In many cases, snow tires are enough to help your vehicle travel safely in frigid conditions. However, in the most severe winter weather, you may need to use snow chains.
Relative to snow tires, snow chains provide better traction on ice, deep snow ,and snow that’s tightly packed. Also, you can easily add and remove them yourself, so you can use them temporarily if you’re facing a particularly challenging stretch of road.
If you drive in wintry conditions, it’s good to know how to put on snow chains. Below, we provide some guidance.
Shopping for Snow Chains
Before buying snow chains, check your car’s owner’s manual to see if there are any restrictions regarding these products. In some cars, there isn’t enough clearance between the tires and the wheels to accommodate snow chains. If chains are installed on these vehicles, they could cause serious damage.
If your vehicle can handle snow chains, you’ll need to pick an appropriate size. Check your tire’s sidewall to determine the size of your tires. Next, select snow chains that match your tire size. The page or packaging will include this information.
Finally, figure out how many chains you want to buy. At the very least, front-wheel-drive cars need chains on the front tires, and rear-wheel-drive cars need chains on the back tires; also, with both types of vehicles, you may choose to install chains on all four wheels. All-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive vehicles need chains on all four tires for the best results.
How to Install Snow Chains
1. Start by parking on a firm, flat surface, away from traffic. Make sure the vehicle is in Park, and engage the parking brake.
2. Unpack each chain, and roll it out beside the tire you’ll be working on. Position each chain so it lies straight and flat, parallel to the tire, with no bends or twists.
3. Drape each chain over the top of each tire. Take care to ensure that the chains hang evenly. If the chains you’re using have sharp hooks, make sure they point away from the tire.
4. Connect one end of each chain to the other using the provided fastening mechanism.
5. Drive forward a little to expose the portion of the tire that’s been touching the pavement. Make sure to put the vehicle in park and activate the parking brake once again when you’re done.
6. Cover this last portion of the tire with the chains, and make final connections.
7. Repeat this process with all the tires.
8. Once all the chains are secured in place, drive forward about 100 feet or so. Then tighten the chains.
This process may take a bit longer the first few times you do it, but after more practice, you’ll be able to get them on in just a few minutes and the difference in traction will be noticeable instantly.
How to Remove Snow Chains
Removing snow chains is even easier than putting them on — you basically detach the fasteners and drive out of them:
1. Disconnect the chains from inside the wheel.
2. Pull the chains away from the tire. Lay them as flat as possible
3. Drive forward slowly until the tires have cleared the chains.
4. Collect the chains and store them.
Final Tips for Snow Chain Use
Be sure to remove the chains once you’ve reached clear roads that are free of snow and ice. These chains alter the smooth rolling surface of your tire to dig deeper into ice and snow. Because of this, they can wear your tire prematurely, damage the road surface and significantly reduce your fuel economy. Though the manufacturer’s instructions get the final say on speed, you really shouldn’t travel faster than about 30 miles per hour with them on. Remember, chains are for traversing only the most unforgiving terrain — not for winter cruising — so don’t keep your chains on longer than necessary.
Now you know how to install and remove these useful, affordable tools that don’t take up much space. Investing in a set may help you drive safely one wintry day.
Check out all the tires, wheels and accessories available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on how to put on snow chains, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
Photos courtesy of Pixabay.
I'm a writer and editor who's a regular contributor with the New York Daily News and Carfax, and my content has appeared in over 20 publications. I've written content that covers industries such as automotive, medical, insurance, healthcare, real estate, plumbing, pest control, dental and hospitality.