In extreme winter conditions, “all-season” tires will not provide dependable traction to get you to your destination. While dedicated winter tires are the best solution to this problem, it may not make sense to many people to buy a new set of tires for a weekend up in the mountains (some areas also require the use of snow chains).
As a temporary way of getting around this problem, snow chains are an option. Simply put, the idea behind ‘snow chains’ is to wrap metal chains around your tires in order to obtain a method to ‘dig’ through slippery surfaces in a way that all-season tires cannot. However, it’s recommended that you drive slowly to avoid any problems with the chains becoming dislodged.
We've chosen a variety of the best snow chains available. Performance and durability are very important, as the chains need to effectively allow for driving through snow and ice while not being at risk of falling apart mid-drive. Snow chains have a reputation for being difficult to install and remove, which is mostly well-earned. However, some of our more expensive picks feature installation systems that make the process quick and painless. We've also included budget-friendly options that might not include these features, but make for a good option when you're only likely to need snow chains on a rare occasion.
The Thule CG9 snow chains make installation and removal a snap, with a self-tensioning system that eliminates the need to move the car during the process. These snow chains are well-suited to smaller vehicles thanks to their 9mm chain. Overall, they are well worth the premium price tag for those who are likely to need snow chains for more than just the occasional use. Read Full Review
Although most snow chains require considerable effort to install and remove, the Thule CG9 is designed to make the process as painless as possible. This is thanks to the self-centering and self-tensioning system which eliminates the need to jump in and out of the car to get the chains on, while the brightly-colored assembly links are easy to use and provide added visibility in poor conditions.
The 9mm chain offers good clearance (allowing these to be used on smaller vehicles) and makers for better ride quality. Despite the smaller size of the chain, the high-quality steel construction makes for excellent durability. The Thule CG9 is expensive, but offers top convenience and excellent performance.
The Security Chain Company Super Z6 might be expensive, but offers excellent convenience and performance for the money. These snow chains feature simple installation, as well as superior traction on snow and ice. Read Full Review
As you’ve probably assumed from the name, the Security Chain Company (SCC) specializes in snow chain applications for cars and trucks. The Super Z6 is one of SCC’s highest-spec snow chains available, utilizing a state-of-the-art design that does away with the conventional link-type chain. Instead, the Super Z6 comes with a unique cable-type chain that allows for tight-clearance applications.
The Super Z6 is simple to install, and doesn’t require moving the vehicle or fitting extra chain tighteners. The alloy cables provide superior all-around capability than competing link-type chains and the only drawback are their relatively high price when compared to less capable options.
If basic functionality is all that is needed, the Thule CB12 is a good choice. These snow chains don't feature any quick installation systems, but do offer asymmetrical chain design at an affordable price. Read Full Review
If you don’t see the point of spending big bucks on a piece of equipment that’s used rarely, if ever at all, consider the Thule CB12. Unlike its more expensive siblings, the CB12 forgoes the frills in exchange for functionality and affordability. Though not equipped with an external quick-release device, this asymmetrical chain is no more difficult to install than the average snow chain (which requires moving the car backwards and forwards).
The chain links provide traction in both deep snow and glare ice, and can be counted on to get you to your destination. When shopping for the Thule CB12, be sure to take into consideration the size that you will need for your particular car or truck.
If you're looking for an alternative to heavy, bulky snow chains, AutoSock offers a completely new approach to increasing traction on snow and ice. The AutoSock is a washable and reusable textile cover that covers the tire to increase traction. These lightweight Winter traction devices are easy to install and work very well for occasional use. Read Full Review
Invented as an alternative to bulky tire chains, the Autosock is a fresh take on the snow traction enhancing device. Rather than using hard-riding, noisy chains around the tire, the Autosock uses a flexible, specially-designed textile cover that wraps around the whole tire. The surface is full of traction-enhancing fibers that can gain traction on snow and ice, much like conventional snow chains.
For those concerned about long-term durability, the Autosock is fully reusable and can be machine-washed after use to clean off the dirt lodged into the textile. Best of all, the textile-based Autosock can be folded up and stashed out of the way once it is not needed anymore.
When affordability is the top priority, it's difficult to find better snow chains for the money than the Security Chain Company Radial Chain snow chains. Although these snow chains are very basic in design and require the standard process to get them on and off, they offer simplicity and durability for a budget-friendly price. Read Full Review
For occasional use, the Security Chain Company Radial Chain is a good option. These snow chains feature a simple design and basic functionality; there's no fancy self-tensioning installation system here. Although this does mean that installation and removal is more difficult that some more expensive options, it is always a good idea to practice installing and removing snow chains at home, before you're in an emergency situation. Installation is no more difficult than any other standard snow chains. Overall, for the rare occasion when you might need to use snow chains, these are an affordable option. They might not be the best chains that money can buy, but they are certainly some of the cheapest.