Snow Chains Vs. Cables

by Jen Philion

Tire chains and cables might not be familiar to everyone in the United States, but they are a common part of driving in areas that experience a lot of snow and ice. Some state highway officials can require snow tires or chains/cables on vehicles on icy or snowy highways.

Snow Chains

Chains have been the traditional ice- and snow-gripping solution for vehicles for decades. Originally available only in "ladder" designs that wrapped around tires, they have evolved into crisscrosses and other patterns.

Updates

Snow cables are an update of snow chains. According to Vulcan Tires, cable chains use a high-strength steel aircraft cable surrounded by alloy steel traction coils and offer better traction and a smoother ride for passenger cars and trucks than traditional chains.

Installation

As the newer and lighter traction invention, snow cables are generally easier to install. Cables can come with rubber tighteners that make keeping them properly tightened less of an effort than with chains.

Usage

While snow cables have become popular with passenger cars and trucks, snow chains are still recognized as having superior traction and durability for heavy vehicles like trucks, buses and construction equipment.

Tips

You will often find both snow chains and cables referred to and marketed as "snow chains." Whether you decide on snow chains or cables, be sure to purchase the right size for your vehicle. It is also a good idea to practice installing the chains or cables on your tires after you buy them--a cold, icy highway is not the ideal place to try to put them on for the first time.

About the Author

Jennifer Philion has been a professional writer and editor for more than 13 years, with experience in print and online journalism as well as marketing and public relations. She has written for "The Sporting News," the "Boulder Daily Camera" and the "Ogden Standard-Examiner" as well as magazines and online sites. She holds a B.S. in journalism from the University of Colorado-Boulder.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images