Whether you live in a place where heavy snowfall leads to treacherous road conditions or you are just visiting a wintery locale, you may want to invest in a set of tire chains for safer driving on snowy and icy roads. That’s why we’ve scoured the web to find the best tire chains currently on the market. Keeping a set of chains, or other tire traction aids, with you will give you the confidence and peace of mind needed to safely take on winter driving conditions.
While snow tires are built to handle snowy conditions or inclement weather, tire chains can give you added traction on ice or in deep snow. Chains also work with all types of tires.
The most important thing to remember when driving in snow and ice is to reduce your speed. Even at slower speeds, it’s sometimes impossible for tires alone to get the necessary traction, so a quality set of tire chains are what you’ll need for safe winter driving.
The general rule-of-thumb is to only use tire chains when there is one inch or more of snow on the road and to not exceed 30 mph when driving. We recommend keeping a set of four chains in your vehicle if you live in an area with frequent and/or unexpected snowstorms. A set of two chains, especially for a front-wheel-drive vehicle (because those two wheels do the steering and propulsion) is also quite useful if you don’t want to carry around or invest in chains for all your wheels.
The Best Tire Chains On The Market Today
In this article, we’ve compiled a list of the best tire chains on the market today. These products range from heavy-duty v-bar chains specifically meant for trucks that navigate frequent hazardous conditions to cheaper less durable plastic traction aids for less frequent, less severe weather conditions. In short, to find the right snow chains, consider the size of your tires, the key features of the product, and the size of the snow chains.
Finding the right snow chains for you does not have to be overwhelming. Along with our list of the 10 best tire chains, we will also answer some of your biggest questions surrounding this purchase. This includes the various types of snow chains and the key features to consider so that you can make an informed decision. After this buying guide, we’re confident you’ll know exactly what tire chains are right for you and your vehicle.
Before purchasing a set of tire chains, be sure to check if your particular state has any restrictions or laws for tire chain use. Keep reading to discover the best tire chains on the market — you are one purchase away from safe, smart driving for the snowy days and nights ahead.
Best Overall Choice
1. Security Chain Company SZ127 Super Z6 Tire Cables
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These Z-pattern cable tire chains from Security Chain are some of the most versatile out there. If your vehicle — car, SUV, or truck — has very limited operating clearance and exceeds the Class ‘S’ clearance requirements, these chains will still fit on your tires. They also come equipped with an in-rubber tightener. This will save you a lot of time, as you won’t need to constantly readjust the chains after the initial installation.
When engineering these cable chains, Security Chain made certain that these would work well with modern vehicles. These chains are compatible with all-wheel drive, electronically monitored control systems, traction control, and anti-lock brakes.
The chains come in a handy carrying case, so you can easily store them in your garage or vehicle. Because of the material and design of these chains, there is not much risk of damage to the roads or your tires.
Best Budget Choice
2. Sanku Snow Plastic Tire Chain Alternatives
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These Sanku snow traction devices are advertised as a universal fit, for tires with a width measurement ranging from 165mm to 265mm. It is important to note that these plastic traction aids serve as an alternative to tire chains. They should only be considered for less frequent use in less hazardous weather conditions.
This set comes with eight pieces, with four traction devices for each tire. Not only are these traction devices suitable for driving in the snow, but they can also be used for added grip when driving on sand, mud, and dirt roads.
In addition to the anti-slip winter traction aids, this pack also comes with gloves, tools, and a user manual for easy installation on the go. If you frequently travel to snowy places or rent cars of different sizes, these would be a great option for you.
A few reviewers did comment that some of the parts did not hold up well to multiple trips, but if you only plan to use them as a back-up in case of bad conditions, then they should hold up to less intense use. As always, drive icy roads slowly, even when you have the tools for the conditions!
Best Premium Choice
3. Security Chain Company V-Bar Truck Tire Chains
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This V-Bar Tire Chain from Security Chain is the answer to the most treacherous snowstorm drives. A v-bar is a piece of hardened iron that is welded to every link of the cross-chain. With this, it goes without saying that with a v-bar chain set you are getting some of the most heavy-duty tire chains out there!
The chains are extremely wide and durable and are geared toward use on larger vehicles, such as trucks and SUVs. Or if you are looking for more commercial use, they can be used on ATVs, forklift machines, tractors, and more. Because of the aggressive nature of these metal chains, it is very important to not drive too fast to avoid any damage to the road and your tires. The chains are suitable for use on roads, dirt paths, and gravel.
The v-bar and thick metal make these chains extra wide, so be sure to measure your vehicle’s clearance before purchasing them. It is important to note that you will need to separately produce a security chain tightener in order to secure these chains.
4. Fun Driving Snow Tire Chains
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If you are the proud owner of a truck or SUV, these tire chains from Fun Driving are a great option. As an added bonus, they can also be used on even larger vehicles such as an RV, ATV, or a bus. The snow chains are made from welded iron with zinc covering. This zinc covering makes them even more durable while also preventing rust.
