Choosing and fitting snow chains

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There are many different types of car bulbs available, and it's a bit of a minefield, but what's the difference between them, and how do you change them?

As the name suggests, snow chains are chains that fit around your tyres to aid with traction in the ice and snow. The chain links dig into the snow, whereas a rubber tyre would just slip. They're effective even in very bad conditions and could get you out of trouble in an emergency. So should you buy a set?

For the vast majority of people snow chains are probably overkill, but for those who regularly drive on ungritted/untreated roads in the winter it can make sense to get yourself a set to be on the safe side.

If you've decided you need chains and have bought a pair - don't just wait until you really need them before fitting them. Set some time aside and have a trail run to familiarise yourself with how they go on. It's usually a case of laying them out in front of the driven wheels (i.e. on a front wheel drive car fit them to the front), driving forward a short distance, then securing each end of the chains together.

Not all cars are suitable, so please check your handbook before considering a purchase. They come in different sizes so you need to ensure you get a set that will actually fit. You're also limited to how fast you can drive with them on, usually no more than 30mph, so take heed of any instructions that they come with. Be warned - if they come loose due to excessive speed they can do a lot of damage!

Expert tip Some sets come with gloves, but if not it's worthwhile getting a sturdy pair to keep with the chains – they'll keep your hands both warm and clean when you're fitting them in the snow.

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Despite what some people may tell you they're perfectly legal to use in the UK, but you should only use them when there's sufficient snow to warrant their use. Driving with them fitted on clear tarmac will not only risk damaging the chains, but also the road surface too, and that's when the law can come down on you. So be prepared to take them off as soon as the snow clears.

Other options

Snow chains aren't the only solution, there are many retailers offering 'snow socks' which are fabric tyre covers that increase the grip and traction on snow and ice. They fit in much the same way as chains, but are usually simpler to install plus they're lighter and store away more easily. Unlike chains they can be driven on tarmac, but this wears them out pretty quickly so you're advised to fit them just until you can get to a clear stretch of road.

Rather than have to repeatedly fit chains or socks, you could also opt for some winter tyres. You may still need chains if you get really stuck, but with a set of good quality winter tyres there's less likelihood of getting stuck in the first place

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As well as the diameter of the tyre, you also need to take into account the clearance at the back of the tyre, and also clearance around the wheel arch. Chains may not be suitable on low cars, or cars with very low profile tyres, it's here where snow socks make a good case for themselves, as they require very little extra clearance.

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All the car parts and expert advice you need to keep safely on the road. Expert Tips and Advice for Winter