With some places in the United States seeing around 125 inches of snow per year, it’s important to be prepared for snowy driving conditions during the winter months. In mountainous or extremely snowy areas, utilizing snow chains is sometimes the only way to keep your car moving.
While winter tires can provide you with traction, they often don’t give you enough to help you in deep snow or slippery situations.
If you’ve never used snow chains before, you might be wondering, “how do snow chains work?” Advanced preparation, practice, and the right equipment will increase your comfort and safety when driving in blizzard weather.
This guide will discuss the basics of tire chains and how you can install them.
What Are Tire Chains?
Tire chains are a chain system that’s designed to cover the wheel set-up or tire on your vehicle. When installed correctly, they provide you with better vehicle traction in the snow. Snow chains can also give you added traction when driving on frozen surfaces or ice.
There are several different designs of snow chains. One design wraps around the tire and is held together by tensioners. Another design covers the tire’s tread pattern and is mounted to the wheel.
How Do Snow Chains Work?
Snow chains can effectively dig into snow and frozen surfaces. The chains can grip the road and allow your wheels to rotate freely. Snow chains also help prevent your vehicle from skidding.
Keep in mind that when you have snow chains installed on your vehicle, you can’t drive at a high speed. Another thing to keep in mind is that you should always put them on your vehicle before you think they’re needed. When the roads start to get covered with snow, it’s always good practice to pull over and put on your chains.
Safety Measures to Practice With Snow Chains
Snow chains aren’t dangerous to put on. The thing you need to be mindful of is the other drivers and road conditions at the time.
After you put the snow chains on, test them before you head back out on the road. You want to ensure that there are no dangling or loose parts. This can result in the snow chains flying off and causing damage.
The ideal place to install snow chains is in a quiet parking lot, but that isn’t always the case. If you need to install them on the side of the road, pull over as far as you can. Put on your hazard lights so other drivers can see you, especially during a dangerous snowstorm.
Before you exit your vehicle, ensure that your parking brake is engaged. You want to prevent any dangerous movement or the car from rolling away.
How to Install Snow Chains
All you need to install snow chains are the chains themselves. You can also keep a roadside safety kit nearby with emergency reflectors for your protection. One thing you’ll need to check before you install the snow chains is which of your wheels are the driven wheels.
If your car is a front-wheel drive, the chains will go on the front wheels. Install rear-wheel-drive chains on the rear wheels of the vehicle. Four and all-wheel drive cars can utilize four snow chains.
Follow the below steps when installing snow chains on your vehicle:
- Place your vehicle in park with the parking brake engaged
- Take out your snow chains and individually inspect them for damage or tangles
- Lay the snow chains on the ground next to your vehicle’s wheels
- Drape the snow chains over the wheel
- Unravel the chain around the tire
- Tuck the ends underneath the tire to keep them in place
- Drive a few feet and slightly turn the wheel before exiting the vehicle
- Connect the ends of the snow chain using the anchor system
Before you start driving again, ensure that your chains are installed evenly. They should run straight around the tire sides. If they’re misaligned or loose, fix the issue before you start driving.
Next, drive about 100 feet. Check your snow chains again. If everything looks good, you’re ready to head back out onto the road.
How to Pick the Right Snow Chains
You should purchase snow chains before you head out on a snowy mountain road. There aren’t many places that sell snow chains or carry a full selection. You also can’t purchase snow chains where there is a chain checkpoint.
Most gas stations, big box stores, and tire shops sell snow chains. Look up your tire size in your vehicle’s manual so you get the right size.
As we mentioned before, you’ll only need two snow chains for your vehicle. The only exception is if you have an all- or four-wheel drive car.
What’s the Difference Between Snow Chains, Tires, and Cables?
Snow tires are designed for better performance and traction on snow and ice. In many scenarios, snow tires are all you need for driving on snowy roads. You often don’t need another traction device, like cables or chains.
Cables wrap around your vehicle’s tires like chains. They help your car grip the road when it’s icy or snowy.
Cables are more lightweight than chains and can be easier to install. However, cables don’t last as long as snow chains. They’re a good option if you don’t require them very often.
When to Install Snow Chains
The department of transportation where you’re driving will notify you when chains are required. You can check their website for road conditions before you start driving. There will also be a sign on the highway indicating that you need to put your chains on.
Do Snow Chains Ruin Tires?
Snow chains can damage your tires if they’re not installed improperly. They can also cause some damage if they contact the road.
Make sure that your snow chains are installed correctly. Only use them on roads that have a layer of ice or snow. Once the road is clear, take off the chains.
Practice Driving Safely in Snowy Conditions
Now that we’ve answered the question of, “how do snow chains work,” you’re ready to drive safely this winter. Driving with snow chains and moving slowly is key to remaining safe during inclement weather.
If your’e looking for a day to day winter driving solution to help improve your tire traction consider purchasing a set of a winter tires! Simply download the Treads App and we’ll send an installer to your home to swap on your winter tires for you!