What is better: Snow chains or cables?

For better control, snow travel requires you to use the most traction. Snow chains and cables are available, but which is the best option for you?

We will be comparing the different options in this guide. You can also find out which is the best option for you snowy road trips. 

Índice de Contenido
  1. Snow Chains vs. Cables – Main Differences
  2. What is a Snow Chain?
  3. What is Snow Cables?
  4. How to Choose Snow Chains & Cables
    1. 1. Size
    2. 2. Clearance
    3. 3. Price
    4. 4. Frequency
    5. 5. Minimum amount
  5. Disadvantages of Snow Chains & Cables

Snow Chains vs. Cables – Main Differences

The purpose of snow cables and chains is to offer maximum traction for slippery conditions. They are constructed differently, however, snow chains made out heavier steel links while cables made from alloy traction coils wrapped in steel aircraft material. 

The heavy-duty design of chains will make them last longer. The cables are of much weaker material and they have a tendency to break faster than chains. However, cables offer more traction than chains. Cables might be better if you are only using it occasionally. 

Most chains are used for two-wheel-drive cars, but cables work well with four-wheel-drive. The cables are also lighter and easier to install or remove. Because the cables are made of softer material, they offer a more smooth ride. However, both options are equally affordable and there’s a vast selection available. 

What is a Snow Chain?

The snow chains are constructed from steel links, which encase tire rubber. These steel links offer extra grip, particularly in deep snow. These links are available in many sizes that will fit most tires on the market. 

The most common use of chains is with rear- or front-wheel-drive vehicles. They provide more grip than wheels that would normally spin. However, when you drive with snow chains on, you don’t want to exceed speeds of 25-30 mph. 

What is Snow Cables?

Although the snow cable is made of the same material as the chains, it has a completely different design. You can get more grip in slippery and deep snow conditions with the tire cables. This option works best for models that have four wheels.

They are much easier than chain to put in and may require less grip to keep them on the ground. These will give you a more comfortable ride, particularly at higher speeds.

The steel cable is encased with an alloy. The alloy can be found in as many sizes as the chain, as well as a wide variety. 

How to Choose Snow Chains & Cables

1. Size

You can’t put just any chain or cable around your tire, it must fit properly. For the best fit, it is important to measure the tires.

You can find the tire size on the sidewall. You can also find it on the driver’s side door jamb. If you accidentally purchase an option that’s too small, it won’t fit. 

2. Clearance

You need to make sure the chain or cable doesn’t rub along the wheel well. You could end up with vehicle damage. 

Pay attention instead to the SAE, which indicates how much clearance is required. An S-limited clearance cable or chain is necessary for regular passenger cars. 

3. Price

We understand that the price should not be your deciding factor. However, we are also aware of the fact you may have a financial budget. The cables will appeal to you if the cost is the most important. They're slightly cheaper. 

Chains are more expensive, but they will last longer. You get more for your money if you are looking for something durable. 

4. Frequency

The cable may be fine if you use it only once or twice per season. They are intended for moderate usage, typically with four-wheel-drive vehicles.

The chains may be the best choice if you require a more durable option and can use it often. The majority of these chains are suitable for both front- and back-wheel-drive vehicles. 

5. Minimum amount

You will only require two cables or chains if you are using a 2-wheel-drive vehicle. You won’t put these on the wheels that don’t get power. If you did, the gains wouldn’t be profitable and you could still get stuck.

The cables and chains that can be attached to the all-wheel or four-wheel drive vehicles are mounted on the entire vehicle. If you need to clear deep snow, this is your best option. 

Disadvantages of Snow Chains & Cables

There are several downsides to using snow chains and cables. For starters, the vehicle’s performance will be dramatically reduced, especially the handling. You need to understand the limitations of snow chains and cables before you attempt to control or handle your vehicle. 

Chains and cables can cause you to lose control if you drive too quickly. The tires can be also damaged. That’s why you should never go above 30 mph while driving. It is safer to limit your speed to 20 mph. You can make your tires deform faster if you drive at high speeds. Also, it's harder to control your vehicle the faster that you drive. 

You also can’t drive with the chains on dry roads. The tires will be irreparably damaged if you keep driving on wet roads. Chains will also begin to wear and become less durable. The braking distance can be dramatically reduced, which could lead to sliding when you brake too hard. This situation could create an accident if you aren’t careful. 

Pay attention to how quickly you accelerate. You can endanger the tire and chain if you accelerate too fast. Also, the car may lose its traction. Be gentle when you are pushing the accelerator to allow the cables or chains to catch the car for more traction.

The most important thing is to not use chains and cables unless absolutely necessary. Take them off when they aren’t needed and get back to driving on the street as normal. 

You can get better traction in slippery situations if you use the tires correctly. But you also have to be ready to go back to normal when conditions are more favorable. Yes, this requires a lot of work, but it’s the only way to ensure the tires are protected from harm.

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