Help me drive in the snow.
February 6, 2007 6:24 AM   Subscribe

It's my first winter in Minnesota (used to live in Atlanta) and I work on a steep, long, windy hill. I barely made it up this morning after a 2-inch snowfall and no plowing. Help me learn how to make it up hills if conditions deteriorate!

Being from Atlanta, today was the first day I've ever had to really drive in unplowed snow. I think straight roads are manageable enough, but how do I make it up (and down!) those steeper hills? Add to the fact it has 2 decent turns in the mix.
This morning, I started going up the hill around 25 mph, and by the time I made it to the top, I was struggling to make 10. I could feel my tires squealing the most the time as my speedometer would jump to 35mph at times, though I knew the car was moving around 15mph.
I have about 15-20 yards of flat road before the incline starts.
What do I need to do to make it up the hill without tires squealing and to ensure I don't come to stop in the future. Making those turns without sliding would be a plus.
Also note that I have to make it back down this road without dying.
FWIW, I have a 94' Honda Accord (real-wheel drive) with regular driving tires. Are snow tires really worth it? And if so, are some better than others?
posted by jmd82 to Travel & Transportation around Minnesota (50 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Are snow tires worth not slamming your Accord into a tree, telephone pole, or someone else's car? Probably.

Better yet, consider investing in a beat-up 4WD vehicle for those few days that the roads have snow but aren't plowed.

You could probably sneak by with the Accord and normal tires on the flats, if you took it slow, but throwing the hill into it adds the whole new dimension of gravity into the mix.
posted by allkindsoftime at 6:28 AM on February 6, 2007

FWIW, here in Norway (where it's known to snow a bit) regular tires are not even allowed in winter. Get some damn snow tires, and stop putting yourself and others at risk!
posted by Harald74 at 6:32 AM on February 6, 2007

Get a front wheel drive car, if you can.
posted by popechunk at 6:33 AM on February 6, 2007

Is it possible that your employer is under some kind of obligation to get this driveway plowed before you even attempt to go to work?
posted by iconomy at 6:34 AM on February 6, 2007

Yes, snow tires are worth it. Driving in real winter with ordinary road tires (unless you have AWD) is asking for a tow-truck appointment. Go to a junkyard and buy 2 wheels that will fit your car, then have some snow tires mounted on those. they don't have to be as nice as the original wheels. Your car is going to look like crap most of the time anyway, because of the road salt and sand.

I also recommend that you get some tire chains, and learn to put them on. Sometimes, snow tires are not enough.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:34 AM on February 6, 2007

Not just snow tires, get studded snow tires. These will keep you much safer in snowy and icy conditions.
If you don't want to fork our the dough, get chains. You put chains on when you get to the snowy areas, and take them off when you are away. Yes, you have to get out of your car to put them on and take them off, and thats sort of a pain, but very effective and much cheaper than a smashed car or, in the case of hills, a burned clutch/transmission.
posted by Osmanthus at 6:35 AM on February 6, 2007

BTW, when you say "tires squealing," I think most people hear the screeching sound that slipping tires make on dry pavement, not the whirring/buzzing of tires spinning on ice or snow. It's like on TV, when the car chase on dirt roads has that screeching added to the sound track, even though you pretty much can't get that sound on dirt. Just a little Northerner-talk heads-up, so the locals don't snicker behind your back quite so much.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:42 AM on February 6, 2007

When driving up a hill and you feel like you're going to lose traction, stay on the gas and don't let your wheels stop moving forward, however slowly. Once you lose that forward momentum and start sliding back, you'll never get your wheels to bite into the snow and move forward again.
posted by Coffeemate at 6:45 AM on February 6, 2007

A rear-wheel drive Accord? Is there such a thing?
posted by kickingtheground at 6:46 AM on February 6, 2007

Are snow tires really worth it?

What do I need to do to make it up the hill without tires squealing and to ensure I don't come to stop in the future. Making those turns without sliding would be a plus.
Also note that I have to make it back down this road without dying.
FWIW, I have a 94' Honda Accord (real-wheel drive) with regular driving tires.

This is another episode of questions answering themselves.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:50 AM on February 6, 2007

Get the snow tires and/or chains. There is no driving technique that will save you once you lose traction completely on a hill, and you will eventually. I'm speaking from personal experience that was thankfully not too bitter.
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:51 AM on February 6, 2007

Best answer: I'm a Minnesota native. I feel your pain.

Get snow tires.

You CAN'T get studded tires. They're illegal in MN.

