How to pick tire chains

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.

Do These Two Things Before You Leave

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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

When and How to Install Your Tire Chains

Once you’re comfortable installing your chains, you’re ready to hit the snow.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

    The chains should hang loosely and the metal hooks seen along the yellow and blue sections should be facing away from you so they don’t damage your tires.

  5. Place Chains onto Your Tire and Connect the Cable. Lay your chains on the ground and push them behind the tire, yellow cable end first, from the right side to the left.

    Once the chains are centered behind the wheel, grab both ends and pull them up over the top of the tire. You should feel the chains against your axle.

    This will allow you to easily connect the yellow and blue ends of the cable by slipping one end into the other and pulling them into place.

  6. Connect the Red Hook. Now that the cable is connected on top, look for the red hook directly opposite the cable connection. Connect the red hook on the right to the first available gold link on the left.

  7. Check the Diamond Shape. Push the connected chain over the top of the tire. You should see the diamond shape in the chains against your tire. Between each of those diamonds is the center rail, which should be placed down the middle of the tire tread.

  8. Connect the Red Chain Along the Bottom. Now that the cable is connected on top, look for the red hook directly opposite the cable connection. Connect the red hook on the right to the first available gold link on the left. Push the connected chain over the top of the tire.

    The bottom of the chains includes a red draw chain with bungee on your right, and a chain guide on the left. Pull these out towards yourself.

    Take the long red chain and run it through the chain guide and pull as tight as you can with both hands. Don’t pull using the bungee. As you pull, one of the chain links will find its way into the notch on the red chain guide, locking it into place.

    Using the bungee end of the red chain, pull it through one or both of the red loops and secure it to a gold-side chain opposite the red loops. If you can’t get it through both loops, that’s ok, pull tight through one and attach it to a side chain to the left of the loop.

  9. Repeat on Second Tire. Repeat these steps to install chains on the other side of your vehicle.

  10. Drive Forward Slightly. The next step is to drive forward about 15 feet, or a full car length. This gives the chains a chance to relax and settle on your tires.

  11. Re-tighten Chains. To take up any slack, unhook the rubber end of the red draw chain and pull it tight again. Once it’s tight, guide the red chain through the loops and, again, securely latch the bungee end to the gold-side chain.

  12. The chains should be tight on the tire. And, be sure to stop if you hear them making any contact with your vehicle. If your chains are still loose, unhook the bungee and adjust the red hook straight across from the chain guide. Unhook and reattach to the tightest position on one of the three gold chain links. It’s okay if the extra links are hanging loosely. Now, you’re ready to reattach your bungee.

How to Drive with Snow Chains on Your Tires

While driving with tire chains, listen for a loud sound of slapping, or metal on metal. If you hear any indication that a chain may be broken or hitting your car, STOP as soon as safely possible. Loose or broken chains that flap can wrap around a strut or shock component, causing big damage to your vehicle. To help prevent damage, here are a few tips for driving when you have winter chains installed on your vehicle.

  • Don’t go over 25 miles per hour, or else you can damage the chains or your vehicle
  • Never drive on bare pavement
  • Avoid locking or spinning your wheels by starting or braking suddenly
Removing Snow Chains from Your Tires

Pull over in a safe location and remove the chains. Start by unhooking the bungee and chain from the guide, removing them from the tensioner. Unlatch the red hook, and then undo the blue and yellow cable connection. Once all of your chains are off and lying flat on the ground, pull backward or forward slowly a few feet so you can safely pick them up.

How to Pack and Store Snow Chains

At the end of your trip, lay your chains out in the garage and let them dry. If you pack them wet, they can rust.

Also check them for wear, especially if you’ve driven them on asphalt for any distance. Look for flat spots, and replace the chains if you find some.

Link at left shows flattening from wear. Link in center shows sharp edge from wear that can damage a tire.

We’re Here to Help

Remember, if you don’t use your chains all winter long, you can return them with proof of purchase to any Les Schwab for a full refund in the spring.

Get your next set of Quick-Fit chains, along with a few tips on how to install them, at your local Les Schwab, where doing the right thing matters.

Want more tips on winter road safety? See 19 Winter Driving Resources You Can’t Do Without.

Get More Winter Tips

Tire Chains: Choose the Right Fit & Style for Safer Winter Driving

A sturdy set of tire chains is something every vehicle owner should consider carrying along during the winter months. Some states require drivers to have them on hand in case weather makes roads difficult or dangerous for driving. Tire chains bite into heavy snow, slush, and ice to give your rig extra traction and help ensure safe arrival at your destination.

