If you live in a cold climate, you need to equip your car accordingly. This means that you should invest in a set of quality-made snow tires and potentially even tire chains. Tire chains are designed to hang onto the road while driving on snow and ice by pushing the chain into the ground and thus maintaining traction.
All of this can be a bit tricky to understand, especially when you take into account different types of chains and all the features that come with them. In this article, we will tell you all you need to know about tire chains including which ones you can get, and how much tire chains cost.
Tire Chains Cost
As mentioned in the intro to this article, there are different versions of tire chains, some of them are more expensive than others. For starters, standard run-of-the mil tire chains for small passenger cars are likely going to set you back around $60 to $80 and these are the most popular ones out there.
Self-centering chains with automatic tensioning are a bit more advanced and thus usually cost upwards of $200-$300. If you own an SUV, a truck, or something even larger, you will have to pay even more money because the larger the chain, the higher the price tag.
Which Types Of Tire Chains Exist?
- Diamond Tire Chains
- Cable Tire Chains
- Alternative Tire Chain Solutions
What Are Diamond Tire Chains?
Diamond tire chains are your typical types of chains that are constructed with metal chain links that form a diamond pattern. Depending on the amount of snow you encounter, you can change the angle of those diamond shapes in order to increase traction. All of these diamond shapes combined make a metal mesh that surrounds the entirety of the tire and thus increases traction.
Standard diamond tire chains aren’t the easiest ones to mount and take off because they typically don’t always come with self-centering technologies. On the other hand, the benefit of a diamond tire chain is that it offers a higher contact surface with the ground and thus gives you more traction than most other types of chains. This makes these perfect for areas covered with lots of snow throughout the year.
What Are Cable Tire Chains?
Cable tire chains represent a more streamlined, lighter, and easier-to-live-with version of the regular diamond tire chain. Even though cable tire chains also create a surrounding area around the tire, they don’t cover the entirety of the tire as effectively as a diamond chain does. Therefore, these chains use smaller links and thinner cables which make it a lot easier to mount and live with these chains.
The drawbacks are that these chains aren’t as effective at providing traction as diamond chains are. This means that these are typically being used for casuals and those who rarely wander into snow-covered areas. They are physically smaller which means that you can always keep them in your trunk without taking any space at all.
What Are Alternative Tire Chains?
Alternative tire chains are not chains per se which means that these try to mimic the effects of a chain without being a chain at all. Even though chains do provide the best traction out of all these possible solutions, they can often be awkward and difficult to install. On the other hand, alternative fabric-made solutions can provide you with decent traction while also being really easy to live with and operate.
Other solutions include even smaller devices that only run through a small surface area of the tire. These do offer better traction but are the easiest to live with, install and take off. Because they are so ergonomic and logical, they can be found across many cars in North America.
How To Buy The Right Tire Chain?
Preparation is the key to always having the right tool for the job. Because tire chains can easily damage your tires, your suspension, and even the roads you go over, you need to pick the perfect chain for your car and your driving environment. Investing in a rugged toolbox is also a good idea as you want to be able to organize and keep your chains so they can’t damage anything and can also last a long time.
- Determine The Size You Need
- Know Different Tire Chain Class Designations
- Be Aware Of All The Features
How Do I Know Which Tire Chain Size I Need?
Tire chains are made to fit specific tire sizes which means that you need to match your tire size with the size of the chain. Some modern chains can even fit different tire sizes, but these do require additional effort to set up properly and typically cost more money in the process. Be sure to familiarize yourself with tire sizing which can easily be seen on the tire sidewall.
You can also write down the tire size code and give it to the clerk at a tire chain store so you don’t have to worry about picking the wrong size. It is imperative for you to go over your owner’s manual and see if there are any limitations or restrictions for your car as far as tire chains are concerned. Different cars come with different wheel well clearance so be sure to be extra careful in that regard.
What Are All The Tire Chain Class Designations?
The Society of Automotive Engineers has come up with a system with which we can classify different types of chains in order not to make a mistake while buying them. These classes are separated by the minimum clearance they need in order to be safe and usable. The first class is called “Class S” which refers to cars with smaller wheel well clearances.
This Class is also separated into two groups, first one is Class S A with a minimum clearance of 37mm (1.46”) while Class S B is rated at 15mm (0.59”) between the top of the wheel well and the top of the tire. The second class is “Class U” which also comes with a Class U A iteration with a minimum of 50 mm (1.97”) and a Class U B iteration with a minimum of 23mm (0.91”).
The last class is “Class W” which follows the same principle. Class W A is measured at a minimum of 63.5mm (2.50”) while Class W B is measured at a minimum of 38mm (1.50”). There are also many chains out there that aren’t certified with these classes which should be avoided if you don’t have enough experience to know regardless.
Do Tire Chains Come With Special Features?
Tire chains are surprisingly advanced these days which means that they can come with all sorts of features that can help you handle chains a lot easier. Entry-level chains typically don’t come with anything special, besides maybe being able to fit different tire sizes.
More advanced chains come with features such as auto-adjustment in which the chain adjusts itself in place, quick-release mechanisms, drape over tire mechanisms, special titanium-made chains, assisted tensioning, and other similar solutions which make tire chain handling a lot easier but also increase the price by quite a bit.
How To Protect My Wheels And Tires From Tire Chain Damage?
There is always a possibility that you can damage both your tires and your wheels while carrying chains and there really isn’t a way how you can completely protect your tires. For starters, always use tire chains while driving on a significant amount of snow. Don’t drive your chains in places where the ground isn’t completely covered by snow as road contact can damage your tires and your chains as well.
You should also keep in mind that tire chains aren’t rated for speeds exceeding 20-30mph in most cases. There are heavy-duty chains out there that are rated for higher speeds, but this will increase the chances of damaging your tires and wheels either way. Always double-check your tire chain fitment and always buy the correct chain size for your tires.
A good idea would always be to buy a separate set of cheap, yet adequate rims on which you can mount your winter tires on. This way you can safely store your shiny, good-looking wheels while your cheap (yet adequate) rims take all the beating.
Are Tire Chains Mandated By The State?
Yes, different states have different regulations in regards to tire chains which means that you have to have tire chains in some states, but not in all of them. Some warmer states such as California don’t require snow chains, but signs will be posted on certain roads where snow chains are a necessity.
The state of New York requires you to have tire chains whenever a snow emergency has been declared. If you want to know more about your state and all the specifics and special guidelines, click here.
At the end of our “Tire Chains Cost” article, we can easily say that entry-level chains cost between $60-80 for a common small passenger car. More advanced tire chains with special features can easily cost upwards of $200 or even $300. Larger cars with larger tires require larger chains which inevitably cost more money as well.
No matter which tire chain you go for, you need to be sure that it is the right tool for the job. Always double-check all the laws and regulations about tire chains in your state and never use tire chains when they aren’t needed.