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Are snow chains mandatory in France? (new law)

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Hi all

I'm driving to the French alps this winter and struggling to find out the answer from Google alone.

From past trips, I think some local laws require you to carry snow chains on certain roads in case of heavy snow, and you can be turned around/fined if you don't have them.

I also learned that the new law this year requires cars to either carry snow chains OR have winter tires fitted.

However I don't know if this new law supersedes the older/regional requirement to ALSO carry snow chains, even if you have 4x winter tires.

Basically, I will have 4 new winter tires fitted for the trip, but can't figure out if I also need chains in the boot. Not should I have them, but is it a legal requirement.

Thanks
Mike
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Yes you need chains in the boot. (why wouldn't you?)

Even with Winter tyres and 4x4 there are occasions where chains are needed. (Particularly if its a BMW)

It's up to the local Gendarmerie to decide if you need to fit them to carry on with your journey. (Or your own common sense.)

Legally in France snow socks are OK instead of chains.
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Thank you that's helpful. I'll get some ordered and get practicing...
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Legally, you are required to EITHER carry snow chains OR have winter tires fitted.

Best practice is to have both. Summer tyres and snow chains in the boot is legal though.

The police may still prevent you travelling up the mountain in snowy conditions unless you fit snow chains - even with snow tyres.
The police may fine you, (and prevent you traveling up the mountain) if you haven't got either/or.

Supposedly the new law won't be enforced this winter, so you probably will get away with a "stiff talking to". But that talking to will very likely involve telling you to clear off down the mountain to buy some snow chains, because if the rozzers have stopped you, it's likely because they want everyone to be on snow chains anyway.
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Judwin wrote:


Supposedly the new law won't be enforced this winter, so you probably will get away with a "stiff talking to". But that talking to will very likely involve telling you to clear off down the mountain to buy some snow chains, because if the rozzers have stopped you, it's likely because they want everyone to be on snow chains anyway.


Yep, wont let you continue up the mountain - then that's your holiday ruined because your car/life/family weren't worth a minimum of £30 for a set of socks or cheap chains! Never ceases to amaze me that people would even contemplate risking it!

In France In the past chains have been mandatory from Albertville that's a long way from some mega resorts.

Two seasons ago the only road up to La Plagne on a Saturday was completely blocked by a coach that had slid sideways and wedged itself across the road, the driver had been advised to use chains but ignored the advice. The new law will make it a legal requirement to mount chains when advised.
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Judwin wrote:
Legally, you are required to EITHER carry snow chains OR have winter tires fitted.

That makes more sense, as otherwise I simply wouldn't be allow to drive my car in France. Officially, snow chains don't fit to my car, and unless I want to make whole bunch of damage, they really don't fit.
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
That's the other factor. My car's user manual says chains should only be fitted to a different wheel diameter than the standard. So I'm going to have to figure out if chains actually will fit. If not, I really don't want to buy new wheels.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
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Sorry (not sorry) to be pedantic but it’s “tyres” not “tires” in english. Toofy Grin
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Looking elsewhere for the current status of the road through the Gorges d'Arly, I came across this page:
https://savoie-route.fr/conseils-aux-usagers In the top righthand corner there is a small Union Jack and then you can click on
Compulsory special equipments on all the roads of Savoie.
To me it reads that four snow tyres (M+S or 3peaks) fitted and/or chains in the boot ready to fit are cumpulsory on the major routes into the Departement between 1st November and 31st March. I guess that includes the ordinary roads from Annecy and Megeve, A41 from Lyon and Grenolble, A43 from Annecy and probably other roads. If that's the case, any skier arriving in the Tarentaise by car from anywhere should comply.
NB - there's no mention of whether or not the rules will be enforced this winter.

Also, when driving down, there's a "current state of the traffic screen" at https://savoie-route.fr/?lang=en which should be useful if the weather goes foul.
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@primoz, @Mike87xx, you get the externally fitting chains, like RUD Centrax, Thule/Konig K Summit, Spike Spyder, etc.