Tire chains are available for many different tire sizes and specific travel needs. Be sure to check your vehicle’s instruction manual for recommendations regarding the use of snow chains.

Know your tire size

One tire chain may fit multiple tire sizes. To figure out your tire size, locate the letter/number combination on the tire’s sidewall. The first three-digit number refers to the tire width in millimeters (measured from one sidewall to the other). The two-digit number immediately after the slash mark is the aspect ratio percentage, calculated by dividing a tire’s height off the rim by its width.

For example, a tire branded with 225/75 has a width of 225 mm, while the tire’s height is 75 percent of its width.

Consider your application

Are you part of the lumber industry or a utility company replacing downed power lines through hills and rough terrain? Or, more commonly, a trucker or highway service worker navigating hard-surface roads and steep mountain passes? Do you have all-season — year-round — radial tires, or those designed for snow/mud?

Snow tire shoulders are squarer and have a different tread than all-weather versions. Therefore, they require a longer chain to cover the added surface area. Also, how often do you plan to mount the chains — after every snowfall or only when necessary? Do you require single chains, or duals?

We offer two styles of snow chains from Pewag, a leader in chain manufacturing. Both meet or exceed DOT and National Association of Chain Manufacturers (NACM) regulations: -

  1. Glacier chains deliver durable traction with a 6mm twist link that penetrates icy and snowy conditions. They’re an economical choice for light-duty and emergency use. -
  1. Premium chains in a 7mm square link design last four to six times longer than the traditional twist link tire chains. They also provide about 32% more surface contact than typical truck/tractor tire chains. These are best for regular use and can be mounted in reverse for longer life, less risk to the tire, and ease of installation. Watch your speed with chains installed. Going faster than 30 mph will increase the risk of a chain failure. As road conditions improve or you’re back on bare pavement, remove the chains to avoid premature wear, increased fuel consumption, and damage to the road. They also can affect vehicle handling.

Practice installing beforehand

Don’t wait till you’re in trouble and standing in freezing temperatures to try putting chains on your tires for the first time. Make yourself familiar before you need them by reading mounting instructions and attempting an installation on dry ground.

Always pre-fit tire chains before use to ensure correct fit. If possible, “chain up” prior to reaching poor driving conditions. Always pull your car off the road away from traffic, like into a garage or parking lot. Lay the chain on the ground, remove twists or kinks, and check for signs of damage.

Drape the chain relatively centered over the top of your tire, straightening it out to evenly distribute over both sides of the tire. Drive forward a few feet to expose the rest of the wheel that was previously touching the ground, and secure the chain squarely on the remaining surface.

Depending on the style, tighten as instructed. After moving forward about 100 yards, stop and inspect the chains for correct tension and fit. Re-tension if necessary or if the chain starts to hit the wheel well. However, too much tension can lead to tire damage, wheels spinning, and increased chain wear.

Shop our entire selection of tire chains, or call and talk to one of our sales experts at 866-348-3473. We can find just about any size you need.

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Top 10 best snow chains - Articles

01/21/2022 0

In winter, driving is more difficult than in the warmer months. Due to low temperatures, ice appears on the roads, snow drifts are possible. All this leads to an increase in the distance to a stop when braking, the maneuverability and controllability of the vehicle deteriorates. The solution to the problem is the use of special chains mounted on the wheels of a car.

Selection criteria for snow chains

Depending on the characteristics of the road, climatic conditions and the vehicle, chains with certain characteristics and configuration are selected. When buying, it is recommended to pay attention to the following factors:

  • material and stiffness. For bad weather and ice it is better to use hard modifications, while for driving in snow or mud, plastic or rubber chains are suitable.

  • Terms and features of operation. There are chains that are used only for difficult sections and are removed immediately after overcoming them. On sale are both such models and options for long trips that can be used for a long time and regularly.

  • Dimensions. There are options for both cars and trucks. For standard tire sizes, choosing a chain is not difficult.

Snow chains: top 10 models

Below are the highest quality, well-proven chain models for motorists. The rating also takes into account the financial affordability of products - the presented items are affordable, overly expensive options were not considered.

  • 10. Taurus Diament 275 - for crossovers and SUVs, reinforced 16 mm. Seriously increase cross-country ability, all-weather. The kit includes two chains for the drive wheels. Easy to install and durable, but not suitable for ordinary cars.

