Best Tire Chains For Snow: Stay Gripped to the Road with These Top Chains
Maneuver a little easier in the snow and ice with these top snow chains
The Review Team
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PUBLISHED ON April 24, 2019
Heavy snow and icy roads can be difficult to navigate during the winter. One of the best ways to safely drive in these types of conditions is by installing snow chains on your tires. They will enable you to tackle winter driving environments more safely and effectively. Check out our tire chain review for the best snow chains on the market.
- Best OverallSecurity Chain Company ZT741 Super Z LT Traction ChainSummarySummaryThese chains feature a built-in rubber tensioner and are compatible with anti-lock brakes, traction control, all-wheel drive (AWD), and other electronic systems. They meet S.A.E. Class “S” clearance requirements.ProsProsThese chains are durable, easy to use and provide great traction. They remain tight and don't make excessive noise. One major benefit is you can install them without moving your car.ConsConsThe chains tangle easily, and you may have to untangle them when you receive them from the manufacturer. Some complaint they break or snap with use.
- Best ValueSecurity Chain Company SZ127 Super Z6 Cable Tire ChainSummarySummaryThese cable chains for cars, pickup trucks, and SUVs weigh five pounds. The self-adjusting cable is designed for vehicles with little sidewall clearance. They come with a cloth bag for storage.ProsProsThese durable chains work well on snow/ice covered roads, and they grip exceptionally well. They are simple to install and include rubber strap tensioners to help pull the chains tight.ConsConsThe connectors are a little hard to work with. There have been complaints about improper fit, and you may need an additional set of rubber tensioners because they may fail.
- Honorable MentionKONIG XB-16 247 Snow ChainsSummarySummaryThese snow chains are manually tensioned. They provide 16mm of clearance and weigh 18.58 pounds. The chains are Ö-Norm 5117 and UNI 11313, TÜV-certified for safety.ProsProsThese chains are strong and provide great traction. One big advantage is that they are quick and easy to install and remove. The large links provide significant gripping power.ConsConsThe size chart may be inaccurate. You may have to drive a bit and then re-tighten the links to make them tight. The chains can also wear out or break over time.
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All of our reviews are based on market research, expert input, and practical experience with each product we include. This way, we offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
Why Buy Snow Chains?
- Get better traction. The best tire chains for snow and ice will supply traction in inclement weather. The average passenger vehicle is not built to drive in harsh winter conditions.
- Make traveling safer. Good road tire snow chains will enable you to drive to work, home, and other places without worrying about getting stuck. If you want peace of mind during the winter, snow chains are a good solution.
- Better than snow tires. Regardless of whether you drive a passenger car, truck, or SUV, easy-to-install tire chains will come in handy when you're driving in winter weather.
- Low maintenance. The best car and truck tire chains are fairly easy to clean. It's not a hassle to wash them off and store them for later use.
Types of Snow Chains
The most well-known snow chains are metal chain links that are connected together to create a mesh that wraps around a tire. Metal chains offer good traction, tend to last a bit longer than other chains, and are ideal if you use them frequently. They are less likely to corrode than cable chains.
Cable chains are made from pieces of steel cable that create a webbing to cover a tire. They often feature small metal rings on the cables for better grip and are typically lighter and smaller with a lower profile than metal chains. They are good for occasional use but offer less traction than metal chains.
Top Brands of Snow Chains
Konig American, a subsidiary of YHI International, has been producing aftermarket wheels for 35 years. With offices on both the West and East coasts, one of its popular snow chains is the KONIG CB-12 090 Snow Chains.
Peerless Industrial Group
Peerless Industrial Group, headquartered in Winona, Minnesota, produces several winter traction products under the name Security Chain Company. The company also provides chains for other purposes. One popular snow chain is the Security Chain Company SZ441 Super Z6 Cable Tire Chain.
Thule was founded in Sweden in 1942 and has over 2,200 employees at more than 40 locations worldwide. One of its snow chain products is the Thule CG-9 095 2-Piece Snow Chain Set.
Snow Chain Pricing
- Around $40: There are a select few cables and chains that cost $40 or so. They tend to require manual installation and may not be as durable as more expensive products.
