Home > Motors

The Best Tire Chains for Snow of 2023-2024

We found the best tire chains for snow to help improve your traction control when the roads and weather demand it.

free snow chains(Photo/Jaroslav Moravcik)
Support us! GearJunkie may earn a small commission from affiliate links in this article. Learn More

While there are plenty of risky — and fun — activities to do during the winter months, icy roads undeniably present one of the greatest dangers of the season. Tire traction chains are a time-tested way to improve your grip on slick roads.

The editors at GearJunkie are spread throughout the mountain towns of Califonia, Wyoming, and Colorado, where at a certain point every year, carrying tire chains is as natural as the changing of the leaves and the first snowfall. We’ve used, abused, and broken dozens of chains over multiple winters, and installed more than we can count on the vehicles of visiting lowlanders and hapless tourists. We’ve compiled this list of effective and high-quality tire chains so that your next adventure in a winter wonderland can be safe and fun. Nothing ruins a ski trip like dangerously careening into a snow bank.

It’s worth noting that special winter tires are highly recommended in the snowiest and most mountainous environments. And no matter where you are, there are certain things to avoid when driving in winter. Beyond safe driving practices, it’s also wise to keep a winter driving emergency kit in your vehicle for worst-case scenarios. Always check the local weather forecast and road conditions. A lot can change between Pasadena and Mammoth Lakes, and in many cases, highway patrol will not let you proceed if you can’t prove you’re carrying a set of tire chains.

Of course, the ultimate goal is safe winter travel in all conditions, and buying the best snow chains available for your vehicle is an excellent way to ensure this. If you are new to purchasing tire chains, be sure to check out the buying guide, comparison table, and FAQ toward the end of this article.

Editor’s note: This article was updated October 19, 2023, to include detailed information on how we tested tire chains and developed our list of recommendations.

The Best Tire Chains of 2023-2024

Best Overall Tire Chain

Security Chain Company SZ143


  • Type Cable
  • Tension Adjuster Yes
  • Weight 1 lb.
Product Badge The Best Tire Chains for Snow of 2023-2024


  • Versatile design works with virtually all vehicle types
  • Very low profile on the tires
  • Relatively easy to install


  • On the more expensive side
  • Installation can be finicky with small components in cold weather
  • Chains can slip off if not installed properly
Best Budget Tire Chains

König CB-12


  • Type Chain
  • Tension Adjuster Yes
  • Weight 7.89 lbs.
The Best Tire Chains for Snow of 2023-2024


  • Simple, no-frills, and effective design
  • Affordable price point
  • Smooth riding on snow
  • Generally easy to install for traditional tire chain system


  • Not the most durable chains on the market
  • Hard to match to tire size online
Runner-Up Best Tire Chain

Peerless Auto-Trac


  • Type Cable
  • Tension Adjuster Yes, Auto adjusting
  • Weight 8.5 lbs.
The Best Tire Chains for Snow of 2023-2024


  • Simple, no-frills, and effective design
  • Affordable price point
  • Smooth riding on snow
  • Generally easy to install for traditional tire chain system


  • Not the most durable chains on the market
  • Hard to match to tire size online
Best Tires for Low Clearance Vehicles

Glacier Chains Tire Cables


  • Type Steel Rollers
  • Tension Adjuster No
  • Weight About 1 lb.
The Best Tire Chains for Snow of 2023-2024


  • Quick to install
  • Lightweight and easy to pack away
  • Great for vehicles with minimal wheel well clearance


  • Provides less traction than more robust tire chains
  • Not durable enough for long-distance use
Best Tire Traction for Easy Installation

ISSE Shark Snow Sock


  • Type polyolefin Fabric
  • Tension Adjuster Self Tensioning
  • Weight 2.25 lbs.
The Best Tire Chains for Snow of 2023-2024


  • Good alternative for drivers looking to avoid classic chains
  • Easy installation
  • Appropriate substitute for roads completely covered in snow
  • Workaround for areas that do not allow classic tire chains


  • Expensive
  • Not the most durable product on the market
  • Vastly shortened lifespan when driven on asphalt

