Dec 16 2013

Review: Thule’s EasyFit Tire Chains


Thule's EasyFit chains - no belly aching necessary.

Thule’s EasyFit chains – no belly aching necessary.

Last winter I was introduced to Thule’s Easy-Fit Tire Chains. The idea sounds almost too good to be true. Even if the voluptuously enticing YouTube video of a bikini clad lass putting them on makes you wonder if they’re trying to pull one over on you, that same video evidence shows that they are easy to put on.

So I tried ‘em myself – the chains that is. Not in nasty conditions, but in real conditions, when I was running late and needed to get the rig out of the driveway and in to work with a minimum of tardiness. Of course, being rushed they were a bit harder to put on the third time than the second time for the camera. This time each second counted and in spite of the natural ability for the chains to snag a bit from each chain spinning in opposite directions, it untangled equally easy with a quick shake of the tensioning bar or pulling on successive ends of the magic hoop on the inside of the tire.

A cable running through the hoop on the inside sidewalls of the tire makes all "go."

A cable running through the hoop on the inside sidewalls of the tire makes all “go.”

It works by using a length of cable that is tightened around the back of the tire, through a circular hoop that doesn’t quite cover 360 degrees, more like 320. It opens wide, with the cable running inside the hoop and once it is around the back, you step on the tensioning bar and it takes up the slack in the cable, snugging it tight around the inside of the tire. Ingenious.

Needless to say, I can confirm it works as easily as the PR video suggests. Even though I was running a tad late, I still managed to get both chains on in less than 3 minutes, maybe only 2, but I didn’t use a stop watch to confirm or deny that claim. Either way, pretty darn fast and I didn’t have to lay down to tie the links on the inside which is the most welcome feature of these chains. Even if it took twice as long, not having to crawl on your belly is what earns these chains their steep price.

Is there a flaw? Indeed, there may be. In super cold weather don’t leave them on any longer than you need to, lest the cable that holds the chains taught freezes and won’t let go. I left mine on overnight while the temps dropped to -20° F (-29° C), and only rose to 0° F (-18° C) the following day. In the event that does happen, the design engineers recommend unlocking them and driving on dry pavement until they loosen, usually within a mile. I loosened mine and they stayed tight through a mile-plus of snow covered road, but finally loosened about a mile after I hit dry pavement. The dry pavement seems to be important in this case.

What I can’t confirm yet is the long term durability of the chain links. If anything, this is probably the weak link in the design because each chain link is fairly small, about ¾ to half the gauge of beefier, cheaper, and frustratingly difficult to install variety.

Due to the obvious lack of heft in the size of chain links, don’t plan on driving great distances on pavement. As soon as the snow is less thick than the chains, pull ‘em and save ‘em for when you really need ‘em – either deep snow, or the chain-check police.

EasyFit fits in a thin, easy to store ballistic cloth case.

EasyFit fits in a thin, easy to store ballistic cloth case.

Spend one night in the middle of a storm on I-80 coming up with the crowds from the Bay Area in a two-wheeler and the $450 price tag will sound like a convenience worth paying for. Not as convenient as having an AWD rice burner, but if you’re stuck with a 2WD car and NEED to get through chain-check without joining Team Touron, this is more economical than buying a new car.

Easy-Fit Chains
MSRP: $450

By the way, this isn’t the only tire chain design that Thule makes. There is a lower cost version made, the CS-10, which is only $220/set, still pricier than the dirtbag $60 variety. They don’t look as easy as the Easy-Fit chains, but their claim of being the only snow chain with an automatic removal system deserves a closer look, especially after experiencing the phenonmenon of not being able to loosen chains that had frozen on. These chains look like you might need to crawl a bit, but nothing like classic chains.

CS-10 Chains
MSRP: $220

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© 2013