Often referred to as tire chains, snow chains help vehicles achieve maximum traction on slippery surfaces such as ice, snow, and even mud. In snowy climes and mountainous regions they’re frequently used. In rough driving conditions, they’re an ideal tool to keep in your car.
For driving in high-elevation or hazardous areas during wintery conditions, some states even require snow chains, snow cables, or at least snow tires. There are many different types of tire chains, which is why we have compiled this list of the best tire chains for snow and winter driving. Different types of terrain require different types of tyres, or they may work better with different vehicles.
Diagonal chains, for example, are best for cars and trucks with traction control, while diamond chains provide more consistent traction for a smoother ride. The square chain has significant advantages over diamond chains in terms of durability and traction.
Top 5 Snow Chains: Editor Recommended
Cable chains are another option, which are easy to install and ideal for vehicles with limited tire clearance, but they are not as durable or effective as other types. A tire chain is sold based on the tire size, not the year, make and model of the vehicle. Check the tire size before purchasing chains for your vehicle.
The 7 Best Snow Chains Reviews:
1. Security Chain Peerless 0232605 Auto-Trac Light Truck
Due to its highly effective patented Auto-Trac tensioning system, the Peerless Series 2300 is compatible with passenger cars, SUVs and light trucks. These chains do not require any jacking up. The automatic ratcheting system tightens the chains to your tires once you start driving after you connect the internal cable and exterior tighteners.
Peerless Auto-Trac tire chains are made of manganese alloy steel and are durable and long-lasting. Diamond pattern construction increases traction on the road and increases tire grip around the tires. Despite all tire chains emitting an unmistakable rumbling, clanking road noise, the Peerless Auto Trac is said to have a smoother ride than its competitors.
- Self-tightening ratchets
- Meets class S clearance requirements
- Also suitable for mud
- Sizing issues reported
- Some complaints about ratchet durability
- Weighs 15.5 pounds
2. Glacier 1046 Passenger Cable Tire Chain
The Glacier tire cables are made from hardened steel rollers secured to cable cross members, resulting in a low-profile fit for smaller vehicles. Set is “S” limited clearance approved, which means they can be used on passenger vehicles with limited wheel well clearance and will not void your vehicle’s warranty. The traction devices meet all state requirements.
A lightweight alternative to chains is a tire cable, which is usually easier to install. However, cables generally offer less traction or durability than tire chains. They are best suited to lighter applications.
- Easy install
- Low cost
- Not as effective as more robust tire chains
- Tire fitment issues reported
- Less durable than competitors
3. Security Chain Company QG2228CAM Quik Grip Light
There are tire chains available for a wide range of vehicles, including passenger cars, minivans, SUVs, and light-duty pickup trucks at Security Chain Company. With its robust strength, this QG2228CAM clip chain is designed to withstand the weight of tough 4×4 trucks with ease. Even during short stints on pavement, they are extremely durable, and are available for most truck tire sizes. Although they are able to function in vehicles with low-profile tires, they do not meet the clearance requirements of SAE Class “S.”
CAM tightening was chosen over the standard QG2228 model because the tensioners are not needed with this set. It comes with step-by-step instructions that are particularly clear. The majority of users say this model is easy to install, but we recommend you try them out at home before taking them on the road.
- On and off-road use
- Easy installation
- Reported to be extremely durable
- Does not meet S.A.E. Class “S” clearance requirements
- May rust faster than other chains
- Some fitment issues reported
4. KÖNIG CB-12 104 Snow Chains
A K*NIG CB-12 chain is designed for tires with a minimum clearance of 12 millimeters. The tires come in sizes ranging from 15 to 19 inches and feature dual-sided D-shaped links for improved traction. They are made of corrosion-resistant manganese nickel alloy. Included are a useful and durable storage container, kneeling mat, gloves, and mounting instructions. In addition, these chains are about 20 to 30% cheaper than some competing products.
