Subaru no chains or Mercedes w chains?

(I posted this in 2 areas, since I need to decide in a few hours - hope that’s ok protocol).

Hi - this is for anyone with some snow driving experience. We’re in Portland OR and supposed to drive up to Mt. Hood (1 hr) for Xmas Eve today and there’s a decent snowstorm here (for us) - chains are required in town and on parts of the highway, but the tire stores are sold out.

We have a 2005 Subaru Forester (Turbo) without chains and a 1989 Mercedes 190 with chains. Subaru weighs 3200# w 16" rims, Mercedes 2900# but is rear wheel drive w 15" rims.

Question: Are we safer with the Subaru without chains or the Mercedes with chains?

We have a 2 year old, so I’d kind of hate to get stuck.

Thanks in advance, John in Portland

Take the car with chains. If chains are required in parts of town and on some of the highway, that should make your decision easier. With a two year old, don’t take any extra chances and plan for extra time. If you haven’t filled up the Mercedes with stuff, go by a home improvement store and put some 8 x 16 patio blocks in the trunk, for extra weight over the rear axle.

I would go Benz with chains.

In retrospect, a dear friend of mine lives in NE Oregon and he said the weather in his part of the state is pretty bad and is the trip really necessary with a 2 year old involved?

Go with the chains. Not only will they likely work better, but if they activate the chain only rule, you can still drive.

Not essential - it’s a Xmas extravaganza they put on and we have about $500 into it with the hotel and dinners, none of which is refundable.

Now NE Oregon is a little different - much more heavy-duty winter weather, even during our normal times - we’re NW Oregon & typical weather for winter is 45 degrees and rain with a 2-day light snow once a year. Already today it will be about 38 degrees later on and by the weekend will be 50 degrees.

But you’re right in that canceling is probably a better option than standing on the side of a snowy road for 4 hours waiting for a tow or something!

Thanks everyone - I’m going to first try to get chains anyway for the Subaru, if possible. Otherwise we may have to cancel.


In the Owner’s Manual for my '02 Outback, there is a list of tire sizes that are not compatible with tire chains, due to “lack of clearance between the tires and the vehicle body”. And, sure enough, one of the listed sizes is the size that my car came equipped with!

Also–and this really surprised me–the Owner’s Manual states that chains should be placed on the front wheels only !

The manual states that only “SAE class-S type chains” should be used, and that the maximum vehicle speed when driving with chains is [u]19 mph[/u].

Read that manual before you proceed with this experiment, otherwise, it could turn out to be very costly in terms of repairs and possibly being stranded when the chains cause damage!

“Chains Required” is usually just for semi’s and commercial carriers. Otherwise it’s chains or adequate snow tires for cars. Rather than spend money on the chains, maybe upgrade to true snow tires that you can use the rest of the season without the hassle of putting on and off the chains. If the roads are plowed at all the snow tires should do fine with the input of intelligent winter driving skills.

Myself, I’d take the Benz with new snow tires, but really either one will do fine.

I am bumping this to the top in the hope (perhaps futile) that the OP will see my warning before going out and buying those chains.

I’m down in Roseburg, have been keeping an eye on the north as I’ve had friends flying in to PDX and coming down. Had a friend take his Outback up to PDX the other day and made it fine. BUT it’s getting a little stormy right now, and I’d bet if it starts snowing hard they’re going to require chains on 84 again.

Pro tip: use Oregon’s FANTASTIC to see what the roads look like, where delays will be, and what the road requirements are.

The other day in the Portland metro area, ODOT was saying: CHAINS REQUIRED ON ALL VEHICLES, SNOW TIRES AND AWD ARE NOT SUFFICIENT.