How To Install Tire Chains

If you’re from the Midwest, or if you’re an avid trekker or mountain climber, you may already know how important installing tire chains can be.

Tire chains, or snow chains as they are better known, are used to give your vehicle tires traction while driving in the snow.

They attach to the drive wheels of the car and increase grip and braking ability on snowy and icy surfaces. However, they reduce your fuel efficiency, and you must limit your speed to 30 miles per hour.

Before learning how to install them, it is important to know what kind of tire chains you need for your wheels.

The Right Kind Of Snow Chains For Your Wheels

The type of snow chains your tires will need will depend on: the tire size, tire diameter, and tread width. Tire chains come in different shapes, materials, linkages, and sizes.

Linkage configurations and patterns may vary, too, depending on your needs. Some may offer excellent traction for extreme conditions, while some may give a smoother ride.


  • Steel chains are relatively inexpensive and the most commonly used, but they tend to rust pretty fast if you drive in the snow a lot.
  • Manganese nickel chains are resistant to rust, lighter than steel, and last longer.
  • Titanium alloy chains are the lightest and most durable option;however, they are the most expensive.


The four most common chain patterns are the ladder, diamond, square and diagonal patterns (though there may be variations to them).

  • The ladder pattern gives your tire the most traction and also tends to provide some resistance when turning. The cross chains in this configuration are perpendicular to the road.
  • The diagonal patternallows for more comfortable braking and added stability during turning while also giving good traction. Suitable for cars that come equipped with ABS and traction control.
  • The diamond patternis derived from the V design and forms a net over the wheel.Most suitable for cars equipped with an anti-lock brake system.
  • The square patternboasts the same perks as the diamond pattern but provides superior traction and is considered more heavy-duty.


The way the chain fits can also be a significant factor in choosing what kind of chain you use.

Cheaper chains usually are less malleable and have a hard time fitting on the tires; you may need to drive over them a few times as they’re tightened. A cheap option will set you backapproximately$40.

If you can afford to spend more, the more expensive chains are self-tightening and self-centering. These start from around $60 and go on to $200.

Linking Arrangements

Chains come with different linking arrangements as well: cable, twisted, and square.

  • Cable links give you a smoother ride, although they do compromise on the grip slightly.
  • Twisted links are rounded and give the right balance between grip and a smooth ride. However, they are not as smooth as cable links.
  • Square links or D links offer the best traction out of all options. This makes them the go-to for extremelyfrosty conditions and icy roads.

How To Install Tire Chains on Your Tires

It is important to note that there are three sections that the application process should be carried out in. We’ve curated steps on how to prepare, attach the chains and finally, fasten the hooks.

We cannot stress enough the importance of installing the chains before venturing out into the snow. You do not want to be stuck out in a blizzard, huffing, and puffing trying to put on your chains in sub-zero temperatures.

It is advised that you stop your car a few hundred meters before enteringa snowy patch to do the deed; however, the safest option is to practice a few times in your driveway before you venture out onto icy roads.

Preliminary Steps

  • Lay your chains beside your drive wheels. Ifyou have a rear-wheel drive, lay them out next to the rear wheels; otherwise, lay them out next to your front wheels. For a 4-wheel drive, the chains should go on the front chains
  • Untangle the cross chains and side chains. Look out for any twists and get rid of them by untwisting them (twists are the primary cause of broken chains)
  • Find the center-point of your chain. If your chain came equipped with any cam tensioners, they should be on the outside facing you

Attaching The Chains Onto The Tires

  • Lay the chain over your tires from the top center, aligning it evenly with the tire. It should not sag to one side
  • Pull it around to loosen out any bunched chain links. Straighten the chain out along the length of your tire
  • Slowly drive ahead (about half a tire rotation) so that the chain covers the bottom part of your tire that you missed out. The fasteners should now be at a point where you can link them easily

Fastening The Hooks

  • Starting from the backside of the tire, pull the link and clamp it onto the hook. Make sure to hook it securely;look out for weak-links. You do not want the chain to come undone
  • Going around this way, hook up all the links in the front as well
  • At this point, you want to get your cam locking tool (this usually comes with the chain). Put the link in your cam lock and turn it to tighten the lock. Repeat this for the other cam fasteners
  • To get rid of the slack, take the bungee cords – you may have to purchase them if they don’t come with the set – hook them at the chain link at the top and hook them again at the link at the bottom
  • Drive roughly 30-40 feet to get rid of any more slack
  • If the chains fit onto your tires without unlocking or loosening, you are ready to go!


Tire chains are an important part of your winter travel kit. Listen for signs that the chain is loose or damaged; broken chains can damage your car and tires. Follow the directions in the chain kit manual; different chains may have other requirements.

Be careful not to exceed the speed limit for driving on snow chains, which is 25-30 mph.

We hope this article helps you put snow chains on your wheels like a seasoned veteran! It’s not as hard as it may seem, and with practice, you will eventually get there!

One thought on “How To Install Tire Chains

  1. Thanks for this awesome info. Will take note of it. I’m planning to buy some tire chains soon. I wanted to put the tire chains on the new tires I’ve bought from 4WheelOnline.

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