Best Tire Chains (2020)

Posted: 10 May 2020

Introduction

When you drive in the snow or ice, it can often pose a challenge. Your overall trip is not only slowed down significantly, but also puts you in a risk of having an accident due to the slick conditions. Whether you drive a front wheel drive car, rear wheel drive car or all wheel drive car, you can still have a hard time in winter weather (regardless of your tires). To solve this problem, it’s important to keep a set of tire chains with you at all times.

Some of today’s best tire chains are extremely easy to put on, and will most definitely increase your grip and overall driving safety. The only dilemma we have here is, which chains to choose?

Tire chains and Tire Cables

There’s truck tire chains, car tire chains, SUV tire chains, and even tractor trailer semi tire chains. Picking the right size is crucial to have the right fit, and to have the best grip. We created a guide to help you make a decision, 7 of today’s best tire chains are listed below (in no particular order). **Also check out on the full guide on brake pads.

Also check out on the full guide on brake pads.

NOTE: Tire chains are also referred to as “tire cables”.

7 Best Tire Chains You Should Get For Your Car, Truck, Van or SUV

RankingProductCurrent Price
1
Thule XG12 Pro Deluxe Snow Chains
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2
Security Chain Company QG2228CAM Quik Grip Light Truck CAM LSH Tire Traction Chain - Set of 2
Security Chain Company Quik Grip Light Truck Tire Chains
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3
Quality Chain Cobra Cable Passenger Snow Traction Tire Chains (1046)
Quality Chain Cobra Cable Passenger Snow Traction Tire Chains
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4Peerless 0232605 Auto-Trac Light Truck/SUV Tire Traction Chain - Set of 2
Peerless Auto-Trac Light Truck/SUV tire Chains
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5Security Chain Company SZ435 Super Z6 Cable Tire Chain for Passenger Cars, Pickups, and SUVs - Set of 2
Security Chain Company SZ435 Super Z6 Tire Chains
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6Glacier 1038 Passenger Cable Tire Chain - Set of 2
Glacier 1038 Passenger Cable Tire Chains
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7Security Chain Company SC1032 Radial Chain Cable Traction Tire Chain - Set of 2
Security Chain Company SC1032 Radial Tire Chains
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7. Security Chain Company SC1032 Radial Tire Chains

Security Chain Company SC1032 Radial Chain Cable Traction Tire Chain - Set of 2Security Chain Company SC1032 Radial Chain Cable Traction Tire Chain – Set of 2According to Amazon, this is their best selling tire chain set. What we love about this set of tire chains are the easy of installation, and overall price. Compared to many other chains it’s hard to beat in price as it is really good value for the money.

These chains in particular require low operating space, making them great for vehicles such as sporty cars, family sedans, and small to medium sized utility vehicles. Made of stainless steel, these chains will improve your starting, stopping and cornering performance when faced ice and packed snow. Additionally, these aren’t as bulky as some other tires, a smoother ride is to be expected.

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6. Glacier 1038 Passenger Cable Tire Chains

Glacier 1038 Passenger Cable Tire Chain - Set of 2Glacier 1038 Passenger Cable Tire Chain – Set of 2Very identical tire chains to the ones mentioned above, these are lower profile designed for use in vehicles that typically have less clearance in the wheel wells. The Glacier 1038 Passenger Cable Tire Chains are perfect for your 4 door family sedan or minivan, coming in a set of two making them great for front wheel drive vehicles. Coming in a host of different sizes, you should expect to pay no more than about 45 dollars for a set of 2 tire chains.With the case hardened steel rollers on cable cross members, your traction in deep packed snow and ice will be drastically improved. Not only are these great for front wheel drive vehicle, they are great for rear wheel drive vehicles as well. Using a pair of these will not void your warranty.

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5. Security Chain Company SZ435 Super Z6 Tire Chains

Security Chain Company SZ435 Super Z6 Cable Tire Chain for Passenger Cars, Pickups, and SUVs - Set of 2Security Chain Company SZ435 Super Z6 Cable Tire Chain for Passenger Cars, Pickups, and SUVs – Set of 2Here’s a set of snow tire chains that are perfect for every type of vehicle. The Security Chain Company SZ435 Super Z6 is the ideal set of chains you should look into when you operate passenger cars, pickups, or SUV’s. Coming in a set of 2, initial setup usually should take no more than 5 minutes per wheel. These are designed vehicles with low clearance in the wheel well, so you won’t have to worry about destroying the inside of your wheel well.

