2003 Saturn Ion snow cables

Hi all! Hope someone can give me info on this. Will be spending the winter in high country of Yosemite mountains. Will snow cables work and are they efficient for my car?

my tires are 195/60/15

Do you know someone there? If so, or if you’re going there for work, perhaps you could ask people that live there, people you know or expect to be working with.

They work pretty good, but chains work better. Both require about the same amount of effort to put on and take off, but cables don’t produce as rough a ride as do chains. 4WD with good snow tires is the best solution, since no need to deal with putting on and taking off chains. Your Saturn is probably Front WD, so just good snow tires will get you by most of the time, if you are just travelling the roads used by skiers all winter to go skiing. For an El Nino year like is predicted for this winter, tires or chains? I’d probably have both on hand in the trunk if I were spending the entire winter there.

Haven’t Been Through Mountain Passes During Winter For Awhile. There Were Signs That Flashed And At The Checkpoint Cars Were Inspected For Installed Chains Or Snow Tires.
What do these guys say about cables in the modern era?

I would have to believe that cables would work as a last attempt at driving through deep snow.

I believe with cables installed, the relatively low ground-clearance on your vehicle will become a problem before wheel traction does. You will have to time your travel according to weather.


You gotta remember that chains or cables can only be used in deep snow and at very low speed. Once you hit pavement they have to come off. I have to admit I haven’t seen anyone with chains on for quite a few years. Then there is the whole clearance problem in the wheel well as well as the ground clearance. Some cars just can’t use them. I’m not sure but doesn’t the ION have a general traction problem anyway? Don’t they get 2-3 feet of snow at a time up there? I guess I’d want a 4WD with high ground clearance plus chains depending on how far you are from a plowed road.

Most of the roads are pretty well plowed up there, in order to service the skiing industry. Driving on 6 inches of fresh snow between plowings wouldn’t be uncommon though during a big snowstorm. Loose unpacked snow on the road isn’t the main driving problem – except for hiding potholes and obstacles in the road; it is the packed icy snow that sticks hard to the road surfaces that causes the worst traction problems.

This is what the owners manual states about chains;

If your vehicle has P195/60R15, P205/55R16 or
215/45ZR17 size tires, don’t use tire chains,
there’s not enough clearance.
Tire chains used on a vehicle without the
proper amount of clearance can cause damage
to the brakes, suspension or other vehicle
parts. The area damaged by the tire chains
could cause you to lose control of your vehicle
and you or others may be injured in a crash.

The manual don’t offer advice about tire cables. There are low clearance tire cables available but I think there is a risk of causing damage to the brake lines, ABS wiring and fender well liners.

I didn’t know it was possible to drive a car there in the winter. The main road through Yosemite National Park is closed (unplowed) from November through May.

“You gotta remember that chains or cables can only be used in deep snow and at very low speed. Once you hit pavement they have to come off”

Before the OP buys a set of tire cables, he should ask himself the following question:
On snowy days, do I want to lie on the cold, wet ground a few times a day in order to install, remove, re-install, (etc.) these devices?

Just as people always seem to envision vehicle breakdowns taking place in their driveway or other convenient place, the fans of tire chains and cables seem to envision that there will always be a safe, dry place to park while installing or removing those devices. Unfortunately, the reality of the situation is that it is much more likely that the OP will wind up in wet, cold, and possibly dangerous locations when he needs to install/remove the cables.

If I was in the OP’s situation, I would buy a set of 4 Michelin X-Ice winter tires.

“If I was in the OP’s situation, I would buy a set of 4 Michelin X-Ice winter tires.”
… and a snow shovel, some kitty litter, emergency blankets, emergency food, etcetera …

@csa Right on. In winter I travel with just those things as well as a couple of old door mats which are handy when you are ion snow with ice underneath. I have a small bag of crushed gravel as well.

And 4 Michelin X-ICE winter tires of course.

A good shovel, a tow rope completes my kit and I have not been stuck in snow for over 20 years.

Thank you so much to everyone that’s responded. I can’t afford to buy new tires or a 4 wheel drive. After reading responses, not sure if I’m going to go the route of cables. thank you so much.

I had an 02 SL that I carried a set of cables for. I only used them once and that was to get the car out of an icy parking lot.

Firestone make a winter tire that can come very close to the performance of the Michelin and cost about 2/3 rd’s as much. Seriously consider those.

In a pinch, some old door mats, cut down to about a foot wide or cut in half lengthwise can get you out of a short term situation.

BTW, contrary to intuition, if you get stuck in deep snow and have to shovel your way out, shovel snow away from the non drive tires, in your case the rear. The driven tires will try to climb up the snow bank but the non driven tires only see a set of chocks. Shovel in front and behind the non driven tires so that you can “rock” your way out easier.

If the road conditions are bad I don’t think they’ll allow you to drive up there unless you have chains on the tires or 4WD. Front wheel drive and snow tires won’t cut it. Not sure if cables are considered to be “chains”. They put up road blocks at the lower elevation, just where the snow pack starts, and check each vehicles equipment before allowing you to continue higher up the mountain. I ran into this problem when driving my old VW Rabbit up there one time, and I had to wait until a road crew came by to some chains on the tires. You’d think they’d really soak you for this, but the price was quite reasonable. No more than I’d have paid in the city, and it was better b/c they had the equipment to custom size them. I got bespoke chains for the price of over the counter chains by having it done on the road. Here’s what the Calif Transportation website says

During the winter months, motorists may encounter traction chain controls in the mountain areas within California. When chain controls are established, signs will be posted along the road indicating the type of requirement. There are three requirements in California.

Requirement One (R1): Chains, traction devices or snow tires are required on the drive axle of all vehicles except four wheel/ all wheel drive vehicles.

Requirement Two (R2): Chains or traction devices are required on all vehicles except four wheel/ all wheel drive vehicles with snow-tread tires on all four wheels.
(NOTE: Four wheel/all wheel drive vehicles must carry traction devices in chain control areas.)

Requirement Three (R3): Chains or traction devices are required on all vehicles, no exceptions.


@GeorgeSanJose Really depends specifically where in the mountains you’re driving. The high-traffic tourist areas might have chain inspection checkpoints, but there are lots of places you can go that do not.

When I was a kid in the mountains we’d get one or two people hanging off the edge every year because they were flatlanders who didn’t think they needed chains and the places they went didn’t have inspection checkpoints.