I have the same issue with my car and use RUD Centrax. They are a LOT easier to fit than normal chains as well
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Thank you that's good to know, I've just ordered a set of Thule chains so will test fit them ASAP.

Tyres. Got it. I've never known that!
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Quote:

there's no mention of whether or not the rules will be enforced this winter.

That's a rather theoretical point anyway. As @boredsurfin has noted, the police actually DO insist on chains to be mounted (even on good quality snow tyres) when conditions demand. So, legal or not, new law or not, you sometimes won't get up the mountain if you don't put chains on. Arguing the toss with a French policeman in a snowstorm on a busy changeover day is really not the best start to a holiday.
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@primoz, @Mike87xx If your vehicle's spec is such that it can't take (conventional) chains, then you're left with two options:

(a) get a second, new set of wheels and winter tyres¹ in a spec that can take chains or
(b) get front-fitting (i.e. on the front of the wheel) chains e.g.

• Spikes Spider Easy / Alpine / Sport
• Thule K-Summit
• Weissenfels Trak Auto / Trak SUV / Automatika
• König K-Summit
• Polaire (can't seem to get their website to render properly)

and various others (don't assume my list is accurate - this is just from memory)

Best thing is to go to the manufacturers' websites first, and get a list of the ones that are front-fitting. Most sites also have a configurator. Then do a web search for the specific products you're interested in. I know there are many good specialist chain distributors but not all are competent and some specialise only in certain manufacturers, so I'd always go to the manufacturers' site first.

Don't just go just by product names, like 'easy' or 'quick' - this may just mean that the chains self-centre or self-tension.

[1] It doesn't make sense to get a new, separate set of winter wheels and then fit new all-seasons. Even if they are all-seasons with the 3-peaks-and-snowflake designation. These still won't be as snow-biased as 'pure' winter tyres because they have to concede some snow capability in order to be usable in the summer. And since you're not going to use them in the summer, why make the concession?

Some of the front-fitting (front of the wheel, not front wheel) chainsets may need to have the chain links adjusted by hand in order to fit your specific wheel+tyre size. So make sure you do a trial fitting at home in advance. This can be much easier first on the spare wheel (if you have one) before you give it a go on the car itself . Pack a small carpet square to kneel on, some thin (old) gloves, and a headtorch for the actual fitting (in cold, dark and snow, they'll help a lot). Separate the two chainsets with a piece of plastic or cardboard when you pack them up, to avoid chain spaghetti.

If you have an SUV - that's not a performance model like an BMW X5M or an Audi SQ5 - I'd recommend switching to all-season winter-biased tyres (with 3-peaks-and-snowflake designation) from the standard summers anyway, if you have the chance. This will mean you'll be able to leave it 'till snow/ice conditions get more adverse before having to fit chains.


Last edited by So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much on Fri 19-11-21 21:01; edited 2 times in total
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
boredsurfin wrote:
Yes you need chains in the boot. (why wouldn't you?)

Even with Winter tyres and 4x4 there are occasions where chains are needed. (Particularly if its a BMW)

It's up to the local Gendarmerie to decide if you need to fit them to carry on with your journey. (Or your own common sense.)

Legally in France snow socks are OK instead of chains.


Funny you say that. X3 with nokian winters. BSM to Tignes, police on the road, heavy snow. Cars stopped and checked by police, when my turn comes a quick glance at tyres and was waived through while others had to put chains.
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Quote:

a quick glance at tyres and was waived through while others had to put chains.

Don't assume that will always be the case.
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 Poster: A snowHead
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@pam w,
Agreed. BUT, would M. Gendarme be interested in arguing? I suspect that he would just say something disrespectful such as "Va-t-en"!!
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
mooney058 wrote:
boredsurfin wrote:
Yes you need chains in the boot. (why wouldn't you?)

Even with Winter tyres and 4x4 there are occasions where chains are needed. (Particularly if its a BMW)

It's up to the local Gendarmerie to decide if you need to fit them to carry on with your journey. (Or your own common sense.)

Legally in France snow socks are OK instead of chains.


Funny you say that. X3 with nokian winters. BSM to Tignes, police on the road, heavy snow. Cars stopped and checked by police, when my turn comes a quick glance at tyres and was waived through while others had to put chains.


