Beat the amber weather warning using the best snow socks for driving

We compare snow socks against snow chains to see if the former are a worthwhile alternative to the latter.

Land Rover Freelander on a snowy road in Scotland

by Ryan Gilmore |
Updated on

For beating icy conditions without having to dig out heavy and awkward snow chains, snow socks are an excellent way to give you extra grip. Made from fabric or textile and wrapped over a car wheel kind of like a shower cap, they're designed to give extra traction. The idea is the same as snow chains: to improve grip on snow and ice-covered roads.

To fit a snow sock, you simply pull it over the wheel, beginning with the side facing into the wheel arch. As is the case with snow chains, you then need to drive forward a little to rotate the wheel enough to fit the snow socks fully. Unlike many snow chains, snow socks don’t need further adjustment. Snow socks are fitted to a car's driving wheels.

While not as capable as the mega-tough snow chains often deployed to tackle thick snow, snow socks have a number of huge advantages, especially for the milder climate here in the UK. For a start, snow socks are more affordable than snow chains, take up less room when not in use, and are easier to fit. As there isn't heavy snowfall until you're in the really rural parts of Scotland, the grip offered will also be perfectly fine.

The best snow socks

Editor's pick

Silknet Snow SocksVia Silknet

These snow socks strike a good balance between effectiveness and value, with the latter being one of the most important draw cards of snow sock. Unlike other snow socks, these have straps to make fitting easier. The design is quite clever too. The fabric pulls itself against the tyre, sort of like the self-tensioning system that some more expensive snow chains have, and creates folds in the fabric to improve traction.

Pros

  • Solid grip performance
  • Easy to fit

Cons

  • Low top speed rating

The best budget snow socks

Agripool Multi Grip Snow SocksVia Summex

Although bearing a simpler design than the Silknet snow socks, these have a fantastic and grippy tread thanks to a clever layer of polypropylene tread. Designed in Italy and made to deal with bad weather, they will help against snow and ice. The big issue with them is that they aren't quite as easy to fit as teh Silknet examples.

Pros

  • Very grippy once installed
  • Excellent durability

Cons

  • Not as easy to fit

Goodyear Ultra Grip Snow SocksVia Goodyear
Price: $112.89

Alongside a selection of grippy car tyres, Goodyear also offer snow socks for when the going gets slippery. Designed for use on both snow and roads, they're a little bit more of an investment, but promise lower road noise and less vibration, while still offering better grip and an easy installation process.

Pros

  • Excellent quality and refinement
  • Easy to install

Cons

  • The road abilities only extend to 31 miles

The best washable snow socks

Halfords Snow SocksVia Halfords

This twin pack of snow socks from Halfords are again designed to be easy to fit and simple to store when not in use. Boasting an environmentally-friendly design and machine washable, they're reusable too. These examples are even approved to be used as an alternative to snow chains at French ski resorts.

Pros

  • Easily washable
  • Easy to fit

Cons

  • Not the most robust

Snow socks vs snow chains

Closeup of car tyre mark in snow
©Photo: Getty Images

Ultimately, snow socks are not as effective as snow chains. Given that it is fabric against metal, this is not entirely surprising. As such, countries that require chains to be carried in winter in certain regions do not render snow socks as an approved alternative. But there are upsides.

Snow socks pack away into a more compact bundle than snow chains and they are much lighter too. When it comes to fitting snow socks, users will be pleasantly surprised at how simple the process is compared to finger-pinching snow chains.

Some performance cars aren’t able to be fitted with snow chains because their tyres are too wide and the gap in the wheel arch is too small. Snow socks are much thinner than snow chains and can fit performance cars if you can find the correct size.

Therefore, snow socks are, in theory at least, easy-to-fit liners that improve grip on wintery back roads when needed. The UK does not get much snow and the traits of snow socks certainly make more sense here compared to snow chains.

Driving with snow socks

Empty snow-covered UK country road
©Photo: Getty Images

The principles of driving with snow socks are similar to those of snow chains. Snow socks should only be used to icy or snow-covered roads and should be removed as soon as the road surface is clear otherwise the snow socks will wear out in a jiffy.

As with snow chains, you need to drive slowly (no more than 25mph) and smoothly when using snow socks. The car won’t respond as quickly as it would on a dry road.

Ryan Gilmore is the Deputy Autos and Tools Editor for CAR, specialising in car cleaning and hand tools. With an MA in Automotive Journalism, when he's not testing buckets he can be found looking at old Porsches.

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