How to: Put on Snow Chains and Drive Safely
If you travel to the mountains or snowy areas regularly, sooner or later you’re going to have to use tire chains. Start by getting the right set for your vehicle at your local Les Schwab.
Quick-fit chains are not your grandpa’s tire chains. They are MUCH simpler to put on and take off. Here are a video, step-by-step instructions, and driving safety tips for installing quick-fit tire chains on your vehicle.
When you need chains, driving conditions are nasty. Snow is coming down, passing traffic is spraying slush, dirty water is dripping off your wheel wells, the road is slick, and it may be dark. Don’t make this the first time you put on your chains.
Practice installing your new chains once BEFORE you travel. Take advantage of a dry garage or driveway to make sure your winter tire chains are the right size and you’re comfortable putting them on. If needed, the professionals at Les Schwab Tire Centers can help.
Put together a simple winter road trip safety kit with warm gloves, waterproof layers, and other items to make your winter driving more safe and comfortable. In the winter, always carry this emergency kit and tire chains in your vehicle.
Once you’re comfortable installing your chains, you’re ready to hit the snow.
Be Safe. If you’re on the road, pull off as far as possible onto a safe shoulder. Flip on your hazard lights. Put on your waterproof layers, hat, headlamp, and gloves from your winter road trip kit.
Identify the Correct Tires. If your vehicle is front-wheel drive, the chains go on the front. If it’s rear-wheel drive, chains go on the back. If it’s all-wheel drive, please check your owner’s manual. If you’re not sure, you can ask the experts at Les Schwab for help.
- Pull Out Chains Instructions. With your vehicle parked, open the bag and pull out your instructions and your first chain. Each bag comes with two chains. The plastic instruction mat that comes with your chains can be used as a barrier between you and the snow to keep you dry. Untangle Your Chains. Holding them from the plastic-covered cable, make sure everything is straight and the chains are not looped over one another. Hold up your chains so the yellow end is in your left hand and the blue end is in your right.
When Should You Use Tire Chains?
Few feelings equal that panicked moment when your vehicle loses traction on an icy, snow-packed road. You feel that sideways drift start to influence the car. You feel less and less control in the shuddering steering wheel. You feel the car fighting against it. You do your best to compensate, perhaps making the right decisions, perhaps making the wrong ones. Your safety is up in the air for that moment. And to think it could be solved by simply applying tire chains.
Most who know that moment also know the overwhelming sense of relief when it passes, when you regain control over your vehicle. You slow down by instinct even without thinking about it. You become hyper-alert. Maybe you flick your lights on even if it's daytime and the sun is out. Whatever adds to your safety in even the smallest way is now of paramount importance.
Some don't know that sense of relief because they never regained control. They ended up in a crash, perhaps stranded for a time in a snowstorm, perhaps injured or worse. The most important way to decrease this risk is to drive safely and cautiously in bad conditions. Keeping your car in good condition and well maintained is also important. The third element of safe winter driving is your tires. Depending on state law, you must consider: winter tires, studded tires, and the most effective of all – using tire chains.
Tire chains are chains that you secure around your tires. They're designed to take advantage of the weight of your car to dig into the snow and ice as you drive. There's a learning curve to putting on the chains for the first time, but once you've got the process down, it becomes very easy.
To imagine how they work, picture gardening. You pull a weed with smooth leaves, but you lose your grip. The weed slides right out of your hand. Now picture pulling that same weed with rough-surfaced gardening gloves on. That texture makes it much easier to get the weed up.
Alternately, picture catching a football. Try it with your bare hands and a hard pass might slip through your fingers. Use textured wide receiver gloves and the ball just about stops in your hands because you have so much more grip. Using tire chains gives you grip. You won't be prone to slide or slip on the road with them.
How do tire chains work?
Tire chains are used to help vehicles get through especially heavy or dense snow on the road. Usually tire chains are used in mountainous areas that see a lot of snow throughout the winter. So how do they work? It’s actually pretty simple. Traction and wheel spin are the two factors at play here.
