How To Put On Snow Chains (The Right Way)

If you live in the United States’ northernmost regions, then for sure you are familiar with how snow chains work, right? Or maybe not. Perhaps you would rather prefer to stay at home than have to put chains on your tires during winter.

The truth is that, regardless of the region where you live, knowing how to put on snow chains in the right way is a skill that every driver should have. 

After all, who knows when such a simple procedure can get you out of trouble?

Quick Questions Before Starting

Whether you already have experience putting chains on your tires or have never done such a task, keeping the essentials in mind is important.

How Difficult is This to Complete?

Moderately Difficult

Although some find it a challenging task, the truth is that fitting a snow chain on a tire is considered a medium-difficulty job, not because of its complexity but because it requires patience and concentration to do it the right way.  

How Long Does it Take to Complete?

Approximately 15 minutes per wheel

Depending on your experience, manual dexterity, and type of vehicle, it could take you between 10 to 15 minutes to put snow chains on each wheel. This means that for a vehicle with a two-wheel-drive (2WD) system, it would take about 30 minutes, while a vehicle with a four-wheel-drive (4WD) system could take up to an hour.

How Much Do Materials Cost?


If you drive a passenger car, you can expect to spend between $100- $150 to buy everything you need to install snow chains. On the other hand, if you drive a full-size SUV/truck or a 4WD vehicle, then this amount can increase to upwards of $250.

Items Needed to Install Tire Chains

Are you curious about what items are required to install tire chains? We detail them below, along with their estimated costs.

Snow Chains Set ($60-$190)

Depending on their quality and the type of tire your vehicle uses, a set of snow chains can cost between $60-$100 for passenger cars and between $140-$190 for full-size SUVs, trucks, and 4WD vehicles. Please note that snow chains are sold in pairs or sets, and the cost indicated here corresponds to the complete set (2WD or 4WD).

Insulated Gloves ($30)

Although optional, we strongly suggest including a pair of high-quality, insulated/waterproof gloves to prevent your fingers from freezing during the procedure.

Wool Blanket ($18)

Using a wool blanket (or a waterproof blanket) to be placed on the floor during the process is also a good idea to prevent snow from wetting your clothes.

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How to Put on Snow Chains

Ready to put on the snow chains? In this section, we are going to show you how to do it the right way.

1. Turn on the Hazard Lights

Safety should always come first; for this reason, before even looking for a suitable place to park, the first step should be to turn on your hazard lights to alert other drivers of your intentions.

2. Locate a Suitable Spot to Park

As you turn on your hazard lights, start looking for a place to park your vehicle. Once you’ve located a safe place, pull over and set your car’s wheels straight. Make sure you engage the parking brake before continuing.

PRO TIP: Many roads have designated areas for putting snow chains. Whenever possible, use these areas instead of parking on the side of the road.

3. Untangle the Snow Chains

With your car parked, remove the chains and their instructions from their packaging. You will notice that the chains need to be untangled. This is a task that requires time and patience, so we recommend that you put on your gloves and place a blanket on the floor near the first wheel you will be working on.

Remember that if your vehicle uses front-wheel drive, you must put the chains on both front wheels. On the contrary, if your car is rear-wheel drive, you must put the chains on both rear wheels. Finally, if you drive a 4WD vehicle, you should put snow chains on all wheels or at least the front wheels.

PRO TIP: the process will be easier if you lay the snow chains on the ground before starting to undo any chain kinks. Try to do it in such a way that you extend the chains parallel to the wheel.

4. Put the Snow Chains Over the Top of the Tire

Put the snow chains on the first tire, trying to center them both across the width and along with the tire. Straighten the chains as far as possible on the surface of the tire. It is normal for part of the chain to hang down on each side.

Up to this point, you should have three-quarters of the tire covered with the snow chains, just waiting to be attached to each other.

PRO TIP: Regardless of whether the chain attachment system is hook or clamp, make sure it is on the outside of the tire, facing you.

5. Repeat the Procedure on All Tires

Repeat this procedure for the rest of the tires. This will save you time when you have to move the vehicle forward, as you only will have to do it once.