With rubber tighteners, it means you won’t have to stop and re-tighten after installation. Overall traction in deep packed snow will be a breeze, and ice won’t stand a chance at letting your vehicle slide too much. This set of tire chains are 100% compatible with vehicles that have anti-lock breaks, traction control, all-wheel drive, and other electronically monitored control systems.

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4. Peerless Auto-Trac Light Truck/SUV tire Chains

Peerless 0232605 Auto-Trac Light Truck/SUV Tire Traction Chain - Set of 2Peerless 0232605 Auto-Trac Light Truck/SUV Tire Traction Chain – Set of 2If the type of vehicle you have is a light duty tuck or SUV, the peerless Auto-Trac Tire Chains are an excellent choice. Unlike the lower profile tire chains mentioned above, these are designed to be used under low speed (30 miles per hour or less). They have a self tightening ratchet which allows you to not stop and constantly re-tighten the chains.

Installation is relatively easy, and the diamond pattern cross chains provide a smoother ride and excellent traction. These are ideal for use in trucks and SUV’s, not as bulky as you’d think, allowing you to use them with a fair amount of clearance in the wheel well. A set of 2 will set you back about 90 dollars, they are easily stored in the nylon case which can easily be tucked away in your vehicles trunk OR, under a set.

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3. Quality Chain Cobra Cable Passenger Snow Traction Tire Chains

Quality Chain Cobra Cable Passenger Snow Traction Tire Chains (1046)Quality Chain Cobra Cable Passenger Snow Traction Tire Chains (1046)Low profile, cheap, made for low clearance vehicles, the Quality Chain Cobra Cable Tire Chains are those chains. These are made to fit a WIDE array of tire sizes, specifically catered towards vehicles that are front or rear wheel drive. Although the rubber adjusters are sold separately, once everything is fastened in place, you’ve got a drastic improvement in traction.

or around 45 dollars (give or take), you have a set of tires that hugs your tires to ensure every part is making contact with packed snow and ice. Durability wise, the stainless steel wires will last you a while as long as you use them in the snow.

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2. Security Chain Company Quik Grip Light Truck Tire Chains

Security Chain Company QG2228CAM Quik Grip Light Truck CAM LSH Tire Traction Chain - Set of 2

Security Chain Company QG2228CAM Quik Grip Light Truck CAM LSH Tire Traction Chain – Set of 2This right here is what you get for your SUV or pick-up truck. The Security Chain Company Quik Grip Light Truck Type CAM LSH Tire Traction Chains are designed specifically to be used on heavy duty vehicles, and especially vehicles with thick tire tread. The chains themselves are thicker than your ordinary chains, so heavy duty vehicles can rely on them to get traction.

Tire cables are designed to work great with low profile clearance vehicles, while the Security Chain Company’s Quik Grip “chains” are designed to give optimal traction in deep packed snow, and ice. For under 100 dollars, you’ll get one set of chains with a cam for relatively easy installation. Again, any vehicle that has no issue with clearance will work just fine with these chains.

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1. Thule XG12 Pro Deluxe Snow Chains

Thule is definitely a premium oriented brand, with their roof racks, bike racks, and cargo boxes. Their mind is set on helping people get outdoors, and their equipment has proven to really help users get from A to B, much easier. The Thule 12mm XG12 Pro Deluxe Tire Chains are designed for SUV’s and Crossovers alike. Bundled up in pairs, these chains can be fitted on tires ranging from size 225 to size 255.What’s great about these Thule chains, is that you only need 12 mm of clearance to wear them. Self tensioning and self centering is made quick and easy. The special pattern of chains is made specifically to grab packed snow and ice more aggressively. While priced at a premium, Thule backs these chains with their 5 year warranty.

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EXTRA: Having a set of tire chains is crucial for the moments when your tires alone won’t cut it. Some additional guides you may find useful are our torque wrench buyers guide for when you’re taking your wheels on and off, and our floor jack guide for when you need to lift your vehicle (jack stands are 100% necessary).