Chains aren't a bad idea, but I think I've only seen them used in MN once or twice. They're often not worth the hassle, but if you're feeling jumpy about the drive they may be worth the peace of mind.
posted by craven_morhead at 6:56 AM on February 6, 2007

Best answer: Your car is not prepped for driving in snow conditions. One thing those of us who live in snowy locations learn fast, is to NOT drive in conditions that our vehicles are unsuited to navigate. We wait for the plows.

You may detect a tone of irritation above in some of the earlier responses. It is warranted and appropriate. The first thing you need to do is be considerate of your fellow man's body and property. Stay the hell off the roads unless they are plowed unless you have the right equipment.

In many cases, simply having really good tread is enough for light city driving on very modest hills. It is better to have snow tires. Even better to have studded snow tires and a REQUIREMENT to have chains if you have steep slopes.

If you spin your tires, you give yourself away as a newbie. The engine is producing too much torque for the amount of available friction between the tires and road. Take it as a hint that you are in trouble.

Once you stop on a slope, you're pretty much screwed.

BTW, put stuff in your car to support a walk, because you will eventually have to undertake one unless you equip your car better. Cold climates demand advance thinking and prep for trouble.

Also, in the unlikely event you are interested, I highly recommend Subaru AWD cars. I'd wager 30% of my fellow Vermonters own them.

Good luck.
posted by FauxScot at 7:01 AM on February 6, 2007 [2 favorites]

A rear-wheel drive Accord? Is there such a thing?
posted by kickingtheground at 9:46 AM EST on February 6 [+]


Skip the chains, they are for deep snow, not two inches, and you really can't drive with them all the time. Good snow tires on a front wheel drive car like the Accord will get you through everything but deep snow. Making turns without sliding? Slow down (and the snow tires will help a lot here also).
posted by caddis at 7:03 AM on February 6, 2007

nthing the snow tires. rear weel drives suck in the snow. some people add weight to their trunks during the winter, too.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 7:04 AM on February 6, 2007

I always found that keeping the car in a higher gear was helpful. Less torque to the wheels. That is, start in second gear instead of first. Is it a manual transmission?

When you start to slide, resist the urge to step on the brakes. Let up on the gas, you have more control over the car when the wheels are turning than you do when they are sliding.
posted by hilby at 7:16 AM on February 6, 2007

I live in MN too, although to be fair it hasn't snowed that much in the 7 years I've lived here. (So I'm told).

Good all-season tires might work if you really don't want to deal with snow tires and having to store a set of tires in your garage. Goodyear Tripletreds are nice. For me, when my last car died (Nissan Altima) I went for AWD and got a Honda CR-V. It's small in SUV terms, and it does much better on slippery roads.

And, opposite to hilby, I found on my automatic Nissan that a lower gear usually helped if my tires were spinning.
posted by cabingirl at 7:33 AM on February 6, 2007

Seconding the "no studded tires" in MN, and I NEVER saw anyone use chains in my 30+ years of life there.

What do your coworkers do? Generally Minnesota takes care of its roads in winter, even hills, so this is not as much of an issue as it would be here in hilly, one-plow-per-million-people Seattle.
posted by GaelFC at 7:42 AM on February 6, 2007

Response by poster: Due to financial and space reasons, getting another car at this point is not an option. However, my next car will definitely be one better suited towards snow driving.

Is it possible that your employer is under some kind of obligation to get this driveway plowed before you even attempt to go to work?
That's the strange part. Along with 2 other roads in town, this is to be among the first plowed due to the school and a retirement community. However, nothing was plowed this morning and it had been snowing for a few hours.

Stay the hell off the roads unless they are plowed unless you have the right equipment.

Trust me, I would have loved to if they called off school. The public Superintendent makes the decision, and all county schools were on for the day. Even hour and half after I get to work, nothing was plowed. And for reasons I don't want to get into, calling out due to snow's not an option if school's not called.

Is it a manual transmission?
Nope, Auto.

Thanks for the correction of being front-wheel drive. Yea, I'm a car noob.
And, I will definitely be checking up on some snow tires based on the everyone telling me to get them.
posted by jmd82 at 7:46 AM on February 6, 2007

One thing that will help in general for snow driving is to carry a few bags of cat litter around in your trunk. It will help weigh down the rear of the car to prevent fish tailing, and it helps to put down to try to get traction.

