AA responds to barrage of queries about snow socks and chains

AA Ireland reports that it is already seeing a stream of queries about the use and purchase of snow socks and snow chains despite it still only being October.  The AA also reports that a number of retailers it has spoken with say they are experiencing strong demand for snow socks this year following the challenging conditions of the last two winters.

“People are clearly worried about the coming Winter even though we have no way of knowing yet how bad it is going to be.” Says Noel Keogh, Head of AA Rescue. “A lot of people are enquiring about snow socks, which fit over a car tyre to provide extra grip, but in our experience a great many motorists are not clear on how to use them properly.”

AA Ireland which has dubbed October ‘Car Care Month,’ is encouraging motorists to prepare their cars for winter now and do their homework if buying snow socks.  This advice comes following eye witness reports from AA Patrols last winter that snow socks were widely being misused.

“Our Patrols witnessed cars fitted with snow socks driving at 50kmph plus on well gritted motorways last year which is not how they should be used.  They can be useful when there is a lot of snow on the ground as will give you extra grip but it is important to note that they are only useful at slow speeds and only when the road is fully covered with compacted snow. In moderate snow and on treated roads they will actually reduce the grip under your wheels. They should also never be used at speeds above 50kph.” 

The AA offers the following guidelines to motorists currently in the market for snow socks: 

Buying the correct size:

Make sure that the snow socks you buy are the correct size for your tyres.  To calculate this you’ll need to know the width, profile and diameter of your tyre which should be printed on the tyre itself.  If unsure ask the retailer for advice.    

When to use them:

  • Use them on ice and snow covered roads only.  For example housing estates or minor roads which haven’t been treated with grit or which simply don’t see very much traffic.
  • Remove them once you reach a gritted or clear road otherwise the fabric will quickly become worn plus your tyres will have inadequate friction with the tarmac surface.  Your snow socks should last you for years if correctly used and looked after.
  • Remember to take them off at night as they will freeze and be no use to you when you need them in the morning.

How to fit them:

Apply your handbrake before you begin.

  • Next fit your snow socks which will have an elasticated edge to the driving wheels of your car. Consult your vehicle’s user manual if you are unsure whether your car is front or rear wheel drive.  4X4 vehicles will require snow socks to be placed on all four wheels.  You should start at the top of the tyre and work your way down.   
  • Move the vehicle forward or back whichever is easiest given the conditions about a meter to allow you to fit the snow sock the rest of the way over your tyres.

Snow chains

AA Ireland also reports that it has received a number of queries from motorist about snow chains and their legality in Ireland. 

“While not specifically illegal snow chains are not particularly recommended in Ireland.” Says Keogh.  “They can be useful when there is a deep coating of ice on the road for a long period of time. But while that happened in some parts of Ireland last year, it was very unusual.   Using them in more normal Irish weather or even in light snow is likely to damage your tyres.”

The AA also advises that snow chains should be removed on reaching a treated road surface as they may damage the road where in the offense lies.

Winter tyres

Winter tyres are more effective than normal tyres in very cold conditions according to AA Ireland.   However the organization advises that unless temperatures are persistently below 7C for a period of weeks they will be less effective than normal tyres.  With a price tag of about €500 per set, AA Ireland does not favour making them compulsory.