Thule Easy-fit tire chains on the WildSnow green-mobile. Substitute for agro snow-tired pickup with a winch? Close. (Click all images to enlarge).
Put your tire chains on in 12 seconds? That’s what Thule claims you can do with their Easy-fit version of the time honored traction device. I’m here to tell you that 12 seconds might be a little optimistic in real world conditions. Still, after a couple of practice sessions, getting these things wrapped around your meats in a minute per wheel is not an unreasonable expectation. Check ’em out.
This may look nearly as scary as a conventional tire chain you pull out in a tangled pile, but these are different. Thule chains in nice case with easy to follow directions. And they don't seem to tangle.
Thule ready to install on Nissan Versa for backcountry skiing access. Basically, you slip the hoop over the tire so it's around the inside, with the thin cable down at the bottom slipping under the tire as much as you can get it to. Once the cable is started under the tire, the rest is nearly automatic. Quite amazing to watch, really. Sure, some readers might have used 'hoop' chains that facilitate wrapping the tire, but these go beyond that basic step.
Only my second time, it took me a bit of fiddling to figure out exactly how to get the hoop applied inside, and the thin red cable worked in under the tire's contact patch. A few times later, I had it totally down.
Here I've got the hoop behind the tire, and am getting the cable located underneath. This is all happening in mere seconds.
Next, you fold out a small step and stomp on it. This is where the tricky engineering is. Your stomp tensions a spring inside the metal rail. When you drive away you hear a satisfying series of clicks as the spring pulls the small red cable around behind the tire and everything tensions properly. In our view, it was necessary to drive a few hundred feet then get out and inspect the install. Chains that come of your tires do bad things to inconsequential parts such as your brake lines, so good to be careful.
Stomped down, tensioned, and ready to drive.
The one question, how will the tensioning system hold up in a rut or trench? Jury out on that, but if you watch where you're going you should be ok. Besides, small econo cars have so little ground clearance you don't want to be jabbing ruts anyway. These chains would work on a more beefy vehicle such as a Subaru, however, so consider how they'd behave in ruts before you max your credit card. These things are expensive, so they need to be useful. (Click all images to enlarge.)
Other features and concerns regarding Thule Easy-fit tire chains: An attempt is made at rim protection, though we suspect you’ll still create some blems if you ram your chained tires into tight ruts. Ditto for the tensioning system, which could be damaged if you encounter the type of deep icy trenches that occur on roads that don’t get a lot of snow plowing. Removing the chains is easy. You press small red tabs, tension releases. If you’re on snowpack you can sometimes drag the chain completely off without moving the vehicle, by slipping the thin cable out from under the tire as you pull the chains off (requires positioning by driver). On harder surfaces, you get everything to the outside except the cable, then have the driver move a few feet. The chain easily comes off after that. Whatever the case, with a small amount of experience removal literally does take seconds. Another downside is price, but if you challenge your Prius or other Euro scooter to reach back road trailheads, Easy-fit chains could change your life.