By on January 22, 2008

chain-tracks-in-snow.JPGI learned to drive in Philly in the winter. Although we were always warned to watch out for the dreaded black ice, the roads where I lived were plowed, salted and gently hilled. So there was little winter drama. The only slip sliding away in my ‘hood: Paul Simon’s doleful tune and the snow-covered mall parking lot where we went for late-night donuts. Flash forward to the winter of ‘07: a family vacation to the mountains of North Carolina in our rear drive Cadillac SRX. Before embarking, I glimpsed a warning on our cabin rental website: “four wheel-drive is a must.” Ch-ch-chains. Chains for fools. Or not.

Reviewing the Caddy's manual on the subject of winter traction devices advised me these automotive accoutrements had to come in the form of “s” class chains. The stricture is down to the SRX' passenger car roots; most “normal” cars can only accommodate s-chains in the [relatively] small spacing between the wheel and the body. So I started researching the “other” s-class. 

I learned there are three sub-categories of s-class chains. For under $125, you get your basic metal chain with complicated installation and manual tightening. In the $125 to $250 bracket, your money buys you more sophisticated chains with mounting tools and semi-automatic self tightening links. Finally, as befits an SRX, one can buy the Cadillac of chains: the $450 Spike-Spiders.

As an incorrigible Scrooge, I never would have paid this much money for chains, even if they were fashioned from gold. But my wife, who found these arachnid glorifying chains online, insisted. A week before the trip, we purchased them from the U.S. distributor at www.spikes-spider.com. The large box that arrived soon thereafter contained the "chains," the mounting plate and an enormous collection of nuts, bolts, spacers and clips.

mounting-plate.JPGThe instructions were a bit confusing and over-complicated. Yes sir, I’m here to tell you that there were not one but TWO– count ‘em TWO– separate methods for mounting the plate. 

At first, the instrux seemed to imply that all of the car’s lug nuts would have to be removed. After a bit of re-caffeination, I divined it was only three. I proceeded to mount the plate to each rear wheel. Deploying the handy dandy measuring tool included with my purchase, it appeared that my SRX’s didn’t need no stinkin’ spacers. So I boxed up the extras, put the chains in the carry bag (included) and slapped on the decorative cover.

We arrived in a snow-free North Caroline on the last Sunday of 2007. Our driveway was so steep it could have served as a V2 launch pad. I knew if it snowed we were in big trouble. Or, as I preferred to think of it, I’d have the perfect opportunity to justify my wife’s heinous expenditure.

Lo and behold, three days later, two plus inches of the white stuff fell upon the hills. I was ready to test the Spike-Spiders.

wheel-cover.JPGDespite following the instructions for measuring the spacers, I was 1.5” short. I called the company on the cell, hot breath steaming in the cold mountain air. Spike-Spider immediately blamed me for not testing the mounting before the trip. Only after I gave the company my FedEx number– MY FedEx number– did they agree to send me extra spacers. 

Stuck in the cabin, I watched my neighbors struggle with cheap chains. First, they tried the rear wheels and promptly wrapped them around the axle. I advised them that their car was propelled by the front wheels. An hour or so later they were off, dashing through the snow.

The new spacers arrived late Thursday– on a chainless FedEx truck. After remounting the plate, I installed the Spike-Spiders. I laid them over the wheel, twisted on the mounting bracket and voila! They automatically locked on as I drove. 

Once down the mountain and onto the main paved road, I stopped, took off the mounting bracket, pulled off the Spiders, drove three feet and put them back in the bag.  I could easily mount or dismount them in the time it takes to drum your fingers during a long red light.

chains-mounted.JPGOf course, the real test is how they performed as snow chains. The Spike-Spiders were extremely effective. The Swiss-made contraptions bit well on the snow and ice. In fact, in test panic stops, the SRX came to a halt nearly as well as it does on dry pavement. We climbed steep hills without slipping, with better control than the four wheel-drive vehicle we followed up one particularly steep snowy road.

When properly installed, the Spike-Spiders are a well-designed product that provide an effective solution for tough winter driving. The only negatives are the price, the lame-ass instructions, and the major geek factor the mounting plates project. Otherwise, you're good to snow.

[German language Spike-Spider video here .] 

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

14 Comments on “Spike-Spider Winter Traction Package Review...”


  • avatar
    tdoyle

    These would definately make my 2WD F150 safer to drive in the mess. A bit pricey, but they do indeed look well made.

