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Discussion Starter #1
Beware: I almost missed a planned ski trip because I waited until the last minute to buy chains (usuallya chore as simple as spending 10 minutes in a Pep Boys).

Well, it seems that the 17" wheel and overall tire size conspire to make finding snow "cables" extraordinarily hard to find. I called a dozen places, including a tire shop that has helped me skin some pretty odd old classics, and no luck. Truck and RV centers = zero. My dealer's parts guy = zip. Some guys telling me that this size chain would have to be special ordered and cost $200!

At the last minute, a chance call to a small snowboarding shop, and they had one set ($40) - they were actually for a 17.5" tire - perhaps some older truck (?). Anyway they worked and the trip was saved!

So be forwarned!! (In California, the state police will not let vehicles without chains pass into the mountain roads under most snowy conditions, so you HAVE to have them).

Needless to say, I was apoplectic about potentially having to rent a damn Explorer to do my trip, just after spending about $45K out the door for the X!!!

PS: the MDX did just fine in the snow with the chains. On the dry roads with the chains, the little Acura felt like I had shaken 10 years off its life! On some pretty icy and snowy roads without chains, it also faired very well, with the exception of losing traction on a mild - and slow - downhill; I came within about a foot of running into the back of an Explorer who pulled away from a stop sign just in the nick of time!


silver/black/touring/navi/10.21.00 delivery
 

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On what roads or highways in California did you have to put the cables on your MDX? It's been my experience over the past 30 years of driving from the S.F. Bay Area to Lake Tahoe and Reno over Hwys 50 and 80 during the winter that when it snows and chain controls are present, 4x4 vehicles are waved through the checkpoints without having to chain up after the inspector recognizes the vehicle as a 4x4. That's the primary reason why 90 percent (my guess) or more of the people who live in snow country drive 4-wheel-drive vehicles. Although California state law requires that drivers of 4x4's "carry" chains in the vehicle and, upon request, show them to the inspector at the checkpoint, no one I know has ever been asked to show them. And I know lots of people who live in snow country.

I brought my MDX back from Reno to the S.F. Bay Area a few weeks ago when chain controls were present, and I carried an old set of chains that wouldn't even come close to fitting the 17-inch tires just so I would have some to show in the unlikely event I was asked. I wasn't. I thought it likely that the inspector would at least stop me and ask if my MDX was a 4x4 since they are so new. But he waved me, the Cherokee in front of me and an Explorer directly behind me straight through the checkpoint while the drivers of sedans were putting on their chains, or paying the "chain monkeys" $20 to do so.

If you are new to Calfornia and haven't been through chain checkpoints in the past here in Northern California, it's possible or probable you would read the signs and voluntarily pull over to chain up before you hit the checkpoint since the signs don't say that chains or cables are not mandatory on 4x4's. I suspect this may apply to you since you refer to the California Highway Patrol as the "state police." The CHP works hand-in-hand with Cal Trans (Calif. Dept. of Transportation) at chain checkpoints, and the inspectors at the checkpoints are usually Cal Trans employees.

If you find yourself in the same situation here in California in the future, I suggest you tuck your MDX in behind a known 4x4 just as a Jeep Cherokee or a Suburu and follow them. It's "highly" unlikely you'll even be asked to show your chains.

Since the speed limit in a chain control area is 35mph, the VTM lock on your MDX will give you all the traction you need.

Perhaps this board's moderator, Acura4Life, will comment on my post as I believe he is a Bay Area resident. If he is, the odds are better than 99 percent that he too has made a Tahoe or Reno run in the winter when chain controls have been present. How 'bout it, Paul?
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Actually, I've lived here for 18 years (I just used the newbie-sounding "State Police" for the benefit of the non-Californina majority out there).

I live in Los Angeles, and the two major local ski towns(Wrightwood and Big Bear Lakes) are the culprits, especially Big Bear which is at the top of a very long, windy, mountain road. Maybe the Highway Patrol is tougher down here because they assume that the flatlanders don't know how to drive in the snow (and I expect that they view the average driver of a "luxury" SUV as being able to handle driving through some driveway sprinkler residue, but that's about it) (and they'd be right!!!).