I've lived in Wisconsin for 27+ years and can't remember actually ever seeing snow chains on a car. (I think my parents used to own a set though).
posted by drezdn at 7:47 AM on February 6, 2007

jmd82, is it possible for you to park at the bottom of the hill and walk up?
posted by drezdn at 7:51 AM on February 6, 2007

You need to learn driving skills for snowy driving, and FauxScot is properly grumpy at you for driving without those skills. Go to a snowy/icy parking lot when there are no other cars presents and practice skidding and spinning and coping with snow and ice. If you can find a place with a hill, even better.

Snow tires really make a difference and you should have them, especially while you are a learner. You can get traction grids to tuck under the wheels if you get stuck in a drift. You should have a small shovel, bag of sand or sharp kitty litter, and a blanket or rug in the car. I keep additional emergency supplies in my car.

I'll take minor issue with the idea that you should never let the wheels spin. Occasionally, you'll need to power out of being stuck, and you shouldn't be afraid to give it gas, even with some spinning, but that may not be for a beginner. I live in Maine, and have mostly driven small, lightweight cars and rarely get stuck.
posted by theora55 at 7:52 AM on February 6, 2007

I had that exact experience, and it was at a very bad time- the first time we'd gone out after our son was born, so we HAD to get home. It started snowing a LOT during the movie we were at, and we got stuck on a minor hill about 1/4 mile from the friends he was staying with. We had to leave the car and trod through the snow, and get it towed out later.

I bout a set of Nokian Hakkapelita's from a local dealer, and they're fantastic. They might be hard to find, but they're worth it. They're strictly winter only, so I have 2 sets of tires for the car.... you might look to the Nokian WR for a good all season tire.
posted by Steve3 at 7:56 AM on February 6, 2007

Seconding the traction grids. In college, I drove an old, rear-wheel drive car in the snow, and was saved many times by the boards and kitty litter I kept in the trunk. Only time I've ever gotten completely stuck was with my dad's front-wheel-drive Pontiac 6000, when I got overconfident.
posted by notsnot at 8:04 AM on February 6, 2007

Right on, FauxScot.

A few words on coming down the hill without dying:
- downshift before starting down the hill (slow down to under 30mph and shift to 2nd gear. You can shift into 1st later if you need to slow down even further).
- try not to steer or tap the brakes more than you absolutely have to.
- especially important: take the curves slow enough so that you don't have to brake while turning.

Try to ease up your death-grip on the wheel as much as possible -- wobbly, nervous driving will increase your chances of a downhill skid. Steer smoothly and gently.

Also, do you have ABS (anti-lock brakes)? If not, you may need to pump your brakes gently to prevent them from locking up during a downhill skid. If you do have ABS, though, you should absolutely not pump the brakes ever ever ever.

Here is a good general checklist for winter driving ...
posted by ourobouros at 8:11 AM on February 6, 2007

Also, put a small shovel and some kitty litter in the back of your car in case you get stuck. When you do get stuck, dig under the tires and spread the kitty litter. That's the best way to regain traction.
posted by koeselitz at 8:13 AM on February 6, 2007

Best answer: Are snow tires really worth it?

Good winter tires (in Canada they are marked with a mountain and snowflake) should be installed in sets of four. Around here most shops won't even install just two winter tires because the difference in traction between the two axles can contribute to spins.

Maintain momentum. Slow and steady wins the race. Look ahead. If someone is sliding all over the place half way up the hill wait at the bottom until they either fall off the road or make it to the top. Watch out for yahoos. Many people with AWD/4WD fail to grasp that the increased ability to go hasn't increased their ability to stop [1]

Because every mile you run your winters you aren't wearing your summers the only real long term extra cost is in a set of rims. Get a cross spanner, Torque wrench, a set of jack stands and a floor jack and you can even do the change over yourself.

And second the recommendation to have winter gear in your car. If you every leave surface streets you should be equipped to walk several kilometres at the coldest temp and windchill your city gets and also to spend over night in your car (it's entirely possible to fall off the road in a snow storm and not have anyone notice till the storm blows over). For me that means blanket/sleeping bag and spare mitts, scarf and touque in the car.

Chains are mostly for ice and are not only a pain in the butt to install they need to be on before you get into trouble. If it gets so bad that good winter tires won't get you to work you should seriously consider staying home. Part of safe winter driving is having the wisdom to not move.

Practise, get out in an empty snow covered parking lot and practise recovering from a spin/slide. If your car is FWD you can induce a slide anytime you want on snow by pulling the e-brake (exception: some Saabs and VWs with front wheel e-brakes). If you happen to have the centre mounted lever type take a friend with you and have him occasionally pull the lever keeping the release button depressed while you drive figure eights.

