How to Put Snow Chains on Your Tires

If you've purchased snow chains and don't know how to put them on your car (or you're just curious) don't worry! Here's how you do it.

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Time

An hour or less

Complexity

Beginner

Cost

Free

Introduction

Snow chains are metal or plastic coverings for vehicle tires, designed to improve traction when driving over ice or snow. Snow chains come in two main styles: link and cable, with manufacturers producing a wide variety of each. If you live in an area where driving through lots of snow is the norm, you should definitely own a set of tire chains. Although some details will vary depending on the type of chains you're installing, these basic steps apply to nearly all passenger vehicle snow chains.


Tools Required

  • Chain tensioner (depending on chain style)
  • Set of snow chains

Project step-by-step (6)

Step 1

Park in a Firm, Flat Area

  • Find a flat, firm spot to pull over once you determine snow chains are needed.
  • Be sure to choose a spot as far from traffic as possible.
    • Note: If you can't find a spot where the snow's been cleared, do your best to clear it from around the tires you'll be working on.

Park in a firm, flat areaRobert Maxwell for Family Handyman

Step 2

Unpack and Roll Out Your Chains

  • Remove chains from their storage bag or box, then carefully roll them out on the ground beside each tire you'll be working on.
    • Pro Tip: If your vehicle is rear-wheel drive, your chains must go on the rear wheels. Vice versa for front-wheel drive. All four tires for all-wheel drive.
  • Fine tune the position of your chains, so they lay straight, have no twists and extend equally in front of and behind your tires.

Unpack and roll out your chainsRobert Maxwell for Family Handyman

Step 3

Drape Chains Over the Tires

  • Drape your tire chains one at a time over the tops of your tires, making sure any pointy hooks are pointing up and away from the rubber.
    • Note: Make sure the chains are hanging evenly over the tires, with the same amount of excess chain draped over the treads and sidewalls.

Drape chains over the tiresRobert Maxwell for Family Handyman

Step 4

Make the First Chain Connection

  • Reach under the vehicle to the inside face of your tires, and connect one end of each chain with the other using whatever fastening mechanism your chains use.
  • Pull most of the slack from the chains to tighten this connection, making sure to leave a little slack so you'll be able to make the second connection.

Make the first chain connectionRobert Maxwell for Family Handyman

Step 5

Make the Second Connection

  • Come around to the outside of each tire, and connect the other side of the chain with itself, just as you did under the vehicle.
  • Re-inspect each chain when all 4 connections are made, ensuring they're wrapped evenly over the tires, with the same amount of chain hanging over both the inner and outer tire sidewalls.
  • Pull all the slack you can out of both sides of each chain, tightening the connections as much as possible. If your chains come with a tensioner, hook it on now.

Make the second connectionRobert Maxwell for Family Handyman

Step 6

Drive Forward, Then Do a Final Tightening

  • Drive your vehicle one car length forward once both chains (or all 4, if you're working on a 4-wheel drive vehicle) are installed.
  • Park your vehicle, then get out and inspect the chains. Chances are they'll have slackened up with the movement of your vehicle. Pull them tight, removing any slack that has occurred.
  • With your chains installed, keep your speed low. Park somewhere safe and remove your chains as soon as you're back on dry pavement.

Drive forward, then do a final tightening