Best Snow Chains for Trucks

Security Chain Company QG2228CAM Quik Grip


  • Type Chain
  • Tension Adjuster No
  • Weight 6.5 lbs.
The Best Tire Chains for Snow of 2023-2024


  • Very durable
  • Relatively easy installation
  • Effective on all surfaces


  • Tends to rust faster than some other chains
  • Does not meet SAE Class S clearance requirements

Tire Chain Comparison Chart

ChainsPriceTypeTension AdjusterWeight
Security Chain Company SZ143$124CableYes1 lb.
König CB-12$99ChainYes7.89 lbs.
Peerless Auto-Trac$125ChainYes, Auto Adjusting8.5 lbs.
ISSE Shark Snow Sock$100Polyolefin FabricNo, Self-tensioning2.25 lbs.
Glacier Chains Tire Cables$99CableNo1 lb.
Security Chain Company QG2228CAM Quik Grip Model$108ChainNo6.5 lbs.
tire chain in the snow
A simple cable set is less expensive, but can be more challenging to install; (photo/Chris D 2006)

How We Tested Tire Chains

Putting on a pair of tire chains can be downright miserable. Imagine rolling around in slush puddles with frozen fingers, blindly grasping around your tires for a metal clasp. Maybe you’ve been on the road for a few hours and you’ve got a restless 3-year-old in the back seat. Needless to say, the family ski trip isn’t feeling much like a vacation yet. Our testers are all too familiar with this scenario, and we’re happy to show you another way.

We’ve combed the market to identify tire chain models that actually work.

Tester Matt Bento has lived and worked in the High Sierra for over a decade, spending slushy winters in Yosemite Valley, shoveling snow in Mammoth Lakes, and commuting daily from Reno to South Lake Tahoe for a brief and grueling stint. Every winter he’s needed to put on and take off chains on a daily basis as he moves from higher snowy elevations to the warmer, snow-free valleys.

He’s owned different tire chains for everything from a low clearance Subaru Impreza to a lifted F150 and helped other motorists install and variety of snow chain styles on their cars. All this winter “fun” gives him a solid foundation to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of each style of tire traction device.

The best tire chains for you are the ones that work well, fit your tires, match your clearance requirements, and are easy to get on and take off. Secondary considerations include durability and price. Our list of recommendations includes good options for a wide range of vehicles and drivers. As new and innovative models hit the market, we’ll be sure to test them to ensure our list always includes the best of the best.

Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose Snow Chains

Like any other piece of outdoor gear, the closer you are to purchasing, the more little details emerge that differentiate one product from the next. Choosing the best snow chains for your specific situation is especially important. It can spell the difference between a safe commute and getting into an accident on an icy road.

When deciding between different styles of snow chains, here are a few essential things to consider.

Tension Adjustment and Self-Tensioning

Many modern, higher-end chains on the market offer self-tensioning technology, which can help the installation process. As the vehicle moves and the tires rotate, self-tensioning chains will center and adjust with built-in ratchets.

In turn, this eliminates excess slack in the chain, which increases their overall performance on the snow. If you anticipate using your chains often and need to install and remove them multiple times in a week self-tensioning chains are the way to go. The Peerless Auto-Trac is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a self-tensioning set of chains.

There are plenty of assisted tensioning and manual tensioning chains on the market, as far as other options go. These chains are often more affordable and easier to install initially. You can get a chain over the tire and hook it together without it being under too much tension, drive a short distance, and then re-tighten. This requires an additional step, but can me less time wrestling to the chains on in the first place.

closeup of snow chains on car tire in snow
Proper tensioning is key to ensure your chains function and also to prevent them from damaging your vehicle.

Automatic Release

Many premium tire chains include an automatic release. If you drive over big mountain passes with variable snow conditions or cover many miles that may require chains, the automatic release function can be beneficial.

An automatic release can significantly decrease the amount of time you spend manually removing your chains while exposed to cold and potential hazards on the side of the road.


No matter what style of chain you choose, it’s imperative to purchase the correct size. This is critical for the chains to fit appropriately and function as designed.

Thankfully, it’s easy to identify your tire size. It should be printed on the tire sidewall — giving dimensions for tire width, height ratio of the sidewall compared to width, and diameter.