Steve3 writes "I bout a set of Nokian Hakkapelita's from a local dealer, and they're fantastic."

These are really good tires (though my experience is with them studded). They come from Finland and those guys know winter.

PS: While a sustained semi spin can get you out of trouble, bouncing the speedo is really hard on transaxles. When a single spinning tire goes from 35 to 15 in fractions of a second you deliver hundreds of pounds of shock to CVs, spiders, and the final drive gearing. It's also pretty hard on motor mounts. So try to avoid that behaviour if possible.

[1] Yes locked centre and rear axles will help slow you by keeping everything moving. The vast majority of four wheel drives are of that setup and the effect isn't huge anyways.
posted by Mitheral at 8:15 AM on February 6, 2007

It's possible you don't know this, so I'll just toss it out there. When you get snow tires in a snowy wintery climate, they are in addition to your regular tires, not instead of. So... you get snow tires, they're put on your car, you keep your other tires someplace. When the snow goes away you go back to your mechanic/tire guy and get the tires taken off, put in bags and the old tires are put back on. So, if you are thinking "my current tires aren't *that* bad" don't worry, you can still keep them for upcoming spring/summer/fall driving, but snow tires are really a necessity for driving anyplace where there is snow and you can't make a decision to stay off of bad roads.
posted by jessamyn at 8:23 AM on February 6, 2007

Another thing to pay close attention to in the snow is braking distance. Does your car have anti-lock brakes? If not, practice pumping your brakes to stop, and start tripling your perceived "stop distance" (quadruple it if the snow is wet/slippery snow). It is really important to adjust your driving routines to allow for that extra braking distance. I've lived in MN for my entire life, and I blithely forgot to adjust for this the last time it snowed- had to get pushed out of a snow bank. Don't let it happen to you!
posted by baphomet at 8:23 AM on February 6, 2007

I knew my advice sounded familiar, we covered winter in Minnesota once before. Many of the natives came down on the side of no snow tires required. However people say that here in Calgary too and I think they are deluding themselves. YMMV, I've never even been to Minnesota.
posted by Mitheral at 8:30 AM on February 6, 2007

I second the Haakapeliittas. They're somewhat expensive but they make a world of difference. I put the Q versions on my family's Miata when driving it in Calgary and, as officially one of the worst snow cars ever, they got me through a drive from Calgary to my folks' place in Victoria.

I just bought a new GTI in January and the all-seasons it came on aren't great, but passable, in the snow for the rest of the year. Keep in mind, however, that new cars have all the physical and electronic advantages in snow and someone's recommendation of all-seasons might not be good for you (probably isnt). The GTI is 3300 pounds and 2000 or so of that is over the front wheels. It also has ABS, traction control, electronic limited-slip differential (not a real LSD though) etc. and I'm still getting proper winter tires next year.

Get the snows. Get them on a set of steel rims. Get at least two on the fronts if your car has rear-wheel ABS (so you don't fishtail like crazy on stopping) and you can't afford 4. If it doesn't have ABS, or if at all possible, get all 4. 2 will make your handling and cornering very sketchy but will allow you to make it up the hill.

The best advice I can give in the winter is to not let other drivers intimidate you and go as slowly as you feel comfortable with. Driving slowly and keeping long following distances. Plan your routes ahead so you don't take unnecessarily unsafe routes.
posted by jimmythefish at 8:31 AM on February 6, 2007

Best answer: I used to drive a commute that included a very steep hill. In snowy weather before the plows got there, this hill was a comedy of errors, mostly from people trying to go up too close to each other and trying to accelerate up the hill. They'd panic, step on the gas, and turn sideways and smack into the curb or another car.

Here's how I approached this hill: I stopped at the bottom of the hill, leaving some room before it ramped up and waited until the hill cleared, flipping off the people behind me who were honking (that's optional). Then I started moving, trying to build as much momentum as I could before the I really get up on the hill, then my goal is to get up the hill in as controlled a means as possible. This means letting momentum work and not trying to speed up on the hill. This means that, yes, you will be slowing down as you go up the hill. As long as you don't come to a dead stop and aren't spinning your wheels, you're fine. In fact, you're better than fine, because it means you're always in control.

If it makes sense, I think of it the way that I approached hills on a bike - if you put all the work into the approach at the base of the hill, you end up working less as you go up.

If you ever feel your wheels slipping, you instinct should be to slow down, not speed up. If you don't think you're going to make it, carefully and slowly turn around and try again. If it takes you more than two or three tries, go pull into a diner and have some coffee until the road is cleared. Better to show up late than in even later in a smashed up car.

