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Nov 1st Winter Tyres on or chains in vehicle in French Alps

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
just ordered Michelin cross climate 2s for my Audi, as I had had them on the previous vehicle (VW Tuareg) and they were great, in all weather, and on snow both here in UK and in resort, chains carried but not needed. Marked as M+S plus snowflake symbol.Highly recomend them, quiet too.

a while back had a 4wd that had M+S tyres only and it too was fine in some really heavy snow; in fact we traveled down to Tignes through some heavy weather from half way down France that had the police closing autoroute to HGVs which were stacked south of the Poulet de Bresse services! Road surface covered maybe 2/3" deep, in a few places a wandering set of two narrow "black" strips could be seen; most of the few other cars followed them so made overtakes on the "virgin"snow surface past them hilarious!

I did see one car having some fun on the way down from Tignes, sliding around all over the place....however it may have been because he had put chains on the rear driven wheels and therefore had no steering or indeed braking!
He stopped (eventually) and had a chance to reconsider his axle choice when one of the chains flew off and in doing so re-arranged the bodywork around that wheel arch...Oh how I wished I had a dashcam!
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Some M&S but no snowflake tyres are not intended for winter use at all. My LR Defender had some some when I bought it, which were actually also labelled 'light truck' and they were completely useless in icy weather. Rock solid compound, probably many years too old and gone even harder with age.

They were kinda OK on fresh snow, but I had loads of issues with them slipping on the hubs (they were not tubeless) and eventually got some new alloys with proper all-season, peak+snowflake-marked all terrain tyres for it.

Not really relevant to ordinary cars, but just making the point that if you don't have a snowflake, the M&S gives no indication whatsoever that they'll be any good in cold conditions.
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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?
One point which has not been mentioned is that regardless of what wheels you have, you need a spare one. If you get a puncture on an alpine road as dusk is approaching (and the way the roads deteriorate in winter, with some savage pot holes that's not uncommon) you will be at least in great discomfort, possibly danger, if you can't change the wheel and get swiftly on your way. Especially if it's one of those times when all the local garages are making money for old rope pulling impatient drivers out of snowdrifts or forests, you could well not get anybody to come to your rescue that day.
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pam w wrote:
One point which has not been mentioned is that regardless of what wheels you have, you need a spare one. If you get a puncture on an alpine road as dusk is approaching (and the way the roads deteriorate in winter, with some savage pot holes that's not uncommon) you will be at least in great discomfort, possibly danger, if you can't change the wheel and get swiftly on your way. Especially if it's one of those times when all the local garages are making money for old rope pulling impatient drivers out of snowdrifts or forests, you could well not get anybody to come to your rescue that day.


luckily many manufacturers do not supply a spare wheel, thus saving us the inconvenience of having a wheel to change!!

however, we then have the deep joy of trying to work out how to inject that foamy stuff in freezing conditions and then work the air pump to re inflate the tyre!

best not to set off at all, really!
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
the sort of damage a good French "nid de poule" can do to a tyre is well beyond repairing with that pointless foam stuff. And even if you are too feeble to change a wheel yourself, if you have one, you can hope that some passing motorist will help.....
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You'll need to Register first of course.
...and ideally your spare should be a (full size) winter tyre, if the other 4 are. There's also the question of 'should it be a nearside tyre or an offside tyre?'. I was told by a tyre fitter you're more likely to get a flat on the nearside, which of course is the other side, outside the UK.
There's no end to these 'winter wheels' threads, is there? Laughing Laughing
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Summer tyres + chains is not an ideal combination. More often than not you are going to have situation where the road is lightly dusted, or just has patches of old snow and ice, especially on the parking lots and soft shoulders.

These are enough for the summer tires to be in a free spin. Chains help, but the experience is horrific - slow, painful and noisy drive.

Snow socks however plug this gap nicely. I had an experience in VT - drove up all the way on summers without any trouble only to get stuck on a parking lot at the agency. Not only socks got me out of trouble, but they performed excellently on a snowy downhill road to the residence, and back up to the parking.

I switched to cross climate tyres since and didn't have to use the socks in similar situations.

Regardless of summer+socks or winter/all season tyres, I always carry chains. Have never used them through
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
caughtanedge wrote:
...and ideally your spare should be a (full size) winter tyre, if the other 4 are. There's also the question of 'should it be a nearside tyre or an offside tyre?'. I was told by a tyre fitter you're more likely to get a flat on the nearside, which of course is the other side, outside the UK.
There's no end to these 'winter wheels' threads, is there? Laughing Laughing


As well as the directional nature of winter tyres (the nearside/offside problem you mention), some RWD cars like BMWs often have significantly different width tyres front and back, so for completeness you need spares for both offside and nearside, front and back. ie a set of 4 spare tyres. Doesn't leave much space in the boot for much else though.
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 You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net.
You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net.
You can stuff your ski socks and base layers into them.
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 Ski the Net with snowHeads
Ski the Net with snowHeads
JohnS4 wrote:
for completeness you need spares for both offside and nearside, front and back. ie a set of 4 spare tyres. Doesn't leave much space in the boot for much else though.

