Tire Chains - Traction Assistance in Snow Surface Conditions

A snowstorm can quickly change driving on mountain roads from an enjoyable adventure into a hazardous experience. Government agencies (some jurisdictions) in mountainous regions, during snow storm conditions, require vehicles to be equipped with tire chains (or at least have them stored in the trunk) before the vehicle is allowed to begin travel through the snow covered mountain passes.

If tire chains are required, here are the basic guidelines

Tire chains should be installed on the drive wheels of the vehicle following the chain manufacturers instructions, To retain as much of the normal handling characteristics of 4WD/All WD vehicles as possible, tire chains should be installed on all four tires, requiring the purchase of two pairs of tire chains.

Buy chains that are the correct size for the tires. A proper fit is key to receiving the desired performance and durability. Do not deflate tires to install tire chains. A correctly sized tire chain will fit over a properly inflated tire. Additionally, because there is typically no source of compressed air to refill a deflated tire, driving with low tire pressure may cause permanent damage to the tire. Snow chains may not be available for all tire sizes.

Use only chains approved for your vehicle and tire size. Clearance in most of today's down-sized and front drive vehicles require tire chains to operate in an envelope that is no greater than 1.46-inches vertically and .59-inches laterally around the tire. These minimum clearances must be maintained between the tires and the vehicle fenders, suspension, struts, brake lines and braces.

It is important to pre-fit chains prior to actual use. Being faced with the choice of either damaging their vehicle or not completing a journey if the tire chains didn't fit is not a choice many drivers would want to have to make. Pre-fitting the chains will also allow the driver to become familiar with their installation. Since tire chains will only be required when the weather is at its worst, who would want to learn how to install them during a blizzard?

When highway signs indicate tire chains are required, a driver will usually have about one mile between the "Chains Required" signs and the passage checkpoint. However, these control areas can shift rapidly from place to place because of changing weather and road conditions.

After initial chain installation, all of the tire chains should be re-tightened after the vehicle has been slowly driven forward or backward at least 25 feet. Failure to do so may allow the chains to remain loose, risking damage to the vehicle and reducing chain life.

Accelerate or decelerate slowly. Avoid spinning or locking the wheels.

Limit the vehicle's speeds to within the recommended range provided by the tire chain manufacturer.

If a cross chain should fail, stop immediately and make necessary repairs. Do not drive with a broken chain.

Remove the chains as soon as the vehicle reaches clear roads. When removing chains, drive to a pull-off area where you can safely remove them.

While it sounds like snow chains are considered a last resort for when the conditions get really bad, preparation before driving into snow country in winter is important because it helps improve your safety and control a potentially frustrating and tiring driving experience.

Quick Links: Snow Tires vs. All Season tires :: Studded Tire Regulations :: Tire maintenance for added safety ::BC Highway Travel News