Many drivers waiting until the last minute for snow tires

Posted: Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The heavy snowfall Tuesday drove home the same challenge drivers have to face every year: navigating the slippery snow. This always means heavy, but hectic, business for tire dealers.

Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire
Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire

Stores had bookings ready when they opened for business and, in the rush, many customers had to wait another day for the tires they needed to tackle the weather.

The technicians at Les Schwab Tires are just one example of those who had their hands full Tuesda. Manager Joe Sorenson said there were 62 cars in line when they closed the previous night, many of them drop-offs.

The addition of customers demanding winter tires after the snow actually fell backed up business quickly. Sorenson said while a few more cars were taken in yesterday morning, they had to put up signs around 8:15 a.m. proclaiming no additional cars would be serviced that day.

He said this is typical, as many people wait until the last minute, often after snow has already started to fall, before getting their tires.

He said the biggest demand at Les Schwab is for studded tires. He said this type tends to do a better job on hard-packed snow and ice.

Costco's tire center, which deals in studless winter tires, was just as busy. Supervisor Greg Pendergrast said there were around 15 people waiting outside when the doors opened Tuesday, and the shop was booked for the day by 11:30 a.m. He said this is typical each year when the first snow hits.

"Every season, everyone pretty much waits till the last minute," he said.

While shops like these deal with walk-ins, Esmail Peirovi, owner and manager of Foreign Auto Repair, said he prefers to do things by appointments only. He said this still didn't make business any less hectic with the influx of last-minute shoppers.

"The telephone was ringing off the hook," he said. "The first couple of inches of snow always makes people panic."

Not all customers were those who waited, though. He said many people do try to prepare their cars as soon as they feel the weather will get nasty, and the shop's schedule had been full for a week. He said some will even put on winter tires as early as September.

Foreign Auto Repair also sells studded tires.

These dealers advise those that have yet to acquire snow tires to be extra cautious on the road. Even when unnerved by the snow or ice, it's important not to race to dealers in an attempt to beat crowds. Peirovi said the important thing is to not panic or get in a rush. He said those that do get in a rush may end up getting the wrong kind of tires.

"It's not worth the rush. Just drive safely," he said. "And if you can't get out of your driveway, don't try."

Sorenson said slowing down on the road is the biggest precaution.

• Contact reporter Jonathan Grass at 523-2276 or at

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