-5mm deep here which isn't too bad, unless like me you live at the top of a hill.

I have driven in ice and snow and quite like it and follow all the advice you have given Trout, my driving instructor was a stickler for teaching me in ice and has even made me 'lose control' so I can feel what its like and try it. Unfortunately most idiots on the roads round here don't get it!

Example..coming out my house today..head off down the hill, road at bottom and no chance of stopping, car behind is sitting right up by booty, full beam blaring which is distracting. I slow down even more and head out onto bottom road safely, there is a car on the bend, I slow down to let a car on the opposite side come through and the car behind can't stop. He had to swerve to stop an accident, spun the car and then gave me verbal. HELLLOOO we have ice. The car is always parked on the bend. Annoyed.
re: Snow chains or winter tyres?
By Chaconnemember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Wed Dec 08, 2010 12:11 PM
In this area...mid-Atlantic where we do get snow but only occasionally, snow tires are all but obsolete...you never see them. Chains are only for emergency vehicles and studded tires are illegal and to a great extent unneccessary. About 30-35 years ago when steel-belted radial tires became the norm and more recently when front wheel drive became the norm on most cars the need for snow tires in all but the most extreme conditions went away.

Radial tires (I don't know if you can even buy other kinds now....the term would be "bias belted" and the "belt" was fabric, not steel...) have a bigger and flatter footprint and assuming there is ample tread have a far bigger bite on the road.
Front wheel drive also means that the engine weight is over the tires and most cars have a nominal 60/40% split between weight on the front compared to the rear of a car.

The one downfall is that many cars have a drive system which puts the power to the weakest tire (this is called the differential gear) which is why you often see one drive wheel spinning and the other not moving at all. Many cars, especially SUV's have all-wheel drive so that power goes to all the wheels. When I used my wife's Highlander SUV during last winter's massive snow storms here, I was never totally stuck.

But Trout is absolutely correct...knowledge is the best weapon for driving in snow. Like her, I learned in a severe Northern US climate. Here in Washington DC we have people from all over. There is nothing more comical than seeing a recent immigrant from a warm weather country (or a US Southerner) trying to drive for the first time in heavy snow (or even light snow.) My next door neighbor is from El Salvador and I had to give him some extensive lessons not only in driving in snow, but in snow shoveling. I now have a snow thrower. Snow doesn't bother me, but ice and road frost terrify me. When I was in college I was in an accident on what we called black ice or hoar frost and the car in which I was riding was demolished when it hit both a telephone pole and a tree when my mother-in-law lost control of the car while taking my then-girlfriend and me back to college.
I know generally stay home in heavy snow...I don't have to work anymore. I never missed a day of work because of snow except for declared "snow days" when they shut the whole agency down except for "essential" workers. [I was one of those too for a time.] Our snow days were not so much for concern about people getting to work as for the clearing of our huge parking lot...one of the biggest in the world.

Jon
re: Snow chains or winter tyres?
By PogMoGilliesmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Wed Dec 08, 2010 12:28 PM
You're going to be best off with snow tires, if you really have enough bad weather days to make it worth while. If you really want to invest, you can buy four wheels and put the snow tires on them, so that you literally change the wheels when it's time for winter, instead of taking it to a tire shop to have then change just the tires.

My husband is considering doing this when we buy me a new car, if it doesn't have all-wheel drive. I work in the mountains, and have a steep, curvy, unpaved road that I have to get over twice a week to get to work.
re: Snow chains or winter tyres?
By Katemember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Fri Dec 10, 2010 05:09 AM
Get winter tyres. I live in the UK at present (Yorkshire!) and I wouldn't put snow chains on here at all. I lived in Switzerland the last few winters, and even then I would only put snow chains on in EXTREME weather. Like, maybe 1 foot of snow. If it's ice, or hard pack, they generally just snap off. Plus you can't drive over about 15mph with them on. Rubbish.

I did a winter driving course out there, and they spent about a day teaching me to put snow chains on - its a bloody nightmare, and if you get it wrong, they flap about, snap and are worse than useless. Plus you have to take them off if the road is clear, and trust me, once you have knelt in the snow on the side of the roads fiddling with a metal chain in sub zero temperatures, you will never ever want to do it again.

Winter tyres = amazing. Put them on, leave them on til March or whenever the thaw is. Job's a good 'un.

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