10 Best Snow Chains: Reviews and Buying Guide

In Germany, a winter tire requirement prevails under appropriate weather conditions, so that every driver should be well prepared for wintry road conditions. But winter tires are not always enough. Especially in the mountainous regions with snowy and icy roads, no further progress is possible even with winter tires. In these cases, snow chains are often indispensable. They help to ensure the necessary traction even in heavy snowfall and on icy roads and to ensure safe driving in wintry conditions.

Top 10 Snow Chains

What types of snow chains are there?

If you want to buy snow chains, you will soon discover that there are many different types of snow chains on the market. 
Basically, a distinction must first be made between

  • starting aids
  • Full snow chains

In the full snow, chains are also distinguished once again in

  • drive chains
  • track chains

Starting aids do not cover the entire tire, unlike the full snow chains. They are rather plastic spikes or small chain nets, which are attached to the rim. They cover only a portion of the tire and are suitable for overcoming short sections, uphill or downhill gradients that do not require the use of full snow chains or to relieve the already stalled vehicle of its predicament.

The traction help is attached to the tire of the drive axle. Depending on the situation, several starting aids can be attached per drive wheel. If the stuck vehicle is free or the short distance that made the use of the traction aids required to overcome, the traction aids are removed again. The starting aids can be used on snow and ice as well as on muddy or muddy surfaces.

Full snow chains cover not only a part but the entire tire. Depending on the type of snow chains they are mounted on the tires of the drive axle or the steering axle.

The drive chains, which are mounted on the tires of the drive axle, prevent mainly the slipping and spinning of the tires. For this, the chains run across the tread. In the track chains, which are mounted on the tires of the steering axle, however, a lateral slipping of the wheels is prevented. For this purpose, the pieces of the chain run longitudinally in the direction of travel.

In this road conditions, you need snow chains

Snow chains are needed above all in heavy snowfall and icy roads. If inclines and inclines then come into play, the vehicle often cannot move forward without snow chains. When skiing or winter holidays in the Harz Mountains, in the low mountain range or in the Alps or in other mountainous regions, where heavy snowfall is expected, snow chains are definitely in the trunk. Even and especially during winter holidays in the neighboring countries of Austria and Switzerland must not be waived on the snow chains.

Although it can be assumed that due to the winter tire requirement in Germany all vehicles are equipped with appropriate tires that can cope with normal winter road conditions, but especially in mountainous areas, the winter tires are far from sufficient. 
Under the following conditions, you should definitely have snow chains in your luggage:

  • During winter rides in mountainous regions in Germany such as in the Harz
  • On ski holidays in winter sports countries like Austria or Switzerland
  • For winter trips, for example in France or Italy
  • In the lowlands in areas known for heavy snowfall in winter

Is there a legal snow chain requirement?

Being prepared for all eventualities with a pair of snow chains is one thing, but what about the legal requirements? Is there a snow chain requirement, as there is a winter tire requirement? What happens in the event of an accident if you do not put on snow chains in adverse road conditions and from when snow chains must be used? Among other things, the answers to these questions depend on which country you are in.

  1. Snow chains compulsory in Germany: A general snow chains obligation does not exist in Germany. Rather, the creation of snow chains in Germany is situational regulated, namely by the traffic sign 268th The round sign with a blue background shows a black and white pictogram with a car tire with snow chains. Motorists who pass this sign are obliged to raise snow chains for the onward journey. It is irrelevant whether the road conditions correspond to a need for driving on snow chains or not. A discretion of the driver does not exist. However, the Road Traffic Regulations provide that the sign may only be placed when snow chains are required. Change the weather conditions,
  2. Snow chains compulsory in Austria: Snow chains compulsory in Austria is one of the winter equipment requirements. It is valid for all motorists during the period from 1 November to 15 April, including holidaymakers and travelers. Winter tires are also required by law from 1 November to 15 April. However, those who continue to travel with summer tires may still drive on a contiguous snow or ice layer on the road if they have mounted snow chains on the summer tires on at least two driving wheels. However, if the lane is free of snow or ice, do not use snow chains, as the chains can damage the pavement. However, the road conditions can still be classified as wintry, for example, with only a slight snowfall, in slush or in a clearly interrupted snow or ice cover, so that driving with summer tires are not allowed. The car must stop in this case.
  3. Snow chains compulsory in Switzerland: In Switzerland, there is no winter tire requirement and no snow chains required. However, as in Germany and Austria, there is a situational snow chains obligation, which is indicated by the corresponding street sign. All vehicles that pass the shield may only continue driving if snow chains are mounted on at least two drive wheels. The regulation applies to all multi-axle vehicles and thus also includes all-wheel drive vehicles. However, four-wheel drive vehicles may be exempted from the obligation by an additional sign. If no snow chains are mounted, there is a threat of a fine of 100 Swiss francs. If there is an accident due to lack of snow chains or if other road users are endangered, it is against the driver,

How fast can you drive with snow chains?

