Snow Chains vs. Snow Socks For Vehicle Traction

  • Time to read: 7 min.
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It is essential to have the right snow traction devices for dealing with deep piles of snow and ice when driving. You need to have traction so your car will stay firmly on its wheels in any condition and the maneuverability to break through those hazardous drifts without getting stuck or spinning out. Snow socks and snow chains for vehicle traction as well as snow claws and the old standby, the shovel, which are great options that can help get traction on icy or snowy roads.

Snow chains are the best option for traction, but they can be more challenging to install than snow socks for your tires. Snow socks are a good option for those who want an easier installation, but they don’t provide as much traction as chains.

The Snow Claw

A snow claw is much like shoe spikes or grips for your tires. Installing snow claws on your car might seem like an easy task at first, but it’s not without its challenges. It begins by placing the claw on the tire, wrapping the straps around your tire and then feeding them through to the front of the tire before fastening them with buckles which can break easily under pressure or stress. The main problem with this product is the strap and the buckle.

The strap has weak fibres, which immediately fail once force is applied as the fibre strap is not designed to handle the stress, weight and friction required to move your vehicle on ice or packed snow. Similar products also replaced the straps with chains, which could work better, but the claw setup would also scratch your rims.

The manufacturer suggests four claws, one on each tire, which is insufficient. You would need five on each tire to distribute the load evenly so they have the slightest chance of working correctly. Needing 5 for each tire increases your investment for a product that is challenging to install and will likely fail.

The best use for the snow claw would be to get you unstuck if they dont break so there is no need to shovel, prior to putting on snow covers or chains.

Below is a link to a snow claw available on Amazon. This is the best snow claw we found but prefer snow socks and chains.

TIP: Rather than using a snow claw, try using isopropyl alcohol when you are stuck. It is easy to keep a bottle in your vehicle as well as a spray bottle. When you get stuck on very slippery surfaces, spray your tires with isopropyl, which will help you get moving quickly. Sometimes spraying the one tire that is not gaining traction will be sufficient to get you going.

If your looking for the best way to melt ice on your driveway read our article The 10 Best Ways To Melt Ice On Driveways With Minimal Effort

Snow Socks

There are a lot of colours to choose from when it comes to snow socks and they are available for many vehicles, trucks, cars, recreational vehicles, or long haul trucks. You may wonder if snow socks really work, the answer is yes they do work, very well.

Installing them is much easier than other products, but you must still reach behind the wheel to align them properly. So if your car is lower, make sure you can reach behind the wheel before purchasing. The snow sock also has a rotation indicator printed on a label to ensure you do not install them backward. To install, you put the sock on halfway; then, you need to move the car forward or back to move the tire position to install them fully.

Depending on your driving style, snow socks may not be as durable as snow chains. You may end up with some holes in them, especially if you are braking hard or have a lot of heavy wheel spin whereas, quality tire chains will remain intact if you brake hard or have a heavy wheel spin. On the other hand, cheap snow chains may not be as good as snow socks.

These socks are flexible, and the wear will be minimal with everyday driving and are more durable than a pair of cheap snow chains. Also, if the road you’re driving on is only partially covered with ice or snow, you will not have to worry about the sock tearing apart as you would with snow claws.

A drawback of the snow socks is the installation. To fully install these, you need to move the car a little, and if your vehicle is stuck, you won’t be able to move it making installation near impossible. However, if you install them before you get stuck, you are good to go.

Maintaining the socks is also easier than snow chains, as you can throw them in a washing machine. Snow chains need cleaning and oil applied, so they don’t rust over time. Traction with a snow sock is almost on par with snow chains; however, when it comes to braking distance, the snow sock is consistently better on ice or snow. Our top three choices are below, with the K&K Automotive Snow Sock being our favoirtie due to its ease of installation and wearability.

TIP: Make sure you check the manufactures rating of the snow sock you want to buy. There are three types of snow socks, and you will need to know your tire size. There are snow socks for city driving, intercity and roads around ski centers, or professional snow socks.

Snow Chains

Snow chains vary in price, depending on the quality, exact model and size, and they are more expensive than the other products. However, quality snow chains are straightforward to install despite the extra steps involved compared to other products. If you follow the included instructions with the chains, you will be set to go in ten to fifteen minutes.

When it comes to braking, with both the snow socks and chains, from 30 km/h to zero, on a very icy road surface, the snow socks are able to slow down and stop the vehicle better than the chains. If someone suggested that snow socks are even close in performance to snow chains, I would have laughed, but it is true. Due to surface area, chains have consistently worse results than snow socks. With snow chains, there needs to be more surface-providing grip when applying the brake. With snow socks, the whole tire is covered by the material, providing improved grip.

Snow chains are the way to go if you want the best traction. A good pair of chains, like the Pewag Servo brand, will last longer than other models. However, snow chains are generally more challenging to install than snow socks, and if they break when used, your car will be beaten up before you have the time to stop.

Quality snow chains are more expensive, need to be untangled before use, and have many more steps that are required to install them correctly, but unlike snow socks, you don’t have to move the vehicle to install them, which helps when you are stuck fully. There are many snow chains on Amazon, our three top choices are below, or you could look at your local hardware store as well: here is a quick link to Home Depot Tire Chains.

TIP: Purchase an air pump and keep it in your vehicle. If you need to put on chains, let some air out of the tires first. Then install the chains as tight as you can. Lastly, reinflate your tires to the proper pressure. The result is that your chains will not come off, and the links will be flat against the tire and less likely to break as there will be no slack.

However, if the tires are stuck in deep snow, you need to get your hands dirty and start shovelling snow so the socks or chains can go around the tire.

Snow Shovel

Winter and shovel go together like salt and pepper. Having a shovel in your vehicle is a necessity to keep you safe, dig your vehicle out, and allow you to put on your socks or chains to get where you are going.

You need the shovel to be a good digger, as its primary function will be moving snow. The best shovel for this task is a shovel that can easily be stored in your vehicle while being functional. A collapsible aluminum shovel with a broad shovel head is best for digging out lots of snow. However, a survival shovel with a pointed head is more versatile in many scenarios, such as digging out snow, chipping ice, or digging a hole.

If your primary travel is around the city/town you live in, then the aluminum shovel is all you need in addition to your snow socks. Alternatively, a survival shovel with socks and chains will cover all your needs if you live in the country or travel a great deal on various roads.

For further information on different types of snow shovels read our post What Are The Different Types of Snow Shovels

Final Thoughts

Are Snow Chains or Snow Socks Better?

The ultimate setup for four-wheel drive vehicles would be to have a survival shovel, snow socks on the front wheels and chains on the rear. As a result, you would get the best braking distance as the front wheels apply most of the brake force, the best traction from the rear end, and the ability to shovel out if needed.

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