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 £90 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, Fiat, Hyundai, Jaguar, Kia, Land Rover, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Peugeot, Seat, Toyota, Volkswagen, and Volvo, 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?
Yes, from 1st December 2020 they are approved as an alternative to snow chains across the EU, because they have been tested and approved to the new European standard EN16662-1:2020 for “supplementary grip devices”, which includes not only metal snow chains but also devices made from other materials. The new EU standard has also been adopted by Switzerland.
Our advice to ski-drivers to France for season 2020-21 is to print out the AutoSock press release, because it will inevitably take time for the new regulations to be communicated to everyone who might be in a position to stop you and demand that you show metal snowchains of appropriate size.
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 £90 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 value, 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
AutoSock really took off in the UK and Europe in the winter of 2010, following which numerous AutoSock-inspired snow socks appeared in these markets. Proper copies would be too expensive – these are “knock offs”, fundamentally different to AutoSock, often nicely packaged and given credibility by being sold through major supermarkets, some even by car dealers.
Many of these are dangerous, made from unsuitable materials, badly constructed. Driving in snowy weather is hazardous at the best of times - and relying on products that might be pulled to bits, or fall off the wheel, or fall behind the wheel, often products without any liability insurance, increases the hazards considerably, to all road users.
The whole purpose of international standards is to reduce risk. Our business customers in particular will be pleased to know that AutoSock were properly TÜV and ÖNORM approved, and that AutoSock's manufacturers have all relevant ISO and OHSAS approvals. And they have passed the new EU standard EN16662-1:2020, to our knowledge the only snow sock to have achieved this standard.
Every part of an AutoSock is important to the overall structure. The road contact fabric was specially developed to maximise dry friction, and be hard wearing. The front ‘open mesh’ facing provides stability, which means that it prevents the sock from being pulled off and falling behind the wheel, and it also makes for much easier fitting. It's important to have an open mesh, otherwise powder snow will bulk up inside the sock and probably pull it off the wheel. The mesh facing is therefore a very important part of the design, but unfortunately it's not a cheap component.
Some copies look as if they are made from black lawn-mower grass-catching material; they are! This is a knitted material (not woven) and as such it will unravel quickly when it starts to wear out, quite apart from its rot-resisting coating which reduces its dry friction capabilities.
Other copies include elastic on the road contact surface, intended to hold the fabric against the face of the tyre and therefore get around AutoSock's patent. This highlights a fundamental misunderstanding – the sock needs to be free to move around the rotating wheel to minimise the fabric wear rate. An AutoSock will typically rotate once around the tyre for every eight rotations of the wheel.
Some brands claim to have a TÜV approval – which some do, but not for their snow socks!
Most of the copies are sold on price, and many are much cheaper than AutoSock could possibly make them for, bearing in mind that AutoSock use bespoke materials and their labour force is paid a living wage in the countries of manufacture.
All things considered, AutoSock and their competitors are ‘chalk and cheese’. AutoSock allow our fleet buyers to tick all the boxes for both social responsibility and environmental responsibility (certificates can be provided on request), as well as product liability, and they’re also best value overall because of their better performance and wear rate.
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!