The problem with winter tyres is that while they do provide improved grip in all conditions (not just snow and ice) when the temperature is below 7°C, they do require a substantial initial outlay and the majority of motorists, particularly in urban areas, can manage without them.
Alternatives To Winter Tyres
Although there are no true alternatives to winter tyres, there are alternative solutions that will provide you with extra traction in emergency conditions.
For example, you may run into problems if you get caught in heavy snowfall or if you need to travel down an ungritted country lane to get to a main road.
In this situation, either snow chains or snow socks will probably get you out of trouble and onto a section of road that has been gritted or offers better driving conditions.
Introducing Snow Socks
Snow chains are the traditional solution in these circumstances but they are generally overkill for most UK drivers. In addition, they are quite expensive and awkward to fit. No one likes using snow chains, even in countries where they are used regularly.
Snow socks are a more modern product that is made from reinforced fabric that fits onto your car’s drive wheels like a sock and provides good grip on snow.
Like snow chains, snow socks must be removed on surfaces that are not covered in snow – otherwise they will rapidly be ruined.
Snow socks also wear out relatively fast. It is impossible to be exact about how long they will last, as it depends on the conditions you use them in, your vehicle and how you drive.
They are designed to be a ‘get you out of trouble’ product and work well in this way.
Buying Snow Socks
Good quality snow socks start at around £50 and are available for most sizes of car wheels. They are also available to fit vans and even lorries and buses.
The original snow socks were developed by AutoSock in Norway. There are now a number of other competing products on the market, not all of which offer the same level of performance as AutoSock.
A number of other snow sock manufacturers are also being sued by AutoSock for alleged patent infringements and a number of products have already been withdrawn from the market in Germany and Norway as a result of this.
As a measure of how effective they are, AutoSock snow socks are now approved by the French police as an alternative to snow chains in areas such as the French Alps, where snow chains must be carried. They also have equivalent approval in Slovenia and the Czech Republic and hold German TUV approval as a ‘winter emergency driving aid’. Note that not all brands of snow socks are approved in this way – check when buying.
Although snow socks are not cheap, costing about £40-£70 per set from Halfords or Amazon, they are much cheaper than a set of four winter tyres and can stay in your boot, unusued, until you need them. Fitting is very simple and they have received a lot of positive reviews, although I have not tried them myself.
Have you tried snow socks? Leave a comment below and let us know how you got on.