When chains are required to get to Truckee and Tahoe, tire chains are typically required on all vehicles, unless you’re driving a four wheel drive, or an all wheel drive that has all season or snow tires. So with winter finally upon us, how do you know when and if you’ll need chains to safely make it to your destination in the high Sierra? It’s a good idea to practice installing your chains or cables before you come here, but if it’s your first time I have a couple of tips:
1. Make sure you’re off the road in a “chain installation” area. When chain control is on, people often begin pulling over immediately, causing a long back-up of traffic. Don’t panic. If you drive past the initial throng of motorists you can usually find a spot further up the freeway that’s less crowded and safe, and it’s often still a long way before you actually get to the chain control checkpoint. You will usually find chain installers up here too. Same thing. The first installers here are the busiest because people pull right in line. Further up, there are usually more installers just waiting for you without a line.
2. There are instructions in the box or bag. Use them. There may be a front and a back side that have different attachments. The “easier” attachment or hook goes on the back side of the tire (towards the engine). With cables, one side is smooth, and that side should go down against the tire.
3. This is a simple one that most folks don’t think about. You can wrap the cables or chains over the tire or lay them down and roll over them. Once you’ve driven over them a short way, have the driver turn the wheel away from which side you are working on. This makes it much easier to hook up the rear clasp on the back side of the tire. Get that back end about 1/4 way up the tire so you’ve got some cable or chain to work with, and work them back and forth a little. Clasp the back, and then wrestle the front side facing you and get them as tight as you can. If they are loose, it will only get worse as you drive on them and they relax and stretch. If they seem too loose, turn the tire away from you again, loosen the front, and then get the back side tighter, and re-tighten the front again.
4. If in doubt, let a chain installer do it. It’s usually $30 to have them installed and you stay warm and dry. Many of these fellows have chains or cables available to sell, but it’s a good idea to have the right size for your vehicle with you before you go.
There are a number of easy sources that you can check before or while you travel that will keep you up to speed (pun intended) with changing road and weather conditions:
The CHP has a Facebook page that they update as conditions warrant:
CalTrans has a link that updates conditions here for I-80 which is the artery to Truckee.
@I80chains regularly updates current road conditions on Twitter.
Here is some other useful information to know:
- 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.
- 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.
- Control areas can change rapidly from place to place because of changing weather and road conditions.
- The speed limit when chains are required is 25 or 30 miles an hour.
- When you put on chains, wait until you can pull completely off the roadway to the right. Do not stop in a traffic lane where you will endanger yourself and block traffic.
- Chain Installers: If you use the services of a chain installer, be sure to get a receipt and jot the installer’s badge number on it. Remember, chain installers are independent business people, not Caltrans employees. Having the badge number may help with any misunderstandings later. Chain installers are NOT allowed to sell or rent chains.
- When removing chains, drive beyond the signs reading “End of Chain Control” to a pull-off area where you can safely remove them.
Of course, if you’re wishing you could avoid all the traffic heading home on Sunday, and you’re considering getting your own piece of paradise, you can search for your perfect piece of Truckee Real Estate here, and we’ll get you started on your way to your dreams.