Driven that same road when police turned back everyone without chains.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Always interesting..my take, a set of winter wheels and tyres is they're a fraction of the cost of many winter holidays. Chain are cheap as well. The tyres are great in the UK as well.
If you lease or are a company car user the economics go out the window and insurers may just say "no" (personal experience).
I've never needed chains but winter tyres undoubtedly.
I'd never contemplate driving to a higher level resort without them.
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@LaForet, I've related before, our previous 2 cars, spanning 15 years of living in Geneva and Chamonix, with routine trips elsewhere in the Alps, manual specifically said not suitable for chains of any kind (messed with the weird transmission).

So we've never had chains. And never felt the need. But always AWD available and good winters.
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mooney058 wrote:
Funny you say that. X3 with nokian winters. BSM to Tignes, police on the road, heavy snow. Cars stopped and checked by police, when my turn comes a quick glance at tyres and was waived through while others had to put chains.
I’ve had the same on two occasions during very heavy snowfall when I’ve driven up to Arc 1800. The local police have been checking cars in BSM on the road up to Les Arcs, by the EDF power station where there is a large chainage area at the side of the road. Cars with all wheel drive and winter tyres were let through, everything else had to stop and fit chains or socks. While I was in the short queue waiting to get past the police stop I saw several cars being turned around, presumably because of a lack of equipment. I guess that day there was a lot of people trying to buy chains in the SuperU in Bourg or elsewhere.
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Kenzie wrote:
mooney058 wrote:
boredsurfin wrote:
Yes you need chains in the boot. (why wouldn't you?)

Even with Winter tyres and 4x4 there are occasions where chains are needed. (Particularly if its a BMW)

It's up to the local Gendarmerie to decide if you need to fit them to carry on with your journey. (Or your own common sense.)

Legally in France snow socks are OK instead of chains.


Funny you say that. X3 with nokian winters. BSM to Tignes, police on the road, heavy snow. Cars stopped and checked by police, when my turn comes a quick glance at tyres and was waived through while others had to put chains.


Driven that same road when police turned back everyone without chains.


Been there when 4wd minibuses (VW T5) and off roaders (Toyota troop carrier) with snow tires were allowed up, all others, including all soft roaders/suvs were turned round without chains... I was driving transfers and it was my seccond trip up the hill, just got waved through didn't even look at the tires.
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It’s Tyres!! We are not American
It’s also Dinner Jacket, or Black tie, not a Tuxedo

Please!!
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After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
@twoodwar, Quite!
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@rob@rar, @Idris, I've been allowed through on one of the the smaller roads down the Jura into Ferney-Voltaire which the Gendarmes had just closed to all traffic. Would have been quite the detour to get to Geneva so after checking that I had 4WD, good winters and assuring them that I was entirely confident, they let me past and closed the road behind me.

Was a rather surreal descent.
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under a new name wrote:
@LaForet, I've related before, our previous 2 cars, spanning 15 years of living in Geneva and Chamonix, with routine trips elsewhere in the Alps, manual specifically said not suitable for chains of any kind (messed with the weird transmission).

So we've never had chains. And never felt the need. But always AWD available and good winters.


Out of uncontrolled curiosity Very Happy was wondering what the vehicle type and transmission is that would cause that instruction.
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@ski3, Nissan Murano with early gen continuously variable transmission (CVT). Always a weakness with the car and led to the somewhat untimely & fatal demise of the 2nd one. Great shame, although a bit thirsty!

No idea why chains were such an issue. But the manual clearly stated, "do not fit chains".

Rather bizarrely however, the Swiss French manual then went on to say, "if you absolutely MUST fit chains, ONLY fit them to the FRONT axle"

whereas the Canadian French manual said, "if you absolutely MUST fit chains, ONLY fit them to the REAR axle" (which made even less sense as the AWD was normally FWD).

Confusing?

(Actually, thinking about it, it may have been the AWD that didn't like chains). (Or maybe the tyre pressure sensors that sensed rolling diameter rather than pressures ... )
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