Trying to find a tire traction device for a Crosstrek
January 27, 2017 6:56 PM   Subscribe

I'm planning a journey in California, in an area where chain controls might be in place due to snow. So I need to purchase some kind of traction device, but I have never purchased (or needed) tire chains before, and I'm having trouble understanding what to look for.

The vehicle manual says tire chains can't be used on the Crosstrek due to limited clearance between the tires and the vehicle body. It also says that low-profile SAE Class S traction devices can be used on the front tires only when those tires are compatible with a specific chain. Ok, I think I understand so far.

The vehicle still has the stock tires it originally came with, which I think are Yokohama Geolandar H/T G95A, and I managed to figure out that the size of these tires is P225/55R17 (I've also never purchased tires before, so understanding sizes is another layer in my confusion).

I can't seem to get past this point. Searching Amazon or Google, I keep getting results that are explicitly not compatible. Can you recommend a specific product? Or help me figure out what to search for?

Additional info - from the CA Department of Transportation:
During the winter months motorists may encounter traction device controls in the mountain areas of California. When chain controls are established, signs along side the road will be opened indicating the type of requirement. There are three requirements in California.
Requirement One (R1): Chains or snow tread tires required. Snow tires must have a tread depth of 6/32" with a "M & S" imprint on the tire's sidewall.
Requirement Two (R2): Chains required on all vehicles except four-wheel drives or all-wheel drives with snow tread tires on all four wheels. NOTE: four-wheel and all-wheel drive vehicles must carry traction devices in chain control areas)
Requirement Three (R3): Chains are required on all vehicles, no exceptions.
posted by gin and biscuits to Travel & Transportation around California (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Here you go. I input your tire size, and this site says they guarantee fit.

They really do mean it in CA when they say chains required. They have check points set up.
posted by ananci at 7:27 PM on January 27, 2017

Best answer: I have AutoSocks for my Subaru. They're an approved traction device in the State of Washington for "chains required" situations, so I'm in the clear, but you should check with your local authority. They work well and cost a lot more than chains. Keep in mind you'll need to buy two pairs since it's an AWD.
posted by halogen at 7:41 PM on January 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

I drive a crosstrek in Truckee, CA and you are unlikely to actually need the traction devices. Looks like your tires are marked M+S, which means they count as snow tires so you're good for R1 and R2 and you probably don't want to be driving if it's R3; usually they just close the road rather than go to R3. I realize the law says you need to carry chains anyways but, um, I would say not everyone does that. Probably better to get them though. I'm pretty sure Wal-Mart allows returns on unused tire chains. Cursory googling suggest cable chains are ok for crosstreks, just not actual chains with links. When you go through the checkpoint, they will either recognize you have a Subaru and wave you through or ask "AWD?" and then they will wave you through when you say yes. Remember the speed limit on chain control is 25-30mph and that awd doesn't help you stop.
posted by carolr at 7:49 PM on January 27, 2017 [5 favorites]

I realize the law says you need to carry chains anyways but, um, I would say not everyone does that.

Back when I was driving through the passes, with an AWD car and M+S tires, I just carried the cheapest chains I could find in case I was ever asked for them. I never was...
posted by primethyme at 9:22 PM on January 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

This is one of those times where the vehicle warranty is not aligned with the law. Get chains that fit your current tires. And Wal-Mart did accept returns on unused chains a couple years ago.
posted by wnissen at 9:46 PM on January 27, 2017

Best answer: What carolr said. If you're asking this question you don't want to be driving in R3 conditions anyway, they are awful. High potential to get stuck behind a jacknifed semi for hours. And you're good to go without chains for R1 or R2. We generally carried the cable chains but never used them.
posted by fshgrl at 10:00 PM on January 27, 2017

Note that many all-season tires have the M+S imprint, which differs from the "snowflake inside mountain" mark that legit snow/winter tires have. The former will be passable with caution in light snow in an awd car, but won't give you the degree of traction that the latter will.

Chains will be more trouble than they're worth for anything beyond legal compliance unless you really find yourself in adverse conditions.
posted by a halcyon day at 10:02 PM on January 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

If you will be driving in conditions where chains are required, you should consider real snow tires. You don't sound like you have experience driving in significant snow and ice. in Colorado, when chains were required for semi-trucks, the driving was really bad.
posted by theora55 at 4:26 AM on January 28, 2017

I've lived all over california and oregon - you'll need to carry chains at least so you don't get turned away in some areas. If you're gonna have to carry chains I'd get ones that fit and are reasonable to put on because if you are ever in the situation where you actually need them, having shitty poorly fitting chains you don't know how to use is utterly useless.

Yes, if it's bad enough out that you need chains, you shouldn't be driving, but emergencies happen so it's best to prepare.

When we had to buy chains for our subaru outback, that had similar restrictions we went with SSC's Super Z6, they were as low profile as I could find and they were easy to put on.
posted by iamabot at 7:09 AM on January 28, 2017

Best answer: I just finished a weekend in Tahoe with the AutoSocks mentioned above. They worked great for us - easy to install and remove and they did the job when we needed them. They are now legal in CA for chain control areas - there was a recent change that permits them. If you want something easy to have just in case, I'd definitely go for those.
posted by olinerd at 8:29 AM on January 28, 2017

Best answer: the size of these tires is P225/55R17 (I've also never purchased tires before, so understanding sizes is another layer in my confusion)

That will be because tyre sizes are confusing.

Ignore the P.

225 is the width of the tyre, in millimetres.
55 is the profile: the height of the sidewall as a percentage of the width.
R means that the tyre's internal plies are radial.
17 is the diameter of the wheel the tyres fit on, in inches.

This tyre markings decoder is pretty thorough.
posted by flabdablet at 9:39 AM on January 28, 2017

I have a similar vehicle (AWD, manual says no chains) -- what you want are called "cables", not "chains". Head to any AutoZone or whatever and they will have them for about $30. Chances are you won't need them because there will be signs exempting AWD vehicles, but better safe than sorry.
posted by karbonokapi at 2:17 PM on January 28, 2017

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