A nice tool to have just in case of any snow, is a snow brush. Snow can accumulate fast, and when it’s cold out, you need to clean it off ASAP. Check out our guide.

A quick video on tire chains..

Best Tire Chains – Buying Guide and FAQ

Now you know what are, in our opinion, some of the best models of tire chains available on the market. However, since there is such a variety of them out there, we though that it would be a good idea to put together a little buying guide, so that if you have a need in the future, it will be a lot easier for you to know which ones are good, and which ones not so much.

What’s more, we understand that people who are new to this and have never bough a tire chain before, might have some question, which is why we also include a FAQ section at the end.

So now, without any further ado, let’s jump right into it.

Tire Chains – Best Features To Consider

There are so many products available on the market that choosing the right one can often be more difficult than finding a needle in the haystack. However, just like with everything these models also have different features, and these feature can be a deciding factor when choosing the right tire chains. Below you will find what we thought are the best features that you should consider when choosing your product.

Self-Tightening Ratchets

There are two ways in which these little device will make your life easier. First of all, they will make the installation process easier, by tightening the chains by the motion of the wheel. What’s more, it will also help in keeping the pressure at the right level while your car or other vehicle is in motion, which is very important. Why? Because if the chain is too slack, it will not provide the traction you need, which might result in its damaging way faster than it would normally.

If you decide to purchase a premium model, there’s a high chance that it will feature them. Even though you might be tempted to save a little bit of money and opt for a cheaper model, you need to think if saving a few bucks is really worth crouching in the snow trying to tighten the locks on a snow chain with frozen hands.

Tread

Tread is the contact point between the chain and the ground. There are several types, varying from nails to cable chains to traditional chains. A traditional chain is, without a doubt, a trued and tested dead, with lots of surface to create traction – if you decide to purchase one those, you should look for the ones with a pattern, as they can help in creating a little extra traction. Steel cable chains, on the other hand, are a newer type of tread. However, despite being new, they do a good job at creating lots of traction so that you are able to drive safely.

Clearance

Clearance, in general, is the thickness of the chain – the thicker the chain is, the higher clearance it has. While we will talk more about it below, the clearance is basically the gap between the vehicle tire and the vehicle bodywork. The chain needs a clearance where it won’t affect the movement of the tire.

Snow chains and The Law

When it comes to snow chains and the law, a lot depends on which state you are in, as the was might different if you are, for example, in California or in Nevada. If you are not really sure what are the rules in your area, remember that you can always contact the local police department or town hall, so that they can dispel all the doubts you might have.

Appropriate Time To Use

The best time to use tire chains is during or after a snowstorm. However, keep in mind that there has to be snow on the ground, at least in inch thick. If there is less, the chains will cut up the road surface, as well as wear out pretty fast. Snow chain for cars works best on compact, packed snow and ice. However, they can also be very useful in muddy driving conditions.

Snow chains and Speed

Even though the chains on tires add grip when you are driving in snow, it doesn’t mean that you can drive the same way you would if conditions were normal. Instead, it is recommended to drive below 30mph, and try to avoid harsh braking or acceleration, as both of them can cause damage to the chains.

Tire Chains – Installation Process

The installation process is not really difficult, in contrast to what some people might think. In general, the snow chains are easy to install. After purchasing the tire chains, the first you’d want to do is take them out of the packaging. Most chains come with an instruction so you’d want to take that out as well. Place them somewhere close to where you will be installing them so you’ll have an easy access.

If your vehicle is a rear-wheel drive, then you should install the chains on both rear wheels. If it’s a front-wheel drive, place them on both front wheels, and if it’s an all-wheel or 4-wheel drive, install the chains on all four wheels. Keep in mind that when it comes to a front-wheel drive vehicle, you might still want to put the chains on all wheels, so that you’ll have more control over it during extreme weather conditions.

Before installation, make sure that your care is in park, and your parking brake is engaged. Fit the chains over the tire, and straighten the length so that it hangs down along the sides. Around three-quarters of the tire should be covered. Place the chains between the bottom of the tire and the ground, so that they won’t fall off when you’ll be driving forward. Keep in mind that some types of tire chains will have rings fastened to them – they go along the inside of the wheel, and during the installation process should be placed on the bottom of the tire, close to the ground. They will require from you to get under the car so that you can install them correctly, and might need a little adjusting to ensure that they are on straight.