Most people who purchase this product report that it’s easy to install due to the chains’ color-coded attachment points and integrated rubber tensioners.
It was noted that users would recommend a test fit at home and that the included paper instructions were not as helpful as watching YouTube how-to videos.
- Corrosion resistant
- Easy install
- Low cost
- Manual tensioners
- Poor instructions
- Not as durable as competitor chains
5. ISSE Textile Snow Chains
The Issue-Shark Snow Sock ($90) is a tire traction device that eliminates the hassle of dealing with snow chains. Chains certainly serve a purpose and have done for decades.
However, some people are put off by having to untangle them if they are not stored correctly, the installation process at the time of use, or the sound they make while they are driving. Snow Socks are here to solve those problems.
The Issue-Shark Snow Sock covers your entire tire and is made of polyolefin fabric that should not be driven on faster than 30 mph. Due to the fabric’s flexibility, low-profile design, and variety of sizes, Snow Socks can fit virtually all tires, from small passenger cars to large trucks.
The Issue-Shark Snow Socks are incredibly easy to install on your tires. Once installed, you won’t experience the rumble and vibration that is common with other chain styles. The fabric construction means they don’t damage your car, which is a concern with tire chains.
Despite not looking as rugged as chains, the Snow Socks provide excellent traction in the same dangerous and demanding snow conditions. Some areas prohibit the use of snow chains, so Issue-Shark Snow Socks are a great legal workaround to provide added traction.
- Good alternative for drivers looking to avoid classic chains
- Easy installation
- Appropriate substitute for roads completely covered in snow
- Workaround for areas that do not allow classic tire chains
- Not the most durable product on the market
- Vastly shortened lifespan when driven on asphalt
6. Soyond Car Tire Snow Chains
Beyond Snow Chains ($38) are an excellent and unique winter tire traction device that is great for budget shoppers. Soyond Snow Chains are an excellent choice if you rarely drive on icy mountain passes or live where snowy weather is rare.
Soyond Snow Chains are completely different from other competitors on the market at first glance. Their unique construction serves a purpose. Hollow tires allow snow to be easily removed from the tire while simultaneously increasing traction when conditions are slippery.
The thermoplastic polyurethane plates were designed to protect both tires and roadways. For added grip and friction on the iciest of roads, each plate is reinforced with steel studs. In addition, these studs can break down icy surfaces as you drive over them.
Snow chains from Beyond are easy to install. Simply pull each strap taut as you attach them to the tire. As with the Snow Sock, these chains can be stored without tangling and applied without moving the vehicle.
These chains can be used on most vehicles – from the smallest sedans to the biggest trucks. Avoid the Beyond Snow Chains if your car or truck has a steel or iron wheel hub, as either can cut through the ribbon at its attachment point. Each order includes six chains, one snow scraper, a pair of nylon gloves, and a wrench for installation.
- Highly affordable snow chain option
- Easy to install
- Unique design creates ample traction on snow and ice
- Does not hold up on asphalt or cement surfaces
- Not the most durable option on the market
7. Security Chain Super Z6 Cable Tire Chain
Tire chains are Security Chain Company’s expertise that they have perfected over the years. The SZ143 Cable Tire Chain ($117) is the result of years of tinkering and seeking perfection in manufacturing. Therefore, they are some of the best cable tire chains on the market.
In addition to being extremely durable, the SZ143 Cable Tire Chains are also easy to install on any type of vehicle. The low profile of these chains allows them to fit comfortably in virtually any wheel well. Therefore, clearance between the tire and the car body is rarely an issue.
Chains are primarily used for traction, and Security Chain Company’s SZ143 offers some of the best traction available for cable-style chains. The cable system was designed to enhance the traction provided by the original styles. The all-embracing design ensures reliable traction throughout the tire. Additionally, the rubber tightening device helps ensure they will fit snugly and not fall off while driving.
