The 10 Best SUV Snow Chains
This wiki has been updated 23 times since it was first published in September of 2016. Driving in snow and ice can be particularly dangerous, and it can even be life-threatening to get stuck somewhere in below-freezing temperatures. Keep your light-duty truck or SUV safely on the road with a set of these snow chains that offer the increased traction needed for slippery surfaces. We've included a variety of different styles to meet most clearance requirements. When users buy our independently chosen editorial selections, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
April 22, 2020:
Snow chains like the Spikes-Spider SPXL are very useful and can be legally mandated when driving on unplowed roads. Their effectiveness is limited on particularly deep snow so you should temper your confidence in them when you're thinking about going off-road. One important thing to keep in mind is that most cars have drive wheels and non-drive wheels. That is, most cars do not provide power to all four of their wheels. There are many cars that are 4-wheel drive but most will only provide power to either their front or their rear wheels. Since most snow chains come in sets of two, you need to make sure that you are installing your snow chains on the drive wheels - installing chains on your non-drive wheels without installing them on your drive wheels will do you very little good because if your drive wheels are spinning in place but not moving your car, there is no use in having traction in your non-drive wheels. You should consult your car's manual to determine which wheels get power. If you don't have the manual you can always look under your car to see whether you have a drive shaft going to the back of the car, in which case, the rear tires are getting power.
Always check manufacturer specifications for maximum velocity ratings. Most snow chains will be limited to operation under 30 miles per hour.
October 15, 2018:
The Quality Chain Volt LT QV757 moved their way up to the third spot because of their minimal clearance requirements and overall longevity. We removed the Quality Chain Cobra 1042 as, while they are a good choice for smaller vehicles, we felt their were better options for SUVs and light-duty trucks. The Spikes-Spider SPXL aren't as durable as more traditional methods, but their ease of installation earned them a spot.
Why Your SUV Needs Snow Chains
They'll hamper your fuel efficiency, and most SUVs don't have much of that to spare.
You might not think you need to put snow chains on your big ol' SUV — after all, that's why you bought it in the first place, to be able to handle rough conditions.
If you don't put chains on your vehicle, though, you might be putting it at risk — and SUVs aren't exactly cheap.
The purpose of snow chains is to give you improved traction on snow and ice, and that's helpful regardless of what you're driving. If your SUV has four-wheel drive, it's less imperative that you put chains on, but chances are you'll want all the traction you can get when the weather turns bad.
That's especially true if you're the type who drives with a lead foot. You're not supposed to drive very fast with chains on, but then again, you're not supposed to drive fast in the snow at all. They'll help you brake more effectively and with more control, so they might be able to offset any dangerous driving habits somewhat.
Of course, chains aren't without their drawbacks. They'll hamper your fuel efficiency, and most SUVs don't have much of that to spare. They're somewhat of a pain to install, as well, which is why many drivers do whatever they can to avoid putting them on.
You need to be sure to take them off when they're not necessary. Driving on dry roads with chains on can destroy the road, not to mention cause your car to slide all over the place. If a chain breaks, you need to take it off immediately so that it doesn't damage your wheel well or sever your brake lines.
If you're expecting a wet winter this year, go ahead and invest in some high-quality chains. They could just save your life, and they might be required by law. You'll be happy you have them when you're able to stay on the road easily on your drive home.
Of course, you can conveniently "forget" that you have them the next day when you tell your boss the roads are too icy to drive on.
How To Drive In The Snow
Picture this: the snow's coming down hard, and you're not sure it's safe to drive — but if you don't get out on the road, you'll have to spend the night at your in-laws' house.
Talk about a nightmare.
Luckily, there are ways to get home safely, even when there's a blizzard going on. Of course, you should listen to weather advisories, and never drive if the authorities say it's not safe. Wait the storm out — even getting away from your father-in-law's political views isn't worth dying over.
Again, this driving isn't easy, and you need to be in full control of the vehicle.
Also — and hopefully this goes without saying — don't drive if you've had too much to drink at your company Christmas party, or if you're feeling fatigued. Driving in icy conditions is hard enough when you're sober and fully-rested, so don't make things harder than they need to be.
Lay off the cruise control, as well. Again, this driving isn't easy, and you need to be in full control of the vehicle. Increase your following distance, and go slower than you think is necessary. Give yourself enough room that you won't need to stop unless it's absolutely necessary, as it's much easier to just keep the car moving than it is to stop and start frequently.
Also, don't stop when you're going uphill unless it's absolutely necessary. Trying to get back in motion after being completely stopped is next to impossible when you're going uphill, and you'll likely just find yourself sliding back down.
While driving in the snow is always nerve-wracking, there's no reason why you can't get home safe and sound. All it takes is a little preparation, a little know-how, and a willingness to be careful.
Helping Your Car Survive The Winter
Living in a cold-weather climate is hard on vehicles. The salt on the roads eats away at the metal, and they're more likely to get dinged up while driving. That being said, there are ways that you can make sure your car makes it to the spring none the worse for wear.
Expect to rinse the exterior off frequently — at least once a week or so.
Surviving the winter actually begins in the fall. Before the first blizzard hits, you should get your SUV prepared for what lies ahead. Schedule a full-service maintenance session on all fluids, belts, and hoses, and fix any problems that you've let linger.
Once the cold weather hits, the most important thing is to make sure you clear the snow and ice completely off your car every time. The longer it sits there, the more it can eat away at your paint and body. Not only that, but if you drive with snow on the vehicle, it can fly off and hit other cars, causing property damage or even accidents.
Expect to rinse the exterior off frequently — at least once a week or so. This helps reduce salt buildup, which will prevent corrosion.
As for the interior, make sure you have some high-quality floor mats in the cab. You'll want to restrict all the mud and ice to one area, and floor mats are the only part of the upholstery that you can take out and clean off. Of course, you should try to get all the gunk off your shoes before you ever climb inside, rather than expecting the mats to do all the work.
Following these steps should ensure that your car is still in mint condition once the snow melts. Then, once the roads are clear, the most important thing you can do is get in your car and move someplace warm.