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Time to continue snow tires

Christina Proctor

Besides loading up on wood and taking in the snowblower for a tune-up, South Lake Tahoe residents also have to go through the yearly ritual of winterizing their vehicles.

Unless you own a Hummer, some type of extra traction on your wheels is essential for getting around and, moreover, getting out of the basin during snow season.

The dilemma for residents is simple – either risk a fine and get your studded tires on early or put up with a last-minute rush at the tire stores. Studded tires are legal on California roadways between Nov. 1 and April 1. Those dates can be stretched depending on weather conditions, but only the commissioner of the California Highway Patrol gets to make the determination. Some local tire shops claim the California Highway Patrol isn’t such a stickler for rules in the last days before November.



In Nevada, they believe winter comes a little earlier and lasts a little longer. Nevada’s law allows studded tires from Oct. 1 to April 30. Scott Rose, assistant manager at Big O Tires in South Lake Tahoe, said depending on use and care, customers can get at least three or four winter seasons from a set of studded or snow tires. A mud or snow tire usually has a tread depth of around 11/32 inches to 3/8 inches. When the tire depth is worn to below 3/16 in depth it no longer qualifies as a snow tire and the vehicle must be chained up in a chain control area.

Theresa Brocchini, sales and service representative at Pete Lilly’s Firestone, said mountain residents should really switch to mud and snow tires for their winter driving.



“Snow tires are real aggressive,” Brocchini said. “They’ve got a huge cleat and it really bites the snow.”

Even with snow tires, Brocchini said drivers shouldn’t be under the misconception that they don’t need to carry tire chains.

“There isn’t a tire out there that is good enough when the warnings say chains required,” she said.

California has three different chain control levels. An R-1 requires that two-wheel drive vehicles install chains on the drive axle unless the drive axle has snow tires installed. An R-2 requires chains regardless of the type of tires, but four-wheel drive vehicles with snow tires are authorized. An R-3 forbids any two-wheel vehicle from traveling and four-wheel drives must have chains on one drive axle. The speed limit in a chain control area is 25 mph.

The CHP recommends practicing putting on tire chains at home before the need arises out on the roadway.

Motorists should also make sure their car has the proper mixture of anti-freeze. Other helpful equipment that the CHP recommends adding to a vehicle’s winter arsenal is a flashlight, ice scraper, broom, small shovel and sand or burlap for traction.


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