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Help, Chains or No Chains?

My friend has a PT Cruiser and we attend college in the far north of California. We are heading down for Christmas break tomorrow and there is predicted to be snow. Her father, an old mechanic, says not to put chains on, that there’s not enough clearance and it’ll rip the fenders right off. Not only that but Front wheel drive was not made for chains and it will end up damaging her tires and or axle. Is this true? I don’t know if I feel comfortable taking a car down the 101 when it’s snowing without the possibility of chains…

Get 4 good snow tires if time, delay departure…if everyone’s that worried. I agree with father.

Don’t drive when it is snowing. Wait until it’s plowed. You wouldn’t want to take that thing out with chains. Damage? Possible with a pickup truck, never mind a PT Cruiser. You can drive it in snow but don’t downshift or wait until you are on a curve to use brakes.

I take it that you are in Eureka or some place like that, driving down to SF, because you indicate taking the 101 and not the 5. If you were taking the 5 from Oregon into California I would be a bit concerned. But I have been up there on the 101 and I am not aware of any steep inclines or anything like that. The 101 - to the best of my knowledge - is pretty much on sea level all the way, isn’t it?

Would not be concerned about snow on it but I may be wrong. Where did you get the info about snow on the 101 from?

There are 2 websites that are your friend:

  1. CA road conditions by the Department of Transportation: Enter Highway 101 on and see if it reports any restrictions. If not, there is nothing to worry about. If yes, postpone your trip. The weather is supposed to get better on Saturday. I just checked it for Eureka and during the daytime it’s well above freezing so I would not worry. The 101 is a big highway and usually well maintained and salted, if needed. I never heard about snow chaos on it.

  2. If they predict snow during the daytime, postpone your trip.

If there is even the slightest chance of needing chains I’d just drive a day or 2 later. Even if chains would be technically OK it would be a hassle to drive lots of miles real slow and under lots of stress in adverse conditions.

Alright. Thanks. Looking at the latest weather reports says the storm will mostly be be done when we get on the road. That should give them time to plow and sand the road.
101 leaves sea level when it heads up into Mendocino county. Thats where I’m most afraid of snow being a problem.

Great. As a precaution check the website I gave you for road conditions but if the storm is past you should be fine. And if there is a storm I wouldn’t be driving with or without chains.

As with so many other issues, the Owner’s Manual should address the issue of tire chains for this model. I would strongly suggest that you consult this book if you have any questions on that topic–or virtually any other topic regarding the car.

And, as others may have said or implied , winter tires (the term “snow tires” is really archaic at this point) are really the best solution to ice and snow-covered roads. You will need to mount 4 winter tires, but they do not make you invincible and you will still be limited by the car’s ground clearance. If the snow level is higher than the front airdam of the car, even winter tires will not help very much.

I’m not sure if studded tires are an option for you, but they tend to work well with front wheel drive vehicles. I would not put chains on your PT. your father is right, there’s not enough clearance and it will damage the inner fender and could possibly damage brake lines when you turn the wheel. Goodyear has an excellent snow tire although they cost around $200 a piece

From the website cited:

"Chain Requirements:
R1: Chains, traction devices or snow tires are required on the drive axle of all vehicles except four wheel/ all wheel drive vehicles.
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.)
R3: Chains or traction devices are required on all vehicles, no exceptions.
“Chain Controls:
You must stop and put on chains when highway signs indicate chains are required. You can be cited by the California Highway Patrol and fined if you don’t. You will usually have about a mile between “Chains Required” signs and the checkpoint to install your chains”

Are you serious?? Chains?? On 101??? The road is far to warm for ANY snow to stick to it…Chains, any type of chains, limit speed to 20 mph. They are for short duration extreme situations. TV weather forecasts are mostly hype and BS. Driving in bad weather is no fun. Postpone your travel until the storm passes. And forget the chains…