Tire chains are state-monitored and are usually only used in areas where they are deemed necessary. In some steep mountainous areas, tire chains are required during the winter on every type of vehicle that attempts to pass through. Vehicles may have winter tires or even studded tires, but those are not enough to safely pass through these hazardous conditions.
Front-wheel-drive vehicles must put snow chains on their front tires, and rear-wheel-drive vehicles must put them on their rear axle. The owner's manual in four-wheel-drive vehicles will determine which axle to put tire chains on; however the best idea is to put tire chains on all four tires.
Ideally, you should put tire chains on all four tires for all types of vehicles. By using four tire chains, you'll be able to obtain the best possible traction and balance. Problems can occur by only chaining one axle. If chains are only put on the front tires, the back of the vehicle can react unpredictably during driving and braking, while if chains are only put on the rear tires, the steering ability of the vehicle is jeopardized.
When it comes time to install your tire chains, here are the steps you should follow:
- Park the vehicle, parking brake engaged.
- Lay the chains flat to make sure they are not twisted.
- Drape the chain over the tire while holding the top to make sure its even on both sides.
- Reach behind each tire and fasten the speed hooks ("J hook") through the third link from the other end of the chain, then pull the slack toward the outside of the vehicle.
- Drive the vehicle forward a few feet and fasten the rest of the chain.
- Drive 50-100 feet then get out of the vehicle and retighten the chains.
- Secure extra links with zip ties or remove them with bolt cutters.
To remove the chains, simply reverse the installation process.
Having a trial tire chain installation and practice run are always good ideas. This way, you'll know exactly what you're doing when it's time for the real thing. Plus, you'll be able to make sure the tire chains fit properly. Here are a few more helpful tips for tire chains:
- Make sure to purchase tire chains according to your tire size
- Do not use tire chains on snow tires
- Do not exceed the maximum speed suggested by the manufacturer -- usually about 30 mph
- Avoid driving on pavement that's not icy or snow-covered
- Have clean clothes available, because installing tire chains can be a messy process
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