Tire maintenance & safety

When & How to Safely Use Chains on Tires

The average driver in the United States will drive through a variety of weather conditions and on many different terrains throughout the course of a year. There are certain exceptions such as drivers living in those areas that experience sunny skies and dry climates year-round.

However, even these drivers might take road trips to snowy, mountainous regions on weekends for some skiing or snowboarding. Regardless of which kind of driver you are, it might a good idea to invest in tire chains for certain winter road and off-road conditions.

Using Chains on Tires

Using chains on tires is necessary for some snowy conditions. In several places, tire chains, or snow chains, are required by law. Most often, these are mountain regions filled with roadways that are treacherous even in dry weather due to altitude changes, loose rocks, sharp curves, and switchbacks that demand the greatest level of traction possible from tires.

Then when the snow begins to fall, the challenge of driving on these roadways becomes even more difficult. If installed correctly, chains can be the answer to all of these difficulties.

When to Use Chains on Tires

There are a variety of tire chains available that are able to fit nearly every passenger car, truck, SUV, and big rig that might be forced to drive through heavy snow or up and down steep mountain passes. If you have never used chains on tires, the process is quite simple. You shouldn't put chains on your tires until you're driving on roadways that are completely covered by snow.

If you're curious about where chains are a legal requirement, know that there are generally roadsigns to indicate and designated areas for pulling over and installing chains. This is especially true when traveling mountain routes toward a ski lodge or a town that plays host to several winter weather activities. It is also worth mentioning that many rural areas in the northern United States and Midwestern plains are also environments that might require the use of chains on tires for safe driving during heavy snow. Snow chains will help to increase traction and handling when the tires alone won't grip the frozen streets.

How to Safely Use Chains on Tires

One common misconception with drivers who are new to driving with chains on their tires is the belief that chains will automatically result in expert performance and traction no matter how bad the roads are. Chains will help provide added traction on snow and ice, but they won't instantly provide the traction and handling that you might have under ideal conditions. Simply put, you might still experience the slipping and sliding that's common on wintertime roads if you don't drive with caution.

Getting added safety from chains on tires requires an understanding of your environment and a respect for Mother Nature. With chains, it's very important to drive slowly, maneuver carefully, and allow extra distance when following other cars. Driving with tire chains also means adherence to the recommended travel speeds for a specific set of chains, even if driving in wide-open space. Most recommend that you do not exceed speeds of 20-30 miles per hour. Carefully follow the guidelines provided with your chains to ensure your safety.

Installing tire chains is a relatively simple task. Most sets come complete with instructions. First, it's important to purchase the correct chains for your tire size. You can find this information on the side of your tire. If you have any questions as to which chains you should buy, consult your driver's manual or your local dealership.

Nearly every kind of chain is installed by laying down the chains flat in front of or behind the tires, driving onto the set of chains, and then attaching them around each tire. When properly installed, they will fit tightly on the tires, leaving very little slack. Once you have driven on the chains for a short distance, it's recommended that you check how the chains are fitting on your tires. After they've been rolled over a few times, they may have settled and become too loose or too tight.

A tire technician can help guide you in the purchase of tire chains, as well as offer a demonstration on how to properly install them.

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