AutoSock snow sock FAQs
Answers to the common questions we get asked about AutoSock
The first sixteen Q and A are about AutoSock - how they work and when to use them. The last two Q and A (17 and 18) concern the copy products problem.
- How do you fit AutoSock?
- How do AutoSock snow socks work?
- How well do AutoSock work?
- What size do I need?
- When should AutoSock be fitted and removed?
- Can AutoSock be used on tarmac?
- What's it like, driving on AutoSock?
- Do I need to turn off any electronic systems when using AutoSock?
- I have a 4x4. Which wheels should AutoSock be fitted to?
- I have a rear wheel drive. Do I need AutoSock on the front wheels as well?
- My AutoSock have small holes in them. Does this matter?
- Are AutoSock approved for use in the Alps, where "snow chains" are compulsory?
- Do AutoSock work on grass or in mud?
- The tyre tread is covered by the fabric. Is this legal?
- I already have AutoSock; will they fit my new car?
- I have winter tyres; why do I need AutoSock?
Questions 17 and 18 below concern the copy products problem - our customers ought at least to be aware that AutoSock AS of Norway created and developed the snow sock concept, and owns the relevant patents. So we'll tell you why we think AutoSock snow socks are streets ahead of the competitors, covering FAQs about wear rate and performance, and a recent Which? test.
- I can buy snow socks for £35. Why should I pay £50 to £70 for AutoSock?
- Why are AutoSock better than the rest?
Q1 How do you fit AutoSock?
Please have a look at the video on the Home page. If you can't get your forearms into the space between the top of the wheel and the wheel arch then you won't be able to fit AutoSock or any other snow socks. We suggest that you visit roofbox.co.uk and check out your options on their snow chains pages.
Q3 How well do AutoSock snow socks work?
Astonishingly well! They are more effective (short term only) than winter tyres (and a lot cheaper) and are also more effective than snow chains in many situations, especially on ice. Don't just take our word for it - they have been tested and formally approved by Bentley, BMW, Citroen, Hyundai, Jaguar Land Rover, Mercedes-Benz, Mini, Peugeot and Volkswagen, as well as by several European road transport research institutes and the German TÜV. A range of test data is shown on the Research and Development section of About us.
Q4 What size do I need?
Please check the size finder at the top of every page. If you can't find your tyre size, double check you have noted it correctly, then as necessary e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. BMW drivers should note that the rear wheels are often a different size to the front wheels, and that it's the rear (driving) wheels you need to check.
Q6 Can AutoSock be used on tarmac?
In summary, yes, and for safety reasons you will need to use them on tarmac - it is obvious that you should not and must not just stop in the middle of a road, just because you have moved off the snow and onto tarmac. The reality is that there are almost always stretches of intermittent tarmac / snow / tarmac / snow before the snow is behind you.
The TÜV test included 50 kilometres at 50 kph on dry tarmac. AutoSock passed this "Misuse test", but of course tarmac driving is not recommended as it increases fabric wear very considerably. It's also crucial that you do not drive faster on tarmac than you would on snow, a maximum 30mph, preferably slower than this.
What causes AutoSock to wear fastest of all is rough, potholed tarmac, or roads with tyre ruts / tramlines that have frozen solid. This compressed frozen snow or ice can be very sharp, and is often hidden under fresh snow.
If you do drive on tarmac, be very careful with your braking, so please adjust your speed accordingly. A large hole worn in one section only of an AutoSock is conclusive evidence of hard braking on tarmac.
Q9 I have a 4x4. Which wheels should AutoSock be fitted to?
It's recommended that you fit them to all four wheels. If you only have one set, fit them to the front wheels.
Q11 My AutoSock have small holes in them. Does this matter?
No. This should be expected. AutoSock will wear out as they are used, but they should last a lot longer than the copy products - see below. Please see these wear notes.
Q13 Do AutoSock work on grass or in mud?
They do make a difference on wet grass, but as soon as it gets muddy - which is usually very rapidly - they are useless.
Q14 The tyre tread is covered by the fabric. Is this legal?
