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Snow Chains vs Cables: Which Is Right for You?

Close-up of a tire encased in a snow chain

Are you trying to decide between snow chains vs cables? Those who live in areas with severe winter weather often face this decision. While using snow tires does the job for most winter conditions, in some places it’s a good idea to take it a step further to ensure that your tires maintain traction in slippery conditions. Snow chains or snow cables are even required on certain roads, especially in mountainous areas where snow piles up quickly.

Here’s how to decide whether to use snow chains or snow cables for your vehicle.

What Are Snow Chains?

Think of snow chains as a net of metal links that encase your tire. This net of heavy steel links provides extra grip when snow gets deep. Snow chains are available in a range of sizes to fit various tires, so it’s important that you get a set that fits your vehicle.

What About Snow Cables?

Although they look similar once they’re on the tire and perform the same task, tire cables differ in composition. They’re made of steel cable encased in an alloy and look like cables rather than chains. Like snow chains, they’re available in different sizes to fit different tires.

Snow Chains vs CablesSnow Cables

So, they both do the same thing, but what’s the difference? Snow chains are heavier and can be trickier to install. They also require maintaining a maximum speed of 30 mph. Their main advantage is their durability, so they’re a better choice if you drive where snow chains are frequently needed.

Snow cables are lighter weight and easier to install. They’re also less likely to damage your vehicle if one of the cables breaks. They don’t have the same speed limitations, but they aren’t as durable as snow chains. If you only need them occasionally, then they’re a great choice. If you’ll be using them often, it might be a better call to go with snow chains, so you don’t have to worry about them wearing out quickly.

Know Your Local Laws

When winter weather is at its worst, snow chains or snow cables will help you stay in control of your vehicle. Regardless of which you choose, be aware of the local laws. This type of equipment is often not allowed on certain roads or when roads are clear because it can damage pavement. Be sure you use them only when needed, and remove them promptly to avoid any fines.

Check out all the tire chains available on NAPAonline or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA Auto Care locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on driving in snow, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA Auto Parts store.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.

Nicole Wakelin View All

Nicole Wakelin covers the automotive industry as a freelance journalist for a variety of outlets. Her work includes news pieces, podcasts, radio, written reviews, and video reviews. She can be found in The Boston Globe, CarGurus, BestRide, US News and World Report, and AAA along with lifestyle blogs like Be Car Chic, The Other PTA, and She Buys Cars. She is active on social media with a large following on both Twitter and Instagram and currently serves as Vice President of the New England Motor Press Association.

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