The installation of snow chains can be intimidating to some people. The SZ143 has addressed this issue, and many users have commented on its relatively easy installation design. Look no further than the Security Chain Company SZ143 cable chain system if you are interested in a cable chain system that provides ample traction, is relatively easy to install, and works on most types of vehicles.
- Versatile design works with virtually all vehicle types
- Very low profile on the tires
- Relatively easy to install
- On the more expensive side
- Installation can be finicky with small components in cold weather
- Chains can slip off if not installed properly
Buying Guide: What to Consider When Choose Snow Chains
As with any piece of outdoor gear, the closer you are to purchasing, the more details become obvious that make one product stand out. A specific product selection is essential when it comes to snow chains. An icy road can mean the difference between a safe commute and an accident.
These are a few essential things to consider when choosing snow chains.
Self-tensioning chains are available on many modern, higher-end chains, which can make installation easier. The self-tensioning chains center and adjust with built-in ratchets as the vehicle moves and the tires rotate.
This eliminates excess slack in the chain, thus increasing their performance on the snow. Chains that self-tension are better for those who expect to use their chains often.
There are a lot of assisted tensioning and manual tensioning chains on the market, as far as other options go. These chains are typically more affordable and easier to install initially. Drivers must retighten them after they begin driving.
Be sure to carefully consider the pros and cons of both manual and self-tensioning chains as they pertain to your specific vehicle location before making a final decision.
b) Automatic Release
An automatic release is standard on many premium tire chains. The automatic release function can be extremely helpful if you drive over large mountain passes with variable snow conditions or if you cover many miles that may require chains.
In order to prevent damage to both the road and the chains, the automatic release feature prevents driving on bare asphalt or pavement with chains.
Irrespective of the style or features of the chain, it is imperative to get the right size. For the chains to fit properly and function as intended, this is critical.
Fortunately, it is easy to determine your tire size. A tire’s size should be stated on the sidewall – width, height ratio of the sidewall to the width, and diameter.
Don’t worry too much about the size. All you need to do is match the overall number with the model number provided by the chain manufacturer.
Over the past few decades, tire traction chain technology has evolved. While some classic materials continue to be used, some newer innovations have been introduced to the market.
In general, high-end metal chains are made of manganese, titanium, and nickel steel alloys. They are strong and durable. Most middle-of-the-road and economy chains are made of hardened steel.
However, metal chains can be more damaging to roads and vehicles than alternative materials because they provide more traction. Snow socks and rubber chains have been introduced into the industry to combat this problem. Despite not being the best choice for extreme environments, they are certainly more friendly to your vehicle and the roads you drive on.
As you shop around for tire chains that are right for your vehicle, you will notice differences in weight. Chains with less weight provide adequate traction and better fuel economy, and they’re easier to store.
Despite being worse for overall fuel economy, heavier chains provide better friction and are more durable. Heavier chains are more difficult to transport, carry, and store than lighter alternatives.
Don’t worry about fuel economy too much since chains on your tires won’t likely make you drive for long stretches. Additionally, if you plan to use chains only occasionally (or possibly not at all! ), do not buy the heaviest option. Safety should always be your top priority.
Frequently Asked Questions
i) What Type of Snow Chains Are Best?
Everybody wants to know what type of chain is best. Like all outdoor gear, the answer will be different for everyone. Consider things like material, link patterns, weight, style, and price when choosing a snow chain.
Invest in a higher-end, more heavy-duty model if you anticipate driving frequently in bad road conditions and using chains often. Maybe a more budget-friendly option would be appropriate if you want to keep chains in your car just in case of an emergency.
There are pros and cons to each snow chain on the market, so ultimately the decision is yours.
ii) Are Snow Chains or Snow Socks Better?
Occasionally, snow socks can be a good alternative to snow chains. The traction provided by snow socks is not as good as that provided by chains.
Furthermore, snow socks’ fabric wears down more quickly than more durable metal chains. Snow socks are a great option for people who don’t plan on driving regularly in the most challenging winter conditions.