Don’t worry too much about the size specifics. All you need to do is match the overall number to the model number provided by the chain manufacturer. On this list, all of the chains we’ve recommended are available in many different sizes.

snow chains on truck tire
The ability to make tension adjustments without having to reach behind your tires and unhook your chains is a great feature; (photo/Tom Reynolds)


Tire traction chain technology has evolved over the past few decades. Some classic materials are still being used, and some newer innovations have been introduced to the market.

Generally speaking, higher-end metal chains are constructed with manganese, titanium, and nickel steel alloys. This offers superior strength and durability. If you drive a large truck or any kind of heavy-duty vehicle, we recommend chains made with extra burly materials. Middle-of-the-road and economy chains are generally made of hardened steel.

While metal chains typically provide more traction control than alternative materials, they can also cause more damage to roads and vehicles. To combat this, the industry has introduced rubber chains and snow socks. While they may not be the best choice for extreme environments, they’re certainly more friendly to your vehicle and the roads you drive on.


As you shop around for the right set of tire chains for your vehicle, you’ll notice differences in weight. Lighter chains will provide adequate traction and better fuel economy. And they’re easier to install, remove, and store.

While worse for overall fuel economy, heavier chains will provide much better friction and are usually more durable. Heavier chains are more cumbersome to transport, carry, and store than the lighter-weight alternatives.

Seeing as you will likely not be driving for more than a few miles at a time with chains on your tires, don’t get too worked up about fuel economy. Similarly, if you’re buying chains merely as an added winter driving precaution and don’t plan on using them often (or perhaps at all), don’t invest in the heaviest option. Regardless of your choice, safety should always be your top concern.

how to install snow chains
Practice is essential! Make sure you’re dialed in on how to install chains on your vehicle so you can minimize the time you spend out in the cold, rolling around in the snow; (photo/George Wesley & Bonita D)

How to Install Snow Chains

Installing snow chains truly is a practice-makes-perfect type of skill. Every brand and style of the chain will install slightly differently. Each set of chains comes with a specific set of instructions, and there is a general method that all drivers should follow.


First and foremost, purchase the correct size chains for your vehicle. Ensuring that your chains are the correct size will prevent excessive frustration during installation. Once you have your chains in hand, we highly recommend that you practice installing them in dry and favorable conditions.

It will be much easier to throw on your chains in a subzero blizzard on the side of the highway if you’ve practiced! The more practice, the better.

As you make a plan to store your chains in your vehicle, build a quick winter emergency kit to go with them. If you get caught off guard and need to put chains on, it’s nice to know you have a set of gloves, a spare coat, a headlamp, and something to kneel on ready in your car.

Installation 101

When the time comes to install your chains, pull off to the side of the road. Make sure you bundle up in winter layers, put on your four-way flashers, and safely move to your targeted tires.

For front-wheel-drive vehicles, install snow chains on the front tires. And for rear-wheel drives, they will go on the back. If you have an all-wheel or 4WD vehicle, the chains will likely work best when installed on the front tires, but check the owner’s manual to be sure.

From here, all installations will differ slightly. It’s best to follow the instructions for your particular set of chains.

In general, you’ll unpack them, untangle them, and start wrapping them around your tire — attaching the connection points where appropriate. Repeat this process for both tires.

Once the chains are attached, you can slowly drive forward 10 to 20 feet to allow the chains to settle. If you do not have self-tensioning chains, get out, and tension them yourself to remove any slack. After you’re confident they are attached tightly and correctly, slowly pull onto the road and begin your drive.

It’s normal to hear and feel a slight rumble with most chains, but you should stop driving immediately if you hear any loud noises. Unusually loud noises or physical jolts can indicate your chains are not tight enough and are knocking against your wheel well. Pull over safely and readjust them.


What type of snow chains are best?

Like all pieces of outdoor gear, the correct answer is usually personal. Examining differences in things like material, link patterns, weight, style, and price allows you to make the most informed decision regarding the best snow chains for your situation.

