Snow chains aren’t widely used or needed across the UK, but with the snow that’s fallen over the last few days, you might find this article from Auto Express useful as it explains a bit more about snow chains and when you might want to consider them.
Flurries of snow might be few and far between in the UK, but it still manages to cause chaos when it does arrive. It particularly causes concern to areas where gritting is rare, so snow chains are something motorists should consider when using troublesome roads in winter.
Snow chains are widely used in European countries where there’s a guaranteed snowy season. In fact, they’re compulsory to carry in certain regions of Germany, Austria, France and Switzerland where signs tell you when they should be used. Failing to follow these guidelines can lead to fines.
In the UK, however, snow is unpredictable at the best of times so it’s important to work out whether our not snow chains are a good fit for your needs.
Snow chains: do you need them?
Snow chains are generally used less in the UK than elsewhere in Europe due to our general lack of snow and the policy of gritting and clearing major roadways. It’s the quieter, more remote roads where snow chains could come in handy, as they must only be fitted and used where the road surface is covered by a layer of compacted snow or ice.
The scope for using snow chains in the UK is therefore limited to more rural areas, often at higher altitudes, where thick blankets of snow cause big problems for people trying to get around.
If you fit snow chains to your car, remove them once you reach a clear or gritted road – leaving them on can cause damage to the car and the road. This could mean you’ll be fitting and removing the snow chains several times throughout a journey, but it’s essential to lower the risk of damage.
This makes snow chains a less convenient solution than winter tyres in most instances but if you do decide that you need snow chains, it also means that you should know how to fit and remove them easily. Don’t leave it until the day of travel to learn how to fit them!
It’s important to check your car can be fitted with snow chains too. Cars with lower profile tyres may not be suitable for use with snow chains, as they add to the width and diameter of the tyre. This means the chains are at risk of being in contact with bodywork, suspension or brakes – so make sure your wheels are compatible by seeking advice from an expert.
If your car isn’t suitable for use with snow chains, a spare set of wheels and tyres (possibly winter tyres) will be required for use in the winter months.
Driving with snow chains on
Fitting snow chains to your car doesn’t mean you can drive your car like you normally would in the summer! They won’t stop you from getting into difficult situations if you drive too quickly. Ideally, you shouldn’t go above 30mph and make sure you take bends slowly. Always be gentle with acceleration and braking.
One of the best things to do when fitting and using snow chains is to refer to your owner’s manual for the most effective way to use them in the winter.
Snow chains: alternatives
Snow socks are a cheaper, less bulky alternative to snow chains but they are used in the same conditions. They are textile liners fitted over the wheel and tyre to give improved grip on ice and snow.
Snow socks are easier to fit and remove than snow chains and offer improved levels of grip over a standard summer tyre. As with snow chains though, socks must be removed from the car when you come to a clear piece of tarmac.
It must be noted that snow socks are not an approved alternative to snow chains in parts of Europe where signs dictate the use of snow chains in adverse weather conditions.