Losing control of your vehicle due to snow and ice can cause you to see your life flash before your eyes. However, a set of tire chains can help you avoid these white-knuckle situations while driving.
Today, we’ll dive into why and when you should carry tire chains. Buckle up, and we’ll get started.
What Are Tire Chains?
Tire chains, or snow chains, fit around a tire to add traction in snowy and icy conditions. The chains use the vehicle’s weight to push them down into the snow and ice. While you can’t travel quickly with them on your tires, they can help you keep moving in conditions where your normal tires will not make any progress.
What Does Putting Chains on Tires Do?
Putting chains on your tires drastically increases the traction between the tires and the road surface. The chains dig into softer ice and snow surfaces. They help improve the tread and avoid slippage, which can cause a dangerous and potentially deadly situation.
Tire chains are essential and even required for traveling through some sections of the country in the winter. If you’ve ever driven through steep mountain passes, you’ve likely seen the warning signs for drivers to carry chains.
They are extremely effective at improving road safety. You don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you need them and don’t have them.
How Do I Know If My Car Needs Snow Chains?
Some parts of the country require drivers to use or carry chains during specific times of the year. You’ll find this typically in mountainous areas that frequently experience extreme snow and ice conditions.
Will law enforcement pull you over and check to see if you have them? No. However, if you find yourself stranded or in a situation where you need assistance, law enforcement will likely issue you a citation for not observing the requirement.
If you’re planning to spend a significant amount of time in an area that experiences extreme winter weather, you’ll need them. It doesn’t matter whether you have four-wheel drive or not — you should use snow chains in these situations.
Four-wheel drive on ice just means you’ll have four spinning tires without grip instead of two. Four-wheel drive also does not help in breaking. If your tires loose traction you will slip, chains can help slow your vehicles as well.
Pro Tip: Thinking of getting all-terrain tires? Before you do, learn more about the Pros and Cons of All-Terrain Tires and What They’re Actually Good For.
When Should You Use Tire Chains?
You should never use tire chains on bare pavement. This can cause damage to the road surface and cause issues for your tires. If driving on a road covered in snow and ice, chains can be extremely beneficial.
Many drivers make the mistake of waiting until it’s too late to use these safety devices. If you have them, use them. Don’t wait until you’re up to your fenders in snow or stuck in a ditch to pull them out. Let them do their job of keeping you and your vehicle on the road.
How to Use Chain-Up Areas
Now you know why you need them, but how do you use tire chains? You’ll often see chain-up areas along roads that experience extreme winter conditions and have drastic elevation changes.
These roadside pull-offs give space for drivers to pull over and install or remove their chains without worrying about their safety.
If you need to use these areas, be as efficient as possible. The process of installing chains on your tires can take several minutes.
While you don’t want to be in such a hurry that you make a mistake, you don’t want to try to figure out how to install them for the first time, either. It’s worth practicing ahead of time so you can chain up as quickly and easily as possible.
Do You Need Chains on All 4 Tires?
You ideally want to chain up all four tires. Only putting tires on a single axle of your vehicle can cause traction and steering issues. If you want to be as safe as possible, have chains for all four tires. If you have a four-wheel drive vehicle, you should use them on all four tires.
However, things happen, and you may only have enough for two of your tires. In these instances, place chains on the ones on your drive axle. These are the tires that will spin when you push on the accelerator.
Do Chains Ruin Your Tires?
When used properly, tire chains shouldn’t cause any damage to your tires. However, if you use them on dry surfaces or install them incorrectly, you can seriously damage your tires and the rest of your vehicle.
You must size your chains for your specific vehicle. They need to fit correctly, or they will cause more harm than good. If the chains come loose and flap, they can cause serious body damage.
Pro Tip: Apart from snow chains, make sure you have these Top 13 Winter Road Trip Essentials To Keep Your Holiday Travels Safe.
Can I Leave Snow Chains on Overnight?
While you should remove snow chains as soon as you finish driving, leaving them on overnight won’t cause any harm. This is especially true if you’ve parked in a parking lot with ice or snow overnight.
If you arrive at your destination and want to wait until morning to take them off, you don’t need to worry about causing any damage to your tires or vehicle.
Do Tire Chains Actually Work?
Yes, Tire chains are very effective at improving traction for drivers. Certain areas expect drivers to have them and use them because of their effectiveness. Driving without chains on snow and icy roads can be extremely dangerous, especially on mountainous grades. If you plan to drive in one of these areas regularly, do yourself a favor and get a set of tire chains for each vehicle and know how to use them.
Do you use tire chains? Tell us about your experience in the comments!
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Wednesday 4th of January 2023
Something you should also consider if you pull a trailer in snowy conditions: If the weather is bad enough to force you to chain your tow vehicle you should also have a set for your trailer/5th wheel. Commonly referred to as "drag chains," these will help you keep your trailer behind you when coming downhill off a mountain pass. The best traction in the world on your tow vehicle can do little or nothing to stop a heavy trailer with effectively no brakes on ice and snow.
Sunday 1st of January 2023
Being from northern New England, I always carry a set of tire chains for both the RV and the Toad. You don't use chains to continue if conditions get bad, you use chains to get you OUT of conditions that are hazardous back to safety!
Wednesday 28th of December 2022
On I 5 and I 80.in California there are check stations to make sure you have chains when the passes are bad. If you don't have chains they do not let you go any further
Wednesday 28th of December 2022
In actuality, snow socks are superior to tire chains ... cheaper ... easier to install. Try 'em after you check out this YouTube test! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NpMmu0AliG0&list=LL&index=66
Wednesday 28th of December 2022
Having sold tire chains for over 45 years, if you travel in the winter, they are a must have. Living close to Yosemite National Park, it is required by the Park to have them in your possession between the months of November and March. This is a Federal requirement! And yes, law enforcement will require you to show them that you have them even if not required installation. Carry them and be safe.