  • 9. CarCommerce KN9-100. Inexpensive Polish chains with decent performance. Universal in application, for any passenger cars. Can be used in any season. The choice for those who have never used snow chains before.

  • 8. Thule CG-10 060. "Golden mean" in terms of cost and quality. Automatic tensioning is provided without the need for tightening in the direction of travel. There are no difficulties during installation - detailed instructions are attached, functional elements are highlighted in color. For winter use only.

  • 7. Konig ZIP Ultra. Italian chains that have proven themselves on winter snowy roads. Strong, resistant to wear, but not too easy to dismantle. Three-year warranty, automatic tensioning, minimum vibration are the advantages of these snow chains.

  • 6. Pewag SXP 550 Snox PRO 88989. Austrian products. Easy to install, provide a secure grip on any ground. Reliable protection for tires and rims. The only drawback is that the cost is higher than other models from the list.

  • 5.TM-SC-UNO1. Compact polyurethane studded chains, for all-weather use, but only for difficult sections of the route. Designed for 12"-15" wheels. The speed limit is 40 kilometers per hour.

  • 4. "Medved 76" - Russian chains for operation on difficult sections of the track. Consists of three identical elements, metal. Reliable fastening on a disk. Inexpensive, all-weather, but quite massive.

  • 3. Tplus 4WD R16-R21. Metal, for wheels 16-21 inches. The design includes pads that protect the disc. Easy installation, light weight, affordable. Not suitable for long trips, speed limit is 40 km/h.

  • 2. PRO-4x4 "Light". Expensive, high-quality chains with a convenient and reliable fastening system. Suitable for different types of rubber and rims. For passenger cars (vehicle weight limit - 1. 3 tons).

  • 1. Sorokin R13 28.4. Steel, easy to install even on a stuck car. The mass of the set is about 4 kilograms. They can even be used on trucks. Not suitable for long trips. The optimal solution in terms of cost, reliability, functionality and ease of operation.

Even professional driving skills are not always enough to cope with adverse weather and road conditions. A special technical solution is required - installation of snow chains on the wheels. They are made of metal, rubber or plastic elements, mounted on wheels, improve traction and vehicle handling.

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How to choose the right snow chains


  • Purpose
  • History of
  • How it works
  • Types of chains
  • Advantages and disadvantages
  • How to put chains on wheels?
  • Chains and bracelets - what are the differences?
  • How to choose the right
  • Ranking of the best snow chains
  • Conclusion

Cars sometimes have to deal with difficult road conditions. A snowy area, a steep climb, an icy or muddy section of the road - there will be no problems if an SUV collides with this. When it comes to ordinary passenger cars, the situation becomes more complicated with them.

Snow chains are special equipment for the wheels that give the car "off-road" properties. Its main function is to improve road grip. Consider what this equipment is, and also learn how to choose the right snow chains.


An anti-skid chain is a small structure that is put on the wheels to improve the car's patency. Thanks to them, the vehicle moves without skidding on a slippery surface, while during turns and braking it does not lose its trajectory. With the help of a chain, a car will get out of a snowdrift, overcome icy or washed out roads.

Some motorists do not know what this type of equipment is. This is explained by the fact that on Russian roads, many move on studded tires. As for European countries, there snow chains are the same mandatory attribute of a car as a fire extinguisher.

In domestic conditions, a ladder chain is recommended for use on highways. During icy conditions and snowfall, climbing a slope with an inclination angle of more than 12% on studded tires is almost impossible. It is strictly forbidden to drive a car with “hooks” on asphalt, otherwise it will provoke the destruction of the coating. Chains must be stored in the trunk so that in a difficult moment you can use them. This rule should be followed by owners of SUVs and cars.


In 1904, an American named Harry Weed invented the first snow chains. The man created such equipment is not accidental. James Weed, the great-grandson of the creator, told the story that prompted his grandfather to make chains.

One day Harry Weed was driving down the road and saw a man winding ropes and vines around the wheels of his car. In the 20th century, muddy and snowy roads were everywhere, and with the help of ropes and vines, motorists struggled with this. The American tried to invent a similar device and he succeeded. The chains were durable and easy to use.

