Skip Navigation LinksNorCal Cars > Articles > Automotive Maintenance and Repair > Snow chains - Traction Devices

Different Types of Snow Chains Available for Vehicles


As fall turns into a Northern California winter, and other colder regions of the United States do the same, people start to turn their attention to preparing their car tires for snow and ice covered road conditions. Terms like Spider Spikes or Spikes Spider, snow cables, snow chains, and snow tires, can be heard being thrown about by people who aren’t quite sure which is best for them. Maybe you even find yourself among that group. The truth is that there are several types of snow chains available to consumers, each one with distinct features, and some designed for specific types of tires and vehicles. Here are a few of them, and some information about them and the tires for which they are designed:

Car Tire Chains

Sno Grip styled tires chains have a square chain link design that has a cable hoop on the inside of tires for easy installation. This design allows cars to start, stop, and take corners - reportedly better than a conventional ladder design does.

For cars with limited fender clearance, Cable Chains are ideal. With galvanized, or carbon, steel spring rollers that cross the tire tread horizontally (in a runged pattern), these chains increase wheel traction and are quieter than other chains.

In areas where ice and snow does not stay on the roads for long durations, Snow Socks are fabric covers that are easy to put on, and remove.

Another easy to install option is Spikes Spider Tire Chains. This type of tire chain is installed from the side, (avoiding the need to jack-up or crawl under the car), in 4 easy steps that take only seconds to complete.

Truck and 4x4 Tire Chains

Used with heavy-duty trucks (and other heavier vehicles) Diamond Tire Chains have links that form a diamond pattern. This pattern crosses the tire tread at different intersecting points, resulting in more stability and less vibrations and noise than standard styled tire chains. This style tire chain is made for both single and double tire trucks.

In icy road conditions, the metal studded spikes on Studded Tire Chains tend to be preferred. This style tire chain is made for both single and double tire trucks.

Due to the extreme conditions that will often break other types of tire chains, Mud Tire Chains are essential for rugged road conditions that often include mud and deep snow.

ATV Tire Chains

Studded Diamond Tire Chains are designed especially for ATV vehicles, allowing them to drive through extreme ice and snow terrain.

Multi-Vehicle Standard Tire Chains

A variety of Standard Tire Chain styles are available for cars, trucks, and ATV vehicles. These are the most common, and affordable, tire chains seen on vehicles, but they have the down side of being thick (making them more difficult to install in vehicles with limited clearance between the tire and wheel well) and louder than other styles of tire chains.

Usage, Maintenance, and Storage Suggestions

Be sure to pick the right style chain to match your vehicle and usage needs. Otherwise, the chain may break, possibly damaging your vehicle bodywork and/or break lines. If a chain does break, there are repair kits available to fix them, or they can be sent off to the factory to be refurbished and sent back.

Most tire chains won’t last more than a season or two if they are not cared for properly, especially the less expensive varieties. That is why it is important, when getting ready to store them, to clean the salt off of them with running water and then to make sure they are dry afterward. Spraying them down with chain saw grease, or WD-40, is also a good idea. Lastly, wrap them in chains and store them in a waterproof bag. This way your chains will last several seasons, and you will be sure to get your money’s worth out of them.