We don't know. The law has not caught up with these products. What we can tell you is (1) we don't think that the law specifically requires the tyres to be actually touching the road; (2) tyres with snow chains fitted have the same issue, and nobody asks this question about snow chains; (3) we supply many police services with AutoSock; (4) you will be surprised to see sharply defined tyre tread marks appearing in the snow; (5) to make sure that your tyres are legal!
Q16 I have winter tyres; why do I need AutoSock?
Proper winter tyres (not 'all season' tyres) are the best all round option for the winter months, but they have their limitations – they’ll lose grip when the combination of snow and slope counts against them. We use winter tyres on all our work vans, here in the Cumbrian hills, and have often needed to fit AutoSock on steeper hills, for making safe descents in loaded vehicles, as well as for getting up the steeper hills. The TÜV tests compared AutoSock (on summer tyres) to winter tyres - see here. In summary, if you want to be confident that you won’t get stuck, carry AutoSock!.
Q2 How do AutoSock snowsocks work?
It's to do with friction, specifically dry friction. Dry snow and ice sticks to fabric, especially 'woolly' fabric as those of us who used to snowball in woolly mitts will remember. AutoSock are made from a hairy fabric which sticks to the snow. The fibres in AutoSock, which become hairier with use, are arranged at right angles to the direction of travel to optimise grip. Very importantly, AutoSock's specially developed 'GripTech' textile also absorbs and "wicks away" any water that's found between the ground and the tyre, (generated e.g. by the warmth of the sun, or by wheel spin), thereby maximising the dry friction grip. AutoSock work well in warmer slushy snow as well as cold, dry snow.
AutoSock's unique fabric was developed in Germany by KoSa and DuPont Textiles, both subsequently part of Koch Industries' INVISTA business, now the world's largest manufacturer of polyester products. AutoSock's fabric is still made in one of KoSa's EU mills.
Q5 When should AutoSock be fitted and removed?
There are no rules about this. Some people use AutoSock because they are anxious about driving in snow, and want to be sure that their vehicle will stay on the road. Others need to use AutoSock to drive safely, especially driving down steep hills. Others fit them after they have got stuck. Others use them to drive uphill, maybe even just from the main road up to their house.
Use them on any sort of snow - even in soft, deep snow, or in wet snow. And use them on ice. Can AutoSock be used on tarmac? See Q6.
Q7 What's it like, driving on AutoSock?
Silent and smooth, as you'd expect. There's none of the loud rattling and bumpy ride associated with snow chains. Because there's no danger of damage to the vehicle structure they are approved for speeds up to 30mph / 50kph; this is faster than is recommended with snow chains, although your speed should of course be appropriate to the weather and road conditions.
Q8 Do I need to turn off any electronic systems when using AutoSock?
No you don't. You can use them with your vehicle's electronic aids left on, unlike most snow chains (except Spikes-Spider) which should normally NOT be used with traction control and anti skid devices (e.g. ESP / ASC+T / ASR / ABS).
AutoSock are breathable so there's no adverse effect on brake cooling.
Q10 I have a rear wheel drive. Do I need AutoSock on the front wheels as well?
You don't need them, but it obviously makes sense to fit AutoSock to the steering wheels as well as to the driving wheels, because the car will then travel in the direction you intend! Because the weight moves towards the front of the car under braking - brake gently on snow! - this is all the more important.
A reminder to BMW owners to check their rear wheel size...
Q12 Are AutoSock approved for use in the Alps, where "snow chains" are compulsory?
AutoSock have been approved since 2010 for use in France as an alternative to metal snow chains where the B26 snow chain signs require snow chains to be carried. Visitors to France will need to download a sticker to fix to the AutoSock storage bag, and are also advised to download the relevant details, taken from the Gendarmerie website, and AutoSock's press release.
AutoSock can also legally be used when snowchains must be carried or fitted in Andorra, the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy and Slovenia.
Q15 I already have AutoSock; will they fit my new car?
Check your new tyre size to see what size we list. If your AutoSock are not listed, check here which is a list of discontinued AutoSock applications.
Q17 I can buy snow socks for £35. Why should I pay £50 to £70 for AutoSock?
Q18 Why are AutoSock better than the rest?
We will answer both of these FAQs together.
