How to Prepare for Winter Driving

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EUGENE, Ore. — Les Schwab manager Jason Gale knows all the tips for getting around in the rain, snow and ice.

First of all, if your tires have gone bald, don’t expect to stop on a dime.

“Once that tire starts to wear down, that grooving starts to disappear and once that grooving goes away, it really almost becomes a solid block of rubber that you’re trying to stop with,” said Gale.

The classic all season tires will do a good job getting you around in the rain and even minimal snow and ice; but once you go from a dusting to an inch, your tire needs quickly change.

“The studded snow tire is going to be the one that provides the most traction in all conditions; this is going to help break up the black ice,” said Gale

Dressed with anywhere from 60 to 120 metal studs, the tips are like cleats for tires and meant to grip the ice and snow. Studded tires are seasonal though because of the wear and tear they put on the roads; they’re only legally allowed from Nov. 1 to Mar. 31.

If you’re not needing as much traction, there is a non-stud variety; no metal tips, but still a good option.

“It has a lot of cut grooves in the tread, these are called stripes, they are meant to stop and start on that wet pavement or on an ice condition or your slushy snow. They have a special compound in them that help to wick away the water, it is made from bamboo and there are actually ground up walnut shells inside,” said Gale.

Once you get to packed snow, chains are best and there are several options. From heavy duty chains to the less expensive cables or the best of both, the low clearance quick fit chains. The advantage, great traction; the disadvantage, they can only be used in packed snow and limit the speed of travel.

“All chain manufacturers recommend no more than 30 mph and again, that is something where if you have to have a chain on, you probably shouldn’t be going more than 30 mph anyway,” said Gale.

Putting on chains for the first time may be a daunting task, but it just takes one step a time.

“You can actually lay this down in the snow, and follow picture directions,” said Gale.

First step, hold it like a basketball hoop and unhook the clasp; next put the the chains behind the tire. The directions will take you through how to get the chain around the tire and secure.

Knowing when to take the chains off is just as important.

“You don’t want them beating against bare pavement, they’re meant to provide that extra traction on the packed snow. If you run this too long on the bare pavement it will actually destroy the chain, it can break loose,” Gale said. “And also it never hurts to try on the chains in the comfort of a warm garage before you try and do it on the mountain for the first time.”

Gale’s best advice, be prepared for the elements and don’t wait until to the last minute.


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  1. Reese says:

    Knowing how to put chains on tires before you head out into the snow is so important! Being able to put them on qucikly and correctly even in harsh weather conditions will mean safe driving and less time being exposed to cold weather conditions.

  2. Don't buy studs! says:

    Don’t buy the BS on studs–the fact is they have a VERY narrow range of operation where they are superior to stud-less or All-season tires. Read this report by the Washington State Transportation Center for the Washington DOT and see for yourself!

    Studded are more because they have LONGER stopping distances in dry conditions and perform WORSE in snow than studless! This Les Schwab shill is selling you CRAP that is more dangerous 99% of the time. Studded tires DOUBLE the necessary maintenance interval on roadways causing OVER $40 million in damage to Oregon roads annually. THIS IS THE REASON MANY STATES HAVE BANNED STUDDED TIRES.

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