How to Install Tire Chains

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For many motorists, installing tire chains can be an intimidating, if not chilling, experience. Following these simple steps can make the job much more bearable.

  • Determine whether your car has front-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive. Tire chains always go on the driving wheels.

  • Check your owner's manual for any reference to "class S" or limited clearance for tire chains. If your tires need a limited clearance product, consult the manual for additional instructions, as traditional chains aren't recommended for your car.

  • Pull completely off the road and out of the way of traffic.

  • Set your emergency brake and turn off the engine before you climb under the car. Passengers can stay in the vehicle or wait in a safe place away from traffic.

  • Lay the chains flat on the ground so each side is parallel. Make sure there aren't any twists in the links.

  • Drape the chains over each back tire, keeping the "speed hook" (or "J hook") fastener on the inside. The other side of the chains has a lever fastener with a "keeper" link.

  • Make sure the smooth side of the cross member end hooks is lying against the tires. You'll recognize these parts when you see the chains.

  • Reach behind each tire and fasten the speed hooks by inserting the J hooks through the third link from the other end of the chain. Pull the slack toward the outside edge of the tire.

  • Pull your car forward several feet and pull the rest of the slack toward you. Insert the lever fasteners through the third links from the opposite ends of the outside chains and pivot the levers back on themselves, then fasten them under the keeper links.

  • Drive forward several feet, then pull all the slack out of the chains and refasten them as tightly as possible. There should be about the same number of loose links on each side of the chains.

  • Secure these extra links with zip ties, or remove them with bolt cutters.

  • Add rubber tighteners to lengthen the life of the chains.

Tips & Warnings

  • Tire chains usually aren't necessary for 4x4s and sport utility vehicles, except in places where they're required by law. Check traffic rules in your area and beware of exceptions for unusually harsh conditions.
  • Use a plastic tarp or waterproof canvas to protect your clothes and body from dirt and grime. Tire chain installation isn't normally a clean job.
  • Drivers should not exceed the maximum speed that's suggested on the tire chain box or in the instructions.
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