Tips, Tricks & Trends

Are Snow Cables Better Than Tire Chains?

Driving during the wintertime can be a treacherous and stressful affair if your car is not adequately prepared for it. And while you can spend a decent amount of money buying a separate set of winter tires for your car, a more cost-effective method would be to buy a set of tire chains or cables for when the white stuff piles on. But which one is better to get? Chains or cables?

What are tire chains?

For those not in the know, tire chains are a net of metal chain links that wrap around each tire on your car, effectively giving your car more grip in deeper snow. While a good set of snow tires can do a lot to get your car through some thick snow, strapping on a set of chains to the drive wheels (either on the front or rear) can assist in getting the car out of slippery situations. However, just note that your driving speed will be limited to around 25 to 30 mph with tire chains on.

a car with tire chains
15 January 2019, Bavaria, Obermaiselstein: A car with snow chains pulled up stands at the entrance of the closed Riedberg pass. Photo: Karl-Josef Hildenbrand/dpa (Photo by Karl-Josef Hildenbrand/picture alliance via Getty Images)

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What are tire cables?

Much like tire chains, tire cables (or snow cables) provide more grip to the drive wheels on your car in deep snow. However, the cables are made of steel and are encased in alloy for added protection. Both snow cables and chains can vary in size, so it’s important to get the right size for your car.

Tire chains versus cables

Now that you know what each one does, which one should you pick? Tire chains are heavier and can be trickier to install, especially when you’re trying to install them on the side of a busy road while it’s snowing. However, the chains themselves are very durable, allowing for more repeated use over time. For this reason, it’s a great idea to use chains if you have a heavier truck or SUV.

Tire cables, on the other hand, are lighter in weight and are easier to install. Unlike snow chains, the cables don’t have the required speed limitations but they are also not as durable either. So, if you have a passenger that only requires the aid of chains or cables every once and a while, then tire cables could be the better way to go.

man installing tire chains
05 January 2019, Austria, Filzmoos: A man in Salzburg Land attaches snow chains to his car. Photo: Daniel Karmann/dpa (Photo by Daniel Karmann/picture alliance via Getty Images)

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How much do they cost?

After you decide whether to go with either snow chains or tires for your car, you can pick either of them up at your local auto parts store or online for a relatively cheap price. A quick search on Amazon.com reveals that most sets of tire chains and cable cost around $100 for passenger cars and slightly more for larger trucks and SUVs.

Is professional installation needed?

Fortunately, you really don’t need a professional to install a set of chains or cables onto your car as the process can be done within a few minutes. Installation is usually as easy as driving over the chain or cable links and then fastening the set to the tire and tightening it down for a secure fit.