  • avatar
    Slow_Joe_Crow

    These are very common on Saturns in Oregon, where chains are required in some areas, because the SL2s don’t have clearance for anything else.
    On my SL2 I got studded tires, which were actually cheaper, last winter, but I won’t bother this year, unless we plan a ski trip.

  • avatar
    PJungnitsch

    Looks nice, but seems like a lot of money for something I’d use maybe once a winter (cheap compared to getting a 4WD though!). I was thinking of ordering a pair of these for my 2WD truck:

    http://www.tirechain.com/emergency_strap_on_cars.htm

    Wonder if they would do the occasional job of getting the truck out of an unplowed driveway or similar.

  • avatar
    Larry P2

    This was a very very good review.

    I wonder on a national level just how much imported oil we could conserve if 95 percent of the people who buy useless gas-sucking SUVs would buy these things instead, and put them on standard sedans and minivans. My guess is that winter safety, fossil fuel use and the environment would all see drastic improvements.

    I have an abiding, unshakeable belief that the SUV fad is grounded in a obvious naked fraud: That these vehicles are somehow superior in winter driving. They clearly aren’t.

    It is good that TTAC reviews products likes these, but I would wish that they would go even further in puncturing the lies underneath the SUV craze.

  • avatar
    Austin Greene

    I just love your reviews Michael. I’ve read everyone of them and check for new ones every day! Shpikes Shpiders – das auspuff ich nicht tonen!

  • avatar
    Chaser

    I live in the mountains of NC, and our winters are a joke. Thanks to alternating freezing and warm days, though, we do develop ice easily. Actually an icy mountain road claimed my 02 Sentra Spec-V a few years ago. Guess I shouldn’t have been running performance summer tires, but it’s hard to justify the price and hassle of snow tires for the 8-10 days a year it actually snows.

  • avatar

    Chaser: The beauty of these is that you can leave the plate mounted and throw them on and off quickly. I could literally get them on in less than 60 seconds and off in thirty and that includes getting out of the car, and then driving forward, getting out again and putting them in the bag.

  • avatar
    Terry

    I’ll wait for the Chinese to make knockoffs of these, to be purchased at Harbor Freight for $39.95.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    Terry,

    A good plan if you only intend to use them a couple times each winter. Otherwise…

  • avatar
    Rix

    I bought these for my 95 saturn sl2 so I could go from San Francisco to Tahoe. They work and are easy to take on and off. They are far uglier than the photo when you see them in person, though.

  • avatar
    Airhen

    Larry P2 :
    January 24th, 2008 at 8:01 pm

    This was a very very good review.

    I wonder on a national level just how much imported oil we could conserve if 95 percent of the people who buy useless gas-sucking SUVs would buy these things instead, and put them on standard sedans and minivans. My guess is that winter safety, fossil fuel use and the environment would all see drastic improvements.

    I have an abiding, unshakeable belief that the SUV fad is grounded in a obvious naked fraud: That these vehicles are somehow superior in winter driving. They clearly aren’t.

    It is good that TTAC reviews products likes these, but I would wish that they would go even further in puncturing the lies underneath the SUV craze.

    Hey! Thanks for the love… as I love my SUVs! Personally I love to drive them off-road over where I tear up the environment where Spring flowers grow and little animals live. :D

    ANYWAY… that is a funny story. My first car was an RX-7 that I use to drive over the Rockies on ski trips. I always kept a set of cables. The tough part to install them was just getting down low enough in the snow to put them on. It was like driving a four-wheel drive sports car as long as the RX-7 didn’t have to plow the snow.

    However, I much prefer my gas-sucking SUVs. Just last night I put my wife’s Jeep in four-wheel drive by pulling a lever on ice covered roads to go fill it up with more cheap gas! It was so much easier then putting on chains!

  • avatar
    UGwagen

    I had the same issue with mounting… I was one short in terms of mounting configuration (though still mountable and difficult to remove). Still mounting & removing can be a pain to do. I might try the even more expensive RUD Centrax next year and sell my Spikes Spider, since prep work is a single lug nut adapter is supposedly extremely brainless to mount & dismount.

  • avatar
    mfrizzi


    I have been using tire chains for over 30 years so I feel really comfortable taking them off and putting them on. That said, I am pretty interested in these. They would make a good solution for my ex-wifes needs (don’t ask). Maybe I will pick these up for her…


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Authors

  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • Tycho de Feyter, China
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Faisal Ali Khan, India