The included ratchet roll can be used to easily tighten and loosen the chains. There are instructions included on how to assemble and disassemble the chains. For ease of use, we recommend doing both before you actually need them in a pinch in snowy conditions. These chains are excellent for snow. And in the off-season, you can utilize them on any loose surfaces — from grass to gravel—for year-round use.
5. Security Chain Company SZ143 Tire Cables
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These Security Chain cable tire chains are a reasonable price, easy to install, and lightweight. With that, you can easily store them in your trunk in preparation for unexpected snowstorms. The cable design and material make this set compatible with cars with low clearance around the tires, requiring only 6.33 mm of sidewall clearance.
They have built-in rubber self-tightening rings so you won’t need to stop and retighten them on the drive. The z-chain and steel traction coils give you good grip with a seamless and quick installation. If you find yourself having to pull over during an unanticipated snowstorm to put on your chains, you can rest assured that you will be back on the road in no time.
Along with your purchase, you also get plastic gloves, rubber tensioners, a reusable nylon bag, and a user manual.
6. Peerless Auto-Trac Light Truck/SUV Tire Chains
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These Peerless Tire Chains are mainly targeted toward truck and SUV owners. The Z-cables can be installed easily without jacking up or moving your car. And the chain has a ratcheting tightening system that will automatically keep the chain tight while driving. It meets Class “S” clearance requirements and can fit on smaller cars in addition to trucks and SUVs.
The tire chain links are made of alloy steel. This alloy makes them lighter, more able to grip, and less likely to damage the tires or roads. Because of the tightening system, these chains do not require any additional hardware.
The set comes with waterproof gloves for easy installation during a snowstorm. Also, you get a reusable bag to store the chains when they’re not in use.
7. KONIG CB-12 090 Snow Tire Chains
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The Konig Tire Chains have a simple design that is extremely sturdy — exactly what you want in winter driving conditions. They are equipped with a manual tensioning system, meaning you won’t need to continuously tighten or loosen them while driving. While they do have on-the-tread clearance, they do not meet Class “S” requirements.
Before purchasing, it is very important to know your tire’s measurements and clearance capabilities, as these chains will not universally fit every car. Luckily, if they do fit your vehicle, you can easily install them without moving or jacking up your car.
The main issue that people reported when installing these chains was that they had a tendency to get tangled up. Thus, people would spend the majority of the time untangling them. With that, be sure to store them in a way that will minimize tangling.
8. Glacier 1042 Tire Cables
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The Glacier 1042 Tire Cables are particularly suited for smaller passenger cars, as the cable size meets Class “S” low-clearance standards. While there are numerous different state requirements and regulations, these chains meet all state requirements. They fit both radial and standard tires.
The cable chains are ladder style and made of carbon steel. This allows for a low-profile while also giving you great durability and traction. The carbon steel material features an electro-galvanized coating for added rust protection. With these tire cables, even in blizzard conditions, you will always have a smooth ride.
9. Security Chain Company Super Z Tire Cables
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This tire cable has a built-in rubber tensioner. Because of this, after the initial installation, you will not need to stop and retighten the chain. It meets the S.A.E. Class “S” clearance requirements, which means it is designed for vehicles with low clearance. The material and design of the cables minimize damage, even in the event of accidental misuse.
Quality Chain advertises this set as being the best product for pickups, SUVs, AWD vehicles, and 4x4s. Also, the product works great with anti-lock brakes. The cables come with a user manual with a step-by-step guide on how to install and remove them. And you also get waterproof rubber gloves.
You should practice putting them on a few times before you need to use them. This will allow you to get a feel for the product, so you can easily put them on the tires in freezing, snowy conditions. To minimize tangling, separate the cable chains into different bags for storage.
10. TireChain V-BAR Tire Chains
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V-bar tire chains are some of the most high-quality, burly, and durable chains you can get. These chains from TireChain are no exception. They are designed with round-twisted links that allow for added traction both when going uphill and when making turns. The v-bars provide further traction on ice and uneven terrain.
To make them even more intense, these chains are also studded to improve grip. If you are driving a truck in deep snow, intense is exactly what you want. Be sure when using these chains to always drive under 35mph and be aware of changing road conditions. Because of the burliness of these chains, they can damage the roads or your tires if used incorrectly. These chains are zinc-plated, and they include cams.
Types Of Snow Chains
The two main types of snow chains are tire chains and tire cables. In addition, the cheapest alternative currently on the market is plastic traction aids.
Tire chains link together, creating a web around your tires. They are generally more durable and high-end than any other option for snow chains. Tire chains can be a premium option, but worth every penny. V-bar tire chains take the cake for durability and traction. If you plan to drive in deep snow or on black ice you’ll likely want a good set of tire chains.
Tire cables are another great option. Because they are generally not as heavy-duty as tire chains, they are best for shorter drives and less frequent use. With that being said, cable chains vary in degrees of intensity, and many of them have extremely high traction performance. Tire cables are excellent options for vehicles that have tires that fill the wheel wells, as they are a less bulky option than tire chains. If you live in an area with light or infrequent snowfall, you may want to spend less money while still having the added peace of mind. Tire cables tend to be lighter weight, less expensive, and cause less damage to the roads than tire chains.