In the words of my dad, "you can always slow down."
posted by plinth at 8:35 AM on February 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

To clear up the confusion about lower gear vs. higher gear - when starting from a stop on snow, second gear is better than first, because it puts less torque to the wheels. More torque increases the likelihood of wheelspin. Someone up there ^ said "lower gears work better for me." The default start-up gear in an automatic transmission car is first gear. If you put it in D, it starts up in first gear. If you put it in 2,it starts up in second. So by putting it in 2 instead of D, you're selecting a higher gear.

The basic thing to remember when driving on snow is that any sudden control input is more likely to cause loss of control. Hard braking, lots of accelerator, sharp turning, or a combination will all tend to cause a loss of traction. if it's really slippery, just lifting your foot off the gas suddenly can cause the drive wheels to slide. Avoid situations where a sudden control input might be required. Slowing down is the common element in avoiding those situations.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:44 AM on February 6, 2007

Lots of good advice here (I'm especially fond of keeping a couple bags of kitty litter in the trunk for added weight and traction. A small bucket of sand with a scoop is good too, for sprinkling under the tires if you get stuck.) In really bad conditions, sometimes the best thing you can do is adapt. Since it hasn't been suggested yet, is there anywhere near the bottom of the hill you could park on slippery days? If it's slippery enough, it'll be quicker and less aggravating (not to mention safer) to just walk the last few blocks instead of trying to drive up the hill.
posted by vytae at 8:58 AM on February 6, 2007

Oregon requires that cars driving over the Cascade and Southern passes in the winter have either snow tires or chains. Since most people in western Oregon have no need of snow tires, they opt for chains. Les Schwab, the ubiquitous tire retailer, sells the chains with an agreement they'll take them back at the end of the season if they're not used.

I used chains quite a bit when I lived in the Cascades foothills and they work like magic in all conditions. True, one must mount them and dismount them when they are needed. But, the designs are such that this is easy. Speeds are limited to about 25 MPH, but this is fine for what you need.

I also lived in New England for thirty years with six in Northern Vermont. Snow tires are iffy in some conditions but chains simply work. If I were living in Minnesota, I'd sure have snow tires. If I lived on a hill like yours, I'd keep some chains in the trunk. When conditions demand, put them on, and you're home with out the fear you must have recently experienced.
posted by partner at 9:00 AM on February 6, 2007

I grew up in Northern Wisconsin, have driven for 25 years and never once owned snow tires. Never needed them for my Olds Cutless, Chevette, Thunderbird or Nissan.

Your results may vary. Give them a try though and see if it helps.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 9:13 AM on February 6, 2007

Like DieHipsterDie, I've never owned snow tires, and I've driven in the Twin Cities for 35+ years. It should be noted, though, that this works for me because almost all of this area is pretty damn flat, unlike New England, the Cascade foothills, etc. If you need to deal with a nasty hill on a regular basis, having snow tires may be a help and comfort, certainly until you get more experience in winter driving. But I really think the advice to get plenty of practice in otherwise-untrafficked areas (e.g. parking lots) is sound; you need to get that experiential feel for just how much you can accelerate, how to brake, etc. (As this morning's pile-up on 35 shows, Minnesotans can readily forget this stuff w/o regular practice.) You might also want to ask your co-workers how they deal with the hill--maybe even have one of them ride with you and give you some tips on hill-driving technique.

Oh, and the only time in my life I've ever used chains was when I was caught in a blizzard in the Donner Pass--a terrifying experience that also served as an excellent lesson in how wussy Minnesota snowstorms are in comparison.
posted by Kat Allison at 9:41 AM on February 6, 2007

I think "pumping the brakes" is actually a misleading term. Some people take it to mean that you should jam your foot on the brake hard and fast repeatedly. I brake easy until I feel slippage, release, brake again, release. It's a lot gentler and slows you down much faster than slamming on the brakes every few seconds.
posted by loiseau at 9:57 AM on February 6, 2007

Oh, and jmd82, it would be very helpful if you could find an empty icy or snowy parking lot and just practice braking over and over until you've got a feel for how your car handles in these conditions.
posted by loiseau at 9:59 AM on February 6, 2007

I have never driven an automatic car in which the above statement is true. Selecting 2 instead of D generally prevents the car from shifting into a gear above 2. I don't know of any way to force an automatic car to start in second gear.

I have never driven an automatic car in which it was not true. To find out if it will work, read your owner's manual.

