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.