If you anticipate frequently driving in bad road conditions and using your chains often, invest in a higher-end, more heavy-duty model. But if you’d just like to have a set of chains to keep in your car just for emergency purposes, maybe a more budget-friendly option will suffice.

Ultimately the decision is up to you, as each snow chain on the market has its own set of pros and cons.

What is better than snow chains?

Several alternatives to snow chains might work best for your vehicle, lifestyle, and the degree of winter conditions you expect to encounter. Tire straps are an easy-to-use traction device over snow chains. They strap on similarly to snow chains but have more flexibility. Appropriate for cars, crossovers, and other small to medium-sized vehicles. Install them over the tires when you travel in snow or need extra traction on muddy, sandy, or rocky terrain.

Snow socks are better than tire chains for some people because they won’t damage your vehicle, and installation is more straightforward. Another advantage is that the ride is quieter without the vibration and rumble of bulkier traction devices. Snow socks over tires are recommended for short-term use and low-speed driving.

Are snow chains or snow socks better?

Snow socks can be a good alternative to snow chains in certain situations. In general, snow socks do not provide the same level of traction as traditional chains.

Snow sock fabric wears down more quickly than durable metal chain options. That said, snow socks are a great option for folks who don’t plan on regularly driving in the most demanding winter conditions.

Further, some vehicle manufacturers strongly suggest drivers do not use snow chains on certain models of vehicles. This is often an issue with low tire clearance, and snow socks can be a good remedy for this. They may not provide the same level of traction as metal chains, but snow socks are better than nothing for cars that cannot safely handle the increased volume created by chains.

Can snow chains damage my car?

There is the possibility that snow chains can mess up your car. However, they’re all designed to avoid such a negative outcome. In most cases, the responsibility falls on the installer or driver when cars get damaged by tire chains.

Snow chains need to fit your tires properly. If they don’t, damage to your wheel wells may occur while you’re driving. Additionally, if not installed in the correct manner, they can come loose and damage the underbody. When putting on your chains, check and double-check they are installed tightly and correctly.

All chains come with a driving speed recommendation — usually around 30 mph. Exceeding the recommended speed can break the chains and cause further damage to your vehicle. When driving with chains on your tires, be extra cautious if you’re passing over areas of bare pavement.

While the best tire chains for snow can cause damage, they’re engineered for traction and safety. If you install them as instructed and heed the manufacturer’s advice, snow chains shouldn’t cause you any trouble. If you’re concerned, consider snow socks as an alternative traction device.

Do you need snow chains on all four tires?

Definitely use the best tire chains for snow on all four corners with all-wheel drive and four-wheel drive vehicles. In the case of FWD and RWD cars and crossovers, it’s much safer and easier to control if you have snow chains on all four tires. You can make do by installing them on the drive axle wheels.

Although, the significant difference in traction will cause oversteer in front-wheel drive vehicles and understeer in rear-wheel drive cars.

Can snow chains be used in the mud?

While the design of snow chains works best in packed snow or ice, they can also help in muddy situations. It’s not uncommon to lose traction when tire treads get packed with foreign material — snow, ice, or mud.

Chains act as an additional traction device and allow for more friction. Some snow chains translate better to mud than others, and individual manufacturers sometimes declare their chains’ effectiveness in the mud.

Don’t approach winter driving lightly. Thankfully, there are plenty of tools out there to help you navigate snowy and icy roads with safety and relative ease. Snow tires are a great asset in wintry, mountainous environments, but replacing a full set of tires is expensive.

While you may not need them, snow tire chains are a great tool to keep in your car when conditions get especially rugged.

winter road side emergency

Winter Emergency Car Kit: Carry This Gear for Cold-Weather Driving

No matter the destination, every winter driver needs to be prepared if something goes wrong. These are the essentials for a winter emergency car kit. Read more…

The Best Hand Warmers of 2024

Autumn brings a familiar crisp to the air and a chill to our hands. Investing in the best hand warmers for the upcoming winter season will help you make the most of a day outdoors, no matter the conditions. Read more…

Subscribe Now

Get adventure news and gear reviews in your inbox!

Join Our GearJunkie Newsletter

Get adventure news and gear reviews in your inbox!