Washington state law requires  all motorists carry tire chains during winter. When “tire chains required” signs are posted, two-wheel drive vehicles are required to have chains on the drive wheels, even if they have approved snow tires. All-wheel drive vehicles with approved snow tires are usually exempt, but in severe conditions “tire chains required on all vehicles” may be posted. In this situation even AWD vehicles with approved snow tires are required to have tire chains on. So it’s important to always carry tire chains during winter.

Many modern vehicles have very little clearance between the tire and fender well, including our newly acquired pre-owned 2013 Tesla Model S. It’s important to follow manufacturers recommendations when choosing tire chains, to avoid damage to your vehicle. The chains Tesla recommends on their web site are pricey - $450. So I looked for alternatives.

I came across a page on the WSDOT web site listing legally-approved alternatives to tire chains (http://www.wsp.wa.gov/traveler/images/traction/alt_traction_device.pdf). The one approved for most vehicles was the Auto Sock. I had never heard of these before. They are a fabric wheel cover, similar to a wheel sun cover but enclosed all around the tire. They have a kevlar fabric over the tire tread. Checking on amazon.com and youtube.com, I found information about how they work, that they work very well on compact snow and ice, and that they are readily available. They have been used in Norway for over a decade. Comments mentioned checking the manufacturers web site to insure you order the correct size for your tire size. At around $100 (depending on size), and assuming I would rarely need “tire chains”, I decided to give them a try.

After confirming what size would fit, I ordered a pair on Amazon Smile (selecting NCWEDD, the parent organization of Plug-In NCW as my non-profit for Amazon to donate to) and received them in a few days.  

Jack Anderson and I tried them out on our snow covered driveway, over the stock all season radial tires. They were a little tight to get on and off, but significantly improved traction, so I felt comfortable using them.

A week later Anne and I travelled to the west side, over US 2, Stevens Pass. I prefer Stevens Pass over Blewett/Snoqualmie passes, not only because US 2 has L3 chargers along the way (essential during our Leaf days), but because I feel Blewett is poorly engineered and unsafe, and Snoqualmie has heavy truck traffic.  

While on the west side, with pass conditions deteriorating, we decided to get snow tires and were fortunate to find what we needed at a reasonable price at the Redmond Discount Tire store. With our newly installed snow tires, we headed back over Stevens Pass.  

Tire chains were required, so we installed our Auto Socks, but they were really hard to get on.  Our new snow tires were obviously slightly larger than our well worn summer tires. The Auto Socks worked great though! But when it came time to get them off, despite our best efforts, we could not get the off! We finally had to cut them off! Fortunately, a pair of sharp scissors did the job quickly.

As we were finishing cutting our Auto Socks off, a small sedan pulled up behind us in the “chains off” pullout, also with Auto Socks installed. The middle aged woman driver hopped out, wearing slippers, grabbed her Auto Socks with one hand and pulled them off! Obviously ours were the wrong size!

After returning home, I contacted Amazon and they authorized a return and refund - even though I told them the Auto Socks had been cut in half and were ruined! Impressive return policy!

I e-mailed the Auto Sock manufacturer in Norway and they assured me the size I had ordered was correct, but also suggested I try ordering the next larger size. I ordered the next larger size, through Amazon Smile, and they go on and come off much easier.

Even though we had a steep learning curve, I feel the Auto Sock is a great, legal, alternative to tire chains.

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