In New South Wales, if you are driving a Two Wheel Drive vehicle, you must carry properly fitting snow chains from 1 June to 10 October on the following roads:
- Kosciuszko Road beyond Sawpit Creek
- the Island Bend/Guthega Road for its full length
- the Alpine Way between Thredbo and Tom Groggin.
4WD vehicles do not need to carry snow chains by law but it is highly recommended.
In Victoria all vehicles must carry chains in the alpine areas of the major ski resorts of Mt Hotham, Falls Creek, Mt Buffalo and Mt Baw Baw. Victoria Police are currently developing new regulations relating to fitting chains. This section will be updated when more information is available. Mount Buller and Lake Mountain have special arrangements in place that require 4WD vehicles to carry chains only on certain days. 2WD vehicles and all overnight visitors must carry chains at all times.
- Check your radiator for antifreeze to be prepared for colder temperatures.
- Check your tyres. Ensure they are inflated to the recommended pressure and the tread is in good condition.
- Snow Tyres can be helpful. These have a relatively deep and aggressive tread and often have the letters MS, M/S, M+S or the words MUD AND SNOW moulded or stamped into the sidewall.
- Always carry chains. Make sure they are the correct size for your tyres and are in working order. Ensure that you know how to fit them and if they are hired fit them prior to leaving the shop.
- Check your brakes, windscreen wipers, heater, rear demister and exhaust system are in good order.
- Make sure you know if your vehicle is Front Wheel Drive (FWD) Rear Wheel Drive (RWD), 2 Wheel Drive (2WD), 4 Wheel Drive (4WD) or All Wheel Drive (AWD).
Items to Carry
Consider carrying some or all of these items with you:
- A tarpaulin, ground sheet or old blanket. It can make fitting chains more comfortable if you have to lie on the ground on wet snow.
- An old pair of gloves and an old towel to clean your hands after you have fitted chains.
- An ice scraper or brush to clear any snow build up from your windscreen. An old credit card can sometimes help if you have ice.
- Water, food, warm blankets and extra clothing in case you get stuck.
- An extra car key in you pocket. A number of motorists have locked themselves out of their cars when putting on chains and at ski areas.
Many roads in alpine areas in Australia are in steep mountainous terrain. This can make driving difficult, especially if you are unfamiliar with the roads. When driving in alpine areas the following tips should be used:
- Allow time. Trips to the mountains can take longer during winter than other times of the year, especially if you encounter storm conditions or snow or ice on the road. Get an early start and allow plenty of time to reach your destination.
- Keep windscreen and windows clear. You may want to stop at a safe place to use a brush or scraper.
- Use air conditioner in conjunction with heater for quick demisting. The air conditioner acts as a dehumidifier even when the heat setting is on warm.
- Slow down. A highway speed of 80 kms an hour may be safe in dry weather but is an invitation for trouble on snow and ice. Snow and ice make stopping distances much longer, so keep your seat belt on and leave more distance between your vehicle and the vehicle ahead. Bridges and shady spots can have black ice on the road.
- Remove snow from roof / bonnet / boot - it may 'look cool' up there, but snow falling from your car can be a hazard to other traffic and you can be fined.
- The speed limit in the Koscuiszco National Park is 80kph during winter.
- Avoid braking hard, sudden stops and quick direction changes. Use engine braking if possible to slow you down.
- Be more observant. Visibility is often limited in winter by weather conditions. Slow down and watch for other vehicles
- Diesel Vehicles should fuel up close to the snowfields. The fuel in alpine areas is an Alpine Diesel and has a lower freeze point and additives to stop the fuel system waxing up.
- If stalled, stay with your vehicle and try to conserve fuel while maintaining warmth. Be alert to any possible exhaust or carbon monoxide problems.
- 4 WD, 6 WD or a gazillion WD will not make a skerrick of difference if you start sliding on ice.
- Stop, Revive, Survive. Take a break from driving every 2 hours.
In extreme conditions chains may need to be fitted to the drive wheels of your vehicle due to snow or ice on the road. Sometimes you will be informed by rangers, police or resort staff of this requirement, either in person or by a sign on the side of the road. Other times you will need to make the decision on your own. You should only put chains on if there is snow or ice on the road. Often if there is only a light dusting of snow they will not be required but you should drive with extreme caution. If travelling out of the snow, remember to remove the chains as soon as it is safe to do so. Leaving chains on when they are not required damages the road and can damage your car.
- If you are in a Front Wheel drive vehicle the chains are fitted to the front wheels of the car.
- If you are in a Rear Wheel Drive vehicle the chains should be fitted to the rear wheels of the car.
- If you are in a 4WD or AWD vehicle chains can be fitted to the front, rear or all 4 wheels. You should check the vehicle manufacturers specifications if you are unsure which wheels to fit the chains to.
- If hiring chains check that they fit your vehicle prior to leaving the shop to ensure that you have the right size chains. It can be very inconvenient to have to turn around once you realise later that your chains don’t fit and you cannot continue your journey.
- Slow Down! When driving with snow chains speed should be kept to a minimum. You should not travel any more than 20-30 kph with snow chains on as it can damage both your car and the road.
- When fitting chains pull completely off the road to the left. Do not stop in a traffic lane where you will endanger yourself and block traffic. Use a chain fitting bay if one is available.
If you need to park your vehicle in an alpine area:
- Ensure that parking is allowed where you plan to park. Many of the resorts have specific times when you can and can't park. Often access is required to day parking areas by machinery to clear roads etc, so overnight or after hours parking may not be permitted. If in doubt, ask a resort empoloyee or ranger.
- Leave the vehicle in gear if it is a manual or park if it is an automatic with the parking brake off. The parking brake can freeze on leaving your vehicle stuck. Chock your wheels if parked on a slope.
- Lift your wiper blades off the screen. This will stop your wipers from freezing to your windscreen, although there is a TINY chance that a small avalanche will launch off the roof of your car and slide down your windscreen and bend your windscreen wipers.