The next step is to drive forward with your vehicle – it will expose the unfitted portion of the tire. To have better access when finishing to secure the chains, turn the wheel towards the inside of the vehicle. Cover the remaining part of the tire by connecting the chains together, and ensure that both the inner and outer connections are aligned – the chains should mostly be going straight across the width of the tire. Once you’re done, repeat the same process on the rest of the tires – if you have a little bit more experience, you can try installing the chains on both of the front or rear tires simultaneously. It will definitely shorten the time spend on the whole process.

Last but not least, you need to make sure that the chains are installed correctly. To do that, you need to drive a short distance – the chains will slightly shift during the drive. To make sure that they are installed tightly enough to travel safely, use the closer link or tightening cam to re-thigten them once you’re done with your drive.

Snow Tire Chains – Maintenance

Once you buy your snow tire chains, you’d probably want them to last you a little bit longer than just one season. If so, then you need to remember that proper maintenance is the key. Luckily for you, it is not hard to keep them in good shape – if you follow those simple steps, you will be able to dash through the snow without a worry for the next few years.

Protect them from corrosion

There is honesty nothing worse for your chains, then falling victim to corrosion, which is why the first step when it comes to their maintenance is making sure that it doesn’t happen. You can do that by suing an oil-based water displacer or lubricant, so that you can prevent them from staying when they are not being used.

Before you store them, spray them with WD-40, so that you’ll be able to keep them in a usable condition for years to come. Another thing that can be helpful is hanging them up on a wall in the summer when you don’t need to keep them in the trunk of your vehicle. It makes it easier to keep them coated with oil, as well as prevent the links from rusting together.

Make Sure They Are Tightened

Even though we might have mentioned it before, it’s important that the chains are placed tightly on your tire, as making them too loose is the easiest way of damaging them, and cutting their usable lifespan in half – not to mention the fact that it can seriously damage your car if the chain strikes against the body or suspension.

The best way to make sure that the chains are installed correctly is to go for a short drive – around half mile, so that you will be able to re-tighten them if needed.

Be Careful About The Speed

Again, something that we will keep repeating because it’s vital – drive carefully and slowly! The chains are not meant to be used at high speeds. If you go too fast, you can cause undue stress on the tires, which will increase the possibility of link breakage.

Best Snow Chains – FAQ

Not everyone has to be an expert in everything, so it’s normal that you might have some questions. To make it easier for you and other people in similar situation, we gathered the most frequently asked ones, and provided answers to them, so that buying snow chains will not be such a mystery anymore.

➡️ What do I do if manufacturer of my car says not to use snow chains?

If a manufacturer says not to use them, they probably have a good reason for it. It could be related to the clearance around your tire. However, there are also a few other mechanical problems that could make using chains for tires a a bad idea. So, if a manufacturer states that chains should not be used, the best idea would be to get in touch with them and find out why they said so. Once you know, you can take it from there.

➡️ Can I use snow socks instead of snow chains?

The answer is yes, you can. Keep in mind though, that the jury is out whether they are as effective as the chains, especially on hard-packed snow. However, they can be an option for vehicles that have low tire clearance.

If your manufacturer said not to use chains, then snow socks might be a viable alternative.

➡️ How do I know what size my tires are?

When you want to know what size are the tires in your vehicle, all you have to do is look at them. On the side tire wall, above the rim, you should see three numbers. The first one will a triple-digit, while the second and the third one will be double digit.

The first number is the Tire Width, the second is the Tire Height Ratio and the third one is the diameter. It’s worth to keep in mind that the second number gives you the sidewall height as a percentage of total width.

All the measurements that you find on the tire are in inches, and are all you need to know when it comes to the tire’s size. If you still need help with the measurements, because something is unclear to you, you can always check one of the tire size calculators – there are many available on the internet, so you should be able to find one for yourself.

➡️ What thickness of the chain can my car accommodate?

This is related to the tire clearance, about which we were talking about before. Since the chain sits on the outside of the tire, you need to have sufficient clearance between the tire and the vehicle body. The best way to check it would be to put your hands on the top of the tire. Run your over and behind the tire, reach back, and perform a sweeping motion.

