How to Put Snow Chains on Tires
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If you live in an area with regular snowfall, icy roads, or both, it’s a good idea to get familiar with putting on snow chains before you actually need them. And while that can seem like a daunting and complex process, snow chains are much easier to install than they used to be.
But before we get into the details, don’t forget that roadside assistance is just as important to have on the road, whether in sunshine or snow. Even if your car insurance carrier doesn’t provide it, you can still find great roadside assistance with Jerry, at only $6.99 per car.
Continue reading on to learn more about how to put snow chains on tires.
Before the snow falls
Don’t wait for conditions to become hazardous before you learn how to put on chains. Even after you’ve learned how to put snow chains on properly, it’s a good idea to practice until you can do it quickly.
Road conditions can quickly become dangerous, and the roadside is never the ideal place for automotive work, particularly in the dark or in cold weather. Being able to install chains quickly will reduce the amount of time you’ll have to spend in potentially dangerous conditions.
This will also give you the chance to make sure the chains are the right size, so you can replace them if you need to. Your tires are marked with a set of numbers that detail the tire’s width, height ratio, and diameter, which you’ll need when finding the right chains.
If you’re unsure about which snow chains to buy, ask a mechanic or associate for help.
Prepare an emergency kit
If you don’t already have an emergency kit in your car, it’s a good idea to prepare one that includes items that make putting on snow chains easier.
Your kit should include items like:
- Batteries or a portable charger
- Bottled water
- Warm, waterproof clothes
- Nonperishable food (nuts, beef jerky, granola bars)
- Road flares
- Tire chains
If you already have a kit prepared, regularly check to ensure the batteries are within their expiration date, that the portable charger is fully charged, and that the flashlight is fully functional.
Key Takeaway Get familiar with how to put snow chains on before winter weather conditions settle in.
Installing tire chains
In any situation where you’re installing chains, make sure you’re as safe and visible as possible.
Pull over as far off the road as you can and make sure that your car is as visible as possible. Avoid wearing dark colors that can obscure you. Put the car in park, and engage the emergency brake.
Make sure you know your car’s drivetrain and chain recommendations—if your car is a front-wheel drive, only the front tires need chains.
Similarly, only the rear tires need chains if the car is rear-wheel drive.
If your car is four-wheel or all-wheel drive, consult your car’s owner’s manual.
Take out the chains and instructions
Chains come in sets of two per bag and you’ll want to remove one set from the package and install it before removing the next one. Use the plastic sheet they come with to help keep you protected from the snow.
Lay the chains out
Lay the chains out and examine their features. Each chain comes with a cable that is color-coded.
Take the yellow end in your left hand and the blue in your right and make sure the hooks connecting the chains to the cable are facing away from you. Inspect the chains to make sure they’re not tangled.
Lay the chains on the ground and maneuver them behind the tire by the cable, yellow side first, until they’re centered behind the tire.
Connect the cable
Lift the cable up from both ends behind the tire and raise it up and forward over the tire. You should feel the chains against the tire’s axle.
Pull the chains forward and drape them over the tire so that you can bring both ends of the cable together. Slide one end into the other and pull to connect.
Connect the red hooks
Directly across from where the cables connect, you should spot a red hook. Take the hook and connect it to the first gold link in the chain to the hook’s left.
Push the connected chain over the tire, so that it forms a diamond-shaped pattern with a center chain connecting each diamond running down the center of the tire.
Find the second red hook at the bottom of the tire and repeat, connecting to the first gold link to the hook’s left.
Connect the red chain along the bottom
At the bottom of the chains, you should see a red draw chain with a bungee on the right, and a chain guide on the left. Pull these forward and towards yourself.
Thread the red chain through the chain guide and pull as tightly as you can until one of the links locks into the chain guide’s notch. Don’t use the bungee to pull—once the chain has locked, pull the bungee end through one or both of the red loops and secure it to a link in the gold chain opposite to lock everything in place.
Repeat and drive forward.
Repeat the process on the other side. Once the chains are in place, get back in the car and drive it forward slowly for fifteen feet (or one car length). This will give the chains a chance to settle into place.
Re-tighten the chains
If there’s any slack in the chains, unhook the rubber end of the chain and pull to tighten. Thread the red chains back through the loops and reattach them to one of the gold chain links.
Once the chains are installed, drive at a maximum of 25 mph—any faster can damage the chains or your vehicle.
Listen for the sound of slapping metal or any loose metal contact. Ill-fitting or broken chains can wrap around your tire’s axle and cause massive damage.
Avoid any sudden braking or accelerating if at all possible. And keep in mind that chains are not meant to be driven on bare pavement.
Once you’re on road conditions that don’t require chains, pull over to remove them. Once again, make sure you’re in a safe area before you start, with the car in park and the emergency brake engaged.
First, unhook the bungee and red chain. Unhook the chains in reverse order, disconnecting the cable last. Lay the chains down flat.
Drive the car forward a few feet to disengage them from the chains.
Once your trip is over, inspect the chains for any damage. Dry them off before you store them, to prevent rusting.
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Do you put snow chains on all four tires?
No. Chains should only go on two tires. For front-wheel drive, chains should go on the front two tires. Similarly, chains should go on the back two tires for rear-wheel drive.
For all-wheel or 4-wheel drive, consult your car’s user manual to determine where the chains should be installed.
Is it easy to put on snow chains?
Putting on chains is much easier now than it used to be, but there are still a number of steps you need to take, so it’s prudent to practice until you get it right before you take your car out in the snow.
Do snow chains ruin tires?
They can, if they’re used or installed improperly. The hooks connecting the chains to the cable must face in the correct direction. Loose chains can wrap around axles or other components and damage them, often catastrophically.
Cars wearing chains must be driven slowly, under 25 mph, without any sudden braking or accelerating, if possible.
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