Last updated: August 11, 2021

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You should always have snow chains in your car in winter. Never heard of snow chains? Snow chains are what you use when your winter tyres are no longer adequate. These chains are a great help when you want to drive comfortably on snow, ice or slush.

In our snow chain test 2021 we want to help you find the right snow chains for your car. We have listed decisive purchasing criteria for you and compared different types of snow chains. Finally, we answer any questions you may have had about snow chains. Your decision will be much easier after reading this!




The most important facts

  • Snow chains are a valuable aid when you want to drive your car on ice or snow. In some countries it is even compulsory to use snow chains.
  • There are three types of snow chains: cable chains, automatic ring chains and comfort chains. Choosing the right chains depends on the size of your car and your tyres.
  • Two snow chains are enough for your car. However, you should always practise fitting them before you use them.

The Best Snow chains: Our Picks

Buying and evaluation criteria for snow chains

When buying snow chains, you should pay attention to certain criteria. The criteria you can use to compare snow chains include:

In the following paragraphs we explain these criteria in more detail.

Mounting system

The first thing you should consider when buying snow chains is the mounting system. As you can guess: All snow chains are not mounted in the same way. In addition, not all snow chains are necessarily suitable for your car.

We have distinguished 3 types of mounting systems for you:

Mounting system Description
Rope chains In this system, the chain net hangs on a steel rope that can be locked. During mounting, the snow chain is placed around the tyre and the steel cable is locked above the tyre. This type of chain can be mounted standing up. However, you need enough space between the tyre and the wheel housing to be able to close the steel cable at all.
Ring automatic chains With this mounting system there is no steel cable to open and close again. The ring on the cable can only be pulled apart, which allows it to be fitted in narrower wheel housings. To mount the chain, you only need to pull the ring apart and position it correctly from above. However, this mounting is not possible when the vehicle is stationary.
Comfort snow chains Comfort snow chains should be fixed to a wheel nut. The fixation is done by a locking pin that is attached to both the wheel nut and the snow chain. Also with this mounting system, the mounting cannot be done standing still, but the car must be moved briefly.

Now you know the difference between the 3 main mounting systems. Also remember that your choice should depend on your car. Comfort snow chains and rope chains are basically suitable for all cars. Ring chains are best suited for cars with little space between tyre and wheel arch.

Size of snow chains

Choosing the right size is of paramount importance when it comes to snow chains. Why? Snow chains that are too small cannot be fitted, and snow chains that are too large bring with them the risk of damage to the car or an accident.

For this reason, snow chains should be chosen according to the tyre size of the car. Keep in mind that we are talking about winter tyres here.

You can determine your tyre size with this information:

[Reifenbreite in mm] / [Verhältnis zwischen Reifenbreite und -Hohe in %] [Reifenart] [Größe der Felge in Zoll]

Another small hint: The type of tyre is indicated by letters. For example, the tyre type "R" means that it is a radial tyre.

For additional information, you can also find comparison and sizing charts from different manufacturers on the internet.

Now that you know the size of your tyres, you should have no problem finding the right snow chains.

Chain structure

Not all snow chains have the same structure, and you should take this into account when making your purchase.

We distinguish between drive chains and track chains:

  • Drive chains: With these snow chains, the chain links are perpendicular to your direction of travel. These snow chains are fitted to the rear of the car.
  • Track chains: With these snow chains, the chain links lie lengthways to the direction of travel. In contrast to drive chains, track chains should be fitted to the front tyres.

However, most snow chains are a mixture of drive and track chains, which should make choosing your snow chains a little easier.

Snow chains with Y structure combine the properties of drive and track chains.

Chain thickness

First of all, the thickness of your snow chains should play a role in your choice.

Thicker snow chains are usually more durable and offer you more "grip" than thin snow chains.

The thickness of snow chains is given in millimetres and usually varies between 7 and 15 mm.

Snow chains that are over 15 mm thick are intended for vehicles such as trucks. So look for a size below 15 mm.

If you have a large and heavy car, or if you use snow chains often, we definitely recommend that you buy strong snow chains.

Standards

Standards and guidelines can change from country to country. If you plan to travel, be careful not to break any laws - you don't want to be penalised.

Instructions and regulations can be found in the "Straßenverkehrs-Zulassungs-Ordnung".

In Germany there is no obligation to use snow chains. However, there are legal instructions for their use.

In countries such as Austria, there are stricter standards for snow chains. If you plan to drive to such countries often, we recommend that you pay attention to these standards. In this case, you can purchase snow chains that comply with the standards of these countries.

Decision: What types of snow chains are there and which are right for you?

As mentioned in the buying criteria section, there are two types of snow chains: track chains and drive chains.

Type Features
Drive chains The chain links lie across the direction of travel.
Track chains the chain links lie along the direction of travel.