These are easy questions to answer. AutoSock are the best, which means that
- they will perform better overall than the copies
- they should last longer than the copies
- they have passed all appropriate safety tests
- they have full product liability insurance
The bottom line here is that, especially after the 2010 winter, there are still numerous other snow socks on the market, some of which are sold by big names in the retail sector, but all of which are potentially infringing AutoSock's patent. Some of these have already been proved in court judgments to be doing so, and other court cases are ongoing.
Some of the snow socks being sold in the UK market have already been banned elsewhere. It is unfortunate that the UK is used as a dumping ground; by the time the lawyers catch up with some of these retailers (who tend to operate via new limited liability companies), the stock has been sold and the proceeds disbursed.
Most of the better quality 'copier developers' now have second generation products in the UK, requiring a new set of legal challenges...
AutoSock's general problem with copiers is that at a superficial level these snow sock products are both simple and cheap to make, which is why there are so many poor quality Chinese copies as well as some much better quality European ones.
The reality is that complex science underpins not only the theory but also (1) AutoSock's high tech materials and (2) the details of the construction and sizing which ensures good performance, safety, and an acceptable wear rate. As well as using superior materials, AutoSock AS of Norway have also needed to factor their many years of development work into their pricing, something which the copiers don't have to do.
AutoSock's lawyers are also making progress with some of the very cheap products. Some of these are of such poor quality that they are a potential consumer safety hazard; Trading Standards are being made aware as appropriate.
How come some other snow sock brands also warn customers to be careful of copiers?
Some do. What a cheek! Another smoke and mirrors tactic used by many of the better quality copiers is to include devices in their latest generation copies which they think might help to get around AutoSock's patent, e.g. including plastic mesh, or an elastic strap, in the road contact fabric. (Managing wear rate was an important part of AutoSock's development work over many years. It was found that, to minimise wear rate, an AutoSock needs to be allowed to rotate around a wheel - these full rotations happen surprisingly often. This science is at the core of AutoSock's patent. Using an elastic strap to hold the fabric against the wheel is therefore not likely to be a sensible thing to do!)
Some copier web sites claim that "open face designs" are superior because there is no risk of snow building up inside the sock (which doesn't happen) and because you can still pump up your tyres when snow socks are fitted - which is true but almost irrelevant! AutoSock's mesh (across the face of the wheel) helps to provide stability in use as well as allowing the AutoSock to self-centre faster.
Our fleet customers will also be interested to know that AutoSock's manufacturers have the relevant ISO and OHSAS approvals. The products themselves are, of course, properly TÜV and ÖNORM approved; one of the better copiers, which claims to have these approvals, and has even produced certificates, does not in fact have TÜV or ÖNORM approvals!
AutoSock is made from a specially developed woven fabric. It is important to note that no copy shares this fabric, and that some fabrics have very poor water absorption characteristics (remember that the aim is to maximise dry friction) so they are much less effective on wetter snow in particular.
Some snow socks are made from a black knitted material which, once is starts to wear, wears very quickly. It's the same material which is used in grass catching bags.
The Which? snow sock test
Which? published a snow sock test online in February 2012 and, in abbreviated form, in their November 2012 issue. Their articles are copyright, but it seems reasonable to report that, after various tests on fresh cold Swiss snow, they gave a "Best Buy" to three brands, comparing the overall performance in their tests to a top specification winter tyre (100%):
- AutoSock 80%
- Silknet Plus (also Snocks, Trendy) 76%
- ISSE Classic 76%
These were the lowest test scores:
- Multi Grip 47%
- Universal MultiGrip 47%
- A top branded summer tyre 17%
There are some errors of fact in their copy, but overall they did a good job within the limitations of the tests they set. They have been made aware of some of the wider "issues" in this market, but their general approach is that they will test whatever is available for consumers to purchase. Happily they avoided buying any of the poor quality copies (or copies of copies).
Other snow socks they tested were in a different league overall - you'll need to find a Which? magazine to get the full results, or subscribe via their web site.
If you look at an AutoSock and any copy product, side by side, it will be obvious to you, just from looking at the quality of the fabric, the stitching, the seams, and the overall workmanship, which is the AutoSock and which is the other snow sock. They're chalk and cheese. If you want best performance, best wear rate, undoubted approvals and proper insurances, stick with AutoSock!