Last year we tested two winter traction products claimed to offer added grip on snow and ice. Those products, Tyre Grip, a spray applied to your tires, and AutoSock, a cloth cover product placed over the tire, both offered some added grip but each had its limitations. (See Tyre Grip and AutoSock test video.) Since then we purchased another product based on a request from one of our forum readers called Snobootz. (The Tire Talk forum is available to online subscribers.)
The Snobootz system consists of a coated-fabric material that is wrapped around the drive tires on a car, then fastened end-to-end with a Velcro strip. The tread portion of the fabric has rubber pads embedded with steel cleats. The Snobootz system is marketed as an alternative to using snow chains, providing easier installation and a smoother ride. The ‘Bootz also weigh much less than snow chains, making them more user friendly according to the manufacturer’s literature. We did not compare them to snow chains, but did run them head-to-head with the AutoSock in an acceleration test on packed snow.
How to purchase: Simple – just go to snobootz.com. We paid $249.95 for ours. They were tailor-made to fit P215/60R16 tires on our 2009 Chevrolet Malibu. Snobootz are available to fit most popular sizes – there’s a size chart on the Web site.
Installation: Not so simple, even with fairly well-detailed instructions. The Snobootz have V-shaped rubber pads, making them directional, so it’s necessary to install them with the arrow shown on the side of the ‘Bootz going in the proper direction of rotation. We followed the installation instructions on a 25-degree day, which made the coated-fabric very stiff and difficult to slip and fasten tightly around the tire. Tight clearance between the tire and wheel-well of our Chevrolet Malibu made it more of a chore to install, as well. After wrestling with them we finally got a snug fit by securing the Snobootz around the tires on our indoor lift, a luxury most consumers won’t have.
Performance: Our first test was climbing a hill covered with soft snow. Frankly, the results were a bit disappointing. The Snobootz faired no better than our unaided car tires -- a new set of Dunlop SP60 all-seasons. Like the all-season tires, the Snobootz tended to dig themselves into a hole when trying to get through over six inches of snow. Next we decided to evaluate their tractive grip on hard packed snow and ice using our GPS-instrumented car. For this, we compared how short a distance it took to accelerate from 5 to 20 mph on groomed, level snow course and we compared the distances between Snobootz, the AutoSock, and the all-season Dunlop tires. Here, the Snobootz system shined, accelerating to 20 mph in just 56.9 feet. It took another 8.1 feet for the AutoSock and 13.80 feet for our bare Dunlops to reach the same speed.
Bottom line: The Snobootz works well on hard packed snow and icy surfaces. They do claw and bite, delivering impressive grip on these types of surfaces. But if it’s soft snow traction you need, leave the Snobootz in the car’s trunk. The AutoSock is a better alternative on shallow depth, soft snow. As for installation, it’s debatable if Snobootz are easier to install than snow chains. However, the Snobootz do need less clearance than snow chains, so they could be a good alternative for cars with limited wheel-well clearance. The pair of Snobootz comes with a travel bag and is relatively light to carry and stow in the car; they offer the means for getting out of a relatively shallow—but very slippery—jam.