There is a second version of the appearance of snow chains. At the beginning of the 20th century, a group of skiers set off to conquer the Swiss Alps. Their transport got stuck in a loose snowdrift in front of the pass. After several unsuccessful attempts to get the car out of the snow, one skier suggested putting a chain around the wheels. The idea really worked. Tourists managed to get out of the snow-covered area.

How it works

Anti-slip chains or bracelets (other names for chains) are always sold in pairs in hardware stores.

The principle of operation is that the links create a small contact patch with the road surface. Due to this, the pressure force of the weight of the car on the road surface increases by an order of magnitude. During operation, the chain "bites" into the snow or the ground, working on the principle of the paddles of a paddle steamer.

Types of chains

Drivers who install chains on their vehicles experience a certain relief. However, the car itself, on the contrary, feels an additional load. In any case, it will not be possible to avoid this, but it is possible to minimize the negative consequences. To do this, you must make the right choice of snow chain.

There are many products on the automotive market that differ in materials and contact surfaces.

Types of chains by materials:

Metal (rigid) - classic chains made of galvanized steel. If desired, the driver can order titanium products, but the cost of equipment will be quite high. The size of the links varies from 12 to 18 mm, in rare cases it is 9 mm. The latter are intended for cars with low profile tires. Metal chains are allowed for both passenger cars and heavy trucks.

Rubber (soft) - chains that are installed exclusively on passenger cars. Products are most often operated in the city. Rubber bracelets, compared to metal ones, are better attached to the wheel, surrounding the tread pattern.

Plastic is a fairly new type of "hook" used for driving on snowy roads. Products do not differ in quality and strength characteristics.

Chains are not only made of different materials, but also available in different sizes. In addition, they are classified "by pattern", each of which has its own characteristics.

Types of bracelets according to the picture:

"Ladder" - a simple option when 2 parallel cables are connected by transverse strips. The equipment has excellent traction, suitable for short driving on bad roads.

"Rhombus" - a bunch of chains is made on the tire tread. It has durability and better handling.

"Honeycomb" - a design that has the effect of interlacing. The pattern is provided due to the fact that the longitudinal cables are additionally combined diagonally.

Show themselves well on snow-covered and muddy sections of the chain of the Diagonal pattern. The appearance of the "hooks" is presented in the form of strips that do not intersect with each other.

Advantages and disadvantages

Sometimes motorists face the question of what to choose: snow chains or something else? Choosing the best way to increase the cross-country ability of a car, the driver must focus on the pros and cons of one or another option. Consider why chains are good?


Versatility. The equipment is used with great success both in summer and winter. There are no restrictions on their use in the off-season.

Availability. In many countries, steel products are forbidden to be worn on wheels due to their negative effect on the road surface. In Russia, chains are available to everyone. This is the only way to move freely off-road.

Convenience. Due to their small size, bracelets are compact. They can be stored in the trunk, because. they don't take up much space.

Easy to install. The chains are quite easy to put on and just as easy to take off after a difficult section of the road is left behind.

The product has another important advantage - it can only be used when needed.

It is believed that metal equipment is the best way to prevent accidents on city roads and highways. In addition, the chains help the driver out at unexpected moments. For example, when during a trip out of town it started to rain and the roads were very washed out.

Snow chains are not without drawbacks, due to which it is necessary to limit their use.

Wear of vehicle parts. When driving with chains, the suspension, steering, rack - all this is subjected to increased loads and leads to rapid wear. In addition, tires suffer greatly, their service life is noticeably reduced.

Speed ​​limit. It is not recommended to move along the highway faster than 40-50 km/h. After the installation of the bracelets, the grip characteristics change, in connection with this there are speed limits.

There is a gentle way to increase the patency of a car - to buy rubber or plastic products. However, their off-road properties are somewhat worse than those of metal ones. With these chains, the driver will be able to move along the highway at a speed of 90 km / h.

How to put chains on wheels?

Installing snow chains on wheels is easy. The main thing in this matter is to follow the instructions.

The installation algorithm involves the following steps:

Expand the chains, remove all formed knots and loops. It is advisable to do this in the trunk. On land, the process will take a little longer.

Park, raise the handbrake and spread the chains. Then throw the products on the wheels so that they cover 3/4 of each tire. After that, you need to make sure that the side sections of the bracelets hang evenly.

Pull the vehicle forward until the remaining 1/4 of the chains are free. You just need to drive a little, then stop the car and raise the handbrake.

Connect the edges of the products by fastening the hooks on the edges. Repeat the same steps for the outer surfaces of the tires. Using a special link, the driver must tighten the chains.