6. Slowly Drive Forward

Make sure the wheels are straight and drive slowly forward, just a few feet to expose the rest of the tire so you can connect both ends of the snow chains.

PRO TIP: It is better If someone can help you by indicating when to stop, since this way you avoid moving too much and having to repeat the previous step.

7. Connect the Rest of the Chains to Each Other

For many, this is the most challenging step. However, as you will find out shortly, it is just a matter of patience and concentration.

Starting with the inner side of the tire, stretch the chains as much as possible. Next, tighten and lock the hooked edges, following the specific instructions for your chains. Make sure that you align inner and outer connections during the procedure. 

Repeat the procedure on each wheel.

PRO TIP: Some snow chains come with a tensioner that helps the chains stay together. Do not neglect using it, as it is beneficial on long trips.

8. Drive About 50 ft and Re-Tighten the Chains

The procedure for putting on the snow chains is almost complete; only a final safety check is necessary. Drive 50 to 100 feet at a slow speed and stop again in a safe place. Most snow chains require a second adjustment once the car is in motion. Check the tension of all chains carefully. Use the chain tensioning mechanism to re-tighten all of the chains.

Tips and Safety Considerations When Installing/Using Snow Chains

Putting on the snow chains is not too difficult, and for this reason, some experienced drivers tend to be overconfident. In this section, we will go over some safety tips to follow while doing this task.

Take Your Time Choosing a Suitable Place to Park

If there are no designated places on the road to put snow chains, then it is your responsibility to find a safe place for this task. Be very careful when deciding where to park, especially if the road is in the mountains and has many curves. The ideal location should be on a straight section of the road with no slope and with enough space to the side to park your car.

Never Forget to Use the Parking Brake

Snow can quickly become a slippery surface. Never forget to use the parking brake before starting this procedure. Placing a few wood pieces to block the wheels is a good idea if you are on a slope.

Use Tensioners on Chains

As mentioned in the previous section, some snow chains come equipped with bungee cords that maintain the tension between the chains. If your chains do not come with this system, it would be a good idea to buy a pair of tensioners as they only cost about $15 and make your trip safer.

Practice at Home

A good safety tip, handy for newbies, is to practice putting on snow chains at home. This way, you can get an idea of what the procedure entails. Best of all, you can do it without adverse weather and in total comfort.

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This article has reviewed in detail how to put on snow chains (the right way). Moreover, we have also listed the items you will need to carry on this task, including a few optional ones that could prove useful.

Last but not least, we have emphasized the security aspects to consider while performing this procedure. We hope that it will be much easier for you to put the snow chains on your tires when and where you need them with all this information.

People Also Ask

Do you still have questions regarding snow chains? Well, you’re in luck. In this section, we will answer the most frequently asked questions regarding this topic.

Do You Put Chains on All 4 Tires?

Chains must be attached to all four tires if your vehicle has four-wheel drive; otherwise, it is optional. If you are driving a front or rear-wheel drive vehicle, you should only fit snow chains on the corresponding drive wheels. 

What Are The Easiest Tire Chains to Put On?

The most comfortable snow chains to put on are those that have self-tensioning chains or built-in rubber tensioners. However, many modern chains can be fitted without moving the vehicle thanks to special manual tensioning mechanisms designed to make the driver’s job easier. These types of chains can save you a few minutes, which is always welcome when working in extremely cold environments.

When Should You Put on Snow Chains?

You should only use tire chains when there is a noticeable layer of snow or ice on the road. Using snow chains on bare pavement can cause huge damage to your tires, suspension, brakes, and the road itself. Moreover, using snow chains on the pavement could be illegal in some states.

How Do Automatic Tire Chains Work?

The operation principle is simple when the mechanism is activated; the tire rotates the chain’s base when it comes into contact with it. This activation mechanism can be electrical, pneumatic, or even hydraulic. Each base has several lengths of chain attached. Centrifugal force causes chains to stretch under the tire and over the road surface to improve traction.

How Fast Can You Drive With Snow Chains?

Most manufacturers suggest not exceeding 20-30 mph while driving with snow chains. The reason behind driving at low speed has a lot to do with your safety. If you go too fast, you can quickly lose traction with the road, either because the chains snap or because they start to move on the tire.

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