Yes, 90 percent of Adventure Journal readers probably own Subarus with all-wheel-drive and happily motor through snow and ice with little thought to tire chains other than a smug nod of self-congratulation driving past chain-up areas. But to the poor souls huddled on the side of the highway installing greasy chains with frozen fingers on their two-wheel drive vehicles—this is for you. For I too am I tire chain user. I am one of you.
Caveat: I do not live in the snow. I drive to the snow frequently. If I lived where it snowed I would not mess with chains and would instead own a 4WD with real-deal snow tires
Hopefully, even if you do own an AWD or 4WD vehicle you know that all four tires providing drive traction at once is nice, but not really as important as dedicated snow tires—not “all seasons” with the little snowflake on the sidewall, but actual snow tires with rubber specifically designed for cold temps and snow. Also, hopefully if you bought an AWD or 4WD car just because you go skiing five times a year, before you incurred the extra expense of AWD you thought about the fact that you could have bought an $80 set of tire chains for your old 2WD car and been just fine. Better, in lots of cases, since AWD and 4WD don’t help with braking in snow and ice, but chains do. A lot.
Anyway, I’ll get right to the point. The Security Company Super ZLT chain series (for light trucks and SUVs — they come in many sizes with different model numbers and also sets just for passenger cars, always be careful when buying chains to be sure you’re getting the right size AND that your car can use them at all) are the best cable-style tire chains I’ve ever used. They apply so easily that if you’re coming from a set of chains that required you to lay them over the tire, drive over them just so, then try to attach them to the tires with whatever slack is left in the chains and then re-tension them, you may actually break into tears of joy the first time you put these on. They’re that easy. In good conditions, you can apply these chains in less than 2 minutes per tire.
And, hey, they bite in the snow and ice. I’ve used tire chains that slipped, though only on very rare occasions, but these have not even come close. I have not ever tried them in the mud, because my truck is—gasp—2WD, and I am not an idiot. As are all cable-style chains, they are less durable and have slightly less traction than traditional link chains, but they work plenty well for most applications for most people. They also ride much better than ladder-style link chains. The Super Zs are in more or less constant contact with the road so you get a rapid VRP-VRP-VRP-VRP-VRP sound from your tires instead of a jarring GZZZSSHH………GZZZSSHH……..GZZZSSHH noise that ladder chains make.
Here’s a photo series showing how easy they are to install.
Step one: Lay ’em out with split section facing the tire
Step two: Drag them around the tire nice and flat
Step three: Fasten inside connector with easy hook clasp
Step four: Attach front connector by threading bushing through keyhole clip
Step five: Attach bottom connector the same way
Step six: Hook plastic and rubber tensioners evenly around front chain wires
Step seven: Admire your handiwork—you’re all done
The very best part is that the rubber tensioner keeps you from having to drive forward a bit and re-tightening everything. The first few times I installed the chains I’d stop after ten feet or so and get out to look to make sure everything was in good solid working order, but now I just drive on and wouldn’t stop unless I heard a frightening noise from one of the tires.
Now, if my tires were any more aggressive I might consider ladder-style link chains, to keep the cable from getting caught up and bent in the tire treads. Or, if I was intending on driving over snowbound mountain dirt roads with stomach-churning inclines, I’d probably do the same. But then, I’d probably have a 4WD with all four tires chained up.
But for the price, the durability, and the ease, I’ve yet to see a set of chains best the Security Co. Super-ZLTs. Way less expensive than 4WD, and easy enough to install that I don’t mind doing it. Tire chains are the worst. These are the best.
$80 • BUY
These chains are also super
Thule sells some of the best chains on the market (often made by a company called Konig), though they are often pricey. Always be sure the model you like fits your tires.
For burly, real link-chain action, the Security Quik Grip Light Truck CAM chains are an affordable option with lots of positive reviews. They also have a little cam adjuster built-in to help with tensioning.
Go to the snow once a year on roads usually plowed and just want a “just in case” set of cheapie cables? Boom. $30