Make sure that the outer and inner areas are set the same. If one section is loose and the other is too tight, then you will have to distribute the chain more evenly.

Repeat for other wheels.

Drive 500 m after installing the chains to achieve a tighter fit. During the first movement, the chains may loosen and need to be tightened again. After that, they are securely fixed on the wheels.

Chains and bracelets - what's the difference?

The snow chains, along with the bracelets, are available as removable treads that improve the running properties of the tyres. What are the differences between these details?

There is an opinion that the driver needs a jack to install equipment. In fact, it will only be needed if the wheels are buried deep in the ground. In other cases, additional gestures are not required.

Bracelets are easier to put on. However, installing several bracelets on one wheel will take longer than one chain.

Chains are recommended to be installed on the drive axle. However, if the driver goes on a trip to the mountains, then it is better to put the equipment on all 4 wheels. This rule applies to front wheel drive vehicles.

Thus, the difference between bracelets and chains is insignificant. The only important difference is that the bracelet can be installed even on a loaded wheel.

How to choose the right one

With the approach of cold weather, which brings with it icing of the road, drivers are beginning to choose snow chains. Products are divided into soft (rubber) and hard (steel). The soft ones are equipped with cables, between which rubber anti-slip elements are installed. This is not the case in the second. Also, "hooks" are classified according to the size and shape of the pattern.

Choosing the size of snow chains. Anti-slip equipment is not suitable for all wheels. Some products may damage parts of the brake system while driving. That is why before buying you need to decide on the size of the disk and wheels of the car. For those who are not sure, you should look into the instruction manual. It contains all the necessary information.

When choosing chains, it is important to pay attention to the vehicle class. Despite the fact that the size of the wheels of a passenger car and an SUV may be the same, the cost of equipment for the latter will be an order of magnitude higher. You should not buy chains for jeep wheels that are designed for passenger cars. This method of operation will lead to an increased load on the transmission. For SUVs, bracelets are made with an increased cross-sectional diameter of the chain link. This makes them heavier and able to withstand heavy loads.

Ranking of the best snow chains

Today, snow chains or grouser are made by different manufacturers. Before buying, we advise you to familiarize yourself with the best models on the market.


Konig Zip Ultra snow chains are for passenger cars only. Manufacturer - Italy.

Only 9 mm thick. This allows you to install their wheels with a minimum clearance. The main advantages of this equipment are: long service life, excellent road grip and a high level of vehicle controllability. During testing, the Konig Zip Ultra performed well on a combination of snow and dirt.

CarCommerce 4WD-225/115

CarCommerce 4WD-225/115 snow chains have been developed for use on passenger cars in order to increase their cross-country ability. Snow, mud and ice cover will not stand in their way.

Assembly and disassembly of the products is quite simple. The driver does not need special tools. The procedure will take no more than 15 minutes. The chains are suitable for both front and rear wheel drive.

Thule CB12 (KONIG CB12)

Thule CB12 are not the cheapest snow chains on the market. They are designed for passenger cars, have high quality and affordable price. The product is backed by a five-year warranty.

This product has a premium design with fewer links. This feature ensures a smooth and comfortable ride even on clean pavement.

Color coding makes it easy to install chains, especially for those who have never done it before. Convex links provide perfect traction and long service life.

Those who live in harsh climates will love the tension mechanism. This system independently regulates and tightens the chains automatically. The rider will not have to suffer from freezing fingers in an attempt to spread the chains in the correct position.


Manufacturer Taurus Diament - Poland. Grousers are designed to equip the wheels of SUVs and minivans.

The products have a thickness of 16 mm, which means they are suitable for all impassable sections on the road. The "diagonal" pattern additionally increases the permeability. No equipment is required for installation. The only condition is that manual tightening is required.

All products of the company have passed European certification tests. At the same time, the cost of chains, in comparison with goods from other manufacturers, is relatively low.

Weissenfels Clack&Go Quattro F10

Good model for vehicles with little clearance above the caliper. Chains are worn on the side, have a relief of 15 mm.

The layout of the chains is unusual: they are equipped with shaped plates, spikes and cross scrapers. Thanks to them, the product bites into the ice. The design is held by the "spider", which is fixed on the wheel bolts.


PEWAG traction control chains made by an Austrian manufacturer. This product is very popular with drivers for its many advantages.

The main feature of the equipment is that it is not mounted, but very easy to put on.

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