Dear Tom and Ray:
Do those clamp-on or strap-on devices that go on your tires help with winter driving traction? Or do they just clamp on my wallet? -- James
TOM: Sure, they can help. There are several different types of devices that can be used as temporary traction aids.
RAY: Consumer Reports tested a few of them, and the conclusion was that they can help, under certain situations, but they're not very easy to put on.
TOM: They tested one product called the AutoSock, which is a mesh sock that you slip over each tire, and the mesh gives you additional traction in certain conditions.
RAY: They tested it on a snow-covered hill in Vermont and found that with the AutoSock, they could get their Honda Accord to the top of the hill, which they couldn't do with just the all-season tires.
TOM: They also tested a set of temporary "tire chain-like" things called SnoBootz. With straps and Velcro, you attach these textured rubber pads to your tires, and the pads are supposed to dig into the snow and increase your grip.
RAY: Consumers found that in soft snow, SnoBootz were disappointing. They dug into the snow and got stuck, just like regular tires do. But on roads with packed snow, the SnoBootz were impressive and increased tire grip significantly.
TOM: The downside of these devices is that they're fairly expensive (the AutoSock is 100 bucks per pair of wheels, and the SnoBootz are $250 for four). While that's not quite equal to the price of four good snow tires (which will help you more than anything), it is a significant investment.