Snow chains come in handy during winter months as most roads are covered in snow, making it difficult to drive. The devices are fitted on vehicles to provide adequate traction when driving on ice and snow because most passenger cars are not designed for driving on such surfaces. The chains are wrapped around the tires to add a thick, rugged surface that generates traction. Many U.S. states require motorists to use and own a pair of snow chains during winter. Here, you’ll find five different models of the best snow chains from $28 up to $116.

What You Will Learn from This Guide:

How Snow Chains Work

Generally, snow chains are attached to the drive wheels, but rear wheel drive automobiles will have the snow chains fitted on the back tires. Drivers who have 4x4 vehicles may fit the chains on all the tires, but it is not mandatory. Snow chains feature a series of chains that are wrapped around the tires and fit over the wheels tightly so that they do not dislodge when driving. It is imperative to purchase the right size of snow chains to avoid accidents. Properly fitting tire chains can even outperform winter tires as are they are thicker than the tread on the wheels; this thickness provides a firm grip on the road. They are made of strong, durable metal that allows the tire to bear the weight of the vehicle without getting damaged. Note that snow chains are not permanent fixtures of the cars hence, the need to remove and clean them after use. They are designed to sink into the compacted snow by providing a barrier between the road surface and the chains. Without the layer of ice or snow, you may damage the tires and the road surface severely and shorten the life of the chains. Experts recommend driving at 30mph (maximum speed) when using the tire chains.

What to Look For When Buying a Snow Chain

Tire chains are designed for particular types of tires. Improperly fitting chains cause extensive damage to the wheel wells, braking system, and the wheel. Next is a look at some of the factors to consider when buying snow chain tires.

The Manufacturer's Manual

Most vehicles have the clearance to accommodate properly sized snow chains. The manufacturer's manual comes in handy if the vehicle does not have such clearance as it tells the motorist if the vehicle can be fitted with the chains.

The Size of the Chain

Tires have the width, height, and diameter printed on the sidewalls or the driver's side door placard. Usually, the size of the tire is displayed in the form of P225/75R16. P denotes a passenger vehicle, 225 the tread width, 75 the aspect ratio of the side wall, R a radial tire, and 16'' is the rim size in inches.

The Category of the Tire Chains

Choose snow chains rated SAE Class S as they are designed for modern front-wheel drive vehicles and lower ground clearances. Tire chains for other classifications have higher ground clearance and may damage the automobile.

The Driving Conditions

Snow chains are classified into four categories; entry level (for snow and ice), premium, standard, and alternative traction snow chains. Standard chains are designed for areas with regular snowfall while premium ones are ideal for daily driving purposes on snowy regions as they offer superior performance and enhance the car's braking system on an icy surface. For low-profile tires, alternative traction devices are best.

Type of Chain

Tire chains feature different link patterns- diamond, diagonal, ladder, and square. Diamond-shaped tire chains are designed for vehicles that have an anti-lock braking system. Chains with diagonal link systems are known to offer the best traction on snow and ice and are also ideal for vehicles that have traction control and ABS. Square link tire chains, on the other hand, are sturdier and offer better traction than diamond link chains while ladder style tire chains come in two designs. Some are designed for on and off-the-road driving conditions and others for snow and ice roads only.

TOP-5 Best Snow Chains

Security Chain Company SZ143 Super Z6 Cable Tire Chain

Security Chain Company SZ143: photo

Features:

  • Fast and easy installation; no need of moving the car
  • Provides all-round traction performance that is not found in conventional cables and tire chains
  • Compatible with traction control, all-wheel drive, anti-lock brakes, and other control systems monitored electronically
  • Has a built-in rubber tightener hence, no need to retighten after installation

The Super Z6 snow chain is designed for trucks, cars, and SUVs that have limited clearance around the drive tires. Unlike other snow chains, the Super SZ operates less than half the space required by conventional tire chains, i.e., 6mm/ ¼ inch of the sidewall clearance. It has a diagonal pattern that offers constant traction, stopping, aggressive starting and ensures compatibility with cars that have electronically monitored brake systems and traction control.

Konig CB-12 Snow Chains

Konig CB-12 Snow Chains: photo

Features:

  • Has a manual tightening system
  • The locking device protects the wheel
  • Provides traction for garden tractors
  • Fitted with closed shortening hooks
  • The two lick chain system enhances traction
  • Does not come with a chain tightener

This highly durable snow chain is designed for maximum traction. It is easy to fit as it comes with color coding on the links, but users need to re-tighten the chains after driving a short distance. It also features a D-shackle chain with standard designs that have been tested for many years. This old-school technology features a pretty small clearance of ½ inch but does not disappointment in performance. In fact, most users state that the chain outperforms the cable design that is popular in modern day manufacturing.

