A cold Thanksgiving weekend beckons, with snow levels as low as 2,500 feet predicted, meaning tire-chain laws will be in effect in many SoCal mountains. Roadside installers will be standing by, the best $25 to $75 you’ll ever spend. But be prepared to do it yourself in a pinch. And “pinch” might be the appropriate word if you’re unfamiliar with the process. A video primer helps.
Here’s a refresher
- Be sure the chains fit. Grabbing the wrong set of chains can damage tires and suspension.
- If buying chains, consider cable versions, which often are simpler to work with.
- Figure out whether the chains go on the front or back tires — the owner’s manual can assist. So can your mechanic (the orientation of the engine gives it away).
- Practice at home. Lay out the chains or cables in the driveway, and practice when it’s dry and comfortable.
- Take gloves. A light set of water-resistant gardening gloves works well.
- Make sure all loops and cables are facing the same direction. A twisted link can lead to breakage.
- Once chains are installed and tightened, drive a short distance — say, 20 feet — and retighten them.
How to drive with chains
- Tire company Les Schwab recommends listening for “a loud sound of slapping, or metal on metal.” Stop as soon as possible to prevent damage.
- 25 mph is the maximum speed with chains, most manufacturers and road safety experts say.
- Brake and accelerate gradually to avoid skids or spinouts.
- Once on dry pavement, remove the chains.
If you get stuck in snow
- If you become stranded, the auto club urges you to stay with your vehicle. That makes it easier for rescuers to locate you.
- Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna or place a cloth at the top of a rolled up window to signal distress.
- Leave the dome light on at night. It only uses a small amount of electricity and will make it easier for rescuers to
- Clear the exhaust pipe of snow, ice or mud to prevent deadly carbon monoxide from seeping into the car.
Sources: Auto Club of Southern California, Les Schwab, Esurance