Anyway, from what I understand the HP has 4 different road alert stages:
1. All vehicles chains
2. 4 x 4 with snow chains ok
3. 4 x 4 ok
4. All vehicles ok

When I drove to Big Bear two weeks ago, EVERYBODY had to put on chains, which pissed me off because I didn't think the road was that bad (it wasn't snowing, either). During a trip several years ago the CHP were requiring chains on all vehicles, and I begged them to let me through in my brand new (used) ready-for-snow Jeep Grand Wagoneer 4 x 4, but to no avail. At least that was in the middle of a pretty bad snowstorm.
 

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We hit this too last week when the big storm hit and dumped all over the Sierra. In 10 years of driving to Tahoe this was the first time I had to put chains on a 4WD going over Echo Summit on 50. This is called R3 Chain Requirements - CalTrans has a nifty rundown @ http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/roadinfo/chcontrl.htm (or R# for whoever didn't proofread their website). Also some PDF's on what axle to put chains on etc.

Which brings me to my question. Which axle do you put chains on the MDX - since it is primarily a front driver unlike all of the other 4WDs I've owned which were rears. I would suspect that it is logical that the fronts are correct. Any Subaru or Audi owners out there answer this?
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Chains on the front since this is a front wheel drive vehicle, the rear wheels only kick in when
the brain detects wheel slippage.

I would guess with an Audi Quattro all-wheel drive (all the time) you could put the chains on
either front or rear.
 

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FAQ item?

Is this well known? What axle are people who are using chains putting them on their MDX? Seems like this would be a great FAQ topic.

I would disagree on the Audi - not to say that I'm a Torsen AWD expert but given the weight dist and the ability for the Audi to send a greater percentage of power to the fronts you would want the chains on the front where the weight was. I'm sure this belongs on audiquattro.com or whatever instead though and is well hashed topic with whoever owns one since it's a well established technology...
 

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As a rule of thumb, chains/cables should go on the primary drive axle which, on the MDX, means the front. But this isn't a quick and easy answer. Since the VTM lock holds the MDX in 4-wheel-drive up to 30 mph (or is it 35mph?) as long as you are in D1 or D2, I think I'd be inclined to put the cables on the rear if I was going to strictly adhere to the 25- to 35-mph speed limit I've found in most chain control areas. If I were to have to drive on a stretch of pavement that was void of snow or slush, I would rather have the rear suspension absorb the bulk of the jarring and rattling caused by the cables instead of the front suspension, to which all of the steering links and arms are attached.

Having said that, I'd like to hear from an expert on the subject who can provide me with a reasonable explanation as to why, given the circumstances above, I should put the cables on the front in the unlikely event I will ever find it necessary to chain-up.

To donothingsooner: Sorry for the assumption you were an out-of-stater. And you're probably right about the CHP being more strict in SoCal than up here given your much larger population and the likelihood that a higher number of "flatlanders" are drawn to your relatively nearby slopes when the white stuff falls.

I based what I said in my earlier response to your post on conversations I've had with a half-dozen friends who live in snow country, all of whom have at least one 4x4 in the family. Of the six, all but one said they are consistently waved through at chain-control checkpoints; the one exception said he had to show he was carrying chains on one occasion 5-6 years ago. None said they were ever forced to chain-up. What I consistently heard from these "mountain folk" was that when conditions get so bad that 4x4's have to chain up, Cal Trans usually closes the road until conditions can improve and they can run a plow through to clear the heavy stuff. On the other hand, these people are what other "mountain folk" refer to as "locals." It's likely that most of the roads they travel on when it snows are not frequented by us "flatlanders." Which brings to mind...

I was surprised to read an earlier message in this thread that someone from the Bay Area recently had to chain-up his 4x4 to get over Echo Summit on Hwy 50 until I gave it some further thought based on what you had said. People from the Bay Area who are driving to South Lake Tahoe generally take Hwy 50, which over Echo Summit is very narrow and twisty when compared to Hwy 80 from Sacramento to Reno (and Lake Tahoe's North Shore). It could very well be that Cal Trans and the CHP are more strict on Hwy 50 during winter storm conditions because they know that the vast majority of the people making their way to the South Lake Tahoe ski resorts and casinos are "flatlanders."

