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How To Put Chains on Tires

how to put chains on tires

Putting Chains on Tires Is a Simple Task for DIY Mechanics. Here’s How To Put Chains on Tires.

  • DIY Difficulty Level: Beginner
  • Time Required: 30 minutes
  • Tools & Materials: Quick-fit snow chains

What Is Putting Chains on Tires?

Putting chains on tires is the process of installing snow chains over a vehicle’s tires. If you want to learn how to put chains on tires, this guide will be helpful, as it features all of the steps that you’ll need to take, plus plenty of useful tips. Winter tires are extremely beneficial in cold weather conditions, but they aren’t always enough to boost a driver’s peace of mind on the road. Some areas, particularly high-altitude mountainous areas such as California or Colorado, require you to carry and use tire chains between certain dates during the winter months. Tire chains add another layer of protection, biting through slick ice to create more grip. When you review this step-by-step guide, you’ll know exactly what to do.

Is It Safe to Drive Without Chains on Tires?

In most situations, it is safe to drive without putting chains on tires. In many cases, winter tires will provide enough grip to keep drivers and any passengers safe. If you do run into trouble on the road, the United States Department of Transportation recommends that you stay with your vehicle and display colorful markers to attract help from passersby. When weather conditions are very harsh and the roads are slippery, knowing how to put chains on tires will come in handy. Prevention is the best defense against problems.

Usually, drivers put chains on their vehicles when there is ice or snow on roadways. Unless these conditions are present, it’s best to skip the tire chains, as using them on pavement that doesn’t have an ice and/or snow layer actually reduces traction and may damage tires and/or asphalt. Mountainous areas often provide places to pull over and install or remove chains before and after a steep climb or descent. Generally, drivers put tire chains on their vehicles when they need to, and then remove them as soon as road conditions change for the better. This is a smart strategy.

How It’s Done

Step One: Read the Tire Chain Instructions

During this step, you should find and read the instructions that come with your snow chains. Most of these kits feature a couple of chains per box or bag, plus instructions that are printed on a piece of plastic. You can utilize this plastic to protect yourself from any snow and ice as you add tire chains. Read the instructions carefully, as they should help you follow the upcoming steps.

Step Two: Find a Safe Spot to Practice

It’s best to get familiar with how to put chains on tires before you need to do so during icy and snowy weather conditions. It’s advisable to go through the steps in a home garage or another spot that is away from traffic.

When installing chains on the side of the road, be sure that you are on the shoulder, where it’s safer, with your hazard lights switched on. If it’s dark, use a headlamp to make the process of adding the snow chains easier. A regular flashlight might also be propped to provide illumination. Wear clothing that is warm enough to protect you from the elements, and then clear away any snow or ice from your vehicle’s tires.

Step Three: Prepare the Tire Chains

To prepare the snow chains, take them out of their packaging. If you own a front-wheel-drive vehicle, a chain should be rolled out beside each front wheel. If you drive an all-wheel automobile, you should roll out one tire chain beside each of the four tires. If you own a rear-wheel-drive vehicle, a chain should be rolled out beside each rear wheel, though you should consider using chains on your front wheels as well since they provide steering and braking control. Be careful while you are unrolling the chains to make sure that they don’t tangle. When they are unrolled, the chains should be straight. There should be an equal amount of tire chain showing ahead of and behind the tire.

Step Four: Hang the Snow Chains Over the Tires

Now, it’s time to drape each chain over the top of every tire that needs a chain. The hooks should point upward, rather than pointing at the tire’s rubber surface. Drape the chains evenly so that a similar amount of extra chain hangs over the sidewalls and tread designs.

Step Five: Start the Chain Connection Process

During this step, you should connect the two ends of the first chain connector. To do this, you’ll need to access the inner side of the tire by reaching under the automobile. Fasten the two ends and then tighten them by pulling almost all of the slack out of the chains. However, a little slack should remain, so it’s simpler to fasten the tire chain’s second connection.

Step Six: Fasten the Second Connection

For this step, you should access the outer side of the tire, and then fasten the chain’s other side to itself. When you’re done, look over all of the chains that you added, making sure that each one is evenly wrapped, with equal quantities of chain covering the inside and outside tire sidewalls. To finish this step, remove all slack from both sides of every chain, to make the connections as tight as possible.

Step Seven: Drive Ahead and Then Tighten the Chains

During the next step, you should drive forward a bit, stop, put the vehicle into park, and then get out and remove any slack from the chains once again. During this final step, you’ll ensure that the chains are tight enough to provide sufficient grip when you are driving. According to the American Highway Users Alliance, more than 1,300 people lose their lives due to winter automotive crashes (or on icy pavement) annually, so tire chains are an effective way to lower the risk. The same resource reports that there are about 116,800 accidents per year due to winter driving (and pavement) hazards.

Still Need Help?

Want an expert mechanic on speed dial who can walk you through DIY repairs and answer any questions? Call the FIXD Mechanic Hotline for unlimited access to our Master Mechanics Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-8 p.m.

Disclaimer: The guidelines in this article are general and not meant to replace instructions for your specific vehicle. Please consult your owner’s manual, repair guide, or a professional before attempting repairs.

FIXD Research Team

At FIXD, our mission is to make car ownership as simple, easy, and affordable as possible. Our research team utilizes the latest automotive data and insights to create tools and resources that help drivers get peace of mind and save money over the life of their car.

We’re here to help you simplify car care and save, so this post may contain affiliate links to help you do just that. If you click on a link and take action, we may earn a commission. However, the analysis and opinions expressed are our own.


About the Author

FIXD Research Team

FIXD Research Team

At FIXD, our mission is to make car ownership as simple, easy, and affordable as possible. Our research team utilizes the latest automotive data and insights to create tools and resources that help drivers get peace of mind and save money over the life of their car.

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