Overview Of Snow Chains For The 5th Gen 4Runner: What Are The Different Types & What Might Best Suit Your Needs
Snow chains are a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to asking if you need them. For most scenarios, a decent all-terrain tire, preferably one that is 3PMSF rated will get you by. If you live in an area with exceptionally harsh winters, maybe even dedicated snow tires for the season are enough. Some areas, like the California mountains, require you to at least have a set of chains onboard regardless of your vehicle type.
My dilemma is that I have mud-terrain tires, which are great off-road, but definitely have their pitfalls on the pavement, especially in the winter. In light of the recent nationwide storm and the unusually icy conditions that areas like the Pacific Northwest saw, I struggled to say the least. 99% of the time, I don’t have a problem with traction; but what about that remaining 1%?
Having a snow traction aid during that recent storm definitely would’ve helped. Hindsight is 20/20, so I went down the rabbit hole and started researching options.
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The Different Types Of Snow Chains
There are several different types of snow chains available. Listed below are the main types, ordered from most aggressive traction to least aggressive. With that also comes their comfortability in terms of driving with them installed. Two important designations that you should also note are whether a set is Class S compatible and whether the chains are suitable for off-road only use or mixed-use.
Class S compatibility is more important for cars and crossovers due to their limited clearance in wheel wells but if you want that extra peace of mind for your 4Runner in minimizing potential damage, then you may want this.
Most chains that are compatible with on-road use state not to exceed 30MPH, so keep that in mind as well.
V-Bar Chains (Ladder Pattern)
These types of snow chains are the most aggressive of the bunch. They literally have “V” shape steel cleats integrated into the chain links for maximum off-road traction. An important distinction here is that they are only intended for off-road use. If you try and use them on pavement, you’ll either cause massive damage to the road, your tires, or the chains themselves.
You’ll want to make sure that your wheel wells have plenty of clearance for these as well since they’re definitely not Class S compatible.
Square Link Chains (Ladder Pattern)
Image the V-Bar chains and take away the cleats, this is basically what square link chains are. They’re basically the old-school design that your parents or grandparents probably used before more modern designs came along.
Square link snow chains are excellent in deep snow and ice while also being able to operate on the pavement. However, I wouldn’t suggest that as the ride will be pretty harsh, especially with a ladder pattern. These types of chains are very heavy-duty and when used appropriately, should last a long time. Modern materials like manganese nickel alloy make them much more corrosion-resistant than steel chains. These types of chains are also not typically Class S compatible.
Twist Link Chains (Ladder Pattern)
Twist link snow chains are finally where we start to see an emphasis on pavement driving comfort. The twisted shape of the links means that they’re more comfortable to roll over than traditional square link chains.
The trade-off with twist link chains is in their ice traction. Since they’re less aggressive than square links, they don’t dig as deep into the ice. For urban roads, however, these types of snow chains should still offer solid traction. You can also use these off-road in milder conditions – maybe not two feet of snow, but enough to get you unstuck.
Think of twist link chains as the all-terrain tire equivalent of chains; great overall traction without being too off-road or on-road focused.
Small Square Link Chains (Cross Pattern)
These types of chains are what many consider the mildest type of “chains”. They’re essentially the same as square link chains but on a smaller scale. That means excellent traction on ice-covered roads without the jarring nature of large chain links. The cross pattern also means that you have constant chain-to-road contact, unlike the spaces between ladder pattern chains.
In theory, these types of chains should provide the best traction in urban settings and are even Class S compatible. If you want the traction of square link chains but don’t plan on taking your vehicle in extreme off-road conditions, these are a solid choice.
Cable Chains (Ladder Pattern)
Some people don’t consider cable chains to be “chains”. This is because these are, as the name implies, made of metal cables rather than chains. Cables are often the most common type of snow chain for passenger cars and crossovers because they are the most Class S friendly and are very lightweight. If catastrophic failure happens while driving, they’ll also cause the least amount of damage to your vehicle compared to the options above.
You can find cable chains in either a ladder or “zig-zag” style (which offers even more driving comfort). While they offer great traction in urban snow and ice situations, I wouldn’t recommend these for heavier trucks and SUVs. I’ve seen many mixed reviews regarding their durability against the weight of heavier vehicles.
Which Chains I Ended Up Choosing
After comparing the options, I ended up going with a set of diamond pattern square link chains (TC2327) from eTrailer – similar to the Peerless 0232805 Auto-Trac Light Truck/SUV Tire Traction Chains on Amazon. These seemed to strike the balance of traction to comfort that I was looking for. While not as aggressive as traditional twist link chains, they should still offer good traction on ice. More importantly, if I hit a section of road that is bare pavement, the transition won’t be too jarring.
Hitting bare pavement was my biggest concern with choosing chains. The dilemma with where my neighborhood is located is that I have a couple of miles worth of side roads that are seldom plowed. However, once I hit the main arterials, the road conditions may no longer warrant chains. I needed a traction aid that would allow me to comfortably drive far enough on the pavement to a spot where I could remove them. I’ve encountered this situation with traditional ladder-style chains and it was not pleasant.
I was pretty surprised with how easily and quickly these chains were installed. Despite them looking complicated, I got these onto each tire in about 5 minutes. Granted, I am familiar with how snow chains are typically installed. The most difficult part was tightening up the chains because they kept getting caught on my tire’s lugs.
The last ice storm definitely caught me off guard. I knew that my mud-terrain tires weren’t great for icy conditions, but I’ve never slid around quite that much – we’re talking about a solid sheet of ice on every single road.
I’m pretty confident that these small square link, cross-pattern chains will help immensely during the storm if needed. I’ve driven crossovers with cable-style “chains” in the past and those did great, so I have high expectations for these. I also plan on only running these on the rear tires, per Toyota’s recommendation. I have 285/70R17 tires with pretty limited clearance in the front wheel wells as is, so I won’t push my luck with chains there.
Of course, the best plan of action during an ice storm is to just stay home. However, sometimes situations necessitate venturing out so hopefully these will help me when I need them.