Installing Tensioners for Tire Chains

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Tensioners allow you to adjust snow tire tension. Learn more about adjust the fit of snow tire chains in this free winter weather driving video from a master mechanic.

Part of the Video Series: How to Install Tire Chains
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Video Transcript

Okay, after you've got the chains installed. The next step is to install the tensioner. Most chains come with a little, it's a large rubber ring and you usually have five or six metal hooks crimped around it. I've modified this and added some plastic. This particular one is for, off a set of chains I ran for multiple years and I bought a high quality set of cable chains. I found myself going through two or three of these tensioners each year. By crimping the metal around the rubber ring itself, I found that's what's causing the tensioners to deteriorate and the fact that extreme cold conditions and the amount of use that I got out of them. I just added these plastic wire ties on there and that greatly increased the life of the rubber ring. It also holds the metal clip on there real good and secure. It just makes for a better product. It lasts for two or three years instead of two or three times each season. What you want to do is you want to apply this tensioner so it basically pulls up all the loose slack all the way around the chain. You want to do this evenly. I've got one, two, three, four, five, six empty spaces in between the master links which connect the actual cables that go over and give you the traction to the outer cables that support and hold it to the wheel. I've got one of those, one little hook, that goes in between each one of the links. Then, the little yellow plastic device you see on there is to assist in keeping the actual connector from coming off the cables while they're in use. Just go around connect one in between each one of the masters and as you go around, it'll kind of center itself and we can relocate it here in just a second. Once you've got it centered, you see how it pulls all the slack out of the cable itself. You want to check both sides of the tire, make sure it's good and tight back here. See how it's a little bit out, off on alignment? Just slide that around, make sure the cable chain will fit snuggly and securely all the way around the tire and the rim so it's all centered correctly. You can see my alignments just a little bit off on this one, but it's just a pre-fit. I'm looking to see that cable chain will actually fit over the tire, mount correctly; all the tension being pulled out and snug and everything prior to installing them. Now if this is a set of chains that I wanted to keep for this vehicle and was going to use for multiple years, I would go ahead, trim off any excess. Cut the cable back at this point here, because that's just a loose item that can flop around. Especially under the centrifugal force of speeds the wheels will be traveling at. The same situation on the back. This particular set of cable chains that I explained was designed specifically for a specific size of tire. Most of them have the adjustments. Any links that you have laying out there extra, they're really not needed. You could cut them off or you could also equip it with some extra wire ties or plastic tape so you can tape those up once you put them on. Otherwise, they'll flop around and they're free to damage the inside of your wheel wells. They can be quite annoying for noise and it's just something you want to avoid. Basically, that's what we're looking for in the pre-fitting of the chain itself. We want to make sure it fits and fits as tight and snuggly as possible. We can make any adjustments at this time and if you had adjustments like on the inside. Four or five adjustments and four or five different ones on the outside. The one that you want to use, you could mark with tape. That way, you know exactly to go to this one right here, it's got tape wrapped around it, that's the connection I need to make, to make sure the chains installed correctly. This comes in real handy when you're out on the road on the side, putting chains on in inclement weather. Please watch our next segment, we'll cover pre-fitting, the quick fit, diamond style chains.

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