Help! Scion XB in the slush

Hey there folks! Gotta quick question for you. My husband and I live in a place that NEVER gets snow (Los Angeles!); however, we have a weekend home in a place that often gets snow in the winter (Twin Peaks, CA about 1.5 hour drive away). They had their first snow up there a couple of weekends ago, and we were all excited, driving up there with our chains at the ready in our Scion XB. The entrance to our neighborhood has a wee hill that is about a 30 degree incline, tops, and it was covered in fresh slush, but nothing too crazy (so I thought)–only about 2-3 inches. There’s no way to get momentum and go up the hill fast, as it’s a sharp turn to get onto it, and we got about 15 feet up the hill before our car started spinning tires and not moving. This is WITH CHAINS. Sigh. So we’re thinking, “Now what?” I’m happy to buy four snow tires, get 'em mounted, and have 'em at the ready, but I still have two questions:

  1. Will it really make the difference? Will we be able to get up that hill in our 103 hp Scion, even with good snow tires?
  2. What about the dry drive of 1.5 hours each way that comes before the snow? Won’t that just wear out the snow tires really fast? Would it be better to buy more of an all-season tire?
    Your opinions are welcome. Buying another car is not an option…yet…and we don’t plan on trying to brave the true winter snowstorms up there…but good lord, that was just a little bit of slush!! At this rate, we’d have to stop going home from November to April… :frowning:

By the way, as insult to injury, a little Volkswagon bug swept by us, pretty as you please, as we were stuck there. How the heck did it DO THAT?!?! haha!

your scion is a fwd, low slung, box on wheels. you had trouble in slush because the complete underside of the car was snow plowing the slush and snow. if this is the case, then snow tires or all season tires will not help because you have no clearance at the bottom of your car. (you said your chains were even spinning)

that is what i think was the problem, not the tires, not the chains. so the only way to get thru this is if you somehow improved the clearance underneath the car. i don’t think you really want to do this.

Do you have another car with more clearance?

Good Grief, If It’s Not Your Los Angeles Driving Technique That Can’t Handle A Little Foul Weather Then It’s The Scion XB ( Whatever That Is - They’re Not Sold Anywhere Around Here - I’m Beginning To See Why)

If you’re pretty sure your slush driving is up to speed then quit going there with that vehicle. Buy or use a vehicle that’s up to the task.


If chains didn’t work, snow tires won’t do anything. Something else like a ground clearance issue must have been going on here.

Despite your wording, low horsepower is actually fine in snow. It’s cars with too much power that can be hard to control when trying to drive gently.

If you were in a situation where snow tires would help, there’s a Nokian tire that’s good in both normal and snowy conditions. I forget the exact model, but someone else will point it out shortly, I’m sure.

You either didn’t have the chains tight enough or you simply applied way too much power. You should have been able to climb that hill from a dead stop on glare ice if the chains were on correctly and you didn’t overpower the tires.

Good points by all the usual suspects. Does this Scion have traction control? IF SO…DISABLE IT. It may have been cutting your engine power or worse…putting on the brakes for you!

The guys may be right about the ground clearance but it really sounds like you need to simply have more momentum…kind of glide up that hill… do you actually have to turn at the top of the hill bec of the road?..or is that the direction you WANT to go? Can you go straight and then sort the navigation to your destination later?..meaning just get up the hill and then find your way to the destination rather than imposing this turn on your car and yourself when its having trouble with traction

Slush in my 20 years driving besides ice is the most difficult condition to drive in. That is a steep incline. Very careful driving technique may get you up. The only thing that really would help then is a decent AWD system.

Slush is tricky. If it’s thick enough, a wide-tired lightweight car may float on top of the slippery stuff instead, keeping the rubber away from the road. I would have thought that the chains would cut through that however.

Was the car that passed you a new bug or old bug? The old bugs had pretty skinny wheels I thought.

The OLD BEETLES…believe it or not were almost UNSTOPABBLE… LOL>…sounds funny but its true. They were very lightweight and they had their engine and trans right over the driven wheels. This is why they made excellent Dune Buggys… They plow right thru snow, slush, deep sand etc… Really dont know another RWD vehicle that can beat the Bug at those games to be honest.

Which wheels did you put the chains on?

I’m guessing the owner’s manual does not recommend the use of chains on the drive wheels, which are in the front.

I can’t imagine trying to drive a vehicle with chains on the front wheels, even for a short distance. It would be horrible. Driving with chains on the rear wheels is horrible.

Spinning the front tires with chains on them would make you think the car was destroying itself, and might jar the fillings loose from your teeth. You would not want to experience this for more than a few seconds.

If the front tires were spinning freely in the slush I have to suspect the chains were not on the front tires.

Chains on the front, however, would work until the snow was deep enough to lift the vehicle off the road. In this case it would take at least five or six inches of snow, probably more, to make chains ineffectual.

Something very important is missing from this story.

Hi there everyone,
Thanks so much for all the help. I’ll try and provide more information, based on what you’ve said/asked here:
a) the chains were on the front tires, as it’s a front wheel drive car
b) there didn’t seem to be any “snowplowing” effect that I could see. I wasn’t looking for that specifically, but I did get out to check that the chains were tight, and there wasn’t a build-up of slush in front of the vehicle.
c) they weren’t chains as in chain-links, but rather those cable type things. I’ve since been told that they can sometimes work against you by acting almost like ball-bearings.
d) it was a new Beetle :slight_smile:
e) I don’t see any way to disable the traction control. :frowning:
f) the chains were very tight–all the way on the last link AND tightened with bungee.
g) can’t get momentum going up the hill, as it’s a sharp turn to get onto the road (more than a 90 degree turn)
and lastly–I’m not sure I understand the comment about LA driving. I’m assuming you were making a joke, and that’s cool, but it was a bit ill-timed and inappropriate, as I’m just asking for help. And I grew up in North Carolina, driving in a fair range of weather, not that it really matters. LA doesn’t equal stupid and ineffectual.

To keep this easy (haha! NEVER!!)–Ultimately, I just want to know how effective y’all think snow tires would be in moderate slush/snow/etc (i.e. I’m not going up there in blizzard conditions w/o a 4WD, and even then I probably wouldn’t), and if I should get real snow tires or all-weather (considering the 1.5 hour drive on dry pavement before getting into the mountains.), as I know snow tires don’t do so well on anything but snow.

Thanks again!

Oh, and the slush was only, like, 2-3 inches thick at the most. So the car was clearing it. Thank you!

Sometimes, especially if you have a heavy load of stuff in the back of the car, the weight unloads the front wheels and they lose traction. You can try going up the hill in reverse. Stop across the street from the base of the hill, line yourself up to go straight up the hill, in reverse, and then accelerate across the street hard and just maintain the energy going up. The more you push the gas going up the more likely you are to lose traction, so just maintain your speed.

Sure, it sounds nuts, but if you work at it it can get you there.