Winter tires are not always enough. In the mountain regions in particular, it is no longer possible to move forward on snowy and icy roads, even with winter tires. In these cases, snow chains often turn out to be indispensable. They help ensure the necessary traction even in heavy snowfall and icy roads and ensure safe driving in winter conditions.
But when and where can such conditions be expected? Is there a legal obligation to fit snow chains? How are snow chains installed and what do you have to pay attention to when buying snow chains? Questions about questions that we have investigated in this guide. Read everything you need to know about snow chains here.
1. KÖNIG CB-12 020 Snow Chains
- 145/80-12, 155/70-12, 135/80-13, 145/70-13, 155/65-13,…
- The simple and sturdy manual tensioning chain.
- 12 mm inside and on-the-tread clearance.
- Homologations/certifications/conformity: Ö-Norm 5117, UNI…
2. Glacier Chains H2828SC Snow Chain
- Tough carbon steel twist link cross chain with welded V-bar
- Lever end fastener for easy mounting
- Great for your truck, van or SUV
- Meets all state requirements for traction devices
- Comes with locking side-cams to always ensure a good fit
3. Security Chain Company SZ143 Tire Chain
- Please refer to the Application Guide under Technical…
- Designed for cars, pickups, and SUVs with very limited…
- Fast easy installation with no need to move the vehicle
- Designed-in rubber tightener means there is no need to stop…
- Better all-around traction performance than conventional…
4. KONIG CB-12 090 Snow Chains
- 195/80-14, 205/70-14, 195/70-15, 205/65-15, 215/60-15,…
- The simple and sturdy manual tensioning chain.
- 12 mm inside and on-the-tread clearance.
- Certifications: Ö-Norm 5117, UNI 11313, TÜV.
5. KÖNIG Easy-FIT SUV 265 - Snow Chains
- 265/70-16, 265/65-17, 265/60-18, 255/60-18, 255/55-19,…
- 10 mm inside and on-the-tread clearance.
- Anti-scratch nylon bumpers protect alloy wheels (optional…
- Homologations/certifications/conformity: Ö-Norm 5117, UNI…
- Not for off-road use.
6. MICHELIN 00 Snow Chains
- Snow chains in composite material; Compatibility:…
- Deliver optimal drive on snow and ice, in, acceleration,…
- Easy installation and disassembly ultrarapidi thanks to the…
- Suitable only for vehicles catenabili (refer to manual for…
- Approved in Italy Uni 11313: 2010
7. Konig CG-9 090 Snow Chains
No products found.
8. Peerless 0152005 Auto-Trac Tire Chain
- Worry-free self-tightening ratchets provide automatic…
- Easy installation and removal in minutes
- Do not exceed 30 MPH with these chains on
- Diamond pattern cross chain provides a smoother ride and…
- Meet class ‘S’ clearance requirements
9. Security Chain Company 1061756 Max Trac Snow Chain
- Provides great traction for your snow blower or garden…
- Fits tire size: 14×5.50×5 15×5.00×6 15×6.00×6
- Zinc plated chains for extra durability
- Two link chain spacing provides great traction One pair per…
- Chain tightener not included
10. Security Chain Company SZ343
- Shur Grip Z class S cable chains
- Fast and easy installation with included rubber tighteners
- Better all-around traction performance than conventional…
- For use on most passenger vehicles
- Offers a smooth ride
All You Need to Know: Snow Chains
The snow chains were invented in America. Harry D. Weed received the patent for his invention in 1904 and today snow chains are still in use in extreme winter road conditions. In addition, they are also used in muddy or sandy terrain to give the tires more traction, because snow and ice were not the primary reason for the patent application, which was made in the summer of August and in which snow and ice were not mentioned at all . Rather, the inventor Harry D. Weed used the chains to look for a way to move vehicles safely on muddy, muddy surfaces and unpaved roads and to prevent them from getting stuck.
The fundamental problem with slippery surfaces is that the tires spin because they cannot find the necessary grip on the ground. This can lead to skidding, sliding sideways or simply to a standstill, as the vehicle cannot move due to the spinning tires. Snow chains provide a remedy here and ensure that there is enough traction to move the vehicle reliably and safely even on very slippery and smooth surfaces, such as those that occur after heavy snowfall or when the roadway is iced over.
