Snow Cable Vs. Chain – Which One is Better?

Driving in snowy conditions can be tricky due to the ice and snow. If you do not have special tires, you may have to deal with tire deflation, traction loss, and cracks. You will need some accessories for better driving. The cable vs. chain discussion looks at two such must-have add-ons.

Cables and chains improve the traction, ensuring you do not slip when driving, which can be fatal. Stick on to see which is the better option for the snow cables and snow chains.

What Are Snow Cables?

Snow cables are primarily steel cables enclosed in an alloy for their protection. When purchased, they come as a pair and should match your tire size for efficiency. While they are mainly used for snowy conditions, they also have your back for muddy roads, which are also a slipping hazard.

Many people prefer cables due to their ease of installation, courtesy of their light profile. The strands of metals go through each tire, forming a mesh-like structure. Once correctly fitted, the snow cables appear like metallic treads on the tire. Another reason why people opt for cables is that they do not have speed limits.

Read Also: Radial Tire Vs. Bias: What are the Differences?

best snow cables

Pros Of Snow Cables

Snow cables are lighter, making their installation a hassle-free process. Additionally, they pose less risk of tire damage if the strands break. Cables are flexible in driving as they do not have a speed limit. They are cheaper and the best option if you do not regularly encounter snowy roads.


Snow cables’ light profile acts against them, making them less durable. They break easily, a reason why it is not advisable to use them on normal roads. The other downside of using snow cables is that they are unsuitable for deeper snow. Also, they are not ideal for heavy vehicles, such as SUVs and trucks.

Read Also: Tire Size Comparison: 275 55R20 Vs. 275 60R20

What Are Snow Chains?

Snow chains are quite popular, with their history dating back to their invention in 1904 by Harry Weed. He witnessed how drivers had difficulty improving their vehicle’s traction on muddy and snowy roads, to the point of tying ropes and vines around the tires. For this reason, he decided to come up with a durable and reliable solution in the form of snow chains.

As their name hints, snow chains are chain links that go around your car tire to enhance traction on slippery roads. They are heavy, translating to durability and stable performance in thick snow. The heavy build makes them an excellent solution for heavier vehicles like trucks, vans, and SUVs. Snow chains for trucks are larger and heavier for ample weight support.

You should keep a lot in mind when it comes to snow chains. For instance, you should not exceed speed limits of 20-30 mph. Additionally, you should not drive with them on dry roads as it may damage the roads. Still, on standard roads, the snow chains may cause the vehicle to slip when braking.

You should install these wheel accessories according to the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) class. The classes are S, U, and W and have varying tire indexes. You need the correct snow chain that matches the tire specs to prevent hitches such as slips and breakages when driving. At times, you may need tensioners and adjusters to install the chains.

cable tire chains

Pros Of Snow Chains

Snow chains are very durable due to their heavy construction. It makes them suitable for heavy-duty applications, such as trucks and vans. Also, they are suitable for deep snow, and you may find them prominently used in mountainous areas. They are excellent additions to have if you constantly drive on snowy roads. 


Snow chains are heavy, making installation a challenging affair. If the chains break while driving, it may cause tire damage due to the chain hitting the tire sidewall. Snow chains are also quite expensive and have a speed limit of 30mph on the higher side. Exceeding the speed limit can damage roads or present braking problems.

Read Also: DuraTrac vs. KO2: A Comparison of All-Terrain Tires

Cable Vs. Chain Differences

cable vs chain snow

The primary difference between snow cables and snow chains is their construction. Snow cables are steel strands enclosed in an alloy, nylon, or polypropylene for flexibility and protection. Snow chains consist of metal chain links that resemble a mesh.

The other contrasting point is that cables are light, while chains are heavier. The cables’ lightness makes them easy to install and suitable for roads with little snow cover. On the other hand, the heavy profile of snow chains makes installation quite challenging and may require extra tools like tensioners.

While the weight of the chains seems to act against it, it is an advantage as it offers adequate support to heavy vehicles and deep snow. On the contrary, the lighter snow cables suit smaller cars and areas with little snow.

Looking at snow chains vs. cables Reddit discussions, you realize that durability is one of the crucial points to consider. On durability, chains are the better performers, with heavy construction being their redeeming factor. You can use them for a long time without any sign of wear and tear.

Talking about wear and tear, the result is another thing of concern. When snow cables break, you can still drive without worrying about the state of the tires. That is not the case when snow chains break, as they can damage the tire or wrap around the axles.

Cable vs. chain price is another critical area to check. Cables are cheaper than chains, though you also realize that wheel accessories for bigger vehicles are pricier.

