Three best snow chains
Snow chains are intended to provide your car with excellent traction when you're maneuvering across snowy and icy streets, helping you and your family stay safe in hazardous conditions. Chains are definitely worth the investment if you live in a cold climate. With winter just around the corner, you might want to begin your search for snow chains now before the snow and ice hit your city.
If you're wondering which snow chains will work best on your vehicle, check out our guide below.
Considerations when choosing snow chains
Material: The first step in deciding which snow chains will fit your needs this winter is figuring out what they're made of. There are three main materials used in snow chains: hardened steel, manganese nickel steel, and titanium alloy.
Hardened steel is rather inexpensive and will last you for years, though it's heavy and will rust over time without proper maintenance.
Manganese nickel steel combats rust, is lighter than hardened steel, and is exceedingly durable.
Titanium alloy is light, very strong, and far more expensive than other snow chains.
Fit: Depending on how much you're willing to spend on your snow chains, fitting them on your tires can either be an easy affair or a dreaded chore. Cheaper snow chains are known for being somewhat difficult to fit properly because it requires that you lay them on the ground and drive over them a few times as they're tightened (called a "manual" fit). If you don't mind spending more, the more expensive snow chains are self-tightening and centering.
Links: There are various types of links available -- cables, twisted, and square -- and it's important to know which type will suit your specific needs.
Cables provide an incredibly smooth ride, unlike other chains, though they don't offer maximum grip.
Twisted links are rounded, which provides a nice balance between grip and a smooth ride, though these can be relatively uncomfortable compared to cables.
Square links, or "D" links, have more of an edge, providing excellent traction in snow and ice. You'll probably want square links in the worst winter conditions.
Pattern: There are various chain patterns available from different manufacturers, and it can be hard to discern the differences between them.
The ladder is the traditional snow chain pattern because it offers admirable traction, though it's criticized for its resistance in turning.
The V pattern fixes the turning issue somewhat because it allows for easier braking during turns while still offering excellent stability on icy roads.
The diamond pattern was developed out of the V pattern. It combines the best of both the ladder and V designs.
The full pattern chain might be your best bet in extreme winter conditions. This chain offers remarkable traction with full tire coverage, but the extensive pattern sacrifices a smooth ride. The full pattern is typically only used on larger trucks and off-road vehicles, so make sure you understand their limitations before purchasing them for a compact car.
Snow chain prices: Low-cost snow chains begin around $40. At this price, you'll probably need to apply them manually, but overall they're reliable and safe devices for most winter weather. If you want snow chains that are easier to put on, you'll typically spend about $60 to $120. Snow chains for larger vehicles will exceed $120 and could even cost as much as $200.
Q. Will snow socks provide the same traction and safety as snow chains?
A. Though snow socks might be acceptable for areas with light snowfall, customers living in harsh winter conditions are advised to forgo the snow socks and invest in a more heavy-duty option like chains. Some appreciate snow socks for their lightweight storage, but overall they are ill-suited for situations where you need good traction, such as driving on ice.
Q. Do snow chains fit on all vehicles?
A. Some manufacturers might advise against using snow chains on their vehicles for various reasons. Check your owner's manual to be sure, or consider using low-profile cable chains. These chains can solve some issues with low tire clearance, as well as trouble involving alloy wheel damage from normal snow chains. However, be sure to double-check with the vehicle maker because low-profile chains might still be incompatible with some car models.
Snow chains we recommend
Best of the best: Security Chain Company Super Z6 Cable Tire Chains
Our take: Check out this heavy-duty option if you don't mind spending more for excellent snow chains. A fantastic pick for harsh winters.
What we like: Simple installation with auto-tightening and a nearly universal fit for most vehicles. Doesn't require you to move vehicle during installation.
What we dislike: Fit may be tighter on some vehicles. Suggested speed during use is 30 mph.
Best bang for your buck: Konig CB-12 080 Snow Chains
Our take: Recognized for its simple installation and reasonable price point, this snow chain is an incredible deal.
What we like: Customers appreciate the durability and effectiveness of these chains.
What we dislike: The chains may scratch your tire rims.
Choice 3: Security Chain Peerless Auto-Trac Chains
Our take: One of the better picks for larger vehicles. Chains fit most trucks and SUVs, and some sedans.
What we like: Diamond pattern offers superb traction. Customers rave about easy installation.
What we dislike: Finding the correct size for your vehicle requires much research.
Moriah Lee is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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