If your hand goes around without hitting anything, it means that you have enough clearance. Regular cars usually have a lot of clearance between the body and the wheel, while SUVs, trucks and minivans often have less clearance, which is why you have to pay particular attention if your vehicle is of one of those styles.

The vehicles with the least clearance would be sports car and vehicles on lowered suspension. In this case, you will most probably only able to fit a snow sock type of device.

➡️ How should I drive with chains on?

Very carefully. Even though good snow chains will give you a real boost to the overall traction of your car, they will not allow you to drive in the same way as if there was no snow. That’s why it is recommended that you don’t exceed 30mph, as well as avoid harsh braking or accelerating. Not only will you risk loosing control over the vehicle if you do it, but also damaging or even breaking the chains.

➡️ How many snow chains do I need?

In most cases, this is a personal preference. The majority of people puts the chains only on the traction wheels, which are the ones connected to the engine that actually move the car. So for example, on a 4×4 SUV or similar, you will need it on all four wheels, while a regular car can get away with chains just on the two powered wheels.

Some people, on the other hand, put the chains on all of the tires, no matter if they have a 4×4 vehicle or a regular one. Even though it is not necessary, it can add to the overall traction, as well as give better handling in some instances.

➡️ If my car has an anti-lock brake system, do I need chains?

The answer is yes, you still need to use chains. The Anti-Lock brake system is designed to stop skids when you have to rapidly decelerate. In simple words, when you slam on the brakes, instead of losing control over the car, it will stop quickly and safely.

When it comes to better traction or steering control, they do nothing to help you. What’s more, without the snow chains, the anti-lock brake system can be pretty useless on an icy or snowy road. Why is that? Well, the vehicle simply won’t have the traction to stop properly.

Keep in mind though that when you have snow chains on, they might affect the sensors that the Anti-lock system relies on, which is one more reason why you should drive sensibly and keep you speed down.

Summary

The weather is unpredictable, especially during winter months – one moment is can be all sunny, and the next thing you know a snow storm is happening. Driving in the middle in a snow storm is no fun – especially since it’s incredibly easy to lose control over the vehicle and skid off. Without proper equipment, it can end very badly. So how can you protect yourself from it? Well, one of the easiest ways in using snow tire chains – thanks to a better traction they produce, you can drive safely. However, remember that just because you have them on, you can dry as if nothing was happening and it was the middle of the summer. On the contrary – you have to be extremely careful.

With that being said, let’s go back to ir guide. As you could see, buying the right tire chains is not difficult, as long as you know what you should be looking for. Features that are worth considering include whether the chains have self-tightening ratchets, what kind of tread they have, as well as how much clearance they have.

When it comes to when is the best time to use them, the answer is during or after the snow storm. Important thing to keep in mind is that there has to be at least one inch of snow on the road already. If there isn’t, the chains can quickly get damaged – it’s not something you’d want to, right?

Since we’re talking about it, it’s also crucial that you keep proper maintenance – not caring about your tire chains properly is another thing that can quickly make them become useless.

After all, how effective is a tire chain covered in rust?

Not much. That is why you need to remember about three things – first of all, don’t go over the speed limit, as it can be more damaging for you chain tires than anything else. Secondly, remember about proper storage – keep them hanging on the wall during summer months, when you don’t need them anymore to be in your trunk at all times. Last but not, least every time you are installing them, you need to make sure that they are tightened correctly.

Next thing – the installation process. If you are afraid that you won’t be able to place them correctly because you know nothing about cars, then you should stop. Tire chains are very easy to install, and even a person with no experience shouldn’t have any problems with installing them correctly.

Last but not least, you need to know what your local law says about snow tire chains.

Unfortunately, the law is not something that is exactly the same in all the states or counties – for example, the law in Nevada can be different from the law in South Carolina or North Dakota. This is why, if you are not exactly sure what are the laws in your area, you should get in touch with the local police department or the town hall – they will be able to provide you with the most trustworthy information.

With that being said, we have reached the end of our guide. We hope that we helped in dispelling your doubts, at least to a small extent. If you have any more questions, or something is still unclear, please do not hesitate to contact us – our teams of experts will try their best to get back to you and answer any questions you might have.