Cloth, metallic, semi-automatic, spray … Various types of chains are offered on the market, but not all are equally effective.
The law does not oblige you to carry them in the trunk, but if a sign on the road or an agent demands their use, you will have to put them on the wheels or, otherwise, stop the car or turn around. And violating this rule carries a penalty of 200 euros. Although the worst is not that, but the risk involved in crossing a snowy road without chains.
Only vehicles equipped with winter tires with M + S identification are exempt from snow chains. If this is not the case, they must be installed before the layer is excessively high, but always after the asphalt has been stained white. Doing so sooner degrades the chains and can damage the tire and suspensions.
There are several clearly differentiated types of models, which should be known before loading them with a good handful of winters. They must always be placed on the drive wheels.
❆ Metal chains
They are the lifelong snow chains that give the invention its name, because, literally, they are chains that wrap around the car’s wheel. They are the most difficult to assemble and that is their main drawback. It is advisable to practice dry to have practice when the storm arrives, and always with gloves to protect your hands from the cold.
After checking that the chains are not tangled, the first step is to unbuckle the rigid bead and then insert one end behind the wheel. Then, take the two ends and check that the chain has not been caught by the wheel. Next, close the inner ring above the wheel and make sure it is centered behind the tire. To finish, close the outer ring, center the chain assembly on the tread area and the sidewalls of the tire, and tighten the tensioner well. Finally, hook the excess of the chain so that it is not hanging.
Despite the hassle of placing these types of chains, the positive part is that they are the safest and also the most durable. There are usually two designs, transversal, and diamond, and its price is affordable, between 20 and 30 euros a couple.
❆ Fabric chains
They are perhaps the most popular snow chains, as they take up little space, are easy to assemble, and not excessively expensive. Against them, they have that they are designed for very long distances and that they deteriorate more easily than metallic ones. They should be washed after each use and match the exact size. They hardly interfere with driving and can be found from 30 euros.
❆ Composite strings and other alternatives
The so-called composite chains are essentially like the previous ones, but the cover is not made of fabric, but rather a network of plastic cables covered with textile material. The result is a somewhat more resistant type of snow chains and, for also a little more expensive (between 70 and 95 euros). The mounting is similar but requires more tension to fit the tire.
There are also other hybrid solutions, such as chains that are assembled in pieces, whether they are actually made up of chains or plastic pieces (generally made of TPU, thermoplastic polyurethane). These are three or four pieces of a certain width that are placed on the rubber and are hooked with flanges or straps through the rim. They are not suitable, for that reason, for wheels with hubcaps. They cost between 50 and 70 euros.
❆ Semi-automatic chains
Also known as spikes-spider, they consist of a fixed part that is always anchored to the rim and a removable part that is adjusted with a simple click. Its great advantage is the ease of assembly, but it has two things against it: the much space they occupy in the trunk and above all the price. Between 200 and 600 euros, almost ten times more than any other model. They are usually used in places where snow is very frequent and their use is little less than daily during the winter.
The spray is the cheapest and fastest solution, but also the least reliable. It is used to get out of a hurry if the storm is weak or for very specific circumstances, such as taking the vehicle out of a garage with the icy ramp, but it would not avoid a fine on the road. The so-called liquid chains consist of a spray that is sprayed on the driving wheels and allowed to act for a few minutes. It allows us to circulate a few kilometers while the applied liquid remains in the tire, but then we have to recharge it. It is only a one-time solution for very tight cases. Its price is around seven euros.