Security Chain Company SC1032 Radial Chain Cable Traction Tire Chain

Security Chain Company SC1032: photo

Features:

  • Improves a vehicles ability to navigate corners, stop, and start
  • Ideal for low operating space around the drive tires
  • Made of stainless steel
  • Is lightweight for easy fitting and removal

This radial chain features a simple, light-weight construction for passenger vehicles and light truck sizes. The alloy traction coils cover the cross-members to add more traction to the ice and snow. Originally, Radial Chain was designed to reduce the wear on tire sidewalls hence, the brand name cable chain. Its consumer-friendly features have since resulted in a revolution in the manufacture of winter traction chains and it is still recognized as a market leader. Today, the Radial Chain is the most basic product for van, pickup, and recreational vehicle markets.

Rupse Easy to Install Tire Chains

Rupse Easy to Install Tire Chains: photo

Features:

  • Comes with two-piece surrounding
  • Made of high-quality polyurethane material
  • Has a latched design
  • Has a three-bar reverse non-slip design

This snow chain features a high-grade PU material that lasts long, is temperature resistant, and has an anti-tear feature. The three-bar reverse non-slip design enhances friction and helps reduce the isopsophic index for improved performance of the chain. The chain is ideal for tire models 205/60R16, 205/65R16, 205/55R17, and 215/65R15, among others.

TireChain.com ATV UTV European Style Diamond Net Tire Chains

Snow Chain from TireChain: photo

Features:

  • Diamond style chain
  • Comes packed in a bag for easier storage

These snow chain features cross chain sections made of V-Bar lick chain with a diameter of 5.5 mm. It has a diamond style chain that provides a firmer, lateral grip on hills compared to ladder style chains. The snow chain is designed for ATV tires that are known for their aggressive tread patterns and ability to maneuver country terrain. As such, the snow chain is best used on tires measuring, 24x11-8, 24x11-9, 24x12.00-12, 25x11-10, and 240-60R-12, among other within this range.

Comparative Chart of Snow Chains

Product Dimensions Tire Model Other Special Feature
Security Chain Company SZ143
7x4x18 inches SUVs, Pickups, Cars For restricted clearance
Konig
8x13 inches 215/70-14,
195/80-15,
215/70-15,
235/60-15
Manual tensioning chain
Security Chain Company SC1032
6 inches For radial tires Waterproof, recyclable
Rupse
2 inches 225/45R17, 215/65R15, 195/70R15, 195/60R17 Free of jack system
TireChain.com
14x4x12 inches 26x9-14,
26x9-12,
25x13-9,
25x12-10
Ideal for ATV Tires

FAQs for Snow Chains

How Do I Check the Clearance of the Vehicle?

Some vehicles have little space between the suspension and the wheels, causing the chain to come into contact with the braking system and the bodywork. Motorists can check if the car has a clearance problem by placing their hands on the wheel arch and tire to feel if there are obstructions.

What Should I Do If the Vehicle has Limited Clearance?

Vehicles manufactured in the late 80s may have special clearance requirements. A motorist may not identify them immediately as they located behind the suspension parts, brakes, splash guards, strut housings, or brake lines. If the vehicle has restricted clearance, the motorist should use a link chain or a cable snow chain.

Is it Possible to Fit the Snow Chains without Raising the Car?

Yes, as long as there is adequate clearance above the tire and the wheel arch. If there isn't enough space, you can jack the vehicle upwards create a raised position for the body.

How Should I Clean the Snow Chain after Use?

You can wash the snow chain with warm, soapy water, using a firm brush to remove muck and salty residue. Then, hung the chains to dry, apply WD40 spray and allow them to dry again. The spray helps to reduce corrosion during storage. If allowed to stay in a wet place for a long time, they rust and deteriorate much faster.

Do Snow Socks Work in Place of Snow Chains?

Yes, they can. Snow socks make excellent alternatives for automobiles that don't have sufficient clearance for snow chains. However, while they are easier to handle compared to snow chains, they offer less traction, are more prone to wear and tear, and motorists have to move their cars when fitting them.

Pros of Snow Chains:

  • They are the best devices for creating additional traction
  • Motorists do not have to move their vehicle when fitting the chains
  • Does not wear out easily

Cons:

  • Can be a little difficult to fit
  • Can cause damage if fitted incorrectly

Tips and Life Hacks

When using snow chains, it is important to avoid:

  • Locking up the wheels when braking
  • Hitting pot holes where possible to avoid breaking the chains
  • Driving on areas without significant tarmac