In any event, I'd like to know where you purchased cables that would fit your MDX. I called at least a dozen places between the Bay Area and Sacramento (including four Acura dealers' parts departments) three or four weeks ago before heading over the Sierra in an attempt to purchase a set of cables that would fit the P235/65R/17 Michelins, and couldn't find anyone who even had that size listed as being available.
 

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IF I really have to put chains/cables on my MDX, I'd do it on all 4 wheels! There's just no reason not to, other than the added cost of another pairs of cables.

Having said that, I'd also turn back for home if condition does require putting chains on a 4WD.

Have gone up to Tahoe a couple to time, but still haven't driven my MDX on snow yet! :(
 

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my theory on chains: if caltrans/CHP require chains on 4x4 vehicles, you shouldn't be driving! it's obviously that hazardous, and driving in those conditions is a risk that must be understood by the operators.

really, i'm from new york city, and i still don't believe in chains! IMHO, it's just another way for the politicians of this huge state to generate revenue from purchasing chains, or from putting on/taking off chains by certified 'chain people' on the highways.

and last note, i was actually REQUIRED to sign a contract with my local dealer that i would NOT put chains on the MDX. it was some sort of condition of the lease, but i don't believe that omits the cable-type chains. go figure....

heck, i bought the MDX primarily so i DIDN'T have to put chains on when going to tahoe!
 

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s2kOOOL & kinmanc: I'm with both you guys. I don't PLAN on ever having to chain-up, and I have no qualms about turning around and heading for home or a hotel if conditions get so bad I'm told to put the cables on. On the other hand, I've made enough wintertime treks to Reno and South Shore over the past 35-40 years to know that snow conditions can change faster than the vote count in Florida. That said, I'm one of those people who feels most comfortable being prepared for any eventually when I wander out into the wilderness. The way my life has worked for the past 57 years, if I purchase and carry a set of cables that will fit the Michelins on my MDX, the odds are about 95 percent I will never need to put them on. If I don't invest in a set and have them with me during my wintertime runs to the snow country, the odds are 95 percent that I'll run into that one-in-ten-thousand snow storm where I'll find myself stranded. Being stranded, mind you, is not what I'm afraid of. What bothers me is the permanent bruising my butt will sustain from me constantly kicking myself. Bottom line: By spending (whatever) for a set of cables that will fit the MDX, I'm primarily buying peace of mind.
 

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Bilmat:
I believe VTM-4 Locked is only engaged up to speed of 18mph (while in D1, D2 or Reverse). I think I read somewhere that the maximum rear drive torque is locked in below 6mph and gradually diminishes until 18mph, at which it is totally disengaged.

Also, doesn't the manual state not to use chains on the MDX? I think it said to use cables instead. Does anyone know why?
 

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Cables

I too, had difficulty locating cables for the 235/65/17. I called four different places who couldn't find it on their charts. I drove down to look at their chart to find a set that had a range of something larger to something smaller, figuring that it would certainly fit a size in the middle. I found a very nice set of cables made by Security Chain Company in Oregon (Super Z LT, Stock#ZT729). I tried them on the front of the MDX and they were easy to install and fit comfortably. I was concerned that the cables would come in contact with the front struts, but after they were tightened, there was reasonable clearance. I think standard chains would thrash the strut. The down side to the experience was that the cables cost $92 and the CHP didn't require them for 4x4 vehicles. The MDX performed flawlessly in the snow.
 

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Security Chain Company

I actually wrote to them and here is the information that I received back. As a side note, I decided on the ZL671 but haven't been able to find anyone that has them in stock.

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Thank Ron for your inquiry.

Our master file show two cables for that size tire and they both meet SAE class "S" limited clearance that most of your new SUV's and pick-ups have. They are the Z-Chain, part number ZL671 or Super Z LT, part number ZT729. One word of caution is if your rims are convex and you don't want them scratched you should avoid using traction products that use rubber tigheners, our Super Z LT uses a rubber tigheners. The Z-Chain does not use rubber tigheners it uses a fastening system on the side chains.