- $40-$100: Semi-auto or "assisted" fitting snow chains will cost between $60 and $80, while self-centering chains with auto-tensioning will be a little bit more expensive for an average passenger vehicle.
- Over $100: Snow chains for SUVs and pickup trucks tend to be pricier because they are bigger. Light trucks require even more heavy-duty chains, which can cost as much as $200.
Chains and cables that are self-tensioning are useful because a ratchet tightens the chains when the tires move, which removes any slack. Too much slack will reduce performance. Also, if the chain isn't tight enough, it can be damaged. Manual tensioning cables must be re-tightened after you drive (but they tend to be easier to install). The tensioners on self-adjusting cables can fail, so you may want to stock up on extra tensioners.
Some of the best chains for snow will have an automatic release feature. It's beneficial because it makes removal easier. If you're driving a long distance, you may encounter snow on and off during your trip. The automatic release allows you to remove the chains quickly and easily within a few minutes.
The best snow chains for trucks and the best tire chains for cars are classified in four ways: entry level, premium, standard, and alternative traction. Entry-level chains are for a little bit of snow and ice. Standard chains are ideal for drivers who live in areas with a regular amount of snowfall. Premium chains are good for extra-snowy areas and help vehicles stop on icy surfaces. Alternative-traction chains are intended for cars with low-profile tires.
Tire chains come in diamond, diagonal, ladder, and square patterns. Diamond-shaped chains are good for vehicles with anti-lock braking systems. Diagonal chains are intended to provide traction on snow and ice and are best for vehicles that have traction control and ABS. Square chains are more durable and provide better traction than diamond chains. Ladder chains have two designs: one for on- and off-road driving and one for snow and ice only.
- Size: Check your tire's width, height, and diameter before purchasing snow chains for your vehicle. The size of the snow chain is crucial because you want to ensure that it fits properly and isn't too large or too small for your tires. The wrong size will only cause frustration and inefficiency.
- Clearance: This is the distance between the tire and the body of the vehicle. Some of the best tire cables are thick and durable. The thicker they are, the higher the clearance. Snow chains need to be able to move with the tire without hitting the body of the vehicle.
- Category: For a passenger car, select snow chains that are rated SAE Class S. This means they are intended for newer, front-wheel drive vehicles and lower ground clearances. Chains with other designations are for higher ground clearance. They will not work properly on your daily driver and could damage it.
- Material: Rubber chains do not damage roads, and they don't typically damage a vehicle. They often feature metal fasteners and can work on both trucks and passenger vehicles. Rubber chains aren't slippery; however, they may reduce clearance. Metal chains tend to give drivers more control but they can damage roads.
- Installation: The most popular snow chains are those that are easier to install. They typically include clamp-on installation, which usually involves automatic chain tensioning as mentioned above. Another type allows you to drape the snow chain over the tire. It does not require connections but may not work as well as clamp-on chains.
- Weight: Some snow chains are lighter than others. The heavier ones are typically better in difficult snow conditions but won't be as good on fuel economy. In addition, heavier chains are less convenient to store or transport in your vehicle. If you keep them in your garage, this may not be a problem.
Best Snow Chains Reviews & Recommendations 2019
Best Overall: Security Chain Company ZT741 Super Z LT Traction Chain
These snow chains feature a built-in rubber tensioner, so you don't need to stop to re-tighten the chains. They are compatible with anti-lock brakes, traction control, all-wheel drive (AWD), and other electronic systems. They meet S.A.E. Class “S” clearance requirements for vehicles with limited clearance.
These chains are well-made, durable, easy to use and provide great traction. They also fit nicely on the tires, remain tight, and don't make excessive noise. They allow you to slow down and/or stop pretty easily. One added benefit is that you can install them without moving your car. They also last for several snow seasons in average winter climates. Unlike actual chains that can be rough to drive on, they offer a rather smooth ride.
One downside is the chains tangle easily, and you may have to untangle them when you first receive them from the manufacturer. The chains can also easily break or snap, and they may come off if they are installed incorrectly.
