choosing snow chains

Snow Chains vs Cables, Spider Spikes, and Tire Socks: What’s Right for You?

Nadia Tamara A Little Bit of Everything, Emergency Preparedness, Safety, Vehicle Preparedness, Winter Preparedness Leave a Comment

Snow Chains vs Cables, Spider Spikes, and Tire Socks: What’s Right for You?

Traveling during the winter season can be treacherous, especially when the roads are covered in snow or black ice.

When choosing the best snow traction device for your car tires, it’s important to know what options you have, as well as the advantages, disadvantages, and differences of each.

The following chart lays out the key components of chains, cables, spider spikes, and tire socks. Keep reading to learn about their pros and cons, and how to choose what’s right for you.


Snow traction device comparison

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What are snow chains?


Snow chains are comprised of a net of metal links that cover your tires.

Pros:

  • Provides extra grip in deep snow because of the heavy steel links.
  • Available in different sizes to fit various tires - be sure to buy the correct size to match your tires!
  • Many factors can influence the life span of chains but if used with care and under the appropriate circumstances, they can last several years.


Cons:

  • Driving with chains will feel bumpy (or clunky) so it’s not going to be a comfortable ride unless there’s a lot of snow on the ground.
  • Heavy and bulky to carry.
  • Can get tangled.
  • Tricker to install, especially when you’re installing them in freezing temperatures.
  • Generally, a more expensive option when comparing it to other snow traction devices.
  • Can damage your vehicle if they break.


Other important factors:

  • Non-commercial vehicles must drive at a maximum speed of 30 mph.

What are snow cables?


Snow cables are comprised of steel cables encased in alloy traction coils.

Pros:

  • Ideal for driving on paved roads.
  • Available in different sizes for different size tires.
  • Easier to install than chains, possibly because they weigh less.
  • Not as likely to damage the vehicle if the cable breaks.
  • Generally cheaper when compared to other snow traction devices.
  • Many factors can influence the life span of cables. When used with care and under the appropriate circumstances, they can last several years.


Cons:

  • Not as durable as chains.
  • Uncomfortable to install, especially in cold weather.
  • They’re bulky.
  • Can come apart easily if not installed properly.


Other important factors:

  • Non-commercial vehicles must drive at a maximum speed of 30 mph.

What are spider spikes?


Spider Spikes are a Swiss-made alternative to snow chains, cables, and studded tires.

Pros:

  • Provides superior traction on ice and snow.
  • Perfect for vehicles with low tire clearance.
  • Available in different sizes for different size tires.
  • The installation is extremely easy, convenient, and fast (after the hardware has been installed).
  • The spider spikes are built to last for practically a lifetime. Of course, proper care is required, but track tests on dry pavement revealed they can be driven on for approximately 650 miles at 30 mph before experiencing damage.
  • Replacement parts are available so you wouldn’t have to replace the entire traction device if something breaks.
  • Won’t damage your vehicle.


Cons:

  • They’re very expensive, but the quality would make it worth the cost.
  • It requires an initial hardware installation.
  • The spikes are bulky. They’ll come in a carry bag with a handle but they’ll take up a lot of room in your car when not in use.


Other important factors:

  • Non-commercial vehicles must drive at a maximum speed of 35 mph.

What are tire socks?


Tire socks are the textile alternative to chains, cables, and spikes.

Pros:

  • Extremely lightweight.
  • Easy to install.
  • The thin material makes it perfect for vehicles with low tire clearance.
  • Can be washed in a washing machine.
  • Can be used in locations where snow chains are prohibited, such as some historical roads


Cons:

  • They provide a minimal improvement in traction.
  • Cannot be left on the vehicle overnight, otherwise, they can freeze against the tire and turn it into a solid surface of ice.
  • The lifespan decreases with use.
  • More prone to wear and tear when compared to other snow traction devices.
  • Not always an ‘approved’ alternative to chains when chain restrictions are being enforced. Check your local laws and regulations.


Other important factors:

  • Tire socks have to be used on streets where snow is present, or they can tear easily.
  • Non-commercial vehicles must drive at a maximum speed of 30 mph.

Other snow traction options:


There are a few other devices on the market that are only worth mentioning for the mere purpose of warning you. Please do not waste your money on these.

  • Anti-slip (aka anti-skid) tire straps: These are adjustable strips of plastic with small metal specs that wrap around your tire. Anything made of plastic will not last.

  • Snow zip ties: These are long zip ties that wrap around your tires. They’re absolutely useless.

Some of these snow traction kits cost upwards of $40 on Amazon which, considering the terrible quality, is very expensive in my opinion. I guarantee it’s more cost-effective to get one of the other options mentioned above.

Also, when you think in terms of convenience, the process of installation is terrible too. It’ll probably take a lot more time to adjust six or more individual straps than it would to adjust one chain, cable, or sock.


How to choose the best option


Choosing the best snow traction device will depend on how often you plan on using them and your budget.

Here’s our overall consensus:

Snow chains are a good choice if you have to drive in heavy snowy or enjoy off-roading in winter conditions.

Snow cables are a great choice for occasional and day-to-day driving, especially if the roads have already been plowed.

Spider spikes are ideal for vehicles with low tire clearance and can be used for both light and heavy snow.

Tire socks are not the best option by any standard unless you have to drive on roads that prohibit the use of chains and cables. Again, it’s important to look into local laws.

Snow zip ties and all other traction variants that are tied individually to the tires are only recommended as a useless way to spend your money. 🙂


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