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Old 11-05-2009, 12:04 PM   #1
chiefhighliner
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Exclamation Traction Devices, Snow Tires for the Focus


The owner's manual says "do not use traction devices such as cables or chains on this vehicle...." I have been actively debating that instruction for the past two months on this very subject on which I have been doing research, and must make it patently clear that this instruction is very true. I was going to disregard the owner's manual and put regular cable chains on the factory tires, but after continually feeling the very little clearance between the strut and the "S" clearance, the clearance between the tire and the fender, I have conclusively decided to follow the owner's manual. The owner's manual says that snow tires, including studded tires, are okay for winter driving, which cost considerably more than cable chains, but the fact is that there simply is not enough clearance on the 17" wheels and P215 Tires and 45% tire height to accommodate these cables.

I sent a letter to the tech guys at Sno-bootz as to why they do not make a set of their premium traction devices for the Focus, and they said:

Sorry. Currently, we do not have Snobootz to fit tire size 215/45-17

...which was followed up by an email that said the 2009 Focus, which is basically the same as a 2008 Focus and 2010, in which the guys said they tested the Focus with cable chains and found that every turn and bump they cables would definitely rub against the fender housing, and they are dangerously close to the strut, so if you want your strut seriously damaged or a defective cable chain to wrap around the CVJ and front axle, go ahead, put on those cables, and also the Sno-bootz won't fit for the same reason.

So rather than risk hundreds of dollars in damage to the front end by putting on cables against the manufacturer's specific recommendation, the only option a Focus owner has for serious winter driving is to mount a set of snow tires on, since the Northwest Tire Dealers Association, for example, will not sell you and mount just two snow tires for the drive wheels, you have to buy a whole set, because they don't want the driver to lose control from the different traction of the snow tires and the regular tires. So this means as a Focus owner, you have to spend $800 or so for four snow tires or just leave the car at home, or dare you take your chances with regular tires on snow and ice and take the chance you won't make it back home, having to abandon your vehicle in the middle of a snow or ice-covered road. So you would then have to purchase just two snow tires on new wheels, and then take them home and mount them yourselves, because none of the tire dealers, at least in the Seattle area. will mount you two snow tires--they just won't do it, even if you pay them $$$$. They said once you hit your brakes with an ABS system and two snow tires in the front and regular tires in the rear, then you'll know why--the back end will swing out on snow and ice.

The traction control and stability traction control will not, however, help to improve snow and ice traction. Those two systems are there to help the driver to make better choices whether to leave in on or off--on during rain and light snow, and off to help rock the vehicle out of a snow or ice rut. But it is clear that the Focus is a remarkable car, even for a rally type, but not with 3rd party chains or cables. With snow tires, if the expense can be afforded, the car will be truly manageable in all but the deepest snow and ice sheets, but with bare tires, forget it.

This is my third Focus. I had to give up my first two for financial reasons, and once my BK was over I couldn't wait to get another one. In the interim, I was driving a 2000 ZX2 Escort, which was absolutely fabulous in the snow and ice with standard snow cables, and I was climbing up hills with over a foot of snow and ice while all the other cars were stranded on the side of the road. Unfortunately, I will not be able to enjoy that economical means of adding snow and ice traction with my Focus because of the nearly (ridiculous) low clearance between the fender, strut and tires, so I just wanted to share this information with you.

I also was told by the tire professional that you cannot mount wheels smaller than 16" on the 2009 Focus because the smaller wheels will not clear the brake calipers. This, because I thought if I were to put smaller wheels with regular tires, I could then install snow cables on those wheels and get my extra clearance. But the evidence says that if you go against the owner's manual when it comes to winter traction devices, it will cost as much or more than a good set of snow tires to replace the damaged front end parts. I'm just not going to take that chance.

----------------
(I have written three books about driving, all of which are limited editions, but in my latest book I go considerably into winter driving in one of the chapters, of which you can preview at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0967508215. There is so much information in this book it took the better part of ten years for me to write it, part of the reason was that I was tired of seeing drivers ill-prepared for winter driving).



Last edited by chiefhighliner; 11-05-2009 at 12:25 PM. Reason: new information
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Old 11-05-2009, 12:10 PM   #2
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Great information and great post. Although I don't think it would be $800 for a set of four snow tires. I got a used set with only one season on them for $300, and that included the steel rims. Nice post though, either way!
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Old 11-05-2009, 12:15 PM   #3
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I was thinking about a set of Michelin X-ice tires, and at $160 each, plus mounting and balancing, which costs more because of the TPMS, it's around $800 after mounting, balance and tax--which if I had a credit card, I would do it. Then I read that these tires are some of the best, if not THE best, for traction on ice, which everybody wants, but if you have a lot of mixed driving (snow, ice, bare pavement) the treadwear on pavement is not so good, so it would be a waste of money if you don't get too much snow every year. It's better to just tough it out with the regular tires.
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Old 11-05-2009, 12:53 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chiefhighliner View Post
I was thinking about a set of Michelin X-ice tires, and at $160 each, plus mounting and balancing, which costs more because of the TPMS, it's around $800 after mounting, balance and tax--which if I had a credit card, I would do it. Then I read that these tires are some of the best, if not THE best, for traction on ice, which everybody wants, but if you have a lot of mixed driving (snow, ice, bare pavement) the treadwear on pavement is not so good, so it would be a waste of money if you don't get too much snow every year. It's better to just tough it out with the regular tires.
If treadwear is a big factor for you, I'd consider a performance winter tire which will offer a harder, long lasting rubber compound. We have the Dunlop Winter sport M3's available in your size at $137/tire with a $50 mail-in rebate right now. These will be far better than any all-season tire and should wear better than some of the really soft compound ice and snow tires.
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Old 11-05-2009, 06:43 PM   #5
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Snow tires/traction devices