From Wikipedia:
Second (2 or S) – This mode limits the transmission to the first two gears, or more commonly locks the transmission in second gear. This can be used to drive in adverse conditions such as snow and ice, as well as climbing or going down hills in the winter time.
Extra weight in the trunk of a front-drive car does not help traction, and can make spinouts worse.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:05 AM on February 6, 2007

ABS is not intended to produce the shortest possible stops, although it's probably better than locking up the brakes. ABS is supposed to allow you to steer while braking, which is not possible when the brakes are locked.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:09 AM on February 6, 2007

Have you asked a coworker to give you a ride to work?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:16 AM on February 6, 2007

Be careful using low gears going down slippery hills. Never shift into a low gear while descending, the sudden engine braking could cause you to skid out of control.
posted by caddis at 10:49 AM on February 6, 2007

You must be driving very new automatics with tiptronic-style transmissions.

No, I'm not. From my first car, a '57 Chevy, through several other Chevys and four Fords, to my two Subarus, every one that had an automatic would start in second when I selected 2. I never drove a Mercedes or BMW automatic, so I don't know what they are like.

If the OP reads his owner's manual, it will tell him whether his car works the way all of mine have, or the way your German examples supposedly do. Meanwhile, please refrain from calling something wrong based on your incomplete information. Have you ever even tried it?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:54 AM on February 6, 2007

Confirming Kirth Gerson, both in experience with cars and the reasoning behind it. The '2' gear in automatics is specifically for this kind of case, as explained earlier.
posted by notsnot at 12:40 PM on February 6, 2007

I'm not making this up.

From AAA:
After a stop, press the accelerator slowly to get going again. With manual transmission, start in second gear to reduce wheel spin. If you have an automatic equipped with second-gear start, use it.
From here:
Other transmissions, including Honda, offer a low range of gear selection represented as 2, 1, S, or L. These selections only use the first two gears, only the second gear, or only the first gear. These modes are best used for adverse road conditions such as snow or ice.
From here:
SOME cars have postions which give you nothing but second gear. Others have auxillary controls which leave out first gear. These can be used to get the car moving on ice, where using normal D or O range spins the wheels.

Vehicles with this capability:

- All Fords with a 2 on the gear selector give you pure second gear. This has the advantage that it doesn't shift unexpectedly, causing a skid on ice.

- Dual gate floor mount shifters (with an automatic slot and a manual slot) can give you pure second gear.

- Many GM, Honda, Toyota, and other cars have a button you push to activate Second Gear Start. It leaves out first gear. This is almost as useful, but it will shift into higher gears, depending on the position of the shift lever.

- Some older transmissions have a D2 position on the lever, which is the same as second gear start.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:58 PM on February 6, 2007

I knew my advice sounded familiar, we covered winter in Minnesota once before. Many of the natives came down on the side of no snow tires required... YMMV, I've never even been to Minnesota. -Mitheral

That is because in many parts of Minnesota (the Twin Cities and other urban areas) there isn't enough snow to be dangerous, or the areas is plowed constantly. I lived in Moorhead, which gets its share of snow, but once the snow starts falling, the plows are out. Snow tires aren't quite needed there. They may be in other areas of the state.
posted by Monday at 1:20 PM on February 6, 2007

Many of the natives came down on the side of no snow tires required

Yeah, I came down on the side of snow tires not necessary in that thread. What my parents had told me was that people used to put snow tires on in the winter, but these days no one does because standard all-season tires have gotten so much better. I remember the bags of sand in the trunk of some of our old RWD vehicles, though.

That thread dealt specifically specifically with Minneapolis, though, and from the OPs description it sounds like he may be in a less well-plowed area, and thus snow tires may be more necessary there. It's certainly hard to argue vehemently against that extra safety, especially if you're just getting started.
posted by epugachev at 2:02 PM on February 6, 2007

I have lived in snowy areas all my life. Snow tires are not needed in most places with reasonable plowing and road salting. All weather tires are a good idea though. Nevertheless, coming from Alabama and already having some issues with the snow and ice, you might really consider the extra safety margin of true snow tires. I think it was Jess who made the point that it really is not that much extra expense when you factor in the reduced wear on your regular tires. If, on the other hand, your regular tires are shot and need replacing buying new regular tires and snow tires would be a lot, in which case all weather tires would be the way to go.
posted by caddis at 2:30 PM on February 6, 2007

Yeah, my dad stopped putting snow tires on his cars in '75 or so.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 5:07 PM on February 6, 2007

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