What Are Tire Socks? (Do They Work, How Long They Last + More)

If you’re faced with snowy and icy weather, your tires probably need a bit of help getting traction. After all, you don’t want to be sliding and slipping on the roadway. 

Tire socks are one way to get some extra traction. They’re known for being easy to put on and can often replace tire chains. But how functional are tire socks? Keep reading to find out everything you need to know. 

What Are Tire Socks?

Tire socks are a textile that is installed over your tire to aid in traction. They’re often seen as an alternative to tire chains and work similarly.  In some cases, these tire socks are a legal alternative to tire chains in areas that require them. AutoSock is the primary manufacturer of tire socks in North America.

But do these tire socks work? How do they compare to tire chains – and where can they legally be used? We’ll cover these questions and more below!

Do Tire Socks Really Work?

Tire socks do provide extra traction in snowy conditions. If that’s all you’re looking for, then this product fits that bill!

Specifically, Consumer Reports found that many brands of tire socks significantly improved tire traction in the snow. 

Based on this report, it’s pretty clear that adding these tire socks to your all-season tires will make them work better when the weather gets a bit frightful. 

However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that tire socks are better than chains or winter tires (see more below). 

How Long Do Tire Socks Last?

How Long Do Tire Socks Last?

In most cases, it largely depends on the brand. Officially, AutoSocks (the #1 brand in the United States) do not have a known lifespan. According to Autosocks website, they state that they can be used for an “extremely long time before wearing out”. 

Of course, it is essential to adhere to the product guidelines to ensure you get the longest life out of the product. 

For instance, you should only drive about 30 miles per hour when your car wears socks while in a passenger vehicle. On the other hand, if you’re in a commercial vehicle, you should only drive 20 miles per hour. 

As for “unusual” vehicles, like forklifts, they should also keep speeds to around 20 miles per hour. 

Furthermore, you should also not leave the tire socks on overnight. Preferably, they should be allowed to dry completely before you use them again. 

For the most part, these tire socks are only made to be used for short times. In other words, you should not leave them on your tire for hours while you drive around. 

Instead, plan on only using them for a few miles at a time during particularly snowy sections of roads. 

When Should You Use Tire Socks?

Typically, tire socks should be used whenever you need a little extra traction. 

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Specifically, you should use tire socks when the road is covered in snow or ice. The textiles will allow you to get some extra grip, which can prevent you from slipping around everywhere. 

However, you should take them off as soon as the snow and ice are gone. You should not use them all the time during the winter. 

Instead, only use them when you need the extra traction. Driving on dry or wet asphalt can wear down the fabric very quickly. 

In other words, if you would typically use snow chains on a stretch of road, you can use auto socks instead. 

How Do You Use Tire Socks?

For the most part, installing tire socks is supposed to be relatively straightforward. After all, they’re made to install on the side of the road during ice storms. 

However, many reports of the socks being a bit more complicated to install than users would like. 

With that said, the steps themselves are pretty simple:

  • Park Your Car. Find a safe place to pull over and park your car. Use the handbrake since the area will likely be slippery. 
  • Pull the Tire Socks Over the Wheels. Start at the top and pull the tire socks over the tires. Many brands include gloves to make this part easier. 
  • Stretch the Elastic Band. As you pull the sock over the tires, use the elastic band to get it in the correct position. When you’re done, the middle of the band should be in the middle of the tire. 
  • Move the Car Up. Next, you’ll need to move your car forward just a little bit to fit the sock over the other side of the tire. We highly recommend having an assistant for this part, as it can be difficult to judge from the driver’s seat.

Simply put, to use tire socks, you simply pull them over your tire! It’s pretty straightforward. However, the act of actually pulling the tire socks over the tires can be difficult. 

Remember, you’ll be installing these in the cold and the snow – not exactly the best conditions. 

Are Tire Socks Better Than Tire Chains?

Are Tire Socks Better Than Tire Chains?

In many cases, tire socks are not considered a legal equivalent to tire chains in areas with snow chain laws. In other words, if your local government requires you to have tire chains on your car, then tire socks are not an appropriate equivalent. 

With that said, some states have approved certain brands of tire socks as alternatives to tire chains. In these cases, tire socks would be excellent to use from a legal standpoint. 

Practically speaking, tire socks are often easier to install than tire chains. They also cost less and provide a smoother ride. After all, you aren’t literally driving over chains. 