But what is this traction all about? The ability of a vehicle to convert the drive force of the engine into propulsion is called traction force. This is of course done via the wheels of the drive axle and how high the traction is depends on various aspects. One of them is the nature of the subsoil. On a dry and firm road surface, traction is usually not an issue worth mentioning. However, on slippery surfaces such as ice or loose snow, or on muddy or sandy surfaces, there is a lack of traction and the drive force cannot be converted into propulsion, or only insufficiently. If the vehicle is already moving forward, the lack of traction can also result in the vehicle slipping, swerving or skidding, thereby increasing the risk of an accident. The use of snow chains increases traction and the vehicle can be moved easily and safely even on slippery surfaces.
How do snow chains work?
Especially on inclines and declines, without snow chains on ice and snow often nothing works anymore, the wheels spin, the vehicle does not move or the vehicle that is already moving begins to slip or skid. Snow chains prevent this as they give the tires a better grip, which also ensures sufficient traction on slippery roads.
The snow chains are mostly attached to the drive axle of the vehicle. They have to fit the respective vehicle and of course the tire size. The installed snow chains form a network on the tread of the tire, which often criss-crosses the tread. The chain pieces prevent the tires from spinning and thus give the vehicle more grip and grip on slippery surfaces.
Most of the snow chains are made of robust steel, but there are also snow chains made of plastic or textile on the market. The chain links are usually very angular and, on some models, have additional gripping bars with ice edges, which ensure particularly high adhesion. Some chains are also equipped with loose, round chain links, the task of which is to free the chain from snow build-up and clumps. Similar to shoes with spikes, for example, the snow chains develop their effect by giving the vehicle better grip and preventing it from slipping.
Due to the weight of the vehicle, the snow chains have a double effect on the tires. The chain links drill deep into the snow due to the weight of the vehicle and tilt there to ensure adequate grip and at the same time the tire is pressed into the chain structure. These two effects effectively prevent the tires from spinning.
What types of snow chains are there?
When looking to buy snow chains, you will quickly find that there are many different types of snow chains available on the market.
A basic distinction must first be made between
- Starting aids
- Full-fledged snow chains
In the case of fully-fledged snow chains, a further distinction is made between
- Drive chains
- Track chains
Unlike full-fledged snow chains, starting aids do not cover the entire tire. Rather, they are plastic spikes or small chain nets that are attached to the rim. They only cover part of the tire and are suitable for overcoming short stretches, inclines or declines, for which the use of full-fledged snow chains is not necessary, or to free the already stuck vehicle from its predicament.
The starting aid is attached to the tires of the drive axle. Depending on the situation, several starting aids can be attached to each drive wheel. If the stuck vehicle is free or the short distance that required the use of the starting aids has been overcome, the starting aids are removed again. The starting aids can be used on snow and ice as well as on muddy or boggy surfaces.
Starting aids are a practical aid in every season of the year and are not limited to use in wintry road conditions. Most motorists will have already experienced the situation of getting stuck in sand or mud, and a starting aid in the trunk solves this situation in no time at all. The starting aids are available for cars as well as for off-road vehicles, SUVs, vans or mobile homes, and also for trucks and commercial vehicles.
Full-fledged snow chains cover not just a part, but the entire tire. Depending on the type of snow chains, they are mounted on the tires of the drive axle or the steering axle.
The drive chains, which are mounted on the tires of the drive axle, primarily prevent the tires from slipping and spinning. To do this, the chains run across the running surface. In contrast, the track chains that are attached to the tires of the steering axle prevent the wheels from slipping sideways. For this purpose, the chain pieces run longitudinally to the direction of travel.
Although track chains prevent the vehicle from breaking sideways and slipping away, there is still a risk that the drive wheels will spin with track chains. Modern snow chains are usually a combination of track chains and drive chains that are attached to the drive axle. The chain segments in these combined snow chains are usually arranged criss-cross and the chain segments running across are always connected by longitudinal pieces.
There are also differences in the material. Snow chains are very often made of durable metal such as hardened steel. However, they are also available made of plastic or textile or in different material combinations.
Under what road conditions do you need snow chains?
Snow chains are needed above all in heavy snowfall and icy roads. If uphill and downhill gradients come into play, the vehicle can often no longer move without snow chains. When skiing or winter holidays in the low mountain ranges or in other mountainous regions where heavy snowfall is to be expected, snow chains definitely belong in the trunk. Snow chains should not be dispensed with during winter holidays.
It can be assumed that all vehicles are equipped with appropriate tires that can cope with normal winter road conditions, but winter tires are far from sufficient in mountainous regions.
You should therefore always have snow chains in your luggage under the following conditions:
- When driving in winter in mountainous regions
- On a ski holiday in the winter sports countries
- In the lowlands in areas known for heavy snowfall in winter
If you want to be on the safe side and be prepared for any eventuality, it doesn’t hurt to put a couple of snow chains in the trunk, even if you don’t go on vacation in winter sports areas and live in the lowlands, where it rarely snows. In exceptional cases, even in regions where heavy snowfall is not the rule, an extreme onset of winter can occur and then with a pair of snow chains in the trunk you are well prepared for all eventualities.
