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Snow Chains

Snow chains buyers guide

Snow chains or AutoSock are compulsory on most Alpine roads, even for 4x4 vehicles. Increasing numbers of people also carry a set for UK use, for snow or for grass, e.g. to give essential grip in green field car parks during the British summer. Note that AutoSock, which are amazing on snow and ice, are not suitable for use on grass - at the first hint of mud they are useless.

We are snow chain specialists, and distribute many of Europe's best known brands, covering the whole range of snow chain sectors and aiming to have a snowchain for every available wheel size.

The Starting Point

The starting point is to tell you that "traditional" snow chains, which wrap chain around the whole tyre, are not suitable for increasing numbers of vehicles, usually because they'd be too close to struts or brake pipes, or because there's electronic sensing equipment which can't cope with finding metal where there's normally only rubber. We therefore recommend that you use our snow chains database, and choose first your car, then your tyre size, and for many cars also your engine size. This database has several hundred thousand links in it, and we try and keep it up to date, but there are always new cars and new tyres which we don't list, so you can of course choose snow chains by tyre size only.

Almost everyone will be able to buy a set of chains which will fit around their wheels, but you need to know if it is sensible to fit them, and also whether it is physically possible to fit them. Our advice is to check your car handbook very carefully, because if there is a "No fit" for conventional snowchains there could be real danger and expense in fitting the chains and driving the car.

Even if there is a "No fit" for traditional snow chains you will find that the "ladder track / front fitting" chains we sell, (König K-Summit, Polaire GRIP, Polaire STEEL GRIP, Spikes-Spider) can be used on every vehicle, subject to finding a set of the appropriate size.

All the snow chains are sold in pairs, and need to be fitted to the driving wheels. Some people also fit them to the non-driving wheels, which certainly improves all round stability and safety (especially for rear wheel drives), but is definitely not necessary. 4x4 drivers should fit snowchains to the front wheels unless we tell you which wheels to use - please check the snow chains database for fitting notes.

As a rule of thumb, traction control and anti-skid systems should be turned off when using tyre traction devices, except for AutoSock and Spikes-Spider systems. If you can't easily turn off these systems, then it's probably OK. Check your handbook!

We show all the available options, together with prices and special offers, on our snow chains database.

We'll exchange unused snowchains if they are still in our current range at the time the exchange is arranged. Click here for details.

Snow Chains: an overview

Traditional snow chains:

These are much quicker to fit than you might think, but some are easier to fit than others! Except for the INNOs, they are all fitted by pushing a cable behind the wheel, lifting the two ends up the face of the wheel until they're well over the widest point, then joining them together and pushing them over the top of the tyre. This is easy enough if there's plenty of space between the wheel and the wheel arch, but if there is snow on the ground you'll often need to kneel on the ground (which means snow, slush, dirt) to push the cable behind the wheel at ground level. Self-tensioning snowchains spare you the effort of getting out of the car after a few hundred metres to retighten the snow chain. Some models are also better at protecting alloy wheels than others.

This group includes:

Automatic snow chains:

These chains are pushed over the top of the wheel, with the chain links hanging on a sprung steel loop. They are usually quicker and are definitely cleaner to fit than traditional chains, and are also especially suitable for cars with limited clearance between the top of the wheel and the wheel arch.

This group includes:

The RUD-matic Classics and Kö Easy-fits are also available in many 4x4 tyre sizes.

Ladder track snow chains, also know as Front fitting snow chains

These do not put any chain behind the tyre, so there are no clearance problems except for the potential of damage to the wheel arch. They place a mesh of chain (steel or polyurethane) and ice spikes, sometimes like a roll-up ladder around the face of the tyre.

They are often called Front fitting chains because they are fitted from the outside of the wheel (front wheels or rear wheels) - a cleaner and generally easier process than fitting traditional snow chains - and they wind themselves onto the wheels when the vehicle starts to move. They are all effectively 'self-tensioning'.

This group includes:

The Polaire GRIP, Polaire STEEL GRIP and König and Thule K-Summit all work by fixing the chain to a wheel bolt. Domed and deeply recessed wheel bolts are often unsuitable, but where known we will tell you about this on the snow chains database.

The Spikes-Spider system works in a very different way.These are certainly both the fastest and the easiest fitting of all snowchains available, excluding the time taken to fit the special hub mounting plates. (Some people leave these plates in place all year, others fit them at the first sign of snow.) Spikes-Spiders place chain and/or ice spikes around the face of the tyre. They don't in fact grip the tyre all round, but only the part that's in contact, or just about to be in contact, with the road; they're otherwise free to move within the circular mounting plate, and as such will absorb the frequent changes in tyre shape. The chains also lift off the top of the wheel as they come around, and so help to shake out compacting snow. They're technically very advanced, Swiss made, and provide full protection for alloy wheels. They're not cheap to buy, but over a period of years the SPORT models in particular should prove to be very good value, because they are easily resized, i.e. you can buy new parts to make them fit just about any size of tyre available. All Spikes-Spiders can be used with traction control and anti-skid systems.

The Spikes-Spider Easy models do not use the rim mounting plates, but fix the chain to two wheel bolts, not just one.