Driving in the snow can be challenging and stressful, but practice, proper gear, and advanced preparation can increase your safety and comfort. With the right traction devices on hand, and knowing both when you need them and how to install them, driving on winter roads will feel a lot less daunting.
The Differences Between Snow Tires, Cables, Chains, and Socks
Snow or winter tires are specifically designed for better traction and performance in freezing temperatures and on snow and ice than all-season tires. While some all-season tires may have “M+S” stamped on the sidewall to show they have deeper treads for mud and snow, a true winter tire will also have a mountain symbol with a snowflake inside. In many cases, snow tires are sufficient for driving on snow-covered roads and will not require additional traction devices, such as chains or cables. Winter tires are ideal for drivers who need to navigate freezing temperatures and snow all season long.
Cables work much like chains in that they wrap around your tires and help your vehicle grip the road when conditions make it difficult for standard tires to maintain traction. Cables are lighter and can be easier to install than chains. They are less likely to damage your vehicle if they break, a rare but not impossible scenario. While they won’t last as long as a set of chains, cables are a good choice if you don’t need them very often.
Chains are a tougher product all around, but they can be harder to install and heavier. However, if you need to frequently drive in the snow or you want a product that will last longer, they can be an excellent choice.
Tire socks are a newer traction solution where a fabric sleeve wraps around the tire and is secured with elastic bands. They’re easy to install and can help if your wheels are spinning, but they’re not universally approved for use where chains are required. If you have socks, check with the department of transportation along your route to make sure they’re acceptable when chains are required.