Th conventional wisdom is do not use chains on front drive cars. Also, the standard wheel size on 08-2010 foci is 15" so I don't think the brake clearance statement is correct.
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Old 11-05-2009, 11:20 PM   #6
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The man who told me about the wheel size has been installing tires and wheels for almost 20 years, and he knows about the focus. Also, as you will note, I have a 2009 Focus SES, and the standard tire/wheel size for this model is P215/45R/17. The S and SE model Focus are equipped with 15" wheels, the SEL comes standard with 16" and the SES comes standard with 17" wheels. See also http://www.fordvehicles.com/cars/focussedan/models/. It does seem weird, though, that he would tell me that the caliper clearance on the SES is not enough with 15" wheels, which would mean that the SES has a different front end that the S and SE models, which doesn't seem right. But why would I want to go to a smaller wheel when the SES comes standard with the Premium alloy wheels and Kuhmo tires? (the tires don't do so well with fast cornering in the rain, so I can already tell how they are going to handle ice and snow).

Last edited by chiefhighliner; 11-05-2009 at 11:23 PM. Reason: additional information
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Old 11-05-2009, 11:27 PM   #7
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Treadwear is probably the most important factor in which I decide to buy tires besides wet handling. If I wanted speed I would just have racing slicks, but the State Patrol might not go for that, you know? The Toyo 800, which used to be sold by Les Schwab, had an 80,000 mile warranty, but I don't think they sell them anymore. But, since I have had this particular focus only two months, I should not have to buy tires during the first two years of service at a minimum. I've noticed that road noise is a little higher, but I would have to say that I don't hate the standard Kuhmo tires, I can tell that they won't be able to handle any serious ice and snow, even though they are M + S rated.
I will probably not buy Goodyear tires. I am leading either towards Michelin or Pirelli tires, but again, I can be selective until I find the best All-weather tire with a treadwear rating of at least 580, Traction A and Temperature A.
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Old 11-05-2009, 11:59 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chiefhighliner View Post
The man who told me about the wheel size has been installing tires and wheels for almost 20 years, and he knows about the focus. Also, as you will note, I have a 2009 Focus SES, and the standard tire/wheel size for this model is P215/45R/17. The S and SE model Focus are equipped with 15" wheels, the SEL comes standard with 16" and the SES comes standard with 17" wheels.
^^ the brake calipers on the front should be the same regardless of wheel size. so you should at least be able to fit a 16" wheel. unless you somehow have brakes over 300mm. even the svtf can fit a 16" wheel. my mother has an 08 ses (physically the same as yours) and hers has 16"s on it. they went to 17"s in 09 for teh looks and handling benefits.

the standard kumho's on the 17's are more of a dry weather tire. i'd go for something a little more water freindly and higher performing for your non winter months.
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Old 11-06-2009, 04:30 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chiefhighliner View Post
The man who told me about the wheel size has been installing tires and wheels for almost 20 years, and he knows about the focus. Also, as you will note, I have a 2009 Focus SES, and the standard tire/wheel size for this model is P215/45R/17. The S and SE model Focus are equipped with 15" wheels, the SEL comes standard with 16" and the SES comes standard with 17" wheels. See also http://www.fordvehicles.com/cars/focussedan/models/. It does seem weird, though, that he would tell me that the caliper clearance on the SES is not enough with 15" wheels, which would mean that the SES has a different front end that the S and SE models, which doesn't seem right. But why would I want to go to a smaller wheel when the SES comes standard with the Premium alloy wheels and Kuhmo tires? (the tires don't do so well with fast cornering in the rain, so I can already tell how they are going to handle ice and snow).
you can use 15" wheels and tires. Yes its nice to have the premium alloys in the summer, but for winter, go for function over fashion. also, as long as you dont care about the TPMS light on the dash, u dont need to have that system on your winter wheels.
so, as opposed to the 800$ you estimated above, you can find 15" wheels and snow tires for about 500$ and less if you go for used (i bought a set for 220$ for my sister this year)
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Old 11-06-2009, 12:33 PM   #10
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Quote:
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^^ the brake calipers on the front should be the same regardless of wheel size. so you should at least be able to fit a 16" wheel. unless you somehow have brakes over 300mm. even the svtf can fit a 16" wheel. my mother has an 08 ses (physically the same as yours) and hers has 16"s on it. they went to 17"s in 09 for teh looks and handling benefits.

the standard kumho's on the 17's are more of a dry weather tire. i'd go for something a little more water freindly and higher performing for your non winter months.
....man, have you got that right. As I have only had this Focus for two months, I am wide open to suggestions as far as a quality set of a/w tires. Again, because of my (negative) experiences with Goodyear, I will lean towards Michelin or Bridgestone or some other tire that has good wet handling and improved compounds for wet cornering and some snow and ice. I tend to favor softer compounds over hard compounds since I am not going for any speed records here. Drop me a Reply.
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