Some manufacturers strongly recommend that drivers not use snow chains on certain models of their vehicles. The most common cause of this problem is low tire clearance, for which snow socks can be a good solution. Snow socks may not provide the same level of traction as metal chains, but they are better than nothing for cars that can’t handle the volume increase created by chains.
iii) How Do I Install Snow Chains?
Perfecting the art of installing snow chains requires practice. Every brand and style of chain will install slightly differently. The chains come with specific instructions, and there is a general method that all drivers must follow.
Make sure you purchase the correct size chains for your vehicle. We highly recommend you practice installing them before winter arrives once you have them. Having practiced on the side of the highway in a subzero blizzard will make putting on chains a lot easier! Putting on chains is easier the more you practice.
When you plan to store your chains in your vehicle, build a quick winter emergency kit to go along with them. It is nice to have gloves, a spare coat, a headlamp, and something to kneel on in your car if you are caught off guard and need to put chains on.
- Installation 101
Pull off the road to the side of the road when it is time to install your chains. Be sure to wear a winter coat, four-way flashers, and to reach the tires safely.
Install the chains on the front tires of front-wheel-drive vehicles. Rear-wheel-drive vehicles will have them on the back tires. For vehicles with all-wheel drive or 4WD, chains should be installed on the front tires, but check the owner’s manual to make sure.
There will be slight differences between all installations from here on out. For your particular set of chains, follow the instructions included with them.
In general, you’ll need to unpack, untangle, and wrap them around your tire, joining them as needed. This process should be repeated on both tires.
After the chains are attached, you can slowly drive forward 10 to 20 feet to let them settle. To remove any slack, if your chains don’t self-tension, get out and tighten them yourself. Once you are certain they are securely attached, slowly pull onto the road and begin your drive.
With most chains, you will hear and feel a slight rumble, but stop immediately if you hear loud noises. This may indicate that your chains are not tight enough and are knocking against your wheel wells. To adjust, pull over safely.
iv) Can Snow Chains Damage My Car?
Snow chains can damage your car. Nevertheless, they are all designed to prevent such a negative outcome. Cars get damaged by tire chains almost entirely because of the installer or driver.
Tires need to be fitted properly with snow chains. In the absence of such protection, your wheel wells may suffer damage as you drive. They can also become loose if not installed properly, causing damage to the underbody. Be sure to tighten and double-check your chains when you put them on.
Chains come with a driving speed recommendation – typically around 30 mph. Breaking the chains and causing further damage to your vehicle will result from exceeding the recommended speed. If you’re driving with chains on your tires, be extra cautious if you’re driving over areas of bare pavement.
Tire chains may cause damage, but they are primarily designed to provide traction and safety. Snow chains shouldn’t cause you any problems if you install them properly and follow all manufacturer’s instructions. As an alternative traction device, snow socks may be a better choice.
v) Can Snow Chains Be Used in the Mud?
Many snow chains are designed for packed snow or ice, but they can also be useful in muddy conditions. The treads of tires lose traction when they are packed with foreign material (snow, ice, or mud).
Chains act as an additional traction device, allowing for more friction. Various snow chains perform better in mud than others, and manufacturers should address their chains’ performance in mud.
Winter driving should not be taken lightly. The good news is that there are plenty of tools available to help you navigate snowy and icy roads with relative ease. In wintry, mountainous environments, snow tires are a great asset, but a full set of tires is expensive to replace.
It’s a good idea to keep snow tire chains in your car when conditions are rough.
Forbes Wheels compared options for a wide range of vehicles, from small cars to large SUVs and pickup trucks. Our selection was based on three key features: traction, durability, and ease-of-use. Since the purpose of driving with tire chains is to maintain control of acceleration, cornering, and braking, traction is of primary importance. Since tire chains support the weight of the entire vehicle crushing against the ground, they are made from extremely strong materials like hardened steels and alloys.