If you don't want the expense of winter tyres, but are looking for more grip when snow strikes, then chains might be an option but bear in mind:
- You can only use chains where snow or ice protects the road surface from damage.
- Tyres with chains on are wider so may contact bodywork, suspension or brake parts.
- Chains can affect the operation of electronic wheel sensors.
- Chains can be tricky to fit and remove
Your handbook will make it clear if you can use snow chains.
Second set of wheels
If you can't fit chains on your standard tyres you may be able to get a second set of wheels and tyres – check your handbook or talk to the car manufacturer.
But if you’re splashing out on a second set of wheels and tyres it probably makes sense to fit specialist winter tyres too.
When to use chains
You can only use chains where there’s enough snow or ice to protect the road.
- With this country’s policy of gritting and clearing major roads you’ll probably have to fit and remove chains several times during a journey.
- Choose a safe place and consider wearing a reflective jacket.
- Don't just throw new chains in the boot and forget them.
- Practice fitting chains at home in the dry and you'll be more confident with cold, gloved hands and wheel arches packed with snow.
One pair or two?
Your handbook may give specific advice but generally the minimum is one pair on the driven wheels though two pairs are better.
- A four-wheel drive vehicle should have chains on all four wheels.
Driving with chains on
Your handbook and the instructions for the chains may give specific advice. Otherwise:
- Traction control/anti-skid should normally be turned off
- Take it slowly (less than 30mph) and gently, slow down for bends and avoid harsh acceleration and braking.
- Pull away slowly – if you spin the wheels you could damage your suspension or steering if a chain catches on a hidden tree stump or rock.
- Stop and take the chains off straightaway if they’re damaged or broken.
- Check for worn or broken links and connectors when you take the chains off
- Your chains will last longer if you clean and dry them before putting them away.
Snow socks are textile liners that wrap over the wheel and tyre to give improved grip on ice and snow.
- Socks might be the answer if your main worry’s the beginning and end of a journey where local, un-gritted or little-used roads become icy.
- Socks aren’t as effective as chains and they’re not considered an 'approved' alternative to chains in countries where signs show that chains must be used.
- On the other hand, socks do seem to be easier to fit, and give more grip than a summer tyre – particularly on the flat.
As with chains, you’ll have to take snow socks off when you get to a cleared road surface – the tyre won’t meet minimum tread requirements and the socks will wear out very quickly.
8 February 2017