Are all Snow Chains the Same?

snow tire on snowy wintery road

Snow chains have been around for over 100 years, with many innovations made to their design. Everything from installation to construction has changed, to make snow chains easier to use and longer lasting. No two sets of snow chains are the same nowadays, so it’s tough to know which ones are best for your vehicle. Read on to find out about different snow chains and which ones are best for your car.

snow chains on tire on snow covered road

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Link Patterns

One prominent design feature you’ll notice when picking out snow chains is the different link patterns. Generally, snow chains come in four different patterns:

  • Diagonal
  • Square
  • Ladder
  • Diamond

Diagonal pattern snow chains provide increased traction on snow and ice and are best suited for vehicles with traction control. On the other hand, diamond and square chains are ideal for anti-lock braking, with the square pattern considered the stronger of the two. Ladder snow chains tend to be better suited to off-road driving. 

Cable vs. Link

Another significant design change is the introduction of cable snow chains. While traditional link chains wrap around a tire to give traction, cable chains feature metal rings. Cable chains also aren’t as thick as link chains, making them better suited to vehicles with low tire clearance. While cable chains are considered less durable than linked chains, most modern cables are made from a steel alloy, making them just as durable as their counterparts. 

Tightening and Release Systems

The system used for installing, tightening, and removing snow chains is integral, as nobody wants to spend a long time fiddling with their snow chains in the middle of a blizzard. Chains with a clamp-on installation system tend to be the most popular, as they require the least work to install them. 

Self-tensioning snow chains are also widespread as they automatically remove any slack from the chains. If snow chains are loose, they’ll be less effective and could become damaged. Manual tensioning cables are also available, and while they require you to do more manual labor, they tend to be more reliable. 

Closeup of chain style snow chains

Classification and Categorization

Modern snow chains come in different classifications and categories, making them suitable for a variety of vehicles and conditions. The classification refers to driving conditions. Snow chains have four classifications:

  • Entry
  • Standard
  • Premium
  • Alternative

Entry-level chains are for roads with small amounts of snow and ice, while premium snow chains are best for heavy coverings of snow. Alternative snow chains are designed especially for use on low-profile tires. 

The category of the snow chains you’re buying is also significant, as purchasing the incorrect category chains will limit their effectiveness and damage your vehicle. If you have a modern front-wheel-drive car, you’ll need to get SAE Class S snow chains. Any other category chains are for larger automobiles with more clearance. 

Size and Weight

It’s essential you measure your tires before buying a set of snow chains. Snow chains come in a variety of sizes and are not a one-size-fits-all contraption. If you buy chains too big or too small, you won’t be able to get them onto your tires, and you’ll have to buy another set of snow chains. 

It’s also important to consider the weight of a set of snow chains when buying. Heavier snow chains are more durable and work better in deep snow but will waste more fuel than lighter chains. 

Material

Most snow chains are made out a steel alloy to make them strong but inexpensive to make. However, other materials are also common in constructing snow chains. Rubber chains have become more popular recently, as they don’t damage road surfaces or your tires. Rubber chains are much less effective than metal chains as they produce less traction. 

Person installing snow chains on their car tire

Best Snow Chains on the Market

As mentioned, no two sets of snow chains are the same. With hundreds of chains on the market, you may be confused about the best snow chains for your vehicle. 

Security Chain SZ143

If you’re thinking of picking up a set of cable chains, consider the Security Chain SZ143. These chains feature a diagonal pattern for increased traction and a rubber tensioning system for quick and easy installation. They also feature ultra-thin cables that only require 0.25 inches of clearance. They also come with additional tighteners and a nylon bag for easy storage.

Peerless Series 1500

One of the best traditional snow chain sets available is the Peerless Series 1500. These chains are sturdy and ideal for all conditions, thanks to their diamond pattern and manganese alloy steel construction. They also boast self-tightening ratchets, making it possible to remove and install these chains in minutes. One unique feature of the Series 1500 is the “D” cross-section of the links, which reduces impact, causing less damage to road surfaces and your tires. 

Michelin Composite Easy Grip 008307

You’ll also find some superb snow chains which aren’t composed of metal. One example is the Michelin Composite Easy Grip 008307 chains. Rather than being metal, Michelin’s innovative design is made from ultra-strong composite materials, which make these chains highly effective and easy to fit. If you’re driving on a small layer of snow and ice or you’re worried about damaging your car, consider these snow chains instead.

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