Winter weather is here, and Washington’s mountain passes have started seeing intermittent closures due to spinouts.
The Washington State Department of Transportation is urging drivers to learn how to install tire chains before hitting the road. Tire chains may be required on passes when ice, slush or compacted snow impacts road conditions.
Ignoring chain requirements can result in a $500 fine, according to WSDOT.
WSDOT says anyone traveling into higher elevations should carry chains and have approved traction tires whenever winter weather is possible, especially from Nov. 1 through March 31.
A map of avalanche zones and chain up and chain off areas along Snoqualmie and Stevens Passes can be found at wsdot.wa.gov/publications/fulltext/winter/chain-up.pdf
How to put on tire chains
First, lay down the chains on the ground with the metal hooks facing down. You will want to install chains on the drive wheels that power the car. Then drive the vehicle halfway onto the chains.
Fasten the connector cables toward the inside of the car first. You can turn the wheels if you have a hard time reaching. Then, work the outer connector cables up, remove as much slack as possible and connect the cables. You can also use a bungee cord to keep the chains tight.
When purchasing chains, make sure you check the sidewall of your tires for the right size.
What do those electronic signs mean?
Traction Tires Advised: Tires with an eighth-inch tread or a tire with a “All Season” or “Mountain/Snowflake” label are recommended. Oversize vehicles may be restricted during severe conditions.
Traction Tires Required: All passenger vehicles must be outfitted on traction tires. Any vehicle over 10,000 pounds, including large passenger trucks and SUVs, is required to have chains.
Tire Chains Required: Two-wheel drive vehicles must install chains to continue traveling. All-wheel and four-wheel drive vehicles under 10,000 pounds are not required to install chains. Vehicles over 10,000 pounds must also install chains.
While this sign does not require people driving four- or all-wheel drive vehicles under 10,000 pounds to install chains, drivers of these vehicles must still carry chains with them, in case conditions worsen.
Chains Required on All Vehicles: Drivers of all vehicles must install chains (including those with all-wheel or four-wheel drive). Officials use this sign as a last step before a pass is closed.
Winter travel tips
- Check the latest updates on the mountain passes before you go. WSDOT posts statewide travel alerts and road conditions at wsdot.com/traffic.
- Clear snow and ice from car surfaces before driving. Snow on the hood can blow toward the windshield and block your view.
- Make sure you have the proper equipment, including chains, spare parts, jumper cables, extra blankets, food and water.
- Keep your fuel tank and your wiper-fluid reservoir at least half full.
- Keep your cellphone fully charged.
- If you need to pull over, stay with your vehicle. Call for help or hang a colorful piece of cloth from your window or antenna.
- Turn your headlights on.
- Even when roads are dry, watch out for icy bridges.
- Stay far behind the car in front of you so you have enough room to stop.
- Don’t use cruise control.
- Use brakes sparingly to avoid skidding. Don’t pump anti-lock brakes to stop.
- Slow down.