Snow chains are an old and proven method for getting traction in icy road conditions. Even if chains look similar, there are different types of chains for the truck driver to consider. And, as usual, different types have different benefits. Your final choice should be a result of your specific needs and preferences.
The working principle for snow chains is quite simple: By introducing rough metal chains between a tyre and the icy road surface, friction is dramatically increased, and you get traction. So, would different types of chains make any difference in practice? Well, to some extent, but in the end, a chain is a chain, and the differences between them are more about comfort and handling. Let's have a look at some different types.
Conventional snow chains – what to consider
There are no one-size-fits-all snow chains for heavy vehicles. A chain too small cannot be mounted at all, while a chain too loose, may break and cause damage to the chassis – or worse. Accordingly, you will need different sets of snow chains to fit your different tyre dimensions.
Some snow chains are adapted for specific wheels and are differently designed if they are intended for wheels on a drive axle, a steering axle, or a trailer axle.
Mesh size and pattern
The way the snow chains are 'weaved' will affect both weight and comfort. A small mesh size provides a smoother and more comfortable ride, but at the price of such chains are heavier and more bothersome to mount and dismount. Also, the pattern will be of significance. For example, a ladder pattern is good for forward and reverse, but less effective sideways, while a diamond pattern is effective in all directions.
Different steel qualities are available. Hardened steel chains are more resistant to wear and will last longer. On the other hand, they are more expensive and will also increase road wear. Also, the link dimensions may vary. Big links will provide better grip in muddy or snowy roads, but the drive will be bumpier and less comfortable for the driver.
There are different mechanisms for tensioning the chains when mounting. Some are designed for quick and convenient tensioning, while others will take more time and effort to have the chains properly adjusted to fit.
There are some traction aids built on the snow chains principle and design, but without actually using chains. For example, a mesh can be 'weaved' by steel wire or cable instead of chains, or even textile (which provides a good grip on snow).
Such non-chain traction aids may provide some benefits by their lighter weight and convenient handling, but in practice, they are not very suitable for regular use on heavy vehicles. Sturdy and effective steel chains will remain the preferred choice by most drivers.
Automatic snow chains
Automatic snow chains are engaged and disengaged from the cab by pneumatics. By their working principle, strands of steel chain are continuously slung under the drive wheel, providing traction similar to conventional snow chains.
In comparison to traction aids that require manual mounting, there is no need to take into account different tyre dimensions because the system is adjusted to fit when installed.
Browse our free online resource, All about automatic snow chains, to learn more.