With snow falling in the northern latitudes, now is a great time to stow some traction-assist gear into your car for emergencies. The latest tire test video from Jonathan Benson at Tyre Reviews looks at chains, straps, and snow socks to suss out which is best, coming to the conclusion you should just install snow tires instead.

Tire chains have been a staple of winter driving for decades, as they have clear advantages on ice. Benson tests a set of traditional tire chains and metal cables on ice, fitted to a Honda Civic Si. Both delivered notable improvements for stopping and starting versus the Michelin X-Ice snow tire, and they were way better than the all-seasons used on the Honda.

Winter Traction Test

The other items tested in the video aren't nearly as effective. Benson broke a set of plastic anti-skid tie straps on the very first test, rendering them useless. A set of plastic "chains" that attach to the tire via fabric straps also didn't fare well. The small studs in the plastic came out easily, and while they were technically better than all-season tires on ice, their reliability is highly dubious. The final item is a pair of snow socks – big fabric slip-ons that, according to Benson, claim to be as effective as chains. Except they weren't. In fact, they were virtually identical to normal all-season tires in terms of performance.

But what about snow grip? Here's where the snow socks actually show their worth. They were easily able to get the front-wheel-drive Honda up two hills where the all-season tires failed. They also outperformed the plastic chains, metal chains, and the plastic anit-skid cables.

But as we alluded to in the beginning, the Michelin X-Ice snow tires equaled or exceeded all of these devices in nearly every situation. Only on ice did the tires give up ground, and that's something a set of studded snow tires can rectify.

Winter Traction Test
Winter Traction Test

Benson's conclusion? If you live in a snowy part of the world, just get snow tires. If, however, you encounter ultra-slick conditions, the metal cables are nice to have in your trunk in a pinch. They're reasonably priced, easy to install, and offer advantages on both snow and ice over all-season rubber.

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