In the following paragraphs we briefly explain again what is important for each type.

Antriebsketten

Drive chains

Basically, drive and track chains are “the same”: you use them when you want to drive in the snow.

Advantages
  • Basically suitable for all vehicles
  • chain links lie across the direction of travel
Disadvantages
  • You have to be careful to fit them to the right tyres

Drive chains, however, are built in such a way that their chain links lie at right angles to the direction of travel. This means that they are mounted on the rear tyres of a car.

Spurketten

Track chains

On the contrary, the chain links of track chains run along the direction of travel. Accordingly, they should be mounted on the front tyres of the car.

Advantages
  • Basically suitable for all vehicles
  • chain links run along the direction of travel
Disadvantages
  • You have to be careful to fit them to the right tyres

There is not really a huge difference between these types. In fact, we think you should try buying another type of snow chain: snow chains that have both drive chain and track chain properties.

This way, you don’t have to worry about whether you should put your chains on the front or the back – snow chains are always mounted on the drive axle.

Guide: Frequently asked questions about snow chains answered in detail

In our guide, we answer all the questions you have already asked about snow chains.

Who are snow chains suitable for?

As long as you have a car, snow chains are suitable for both you and your neighbour. Basically, snow chains are suitable for everyone.

Schneeketten-1

Snow chains are available for every car. They are desirable if you drive on snow.
(Image source: Oziel Gómez / Unsplash)

Of course, you may prefer one type or another. If you have a heavy car, then thick snow chains are better. If your car doesn't have much space between the tyres and the wheel arches, then ring automatic chains are better.

In the end, it all depends on your car and its needs.

Why do you need snow chains?

Snow chains are needed in winter: In snow, ice or slush. For example, if you plan to go on a skiing holiday, remember to take your snow chains with you.

However, snow chains are not a substitute for winter tyres, but an additional piece of equipment for your car.

What size snow chains should I buy?

The size of your snow chains depends on the size of your tyres. In our buying and decision criteria section, we explain in more detail how to determine the size of your tyres.

Schneeketten-2

If you choose the right chain size, your car will not slip on ice.
(Image source: Åsmund Arup Seip / Unsplash)

Choosing the right size is definitely important: you won't be able to fit snow chains that are too small on your car.

You will definitely be able to fit snow chains that are too big. But that doesn't mean you're out of danger. They could damage your car. Much worse, they could lead to an accident. So be careful and use your tyre size as a guide.

You can also find size charts from the various manufacturers on the Internet.

What are the alternatives to snow chains?

As an alternative to snow chains, you could buy the following:

Textile snow chains: These "snow chains" are made of textile (polyester) or composite material. These chains suck the water off the ground and thus cause a better grip.

Advantages
  • Allow driving up to and over 50 km/h (if legally permitted)
Disadvantages
  • Rapid wear
  • Not as robust as steel chains
  • Not recognised as winter equipment

You can also find hybrid snow chains, a mixture of steel and textile snow chains. These snow chains offer you the advantages of both steel and textile snow chains. They can also be used on roads where chains are compulsory.

Spray-on snow chains: This is a simple liquid that you spray on the tyre and leave to dry for a few minutes.

Advantages
  • Easy to store
  • Easy to use
Disadvantages
  • Does not last long (a few kilometres)
  • Not recognised as winter equipment

How do I fit my snow chains?

And now for the practical part, how are snow chains fitted in the first place? It depends on the type, of course. And because pictures are worth a thousand words, we have selected videos for you.

When fitting, the snow chain is placed around the tyre and the steel cable is closed above the tyre. This type of chain can actually be mounted standing up, but you should still practise mounting it if possible.

Here, the ring on the rope can be pulled apart, which also allows mounting in narrower wheel housings. To fit the chain, pull the ring apart and position it correctly from above.

With comfort chains, the chain is fixed by attaching a locking pin to the wheel nut.

How do I care for snow chains?

Well-maintained material always lasts longer. This is the best way to care for your snow chains:

  1. Hang up the snow chains: First hang up the snow chains so that you can clean them thoroughly.
  2. Rinse snow chains: First rinse your snow chains with lukewarm water.
  3. Dry snow chains (thoroughly): As a final cut, simply rub your snow chains with a rag to prevent rust.

You have already cleaned your snow chains in three steps; they are now ready for the next use.

Are snow chains compulsory in Germany?

In Germany, snow chains are not compulsory. Nevertheless, there are a few rules that you should follow.

  • When driving, you must not exceed the speed limit of 50 km/h.
  • If you are driving on a stretch of road where there is a traffic sign for snow chains, you should equip your car with snow chains accordingly.
  • And of course, your snow chains should not damage the roads.

Now you know exactly how and what you have to observe with snow chains.

Image source: Moravcik / 123rf.com

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