Meet AutoSock: The Easier Alternative to Winter Tire Chains

Mj 618_348_meet autosock the easier alternative to winter tire chains
Courtesy AutoSock

Tire chains are heavy, bulky, dirty, expensive, and even the easiest ones take practice to install. AutoSock, a textile sheath for your tires, gives you the grip and traction of chains but at a fraction of the cost, weight, time, and discomfort.

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Made from a patterned fiber that sticks to snow and ice, AutoSock looks like a pair of wheel-sized fabric shower caps, reinforced with webbing. When you’re stuck, or about to navigate an icy stretch of road, it takes less than a minute to put them on. With the car stopped, pull one side of the elasticized cover over each of your car’s drive tires (the front tires on a front-wheel-drive car), pulling it down as far as you can. In drive, roll the car forward about 3 feet — enough to rotate the tires — then snap the elasticized sock on the rest of the way. Press on the accelerator, and be amazed at your traction.

We’ve used many kinds of chains on Vermont’s icy roads — we even have chains for our Toyota Prius, which often has trouble getting up icy and snowy hills. We tried AutoSock on the Prius, which was stuck a half-mile from home at the bottom of our road. They performed just as well with a fraction of the hassle. And because they were so simple to use, there was no jockeying among passengers to get out of the task. To keep ourselves clean and dry when we were installing the AutoSock, we kneeled on the package they came in, and used the included elbow-length plastic gloves when we were slipping them on. The gloves lasted longer than we expected, but we recommend keeping an old pair of gauntlet cuff ski gloves with your AutoSock to keep your jacket clean when the plastic gloves rip.

AutoSock worked great out of the package, but the more we used them, the fuzzier and stickier they got. But they’re not a substitute for snow tires, and they’re not something you leave on all season for long-distance driving, or when you’re parked. Use them like you’d use chains — at max speeds of 30 mph, and only in icy and snowy conditions you can’t navigate with tires alone. Run on asphalt, they’ll wear out fast.

AutoSock is available for vans, trucks, buses, and forklifts. Each pair is specific to vehicle tire size. In the United States, they are accepted in all snow chain-requiring states including Nevada, California, Colorado, Washington, and Oregon. They have also been endorsed by more than a dozen car manufacturers, including Volvo, BMW, Fiat, Land Rover, and Nissan. [$110;]

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