Watch out for Ice! How to Install Tire Chains for Your First Snow Vacation

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Did you know that weather-caused accidents are more deadly than large-scale weather disasters? That includes hurricanes, floods, and tornadoes.

There are about 1.2 million accidents caused by hazardous weather each year. You can avoid being a number in this statistic by knowing how to install tire chains.

Not sure how to get started? Use this handy guide to stay safe when the roads get covered in ice and snow.

Know the Law

Before you get started, make sure you know the laws in your state. Each state has laws about when and where it is permissible to drive with snow tires.

Start with the Right Set

Start by finding out the size of your tires. That way you know what size chains to buy.

To know what size tires you have you need to look at the outside sidewall of your tires. You’ll see a string of letters and numbers that look like this: 255/55 R18 XL

A great time to check your tire size is when you take your winter tires out of storage. Be sure you give them a thorough checking before you put them on your car for the winter.

The first number tells you how wide your tires are. The second number tells you your height ratio. This is the ratio between how wide the tire is verse how tall the sidewall is.

The third number is the diameter of the wheel. This measurement is in inches.

When you go to buy your chains, read the packaging and it should tell you what size tires the chains fit. Buying chains that are too large or too small can cause a dangerous situation and damage to your car.

How to Install Tire Chains

The basic idea is to fit your chains over your tires, so they are secure. The process gets challenging in bad weather, so try to put them on before you get to the snowy conditions.

Without chains, you risk losing traction in icy and snowy conditions. Then you’ll be calling a firm like Mazin & Associates as you face the expensive resolution of an accident.

Prep the Chains

Take your chains out of their packaging and untangle them. The links in the chains tend to get twisted and tangled together. You’ll want them organized and ready to use before you start.

You’ll know you’re ready to start when they are freely hanging in a web shape.

Lay Them Out

Once you have your chains detangled you can lay them down by the tires they go on. If you have a front wheel drive vehicle, then you’ll need chains on both front tires.

If your vehicle is rear-wheel drive, then you’ll need them on the back two tires. For all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive vehicles, you’ll need chains for all four tires.

If you are concerned about safety, then you can put chains on all four tires even if you have a front or rear wheel drive vehicle. If you plan on driving in extreme weather conditions, then this is a smart choice.

Over the Tire Method

Work your way around your vehicle placing each chain over its tire. Make sure that each chain covers three-quarters of the tire. You want each chain running from side to side to be straight.

Then tuck the front part of the chain under the tire. That way they stay in place when you drive the vehicle forward.

If your chains have rings, you’ll want this on the bottom of the tire near the ground. You’ll then have to adjust the chain and make sure they are on straight.

Next, you’ll roll the vehicle forward slightly so you can finish putting the chains over the uncovered quarter of the tires. Then connect the chains together by starting with the inside of the tire.

Make your final adjustments and tighten the closer link. You want to have the chains as snug as possible. Traditional chains use a link-tightening tool, but don’t use this method on link unit chains.

Follow Up Adjustments

Drive your car about 100 feet and then check your chains. You’ll find that you have to retighten the chains as you drive.

Take the Chains Off

It is essential to take your chains off as soon as you no longer need them. Otherwise, you’ll cause damage to your tires and the road.

Start by disconnecting the chains and laying them out flat under the tires. Then drive forward until the tires are no longer on top of the chains.

Pick up, clean, and dry the chains. Once they are dry, fold them up and put them back in their package.

Extra Tips

Don’t wear your best ski gear when taking your chains off and on. Remember you’re going to be kneeling and crawling around on the ground.

You may also want to have a good sturdy pair of gloves. This will help protect your hands while handling the heavy chains.

Be Winter Ready

Knowing how to install tire chains will help keep you safe while on the road in winter. So before the snow starts falling, check your tire size and get yourself a set of chains.

Then practice laying them out and putting them on your tires. The more you practice, the better at it you’ll get. That way you’ll be a pro by the time you need the chains.

Protecting your car isn’t just about tire chains, make sure you do these things to protect your car from the winter weather.

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Melissa Thompson

Melissa is a mother of 2, lives in Utah, and writes for a multitude of sites. She is currently the EIC of and writes about health, wellness, and business topics.