Winter driving: Forget snow chains, use socks!


By Russ and Tiña De Maris

With winter having a definite firm grip, you may have decided, maybe, maybe, it’s just best to “stay in the barn.” If the thought of getting stuck at the dreaded “Chains Required” sign has put you off, here’s another alternative: Forget tire chains, use tire socks!

Tire socks are the lightweight alternative to tire chains, and now legal in all 50 states, with a caveat – read on.

What are they? Tire socks, like they sound, are fabric constructs that wrap around your tires, and give tires added traction in winter weather. They’re far lighter than tire chains, which has made them a hit with many of the long-haul set, who find a few ounces of fabric a lot easier to deal with than hundreds of pounds of steel chains.

The secret is in the design. When the fabric of a tire sock gets wet, it gets seemingly sticky. They stick, not only to the tire, but give a firmer grip on snow. You’ll certainly find tire socks to fit your “toad” car or towing pickup, and motorhomers, although you may have to pay a bit more due to the load capacity, you’ll likely find tire socks designed for your rig as well.

Putting on a tire sock is said to be nothing like the fits and freezes entailed in draping and attaching tire chains. Really, say sales folks, it’s just a matter of draping the fabric over a major portion of the tire, pulling it forward, then slipping it back. An elastic band on the inside of the tire sock helps to hold the thing in place. Hop in and drive. When you’re out of the snow, stop and get the tire sock off – they don’t hold up on pavement, but if cared for properly, should last 300 to 400 drive miles.

But hold on, says Consumer Reports, who feel that having to get out and put anything on a tire in the frigid cold is anything but a picnic. They write, “it takes some muscle and patience to slip one of these products over the tire,” and warn it’s easiest done with an assistant. If chains are NOT required but snow is a slippage factor, they feel most motorists would be better off having winter-rated tires on their vehicle and not be fettered by having to stop and put anything on.

We did say, “legal in all 50 states.” Not all of these textile tire covers can make that claim. At this point, it looks like the AutoSocks brand is the only textile tire cover that is accepted in lieu of chains across the country, so check closely before buying. And just because they’re legal, doesn’t mean that putting on a pair of tire socks is going to soup up your snow-mover like a super-coupe. With tire socks, your speed is limited to about 20 miles per hour.

For our money, forget the tire socks. Make sure you get to the warm winter country long before the snow flies and stay put until long into spring.


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M. Will

I drove a big rig for 20 years and often had to put tire chains on them in winter. This tire sock thing wouldn’t have worked worth a darn do to the fact that alot of the time when you do have to put on tire chains on a big rig you might also have to spend many miles driving on bare pavement before you actually got to the snow part to drive on them. The bare pavement would shred those things to nothing before you got any use out of them. I’d take my tire chains any day!!


Have never in 55 years on the road, all of it in winter conditions in Canada, never needed tire chains.

What I did need many years ago was someone to teach me how to drive on snow and ice which I listened to, and now with tire technology what it is, I honestly cannot understand the need for chains socks or anything other than common sense and a good set of Goodyear Nordics or similar premium snow tires to get me safely through to the destination.
I honestly do not believe I will ever be sitting someplace wishing I’d bought “chains”
For you who do, good for ya, you keep a segment of the economy moving, and you too.


I’ve thought about getting them for my motorhome. I have no intention of ever actually using them, as I would wait a day or two for the weather to clear first, but since they meet the requirements of the law to carry chains when winter driving in the mountains, and are much lighter than chains, I like the weight savings.

Dietrich Kanzler

My truck and my wife’s car are 4×4. I bought chains for them because I’m required to carry chains in the snowy mountains but have not needed them in 12 years. It’s just one reason why I have a truck camper. We live in So Cal so for us snow is optional.


check out the link to autosock, pricey and only 300 – 400 mile wear. Nope, will stick to chains.

Primo Rudy's Roadhouse

300 to 400 miles and speed limited to 20 mph? Tire chains seem a better choice. But what do I know? I quit driving truck years ago and now live in South Texas.

Tommy Molnar

I looked into these ‘socks’ last year – and was unimpressed. They are flimsy and cannot be driven on dry or simply wet pavement. Anyone who has had to deal with the dreaded “Chains Required” zones knows that many times there is NO snow on the ground where you’re required to chain up. The snow is farther up the road but the “chain up” area where there is room to chain is where you must do the deed. So if you put your ‘socks’ on there, they’ll quite likely be trashed by the time you hit the actual snow. “They say” as long as you’re in the snow when you put them on they work great. I like Russ and Tiña’s advice. Stay out of the snow in the first place. My advice? Carry chains just in case. Just sayin’.