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However, snow chains are more durable and better suited to severely icy conditions. Conversely, tire socks aren’t quite as effective overall. 

Furthermore, tire chains can damage your wheel well or wrap around the axel. They’re more dangerous when they break. 

On the other hand, tires socks don’t do much when they break. They’re just textiles, after all. 

Which option you choose is primarily determined by what you’re trying to accomplish.

In extremely snowy conditions, you’ll likely want to stick with tire chains. Otherwise, tire socks are a safer and cheaper alternative

Are Tire Socks DOT Legal?

In short, it depends on your area. In many areas, some brands of tire socks are approved for use when tire chains are required. 

For instance, California has approved AutoSocks for use when DOT requires tire chains. 

However, we recommend checking your local state and county laws on whether or not tire socks are approved in your area. Most of the time, there is a specific brand or two that is approved. 

If you decide to choose tire socks, be sure to purchase from an approved brand in your area. 

Can I Leave Snow Socks On Overnight?

Usually, most companies do not recommend leaving tire socks on overnight. Instead, you should remove them and allow them to dry completely before re-installing them onto your vehicle. 

Leaving them on overnight can make them freeze, which may result in excess wear and tear. If you want them to last for as long as possible, leaving them on overnight is not recommended.

In some instances, you’ll likely be fine leaving them on overnight. However, other times, you may find yourself with a broken pair of socks in the morning. 

Before going to bed, consider whether that’s a risk you want to take. 

Are Tire Socks Reusable?

Absolutely. That’s kind of the point! Tire socks are made to be reused over and over again.

When using these socks, you should only install them when they are needed.

Is the pavement icy and snowy? Then, use them. Otherwise, you should take them off to prevent excessive wear. 

Furthermore, companies do not recommend driving on any sort of asphalt – dry or wet. 

When it becomes icy again, you can reinstall them. Many users leave them in their trunks so that they are never caught without them in the winter. 

Are Snow Socks Worth It?

Are Snow Socks Worth It?

In many cases, it largely depends on your area. In very snowy places, snow socks can provide an easy alternative to snow chains. 

If you just hate putting chains on, snow socks may be the alternative you’re looking for! 

Plus, these socks are generally pretty inexpensive. Based on my research, they usually cost somewhere between $100 and $150 for a pair. 

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In most cases, you won’t need to buy four socks. For most brands, you only have to purchase a pair to go on your driving wheels – not all your wheels. 

Due to their inexpensive cost, many users decide to at least try these socks. After all, they can’t be much worse than chains. 

What Wheels Do You Put Snow Socks On?

Usually, you should put tire socks on whatever set of wheels do the actual driving. If you have front-wheel drive, you put them on the front wheels. If you have rear-wheel drive, you should put them on the back wheels. 

However, all-wheel-drive cars are a bit more complicated. Technically, most companies recommend putting them on all the wheels, which will considerably drive up your costs. 

Because of this, many users don’t use four socks on their all-wheel vehicles. Instead, they use two on either their front wheels or back wheels. 

While I haven’t read any direct reports of this causing wrecks or injuries, most companies do not recommend it. 

Therefore, I can’t recommend it either. While it may save you some money, there is little reason to sacrifice your safety for an extra $100. 

How Much Are Tire Socks?

There are many different brands of tire socks out there. As you might imagine, some are more expensive than others. 

Usually, most brands are about $100 for a pair. You only need a pair to use them on most cars. Specifically, front-wheel drive and rear-wheel drive vehicles only need tire socks on their dominant tires. 

With that said, some tire socks may reach closer to $150 to $200. Just because socks are more expensive does not mean that they are necessarily better. 

Comparatively, assisted tire chains cost about $60 to $80. Heavy-duty chains made for SUVs, and pickup trucks will cost closer to $100 because they are bigger. 

In most cases, you aren’t saving much money by purchasing tire socks. Usually, they will be a tad more expensive. 

However, many users find their ease of use worth the few extra bucks. 

To know more, you might also be interested in reading up on how long do winter tires last, what are titled tires, what are stretched tires, how long do all-season tires last, and which tires do you put chains on.

Conclusion

Tire socks are a tool that helps tires get extra traction in the snow and ice. 

In many ways, they are an alternative to tire chains. Often, users claim that tire socks are easier to install, which has made them quite popular. 

However, some users claim that tire socks are more challenging to install. For the most part, it seems to be a matter of personal opinion. 

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