Tire chains wrap around the tread of the tires and latch tightly to prevent them from slipping. Basically, they allow the tires to get a better grip on snow and ice covered roads, giving the vehicle more traction and better control. Different size chains are manufactured for different tire sizes, so make sure to get the right size. Using the wrong size tire chains can damage your tires.
In addition to gaining traction by biting into the snowy surface, tire chains also increase traction by preventing wheel spin. Wheel spin happens when the force delivered to the tire tread via the engine is greater than the tread-to-surface friction available, which makes the tires lose traction.
Tire chains are very useful for driving through the snow, but they do carry certain restrictions. You shouldn’t go faster than 30pmh when driving with tire chains. In addition, driving on bare asphalt with tire chains can shorten their lifespan.
Things About Tire Chains while Driving Truck on Winter Snow
1. Keep to a Safe Speed
Tire chains are only intended to withstand a certain amount of punishment. Drivers should never exceed speeds of 30 mph when chained. Going any faster could cause chains to break while in motion. This could be dangerous for drivers and vehicles alike.
2. Avoid Bare Pavement
Tire chains do not hold up well against bare pavement either. So while there may be some instances when it’s necessary to drive short distances on bare pavement, the practice should be avoided as much as possible. As soon as a driver gets through the area of snow-covered roads, he or she should find a place to pull off and remove the chains.
3. Chains Slip-on Pavement
Something else to note about chains is they tend to slip on bare pavement. If a driver is braking on the bare pavement while still chained up, he/she has to be more gentle in the process. It is very easy to lock up the wheels and slide on chains. On the other end, hitting the gas too aggressively could cause the drive wheels to spin on bare pavement. Drivers should accelerate slowly.
4. Routine Inspections Are Necessary
Truckers will naturally tighten their chains when first deploying them. However, it is generally recommended that chains be inspected and re-tightened at regular intervals. Chains will loosen as the miles roll by, making them subject to breakage.
5. Chained Tighteners Can Cause Problems
Chain tightening devices have a tendency to pull chains off-center if they are not used the right way. A driver who is not intimately familiar with how to use such a device should avoid doing so. There are other ways to effectively tighten chains.
6. State Regulations for Using Tire Chains
Nearly every state in the union has some sort of regulations in place pertaining to tire chains. Truck drivers should make themselves familiar with those regulations in any state where they plan to work during the winter months. Running afoul of the regulations could result in a citation.
Along those same lines, there are a few key regions in the U.S. where chains are mandatory during the winter. Must know about trucking chain laws by state in the USA. In some of these regions, truckers will find chains at highway department chain banks. A word to the wise though: drivers should not rely solely on chain banks to meet their needs. If no chains are available when a driver reaches the start of a mandatory chain area, he or she will have to wait until a set is available.
Winter Driving: When Should You Use Tire Chains For Cars?
Losing traction in the snow is no one’s idea of a good time. Even in areas not known for abysmal snowstorms, winter can create icy and hazardous road conditions that drivers must be prepared to deal with. Adding tire chains for cars can be a workable solution to get you where you need to go when the roads are not your friend — but they can also be a pain.
Knowing when to employ chains can help you get out of a slippery situation, but you have to know what you’re doing first.
Different laws regulate chain usage in different states. Before you invest in a shiny new pair, make sure you know whether chains are illegal, permitted or even required in some cases. Generally, a chain “requirement” means you must have them in your vehicle if you want to pass certain checkpoints that pop up in inclement weather. Places where chains are permitted usually come with some disclaimer that restrict their usage, so make sure you know the law and follow it.
The other important factor to consider is whether your vehicle is suitable for chains. You can find chains for most tire sizes, but there must be enough clearance for them to fit on without causing damage to the body, undercarriage or brakes. Consult your owner’s manual for specifications and allowances.