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2wd front wheel drive car in the sierra nevadas...
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David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: 2-wheel drive/FWD on 12/27/2013 00:26:10 MST Print View

I've heard conditions other than R-1, R-2 and R-3 announced in California. One time, the announcement was, "Only 4WD with chains on all four" are being allowed on I-80. Note this was shortly before the highway closed as 76 inches fell in 24 hours.

One more tip, very basic to Alaskans: Have a survival bag alone. If your car became your tent for a weekend of enforced snow-camping, what you would want to have? Shovel, tow rope, winter gloves, blankets and sleeping bags, food, water, and maybe a stove. And at least a half tank of gas. Always - at least half a tank when on winter roads.

If the car is mostly upright, it makes a very comfortable snow-camping tent. A 4-cylinder car uses only 0.25 gallons per hour so a tank of fuel gives you two days of warmth, even without cycling it on and off. Recline the seats, take a nap. Set the heat to whatever is comfortable. I do that 5-10 nights a year on gonzo road trips, just to make miles, save time, and skip the motel scene every other night.

Most people include food like power bars, cans of corn, etc, that will last a long time. An XGF in Anchorage figured that once it was October, she didn't have to be limited to canned corn. Hagen Daz ice cream bars would be fine in the truck until Spring.

I read about the opposite approach recommended for pilots. If they stash a few Snickers bars in the plane, they will get nibbled long before you crash land in a remote location. But if you stash some dog biscuits in the plane (1) they are made of mostly food-grade stuff and (2) they last forever, and (3) you won't eat them until you really need to.

Brian Johns

Locale: NorCal
Chains in Sierras on 12/27/2013 01:11:29 MST Print View

For most trips, just carry, and know how to use, chains; but you won't need. For Yosemite. You MUST have chains in the winter - as of 2008 this included 4WD/AWD vehicles. I digress, but one of my best winter trips was time spent in Stanislaus NF after we were turned away from Yosemite (in a serious 4WD Toyota). Anyway, rare that weather will prevent you from getting out in Cali. Just use common sense and stay home if it's nasty. PM me for more details on where and when you might go.

Edited by bcutlerj on 12/27/2013 01:13:16 MST.

Harris Goldstein
(hmgolds) - F

Locale: Minnesota
Re: Re: 2wd front wheel drive car in the sierra nevadas... on 01/01/2014 16:36:12 MST Print View

Be aware that if you're renting from a "typical" rental firm (Hertz, Avis, et al), their terms may preclude driving on unpaved roads, even if renting a SUV. Not an issue if on snow covered paved roads.

Edited by hmgolds on 01/01/2014 16:41:28 MST.

Ryan Bressler
(ryanbressler) - F
Re: 2wd front wheel drive car in the sierra nevadas... on 01/01/2014 17:55:15 MST Print View

Didn't you or someone else ask this same question last winter?

We've been fine getting to trailheads/ski areas in winter in Western Montana and the Wa cascades in a honda accord with blizzaks. Before we got the blizzaks we would use chains more. It is key to have some chains that you can put on without having to drive the car onto them so you can put them on once you are not the cheapo cable ones.

Ground clearance is the thing that turns us around more then lack of traction. Our next car (the honda is getting on in miles) will probably be a Subaru but more for the increased ground clearance then the all wheel drive.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Contingencies. on 01/01/2014 18:09:39 MST Print View

>"Ground clearance is the thing that turns us around more then lack of traction."


Yes, before the snow plow comes, low-slung, unibody cars are prone to getting high-centered on snow. If the snow supports only 1/2 psi of pressure, you can be parked on the undercarriage without weight on the tires to get any traction. Then a narrow-bladed, medium-handled shovel really helps. But it takes a LONG time to dig out that pedestal of compressed snow.

Subarus have above-average ground clearance compared to other small cars and any non-truck SUVs. That helps. But you can get them stuck, too.

While we are on the topic, anyone have one of those wire cable come-a-longs? Like this:come along

Don't bother. You need 50 to 200 feet of rope to reach a tree or guard rail anyway, and by the time you've taken up the tension, you'll be at its 6- or 12-foot limit. Instead, bring the 100 to 200 feet of 1/2" rope and one of these:rope come along

As long as you keep moving the handle, it keeps sucking in 1/2" diameter rope. If you don't have a winch and get a car or plane stuck, you need one of these. $40-100 depending on rope length. Search on "Maasdam"

1920's Model-T trick that still works today: Lacking tire chains, you can wrap rope or straight chain through the "spoke holes" of your rims. You can do this in a repeated H pattern like American chains or in an X pattern like Euro-chains for some lateral traction while cornering. This works best for getting out of a unplowed parking lot or through a bad stretch. I wouldn't recommend it for doing many miles on the highway.

Edited by DavidinKenai on 01/01/2014 18:17:24 MST.

Alex Wallace
(FeetFirst) - F

Locale: Northern California
ground clearance on 01/01/2014 22:39:40 MST Print View

With passenger cars it's not so much being high-centered, but rather snow building up under the front bumper and radiator, eventually forcing the radiator off of its mounts or worse. Also, the front wheel wells can really build up with snow obstructing your ability to turn the wheels; don't ask how I know.

My '98 Honda Civic was fine on highways during winter (S. Lake Tahoe, North Shore, Yosemite, Mammoth) with all season tires and cables, traction wise, but ground clearance did come into play on smaller less-maintained roads and parking lots. Bring a shovel.

My '07 Subaru Impreza, with dedicated snow tires (Bridgestone Blizzaks), has been the most stable vehicle I've ever driven on snow. This includes a comparison to my '03 Toyota Tacoma 4WD w/ dedicated winter tires (Mich X-Ice).

Edited by FeetFirst on 01/01/2014 22:42:01 MST.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: ground clearance on 01/01/2014 22:49:46 MST Print View

"ground clearance did come into play on smaller less-maintained roads and parking lots."

The hilly back roads of Death Valley get bad in a hurry with a few inches of snow on them.

Plus, it gets really weird when you are trying to roll uphill on one of these back roads when the Traction Control System goes active. It tries to beat the slipping tires and you lose forward momentum when you get to a little high center snow.


Stephen Parks
(sdparks) - F

Locale: Southwest
Re: 2wd front wheel drive car in the sierra nevadas... on 01/07/2014 18:51:58 MST Print View

"I just have a regular Mazda 3... no crazy SUV."

Should have gotten the Mazdaspeed3 - limited slip differential ;)