All Tahoe drivers should carry chains |

All Tahoe drivers should carry chains

Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Truck driver Jim Tyce tightens the chains on his big rig during a storm in January. The California Highway Patrol requires all motorists traveling across mountain passes during snowstorms to carry chains.

By the time a vehicle needs chains and four-wheel drive in a snowstorm, the driver may want to reconsider driving.

But those who have four-wheel drive still need to carry chains as a precaution, the California Highway Patrol contends.

CHP Tahoe Officer Jeff Gardner dictated a policy set forth in driving over the Sierra Nevada mountain range. The highway patrol has three stages of vehicle code alerts for various road conditions.

On most snowy days, all vehicles are required to either have chains or snow tires. Another makes chains mandatory except on four-wheel drive vehicles. If they’re towing trailers, chains are mandatory.

The CHP wants vehicles to carry chains because the all-wheel drive and four-wheel drive componentry could fail, leaving the motorist stuck. Officers driving four-wheel drive vehicles even chain up because they often pull off the side of the road.

The third alert mandates all vehicles must have chains, but these conditions are infrequent.

“It doesn’t happen very often. If it gets that bad, we usually close the road,” Gardner said.

Robert Borja of Ken’s Tires agreed.

“Those conditions are usually very bad. I think, for CHP, carrying them is the issue. We’ll definitely sell the chains if they need them, but we don’t always recommend they put them on,” he said.

The question arose from Stateline resident Bruce Cable. He tried to buy chains from Tires Plus for his wife Judy’s all-wheel drive Volvo but was told he didn’t need them.

“I personally believe that there is a lot of confusion by people here when hearing the different controls,” Cable said.

South Shore store assistant manager Joel Taggart said he was unfamiliar with the claim. He hedged when asked if he would recommend chains for all-wheel drive and four-wheel drive vehicles.

“Chains won’t help (in those types of road conditions),” he said.

Caltrans issues permits to chain installers who assist motorists at checkpoints. The going rate is $20 to put them on and $5 to take them off.

In the past six years, Caltrans spokeswoman Jan Mendoza said the agency has issued 35 permits to the same installers each year.

“We used to have a lot more, but with the influx of SUVs we haven’t had as much of a need,” she said.

All-wheel drive

Often confused with Four-Wheel Drive (4WD), this drive system features four, full-time active drive wheels to reduce wheel slippage and provide greater driver control over the vehicle. All-Wheel Drive automatically splits engine torque between the front and rear wheels as needed, improving on-road traction in unfavorable road conditions.


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