How To Measure Tire Chains – A 2021 Guide

| Last Updated: May 19, 2021

Tire chains are best suited for places that experience a lot of snow and have icy roads. In these moments, the moment you try to drive your car on a slippery icy road, your safety is at risk. 

Getting tire chains makes it easier to maneuver your vehicle on icy roads; you want to be sure that the chains’ grip will stop the car from swaying and protect everyone inside.

In this article, we’ll explore tire chain size and why you must find the perfect fit.

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How To Measure Tire Chains

Usually, a set of tire chains (which is enough for two tires) has a designated tire size it’s made to fit. There are exceptions, where your set is either small or a bit large; this allows you to adjust the chains for a tight fit. The best sets allow you to remove some links to reduce the size if there’s a need.

For a custom fit, there are various ways to measure your tire chains.

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Know the Size of Your Tires

Before finding the perfect chains for your tires, you should determine if your tires are suitable for chain usage. You can check this by looking through your owner's manual, in case there’s a warning against chain use.

On the side of your tires, there are a set of numbers that you should mark down. The first measurement is the tire width and the second is the tire height. Lastly, the third is the diameter of the tire in inches. You can use this information to purchase the proper type of chains.

Here’s a video that offers another alternative to finding your tire size:

Features You Want From Your Tire Chains

Tire chains have different features to accommodate various environments, such as icy roads and weather conditions. Make sure that you don’t buy tire chains that are cheaper and less effective at keeping you safe.

You can consider several factors, including:

Easy Installation

You can purchase an easy-to-install tire chain and then practice using it. This will help you know if your chains need adjustment before you go out.

Weather Conditions

Tire chains that won’t break easily or damage the tire’s surface are what you should seek out. Some tire chains are designed for fast performance on deep snow and icy roads.

They allow you to brake efficiently and move with traction on steep roads. 

Tire Chain Speed

Certain tire chains allow for a specific speed range; the determined speed has to do with how much grip the chains have. The chains might damage your wheels if they’re used at the wrong speed.

After considering the factors above, you can now get your tire chains with your exact tire size and the features you need.

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Tire Chains Already in Your Possession

If you already have the tire chains in your possession, you can measure them by applying your chains to your wheels. This will help you gauge if they’re small, the right fit, or oversized.

Stretch Out the Tire Chain

You’ll need to untangle or stretch out your tire chain so you can apply it to your tire correctly.

Put the Chain On

Place the chain behind the tire and then pull it forward to cover the entire tire.

There’s a link attached to the cable that links and holds the chain loop. Find the link and latch it together so the circle is closed behind the tire. The second latch should be set in the middle of the front of the tire.

Find the loose chain at the bottom of the tire and attach it to the other end of the tire to modify the chain's tightness. Keep on adjusting until you are sure that the chains are fit enough.

You can then clamp the extra links on your chain in a way that they won’t interfere when the car moves.

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Test Drive

Lastly, test if the wheels can turn freely and if the chains aren’t hitting against the vehicle’s body (this would mean that they’re loose). Ensure that you correctly install the chains so they don’t fall off as you drive.

For a visual explanation, check out the link below:

Other Considerations When Choosing Tire Chains

There are more considerations to help you pick the right set of tire chains for your vehicle.

Chain Usage

The types of tire chains differ on where you’ll be using them. You have to consider if you’ll be using them on an icy road, deep or light snow, steep hills, mud, or off-road. You want to ensure that your tire chains will be durable for any use, as well as be highly effective.

How Frequently You’ll Be Using the Chains

Some tire chains are only required during an emergency, but some places demand that everyone have a set in their trunk. 

If you’re using your set more frequently, you might want to collect enough chains for all your tires. The second set could be an emergency set if you run into problems with your usual set. It can also be used to ensure that your vehicle is balanced and there’s enough traction.

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Before purchasing your tire chains, you must consider factors like tire size, chain usage, weather, and environmental conditions. You won’t run into problems if you do your homework, because all the features you need will have been sorted out. Keeping tire chains in the back of your truck just in case may prove useful.

If you already have tire chains in your possession, it’s relatively easy to adjust them to fit your tires. You can watch the videos in the attached links above. 

People Also Ask

Here are a few answers to questions you might have; hopefully, they’ll help you with any last questions you have about tire chains.

Do Tire Chains Have To Be Exact Size?

Tire chains are meant to be the same size as your tires because they’re intended to be tight. If they’re any larger than your tire size, they might hit the vehicle's body and damage it.

Adjust the chains by removing the extra links or clamping them on the chain so that they don’t move around.

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Do You Need Four or Two Tire Chains?

For the best balance, using chains on all four tires is ideal. It may be enough just to install tire chains on your front tires, but for extreme weather conditions or extra traction, you might have to consider using chains on all tires.

How Tight Should Tire Chains Be?

Tire chains should be firm around your tires. The majority of tire chains are designed to fit specific tire sizes, and if they’re loose, they might cause damage to tires and your car.

Do Chains Ruin Your Tires?

There are possibilities that metal tire chains can damage your tires due to them breaking or coming loose, but they do more damage to roads. On the other hand, rubber chains hardly do any damage to the roads or your tires.

An ex-salesman of industrial equipment, Shawn used to drive nearly 60K miles a year just commuting to clients. He also has a little project Miata build going on the side. Safe to say, Shawn has slain a few tires in his days. He knows all about horrid road-noise, hydroplaning risks, and how much damage a bad alignment can do to your wallet. He enjoys helping us out and Chris always values his opinion when designing something new for the website.