How fast can you drive with snow chains?
With the snow chains installed, there is a maximum speed of 50 km/h (30 mp/h), regardless of which speed is generally allowed on the route. This regulation should be observed in any case, as snow chains can have a very strong influence on the behavior of the vehicle.
You should therefore not exceed the maximum permitted speed when driving with snow chains, but rather drive slowly and carefully. It is also important to keep a sufficient distance from the vehicle in front, because the braking distance is not only extended by the winter road conditions, but also by the snow chains.
Not only at excessive speed, when driving with snow chains, it can easily happen that the vehicle reacts differently than in normal road conditions. In vehicles with front-wheel drive, there is a risk of oversteering, with the rear breaking out as the front wheels have more grip thanks to the snow chains. In rear-wheel drive vehicles, understeer can occur, with the vehicle being pushed straight ahead by the rear drive wheels despite the steering movement. The snow chains can also tear at excessive speed.
How to mount snow chains?
In an emergency, snow chains are usually put on under rather adverse weather conditions. Drivers should therefore always make sure that, in addition to the snow chains, they also have a pair of suitable gloves, preferably robust and warm work gloves, in the trunk and, if possible, a flashlight.
To ensure that everything works in an emergency, you should not wait until the emergency occurs when you put on the snow chains for the first time. In order to avoid standing on an unfamiliar road in snow, freezing cold and in the dark and wondering how on earth should the snow chains be put on, you should practice putting on the snow chains a few times under favorable conditions.
Although the snow chains are usually always accompanied by detailed instructions for use, in an emergency, even inexperienced users can reach their limits during the first attempts. So take your time and do a dry run in the garage. Usually it is sufficient to have put on the snow chains once under favorable conditions so that it works in an emergency.
If the chains have not been used for a long time, however, it cannot hurt to practice putting on the snow chains again before going on holiday for winter sports.
How many snow chains do you need and where are they attached?
As a rule, the snow chains are mounted on the wheels of the drive axle. So you need 2 snow chains that you attach to the front tires of a front-wheel drive vehicle and to the rear tires of a rear-wheel drive vehicle. If the snow chains are to be mounted on a four-wheel drive vehicle, there is no fixed rule as to whether they are to be attached to the front or the rear.
If the snow chains are fitted at the front on a vehicle with all-wheel drive, the rear may swing out. Mounting on the rear tire prevents the tail swinging out, known as oversteer, but it can lead to understeer. You may even achieve the best effect with an all-wheel drive vehicle with four snow chains.
Manual tensioning or self-tensioning chains?
After fitting, the snow chains usually have to be retightened. In the case of snow chains with a rope ring mechanism, this re-tensioning often has to be carried out manually. Snow chains with a bracket system have the advantage that they are mostly self-tightening and ensure the optimum tension by themselves.
With all snow chains, after driving a few meters, you should check whether the chains are properly attached to the tire. Snow chains that are both too tight and too loose can lead to significant problems. Chains that are too tight cause damage to the tire, while chains that are too loose can damage the wheel arch.
When do the snow chains have to be removed?
If there is no longer any ice or snow cover on the road, the snow chains should be removed again. Prolonged driving with snow chains on open roads damages both the tires and the road surface.
After use, the snow chains should be cleaned with water. To prevent rust, metal chains can also be lightly oiled if necessary.
Alternatives to snow chains
Steel snow chains often seem like a clumsy relic from the past, so it makes sense to look for more modern alternatives. The market also has a lot to offer:
- Textile snow chains
- Hybrid snow chains
- Liquid snow chains
Textile snow chains
When it comes to textile snow chains, a distinction must be made between snow chains made of composite material and so-called textile snow socks. However, both variants are not recognized as full-fledged snow chains and may not be used where snow chains are mandatory. In practice, most textile snow chains cannot keep up with the traction that steel snow chains can provide. They are also not suitable for driving in deep snow.
Hybrid snow chains
Hybrid snow chains consist of a steel chain network that lies over the tread of the tire and textile side parts. They are very easy to assemble and provide good rim protection. If you are looking for snow chains for aluminum rims, you are therefore well equipped with hybrid chains, as these chains are recognized as full snow chains and can be used on roads where snow chains are mandatory.
