Can Tire Socks Replace Winter Tires?

The winter season is rapidly approaching, with temperatures dropping and snowfall imminent. If you haven’t already, now’s the time to buy your snow tires. Though, for anyone who doesn’t feel they need a full winter tire, there may be a solution. Tire socks, which wrap around your wheels, can add traction in the snow without subtracting money from your wallet.

Woman installing tire sock to her car in the snow
Woman installing tire sock to her car in the snow | Pochard Casabianca/AFP via Getty Images

What are tire socks?

Simply put, tire socks are textile fabrics that wrap around your tires. To install tire socks, you have to first wrap them around the top of the tire, inch the car forward, then wrap the remaining material on. Having to do this process in the cold, wet snow can be uncomfortable. But the payoff is that snow socks can provide great traction at a low cost.

These tire socks range from $70 to $140 per sock, and you only need them for the tires that drive the car (i.e. if the car is a front-wheel-drive model, attach them to the two front wheels). And what’s great is after Consumer Reports tested three brands of tire socks, they all have similar or better performance when compared to traditional winter tires.

But just because you can use tire socks as a replacement for snow tires doesn’t mean you should, as there are some drawbacks and limitations for using tire socks.

Can you use snow socks instead of winter tires?

Winter tire
Winter tire | Robert Michael/picture alliance via Getty Images

RELATED: Are Snow Cables Better Than Tire Chains?

If you don’t drive on highways or anywhere above 25 miles per hour, then tire socks could work. The top speed is limited to 25 or 30 miles per hour (depending on the brand) and will become ice skates if you travel much faster. Winter tires, on the other hand, can handle excess speeds and maintain grip.

Tire socks also shouldn’t be used as a replacement for tire chains. Some states require that tire chains be used in incredibly snowy conditions, and tire socks aren’t always acceptable. So when is using snow socks instead of snow tires a good idea?

When should you use tire socks instead of snow tires?

Tire tread in the snow
Tire tread in the snow | Patrick Pleul/picture alliance via Getty Images

If you live in an area where it only snows occasionally, then tire socks might be a good investment. For starters, running snow tires on regular roads will wear the winter tires out faster. The rubber of winter tires is softer, and isn’t built to run on non-snowy terrain. So if you don’t get enough snow to justify snow tires, but do face cold winters, tire socks are perfect.

On top of that, tire socks are easy to install and remove. And because you’ll use them less, they’ll last years longer than traditional winter tires. And they’ll save you a few bucks in the process.

So if you only have light snowfall, and just need to run a quick errand to the store, then tire socks are an excellent solution. However, if you live somewhere snowy, buy a set of dedicated winter tires to ensure you stay safe.

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