Wow! that would show real dedication to the cause!
I did drive back from Switzerland one year with a 'wrong-handed' (winter) spare on the car, after an encounter with a 'nid de poule Suisse' - thank you @pam w for a new word!. It seemed fine, but then I didn't encounter any snow.
Incidentally, googling 'nid de poule' images will give you nightmares.....
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 snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
Now we have been educated with the term 'nid de poule' I was wondering what the translation of pothole in German is and there seems to be two options according to google translate: Schlagloch and Gletschertopf. Can any native speakers explain when one is used in preference to the other ?

In fact are either ever used ? All the German roads I have travelled on seem to be smoother than a bowling green, I've never seen a pothole there as far as I can remember.
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
@JohnS4, my German friend tells me that in general, schlagloch refers to roads, and gletschertopf is a technical term in glaciology.
I have been trying to remember exactly where I hit the 'nid de poule', and I think it may actually have been in France. I can't recall ever having seen a pothole in Switzerland....
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 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
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
Different sized rear vs front wheels/tyres ('staggered'):

Yes, this is a feature of many BMW performance models and is called a 'staggered' setup. In my case the summer setup is 8" wide rear wheels and 7½" fronts, with correspondingly wider rear tyres. The BMW recommended winter setup is 'square' i.e. 7" or 7½" all-round. But following this recommendation means that you have to buy a separate 'square' set of winter wheels and tyres with the obvious extra cost of 4x wheels, plus have the space to store the unused set. However, having a performance model for me swings the case for separate winters, because they're much less prone to aquaplaning (something useful even in the UK) and the handling compromises of an all-season tyre are too great in the summer, compared to a full summer tyre.

Some owners of BMW 'staggered' wheels don't have the space to store a full set of wheels, or don't want to go to the cost of a set. So they just put winter tyres on the summer wheels. It's a compromise (narrower tyres are less prone to aquaplaning in the wet and slipping in the snow) but a very small one overall. Unfortunately, a lot of winter tyres don't come in the requisite sizes (you can get rears but not fronts, or fronts but not rears). However, if they can get the necessary sizes, they will often find they need more expensive front-fitting chains because the rear wheels don't leave enough space behind the wheel for conventional chains to rotate.

How about carrying just a spare tyre? Especially if you have runflats.

Carrying just a spare winter tyre deals with two problems (a) directional-ness (see below) and (b) availability: Winter tyres are produced in a relatively narrow time 'window' - usually in the autumn, to provide stock for the winter swap and some replacements. Later in the season, it can be quite hard to source a specific brand because stocks are running low. If a tyre failed en route to the Alps, this could mean you having to wait 'a few days before the dealer gets the replacement, which would be extremely inconvenient. You can mix different brands, but the results can be quite unpredictable, especially on performance models or SUVs. If you have runflat tyres, then this further reduces the need for a spare wheel as well: the idea is that the runflat will get you to a garage/dealer for the spare tyre to be fitted. This has also happened to me on one occassion. But of course, there are still some types of tyre damage that are too severe even for a runflat.

Directional Tread:

The problem of carrying a spare for a directional tyre is common to all types, whether summer, winter or all-season. Many summer tyres are also directional - you'll see a 'Rotation' symbol on one side of the tyre (just like many road bike and MTB tyres). The consequence of which is that once mounted on a wheel the combination is either left-side or right-side. If you wanted it to work for the opposite side, so to speak, then you'd have to dis-mount the tyre, turn it 'round, and re-mount it on the wheel. In which case, you might as well just be carrying the tyre on its own.

Spares and Limited tyre age:

Tyres in storage/unused have a finite lifetime. The compounds degrade over time and can make the tread brittle or inflexible etc. The standard recommendation is not to keep an unused tyre more than five years. Yes, this seems surprisingly short but it's what the manufacturers recommend. The manufacturing date of a tyre should be visible on the sidewall. This is as much a summer as a winter tyre issue - more likely a problem with a car that's been around for some years, with the spare left unused.


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 Sat 5-11-22 21:30; edited 13 times in total
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
I have used Michelin Cross Climate tyres on a Land Rover but cant get them in the size of my Range Rover wheels sadly.
They were great tyres and handled the wet roads and what was a couple of inches of slush on a dual carriageway when coming across the middle of France, very well
They were also reasonably quiet on the motorways

On the run up the hill to Les Arc from Bourg in snow, they never missed a beat even on one steepish switchback. The police who were stopping people to put chains on waived us through once they looked at the tyres. They have the 3 peak symbol but he couldnt have seen that, just the tread and car

IN the building car park where the snow tends to settle, they did slip once but that was driving up a pile about mid wheel high that had been left from someone clearing their car.

I still had chains, the Thule K Summit, just in case it was really bad

the K Summit go on easily with the chains sitting on the part of the tyre in contact with the road and fastening to the wheel nuts

I have K Summit chains for the current car that has M&S tyres as standard

The manufacturer says chains should only be fitted to the rear wheels due to clearance issues at the front but the K Summit don't go over the rear/inside the car side of the tyre so clearance shouldn't be an issue

fitting chains to the rear seems to leave the front steering wheels in a position where they wont grip which could be an issue particularly going downhill

With M&S tyres and 4 wheel drive, I would guess that I would make it up and down the hill safely most of the time but I carry the chains for the one or two times the road isn't clear
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