The best tire chains have changed over time – here’s how:
Snow chains have been around longer than you may think!
The first patent came in 1904, after Harry Weed noticed drivers in New York using rope or vines wrapped around their tires to increase traction in snow/ice or mud.
The popularity of these makeshift solutions only increased as passenger vehicle production took off.
Tire chains usually attach to the “drive tires” of a vehicle, or they are deployed by a device that swings the chains under the tire automatically (Wikipedia, 2019).
Chains are traditionally made of metal; however, a variety of materials can be used in a similar fashion to increase traction for both commercial and passenger vehicles.
This part is key.
While today, many people believe that chains must be made of metal, historically that has not always been the case. It was this train of thought that led to the development of AutoSock as a more effective alternative to the best tire chains made of metal.
Snow chain variations, then and now.
There is a wide variance in the quality and corresponding price of tire chains. The basic passenger design is a ladder style cable chain which consists of rollers that go over the cables (metal wires). (Laclede, 2019)
Cable style snow chains are the most cost-effective.
You scale up in quality and performance with twisted link style chains, which can start as a ladder style or get more elaborate.
The top tier chains have a v-bar or cleat looking protrusion from the chains and are for very deep snow/mud
Typically, chains are sold in pairs, but the quantity recommended correlates to the number of drive tires.
While there are no designated “right” or “left” side chains, “depending on your model of chains you may need to orientate your chains in an opposite manner from one side of the vehicle to the other to comply with the recommended installation” (Laclede, 2019).
For example, on rear wheel drive vehicles (RWD), you would need two, whereas on four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive (AWD) vehicles, four snow chains are recommended for maximum traction.
While snow chains reduce fuel efficiency, the gains in traction add a significant benefit in the safety of those using them and others on the road.
Newer vehicles have less clearance than older style vehicles. The never-ending quest of auto manufacturers to improve fuel efficiency can inhibit the use of snow chains on newer model cars and trucks.
Traditional snow chains protrude off a tire a significant amount, which can cause problems if there’s not enough clearance.
Additionally, not all traction control/electronic safety systems (like ESP, ASC+T, ASR, and ABS) are compatible with tire chains, and you should consult your owner’s manual to ensure that any solution will work for your situation.
This is where textile traction or alternative traction devices can be a great fit! With no protruding metal or pieces flying around, they can save the day for many of today’s most common makes and models of cars.
Whatever device you choose to improve your traction out there, make sure you are compliant with local traction/chain laws in the area you driving.