Thursday, September 28, 2023


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.


Russ and Tiña De Maris
Russ and Tiña De Maris
Russ and Tiña went from childhood tent camping to RVing in the 1980s when the ground got too hard. They've been tutored in the ways of RVing (and RV repair) by a series of rigs, from truck campers, to a fifth-wheel, and several travel trailers. In addition to writing scores of articles on RVing topics, they've also taught college classes for folks new to RVing. They authored the book, RV Boondocking Basics.


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Bob p
1 year ago

My brother drives for Walmart and for almost 15 years he lived in southern Washington and worked out of a distribution center in Salem, OR throwing chains many times each winter. About four years ago he transferred to a distribution center in Paris, TX, upon arrival he asked about their chains and was told they don’t chain in TX. Even though they do go to other states the manager told him if the road is slick get off and find a place to park until the roads are clear. Sounds like good advice to me.

M. Will
3 years ago

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!!

3 years ago

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.

3 years ago
Reply to  Alvin

Hi Alvin,

Not sure how it is in Canada but down here in CONUS land, particularly in the Rockies and Sierras, chains are often mandatory. No chains, no driving. Even with chains, doing stuff like going over the hill from Reno to Sacramento in the snow isn’t always possible – even if they haven’t closed the roads yet.

Mark B
3 years ago
Reply to  Alvin

If the law requires chains, the law requires chains. There are passes and conditions in the US where chains are requirements. Not following the law endangers others. You can slide off the road, but we care about others.

If you were driving a passenger car or pickup truck, other than where chains are required, I agree; you have to know how to drive. With a motorhome or pulling trailer, UNLESS you had the Goodyear Nordic STUDDED tires, Forest Gump had an expression for you. __HE__ is, as __HE__ does. You replace __HE__ as appropriate.

I live in Minnesota. No studs allowed here for vehicles registered in Minnesota. I get out of town with motorhome and toad when the driving is possible.

Martin Frost
3 years ago
Reply to  Alvin

Chains for my f350 are the best money I ever spent. Mountain road snowed in no problem. Ice road just been watered no problem.

3 years ago
Reply to  Alvin

Thanks for your comments. To the best of my knowledge and recall every mountain drive I’ve ever been on in Canada and throughout the northwestern United States has required chains OR M&S rated tires. I have never used or bought chains and I never will. The Nordics I have on the Van stick to ice and snow like you know what. I’d never leave home in the winter without them.
Another point about chains. You may not always while chained up be driving on snow packed or icy roads. Check the stopping distance data of chains on bare pavement, they may not be your best bet when the deer jumps in front of you while driving on bare pavement.

2 years ago
Reply to  Alvin

Where I live, it starts off as chains, traction tires, or AWD/4WD. If/when the weather worsens, restrictions become tighter, with chains required for some, then chains for all with size limits [conditional closure] before road closure. During conditional closure in Oregon where I currently live, 4WD/AWD vehicles may be exempt if they have chains, have proper tires for traction, are not towing, are under 6,500 lbs, and are operated safely. Yes, they can/do inspect before allowing you to pass and in cases of very rural areas, if you get into an accident while not meeting these requirements – let’s say it’s not a good outcome usually.

And let’s be real – bounding sudden deer are just bad news. In chains, typically one’s speed is around 20 mph or lower. While one should be informed when making purchases, I can’t say chains vs. no chains in extreme weather are just so much worse in this instance.

Tommy Molnar
3 years ago
Reply to  Alvin

You may be right, Alvin, if you drive on perfectly level ground. Out here in the American west, you’d never make it over Donner Pass barefoot. You just wouldn’t. We’re talking big-rigs here, I assume.

3 years ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

Tommy I rest my case, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I would need chains to get over Donner Pass. We’ve got some pretty big hills to climb in the Canadian Rockies to, though and I’ve never needed chains to get over any of them.
I think you’d agree on a point not one person mentioned because almost everyone today wants to drive in winter conditions like they’re in the middle of August. SPEED.

I slow down, it’s the loon passing me in a blizzard I fear, not the blizzard. Thanks for your input.

3 years ago

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
3 years ago

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.

3 years ago

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

Primo Rudy's Roadhouse
3 years ago

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
3 years ago

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’.

3 years ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

You are right Tommy. I live in a So CA mountain community and CalTrans sets up chain control miles from the snow covered roads. Reason is they need a large area for people to pull over and install chains. These would wear out before you got to the snow. Buy good chains and do not buy cable chains …. they come off all the time. The roads are littered with them following a storm.

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