Introducing Autosock’s snow socks
As we approach the shortest day of the year, the autumnal hype that surrounded ‘winter tyres’, or as they should be known more accurately, ‘cold weather tyres’, has died down a little. I have championed the benefits of cold-weather tyres through these blogs before but drivers should not consider them as a passport to a two-wheel-drive car being able to negotiate its way through the worst conditions that Mother Nature can throw at it.
Snow chains were once common accessories, with which the British motorist could tackle the harsher winters of bygone decades. They were fine, when most passenger vehicles on our roads were rear-wheel-driven. However, on front-wheel-drive cars, where the driven wheels are also tasked with steering, old-type chains could damage parts of the vehicle bodywork. While remaining legal in the UK, unlike spikes or studs installed on snow tyres, they can factor in extra damage to our highways, when used on cleared roads.
Although higher altitude and remote areas of the British Isles are familiar with frequent and heavy seasonal snowfalls, the rest of the country has been taken aback by the previous two harsh winters. For drivers that are uncomfortable with fitting and removing snow chains, especially with our very changeable British weather, the innovation of snow socks that do not damage tarmac, and are priced less than the cost of a tank of fuel, is a highly attractive option.
Based in Norway, AutoSock was the first company to both develop and patent the concept in the late 1990s and has had its product approved not only by the TÜV but also by various car manufacturers and even emergency services. Fitting a pair to the front axle takes only a few minutes and, replacing the tyre’s tread pattern, is a tough high-tech textile that can provide higher grip levels on slippery surfaces. The AutoSock can be removed, reused and even washed in a domestic machine.
With the resulting enhanced grip on ice and snow, it is logical that improved handling and the ability to move off, without excessive wheel spin, are key advantages. Yet, there are a few disadvantages. Like snow-chains, AutoSocks should be used at reduced road speeds. They will be destroyed quickly, if used on wet or dry tarmac alone and the manufacturer advises that they should be used as a “get out of trouble” solution. Therefore, unlike cold-weather tyres, they cannot provide enhanced grip in high speed use, at temperatures below seven degrees Celsius.
For these reasons, I do not view AutoSocks as a complete alternative to cold-weather tyres, even though independent tests prove that they offer superior grip over cold-weather rubberware alone in heavy ice and snow conditions. Yet, they offer a sensible, proven, cost-effective and unique approach to enhancing road safety in truly difficult conditions.
When the snow hits the West Midlands, I shall try out AutoSock’s claims on my own car and will report back on the findings.