Alternatives To Cables and Chains

While snow chains and cables are the go-to solutions for many vehicle owners, other options exist. Snow socks are among them, a good choice if you have a sedan and driving on roads with little snow. The socks are textile constructions featuring woven fabric and elastomer. The fabric goes around the tires, giving the look of a sock. 

Snow chains vs. cables vs. socks; how do they fare? Snow socks and chains have a speed limit of 30mph, meaning cables with no speed limit beats them in flexibility. Snow socks are easy to install and make excellent traction provision. The other advantage of snow socks is that they do not interfere with vehicle systems like the ABS when installed and prevent snow buildup on the treads.

The other alternative is studded tires, snow tires with metal studs on their treads. Mud chains are larger than snow chains and are suitable for heavy trucks, such as those that carry logs in poor and muddy terrains.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs)

Q: Is Cable Stronger Than Chain?

When traversing snowy roads, you can choose snow cables or chains. If the snow is shallow, cables will do the job. However, for deep snow, you will need a robust option; snow chains. They are heavy and suitable for heavy-duty applications.

Q: Is A Chain or Cable Better?

On the cable vs. chain snow debate, the better pick depends on the situation. The snow cable is a perfect pick if you do not experience a lot of snow. Also, go for it for driving flexibility, as it does not have a speed limit. The cable won’t damage your wheel in case they break.

Snow chains are the best pick if you target durability and support for huge vehicles. The heaviness of chains is desirable for larger vehicles, such as trucks and buses.

Q: Do Cables Work as Well as Chains?

Cables differ from chains in many ways, for a vital example, in their construction. Snow cables comprise steel strands that go around the wheel for traction and are lighter than chains. It makes them easy to break and unsuitable for deep snow. Nevertheless, they perform well in the right conditions, like when installed on sedans and in areas with less snow.

Q: Are Cables Worse Than Chains?

Many people consider cables to be worse than chains due to the lightness that makes them easily breakable than chains. While it is not far from the truth, cables have a degree of efficiency, evident where they do not have speed limitations, and installation is effortless. You can find sturdier cables that work as well as chains.

Q: Is Cable or Chain Harder to Cut?

Snow chains take the top spot in durability as they have robust construction. Cutting chains is challenging due to their sturdy profile. Cables rank lower than chains when cutting, but it does not mean it is easy to cut through them. You will find that snow cables for trucks are very durable, and you will have a hard time trying to cut through them. 

Q: Are Cable Locks Easy to Cut?

The ease of cutting cable locks depends on the material and the cutter you are using. A strong bolt cutter will cut through a thinly designed cable with ease. The good news is that most cables feature an alloy coat that adds a degree of resiliency against most cutting tools.

Q: How Fast Can I Drive with Tire Cables?

Unlike chains, cables do not have speed limits. However, for their extended service and prevention of tire damage, you should stick to the 30mph speed limit that you should use for tire chains. Apart from damaging the tire or chain, you can have braking problems.

Q: Are Chains or Cables Better for Snow or Ice?

On the chains vs. snow cable discussion, the finest pick depends on the snow cover and the vehicle type. Chains do better on light and heavy snow cover and are perfect for heavy vehicles. On the flip side, cables work fine on less snow or ice and on smaller cars like sedans.

Q: Do I Need Chains for All Four Tires?

If you have a front-wheel-drive vehicle, your priority for the chain should be the front wheels and vice versa for rear-wheel-drive vehicles. Four-wheel-drive vehicles should have chains on all wheels for easy movement. It is advisable to install snow chains on all wheels for tire balancing and avoid damage to the sides.

Q: How Long Do Tire Cables Last?

The service life of tire cables depends on how you maintain them and their frequency. If you regularly drive on snowy roads, you definitely reduce their life due to wear and tear. Proper maintenance of snow cables can extend their life. Maintenance practices include not using them on standard roads, rust prevention, and spraying a coat of WD40 for easy management.

Final Word

As a car owner, you must invest in the right accessories for a smooth driving experience. It is wise to have a snow cable or chain if you drive on snowy or icy roads. They improve the wheels’ traction and add a degree of protection to them against the frozen surface.

This article shows you the difference between a tire chain and cable and the best choice for various driving states. Pick a preferrable tire add-on and have a fulfilling driving experience during winter. 

Purity Wachira

Hi, I am Purity a researcher and technical writer since 2015. I hold a Masters in Supply Chain Management working in an automotive company. I am a resourceful lady with vast knowledge and interest in vehicles. My enthusiasm for cars drove me to more research, and the more information I got, the more I felt the need to share the knowledge through writing. My biggest win is to leave a positive impact on the automotive field and solve people's problems through articles, product descriptions, and product reviews.

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