With mounted snow chains, there is a maximum speed of 50 km / h, regardless of what speed is generally allowed on the track. This rule should be respected in any case as snow chains can have a major impact on the behavior of the vehicle. When driving with snow chains, you should therefore not exceed the permissible maximum speed, but rather drive slowly and carefully. It is also important to keep sufficient distance to the vehicle ahead because the braking distance is not only extended by the winter road conditions, but also by the snow chains.

This is how the snow chains are mounted

The creation of the snow chains happens in an emergency, usually under rather adverse weather conditions. Motorists should therefore always make sure that you have next to the snow chains and necessarily a few matching gloves, preferably robust and warm work gloves, in the trunk and if possible a flashlight, In order for everything to work out in case of emergency, however, the first putting on of the snow chains should not wait until the emergence of the emergency. To avoid standing on an unknown road in the snow and freezing cold and in the dark, wondering how the snow chains have to be put on earth, you should practice putting on the snow chains a few times under favorable conditions. Although the snow chains are usually always detailed instructions for use, in an emergency, just inexperienced users in the first attempts to reach their limits. So take your time and do a dry exercise in the garage. It is usually sufficient to have the snow chains created under favorable conditions so that it works well in an emergency.

How many snow chains do you need and where are they attached?

As a rule, the snow chains are mounted on the wheels of the drive axle. So you need 2 snow chains that you mount to the front tire in a front-wheel drive vehicle and to the rear tire on a rear-wheel drive vehicle. If the snow chains are to be mounted on an all-wheel-drive vehicle, there is no fixed regulation as to whether they are attached to the front or to the rear.

Which mounting systems are there for snow chains?

In the case of mounting systems, it is important to distinguish between snow chains with a cable-ring mechanism and snow chains with an ironing system. The snow chains with cable ring mechanism have the general advantage that it is a stand-mounted and the vehicle does not have to be ranked during assembly. The chains are often closed behind the tire in the wheel arch via a rope ring, which can sometimes be a bit dirty matter.

Snow chains with an ironing system usually only have to be pulled over the tire and the spring clip closes automatically in the wheel arch. Here, however, it is often necessary to move the vehicle a little bit forward and backward during assembly so that you can put on the chain correctly.

Manual retightening or self-relaxing?

After putting on the snow chains must be tightened in the rule. For snow chains with rope ring mechanism, this retightening often has to follow manually. Snow chains with an ironing system have the advantage that they are usually self-relaxing and provide the optimum tension on their own.

When do the snow chains have to be removed?

If there is no ice or snow on the road, the snow chains should be removed again. Longer driving with snow chains on the open road damages both the tires and the road surface.

Alternatives to snow chains

Steel snow chains often seem like an awkward relic of the past, so it makes sense to look for more modern alternatives. The market also has a lot to offer:

  • Textile snow chains
  • Hybrid snow chains
  • Snow chains for spraying

Textile snow chains

In the case of textile snow chains, a distinction must be made between snow chains made of composite material and in the so-called textile snow socks. However, both variants are not recognized as fully fledged snow chains and must not be used where snow chains are required. In practice, most textile snow chains cannot keep up with the traction achieved by a steel snow chain. They are also not suitable for driving in deep snow.

Hybrid Tires

Hybrid snow chains consist of a steel chain net that lays over the tread of the tire and textile side panels. They are very easy to assemble and ensure good rim protection. If you are looking for snow chains for alloy wheels, you are therefore well equipped with hybrid chains, as these chains are recognized as full snow chains and may be used on roads with snow chains compulsory. However, in hybrid snow chains, especially in Austria, it has to be noted that the chains meet ÖNORM standards. Similar guidelines apply to Italy, France, and Switzerland.

Snow chains for spraying

The Snow Grip tire spray comes from Norway and is sprayed on the tires. After a drying time of 5 minutes, it lasts for about ten kilometers. The spray is able to increase the traction force of winter tires by up to 100% and the effect is confirmed not only by the Norwegian Institute of Technology but also by TuV Bayern. Nevertheless, the Snow Grip Spray is not approved as a substitute for snow chains. However, a can of snow chains spray in the glove compartment can perform well as a traction help.

So a real alternative to the steel snow chains offer only the hybrid snow chains, which are recognized as fully fledged snow chains and not really differ from conventional metal snow chains except in the attachment through the textile side panels. However, they can score points especially because of their low weight and easy installation.

Snow chains hire as an alternative to purchasing?

Especially if you only need the snow chains once for a ride, it is quite possible that you buy new snow chains, which you did not use in the end, because the road conditions did not require it. To avoid this, you can rent snow chains at one of 84 ADAC snow chains in Southern Germany. There you can rent snow chains by buying a set of snow chains, which you can return to the store if you did not use the chains. In this case, you will be refunded the purchase price and there is only a small rental fee per day. However, if you have used the chains, a return is no longer possible.


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