Our big retailers are NAPA, Pep Boys or AutoZone, call first because not all locations carry chains. If you have no luck with them you can try a phone order with JC Whittney at (800) 529-4486 (JC Whitney does not carry Z-Chain), or you can try International Autosport at (800) 726-1199. The only on-line source that we know (so far) are:
howardauto.com
jcwhitney.com (does not carry Z-Chain)
vulcantire.com
westfleet.com
 

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MDXguy:

You are correct about the speed at which the VTM Lock disengages. Upon reviewing the manual again, I see now that the "30" I recalled after initially reading the manual back in Nov. referred to kph, not mph. But that has led to some confusion on another issue.

From all the discussions I've read and participated in on this board and Edmund's Town Hall board over the past several months, plus several magazine articles, I've been under the impression that when accelerating from a dead stop in D5, D4 or D3, the MDX always starts out in 4-wheel-drive, and that the torque is gradually transferred to the front wheels until it becomes a full-time FWD vehicle. Have I been mistaken? Is the MDX a full-time FWD vehicle unless the VTM Lock is engaged and the gear selector is in D1, D2 or Reverse?

I've been aware of the warning about using cables in lieu of chains since I first read the manual. I use the term "chain-up" to describe the process because it feels awkward to use the term "cable-up."

I've used both cables and chains over the years. As to why Acura recommends cables over chains, I can think of two plausible reasons: 1) If you were to lose a link on a set of chains, you run the risk of having a string of loose links slap inside the fender well and/or exterior of your fender, thus causing visible damage. This has happened to me twice in the past several years. 2) If you are chugging along in the snow and run for a while on a patch of roadway that is void of snow or soft slush, the vibration and jarring from chains is much worse than it is from cables. And that vibration and jarring can't be good for the steering linkage in and around the front suspension, nor the engine and tranny that are in close proximity.

Tap:

I'm going to follow your lead and try to obtain a set of Security Chain Co.'s Super Z LT #ZT729 cables since you say they fit well. That begs the question: From what vendor did you purchase them? I tried a couple of different URLs with variations of Security Chain Co. but couldn't come up with a web site. Thanks in advance.

TechnoMage:

In the event Tap doesn't return, how about letting us know where you picked up a pair of the cables you decided on, if and when you are able to find a pair. Ditto on the thanks.
 

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Chain Retailer

Bilmat,
I purchased Security Chain Co.'s Super Z LT #ZT729 from a chain in California called "Autozone".

You may want to consider TechoMage's post regarding the manufactures warning of potential scratches using the rubber tensioners with the ZT729. When I tried the chains, the metal hooks on rubber tensioners did not come in contact with wheel, but the plastic guards on the hooks did come within 1/8 of an inch of the wheel. If they are going to get alot of use the ZT729 may be better.
 

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bilmat said:
...Perhaps this board's moderator, Acura4Life, will comment on my post as I believe he is a Bay Area resident. If he is, the odds are better than 99 percent that he too has made a Tahoe or Reno run in the winter when chain controls have been present. How 'bout it, Paul?
Oh..sorry bilmat...I live in Northern New Jersey, about 15 minutes from New York City...EAST COAST baby.

I wish I could help you but I do not know.

I believe tire chains are illegal in New Jersey due to the fact that they "eat up" the roads. Conditions here are harsh at times, but overall not seriously dangerous.

Happy MDX-ing!
Sorry I could not help out this time.
 

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Bump this thread back to life for newcomers. Remember to use cable type, not link chain type.

I for one was asked by CHP to install chains on 4X4 without snow tires on I80 last winter. Only 4x4 with snow tires are allowed without chains on that day.

Look like NAPA, Autozone and Pepboy carry cable chain for the MDX. The brand is Security Chain Co., the model is ZL671. Be careful about using the rubber tensioner due to the convex shape of the rim since it may marr the surface.

Last year, MDXers have experienced difficulties in locating the place to buy. So shop early and be prepared.

Good lucks to all.
 
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