These cable tire chains are intended for passenger cars, pickup trucks, and SUVs. The product comes with a set of two snow chains, which are easy to install. They weigh five pounds and are 16.8 inches by 5.4 inches by 5.3 inches wide. The self-adjusting cable is designed for vehicles with little sidewall clearance. The Z6 model comes with a cloth bag to store the cables.
The cable chains work nicely on snow/ice covered roads, and they grip exceptionally well. The installation is very straight forward. The chains lock and unlock in three locations so it's simple and doesn't take much time to put them on. Removing them is just as easy. In addition, the chains are durable and can be reused several times. The included rubber strap tensioners also help to pull the chains tight.
One downside is the connectors are a little hard to work with because of their low profile. There have been some complaints about improper fit, so be sure to check the SCC recommended sizes to ensure that they are intended for your vehicle model. Also, you may need to purchase an additional set of rubber tensioners because they may fail.
Honorable Mention: KONIG XB-16 247 Snow Chains
These snow chains are manually tensioned. They provide 16mm of clearance and weigh 18.58 pounds. These chains stay nice and tight on the tires after some adjustments are made and provide great traction.
The biggest advantage is that they are quick and easy to install and remove and feature color-coding on the parts to remind you where each attachment point is located. The large links provide significant gripping power on dirt roads covered in snow. They are solid, strong, high-quality, and come in a hard plastic carrying case.
One major downside is the size chart may be inaccurate so you may have to order one size up to ensure proper fit. Also, you may have to drive a little bit and then re-tighten the links to make them secure. The chains may wear out over time, and there have been some complaints that the links can break.
- Only use snow chains when there is at least one inch of snow on the road. The best time to put them on is usually during or after a snowstorm.
- You can also use chains in muddy driving conditions. But be sure to remove the chains when you return to regular roads to protect your vehicle's tires and the road surface.
- You will need to drive a little bit slower when you have snow chains on your tires. We recommend driving 30 mph or slower. In addition, try to not brake hard or accelerate fast when using them.
- Make sure you purchase the right size because if they don't fit well, they may cause an accident. The best car chains will perform better than winter tires because they are thicker than tire tread and firmly grip the road surface.
- Consider keeping two sets of snow chains and/or cables in your vehicle at all times, especially if you live in an area that gets a lot of snow. That way, if something breaks you will have a backup.
- Understand that chain-sizing tables are approximate. After testing their fit on your vehicle, drive a short distance and check the fit once again. They may settle differently on the tires after you drive with them.
Q: Are snow chains legal in every state?
A: The law varies from state to state. Many allow them during certain periods of the year on certain roads.
Q: Can I use snow chains on any type of vehicle?
A: Be sure to check with the manufacturer's recommendations. Usually, cars that have little tire clearance are not good candidates for snow chains. There also may be other mechanical reasons why snow chains won't work on certain vehicle models.
Q: Do I need snow chains if my vehicle has antilock brakes?
A: Yes. Antilock braking systems prevent vehicles from skidding. ABS does not have anything to do with snow chains, which enable a driver to have more control on snow and ice.
Q: Are snow socks a good substitute for snow chains?
A: Snow socks are an alternative, but they may not be as effective as snow chains. This is especially true when hard-packed snow is involved. Vehicles with little tire clearance may benefit from snow socks instead of snow chains.
Q: Where do I find the size of my tires?
A: Information about your tires is on the tire sidewall above the rim. The first three digits indicate tire width. The second set of double digits indicate tire height ratio. The third set of double digits indicate diameter.
Q: How thick should my snow chains be?
A: There needs to be enough clearance between your tire and the body of your vehicle. A typical passenger vehicle usually has a lot of clearance. SUVs, trucks, and minivans often have a little less clearance. Sports cars and vehicles that are lowered have the smallest amount of clearance and probably should not have snow chains on them.
Q: How many snow chains do I need?
A: It depends. Many people just use snow chain on the wheels that are used for traction.
Our top pick for the best snow chains is the Security Chain Company ZT741 Super Z LT Traction Chain. They have a built-in rubber tensioner and are compatible with a vehicle's various electronic systems.
If you’re looking for something a little less pricey, consider the Security Chain Company SZ127 Super Z6 Cable Tire Chain.