Liquid snow chains
The Snow Grip tire spray comes from Norway and is sprayed onto the tire. After a drying time of 5 minutes, it will last for about ten kilometers. The spray is able to increase the traction force of winter tires by up to 100%. However, the Snow Grip Spray is not approved as a replacement for full-fledged snow chains. However, a can of snow chain spray in the glove compartment can be particularly useful as a starting aid.
A real alternative to the steel snow chains is only offered by the hybrid snow chains, which are recognized as full-fledged snow chains and do not really differ from conventional metal snow chains except in the attachment by the textile side parts. However, they score points above all for their low weight and easy assembly.
Pay attention to this when buying snow chains
Snow chains have a lot of advantages, even if they are not required by law, and you can use the driving aids in appropriate weather conditions even without the mandatory road sign.
- Snow chains ensure good grip on winter roads
- Snow chains enable driving in mountainous terrain even in ice and snow
- Snow chains can easily be carried and put on if necessary
- Modern snow chains are quick and easy to assemble
- No tools are required for assembly
- The driving behavior of the car can change due to snow chains
- Incorrectly fitted snow chains can damage the tire, rim or wheel arch
All in all, the advantages of snow chains far outweigh the disadvantages and in winter road conditions, especially in mountainous regions, they are usually indispensable. Apart from the hybrid chains, there is also no real alternative to snow chains, so you have little choice but to buy snow chains if you are often in the relevant regions by car in winter. But what do you have to look out for when buying snow chains?
Make sure you choose the right size
The right size is very important when buying snow chains, because the best chain is worthless if it does not fit your tire. In order to find the right size snow chains, you must first determine your tire size. However, you should not only use the information in the vehicle registration document as a guide, you should always take a direct look at the winter tires. The size is indicated there in a kind of three-part code. It consists of a three-digit number, a two-digit number and a combination of letters and numbers and looks like this, for example: 195/65 R15.
The first number 195 indicates the tire width in millimeters. The second number 65 indicates the value of the flank height to the tire width in percent. In this case, the flank height is 65% of the tire width and is therefore 126.75 mm. The last value R15 indicates that it is a radial tire with a rim diameter of 15 inches. The snow chain size always corresponds to the tire size, so you have to choose the snow chains in exactly the same size as your tires.
The distance between the tire and the wheel arch is important
You also have to pay attention to the size of the chain links and the freewheel. These values are given in millimeters for the snow chains and must match the distance between the wheel and the wheel arch. This distance should be measured with the steering fully turned, because it is precisely then that the chains can hit the wheel arch. So turn the steering as far as it will go and measure the distance between the wheel arch and the tire. The result is the largest possible amount that you can use in your vehicle. However, to be on the safe side, you can definitely opt for a smaller size.
In many vehicles, the distance between the tire and the wheel arch is 12 mm, but it can also be smaller or larger. When in doubt, always choose snow chains with smaller chain links.
The number and arrangement of chains
Most modern snow chains are a mix of track chains and drive chains. The chain links thus run both in the longitudinal and in the transverse direction over the tread of the tire. The coarser the chain links, the worse the vehicle’s running smoothness. However, the grip is increased by the many coarse chain links.
Some snow chains also have gripping bars or gripping links. They provide better grip on slippery and snow-covered roads, but often lead to poorer running smoothness and poorer driving characteristics.
Snow chains for aluminum rims
Alloy rims in particular are very sensitive and can be damaged by snow chains. Many manufacturers therefore offer snow chains with rim protection in which the chain in the rim flange area is coated with plastic. Hybrid chains, whose side parts are made of textile material and protect the rims, are also a good alternative.
Choose the right mounting system
If the snow chains are required, they usually have to be installed under adverse circumstances. It is therefore all the more important to choose the right mounting system. You have the choice between standing snow chains with a rope ring, in which the vehicle does not have to be maneuvered, and hoop chains, in which you have to maneuver the vehicle forwards and backwards by around a quarter of a turn during installation. After installation, some snow chains have to be retightened manually after driving a few meters, while others are self-retightening.
Make sure that the snow chains are approved for your vehicle
There are snow chains for cars, snow chains for SUVs and delivery vans, snow chains for trucks and even snow chains for tractors and ride-on mowers. When buying, make sure that the snow chains are approved for your vehicle type.
Make sure that the snow chains are also approved in places where snow chains are mandatory
Some snow chain alternatives such as textile chains or tire socks as well as starting aids can be quite helpful and useful in wintry road conditions, but they are not permitted wherever there is a situational snow chain requirement. Only fully-fledged snow chains and hybrid chains might be permitted at your country of choice.
Our Picks: The Best Snow Chains
Last product update on 2021-09-25 | Source: Amazon Affiliate