Plastic traction aids, like the ones from Sanku Snow, are rising in popularity. This is because they are inexpensive and overall very easy to use. While these are popular, it is important to note that they are far less durable and reliable than tire chains or tire cables.
Key Features Of Snow Chains
Regardless of the type of snow chains you purchase, there are important features to consider.
First, snow chains come in various link patterns. For tire chains, there are square, diagonal, ladder, and diamond patterns. Diagonal chains provide great traction for cars that have traction control and ABS. Overall, square chains tend to be the most durable. And, ladder chains are very good both on and off-road.
At times, the chain pattern will include studs, making them even more bulky and able to deal with intense weather conditions. Studded chains offer amazing traction but tend to be designed for larger vehicles with stronger, thicker tires and should be used with extreme caution.
Another important feature to consider with snow chains is if they are self-tensioning or manual tensioning. With self-tensioning, they have a ratchet system that will loosen or tighten the chain as you drive. With manual tensioning, you have the adjust them each time you drive with the chains. Of course, use caution regardless, as self-tensioning devices are not foolproof and sometimes fail.
These days, most snow chains on the market have automatic release capabilities, and for good reason. This makes them extremely quick and easy to remove. Both because it will be cold out and because being on the side of the road in wintery conditions isn’t the safest place to be, you’ll find that quick tire chain removal is much appreciated.
When making your purchase, pay attention to the classification of the snow chains. The main classifications are premium snow chains for passenger cars, standard snow chains for passenger cars, and entry-level snow chains for passenger cars. Depending on the frequency and intensity of use, you can choose from the varying levels of classification. Of course weight, price, and durability are all factors within those classifications that will influence your purchase decision.
Frequently Asked Questions
What factors should I consider to pick the right tire chains for my vehicle?
Snow chains are often meant specifically for smaller cars or specifically for larger cars. And, some are even meant just for ATVs or trucks. It is important to buy the right chains for your vehicle and driving conditions.
Consider the size of the tires on your vehicle. Tire size is important when purchasing tire chains, so you need to know your tire’s width, height, and diameter. You can find these measurements on the tire sidewall.
Some tire chains are thin, while others are thick. It is important that your tire is able to easily move within the wheel well with the chains on, even when hitting bumps and ruts. Be mindful of how much clearance you have between your tires and the wheel wells.
Other factors to consider include the material and weight of the chains, and the complexity of the installation process. If the tire chains are equipped with clamps, automatic chain tensioning, and release, both installing and uninstalling them will be easier. This is important if you will be using the chains often.
With automatic release, you can easily take your tire chains on and off on your drive. If you are driving a long distance with intermittent hazardous conditions, automatic release is extremely helpful.
How do I determine the size of my tire?
In order to purchase the right snow chains, it is vital to know the size of your tires. Along with that, check your vehicle’s owner’s manual to see if there are any warnings regarding snow chains. Cars with lower clearance are sometimes not suitable for most snow chain options. Of course, there are many options for tire chain alternatives for cars with low-clearance.
Once you’ve checked with the vehicle’s manual, it’s time to confirm the exact measurements of your tires. To do so, you must find the tire width, the tire height ratio, and the diameter. These numbers will be on the sidewall of your tire, in that order from left to right.
Should I remove my tire chains after every use?
Yes, you should. It is also important to clean them after every use. Along with that, driving with tire chains on bare pavement can cause significant damage to both the road and your tires. If the roads become dry before you reach your destination, you will want to pull over and remove the chains before continuing the drive.
Even if it is set to snow for many days in a row, it is a good idea to remove the tire chains after every use to clean them. This will keep them in good shape and prevent unnecessary and avoidable damage.
To prepare for installing and removing tire chains in the heat (or, more accurately, the cold) of the moment, we recommend doing a “practice run.” Practice both installing and uninstalling the tire chains at home until you feel comfortable with the process.
Are tire chains or tire cables better?
The short answer is that it depends on your specific situation surrounding your vehicle and the conditions in which your vehicle is used.
The choice between tire chains or tire cables comes down to numerous factors. Overall, tire chains will last longer and will provide better traction. If you plan to use your snow chains often and in deep snow, tire chains are the better option.
If you will be driving in moderate snow or only need chains on rare occasions, you may be fine with a set of tire cables. Along with that, because tire cables are smaller, they will usually fit better on cars with low clearance.
Should you put snow chains on all four tires?
Ideally, yes. Putting the tire chains on all four tires will provide optimal safety and traction. If you end up in a scenario where you only have access to tire chains for the front or rear tires, consider your specific car. With front-wheel-drive automobiles, put the tire chains on the front tires. With rear-wheel-drive vehicles, put the tire chains on the rear tires.
Are snow chains legal in all 50 states?
For the most part, yes. The only place where tire chains are illegal under any circumstances is Hawaii. You can check for specific regulations at AAA’s website which has all of the information. Some states have tire chains permitted with no regulations, while others have more specific rules. The most common regulation is that tire chains are only permitted during hazardous weather, and any damage to the roads done by tire chains may be grounds for a fine.