Chains, Tires, and You: All You Need To Know About Winter Tires

The leaves are falling, the temperature is dropping, and the snow is beginning to fall. As the weather starts to turn and winter sets in, it’s time to start thinking about your tires. It’s not just a matter of ensuring they have enough tread; it’s also important to consider whether you need winter tires to safely navigate the colder months. But what about snow chains? Are they a viable option, or are winter tires sufficient? Let’s find out!


What Are Tire Chains and How Do They Work?

The leaves are falling, the temperature is dropping, and the snow is beginning to fall. As the weather turns and winter sets in, it’s time to start thinking about your tires. No, it’s a matter of ensuring they have enough tread but also considering whether you need winter tires to navigate the colder months safely. But what about snow chains? Are those a good option, or are the winter tires all you need? Let’s find out!

What Are Tire Chains and How Do They Work?

In snowy areas, drivers often use metal chains looped around their tires to provide traction. These chains grip the road surface to prevent slipping and minimize wheel spin on slippery roads.

Use chains on all four tires to improve steering traction on icy surfaces for the best performance. Tire chains should only be used on rear or four-wheel drive vehicles, not front-wheel drive. Correctly position and secure the chains for safe driving on even the iciest roads.

When to Use Tire Chains

Tire chains can be challenging to install, place additional strain on your car’s drivetrain, and be loud and uncomfortable. Therefore, it’s crucial to know when you need to use them. Most people only use tire chains when they are required. If you reside in an area with heavy snowfall or icy roads for long periods, tire chains may be necessary for safe winter driving.

However, there are specific situations where you may need tire chains even if you don’t typically require them. For example, mountain roads covered in mud can be slippery, even with no snow or ice. In these circumstances, snow chains could provide the extra traction needed to travel safely up or down the mountain. Moreover, when installing tire chains, it’s essential to consider the temperature. Tire chains are necessary if the temperature falls below 7 degrees Celsius and the road is covered in snow. However, if you drive on a highway that has been plowed and salted, remove your tire chains as soon as possible to avoid damaging the road surface.

Finally, it’s crucial to follow tire chain laws in your area. Certain states and provinces mandate tire chains in specific conditions, while others prohibit their use. This is especially true in regions where tire chains can harm the road surface or contribute to noise pollution. Therefore, while tire chains are only necessary at times, knowing when and how to use them is critical.

How to Install Tire Chains

Installing tire chains can be challenging, so familiarity with the process is essential. Before installing, ensure you have the appropriate chain size for your tires. If the chains are not securely fastened around your tires, they will not fit tightly. Once you have the appropriate chains, follow the steps below to install them:

  • Park the vehicle on a flat surface to ensure the chains fit correctly and are not unevenly tensioned.
  • Place the chains around the tires, ensuring they are centered and evenly braced to provide the most effective traction.
  • Securely fasten the chains with a ratchet or wire ties, depending on your chains. The chains should be snug but not too tight.
  • Tighten the chains to ensure they remain secure around the tires and are not too loose or tight.
  • Drive slowly, no faster than 40 km/h. After driving, remove the chains and store them correctly for your next use. This will help them last longer and provide better traction when you need them the most.

Pros and Cons of Using Tire Chains

While tire chains can be a lifesaver in icy or snowy conditions, they also have drawbacks. Therefore, it’s crucial to consider their pros and cons before purchasing. Here are some of them:


  • They provide extra traction on slippery surfaces.
  • They are relatively inexpensive compared to winter tires.
  • They can be used in various vehicles, from cars to trucks.
  • They can help you avoid accidents in winter.
  • You can make turns without slipping or sliding.


  • They can be challenging to install and remove.
  • They can cause extra wear and tear on your vehicle.
  • They can be noisy and uncomfortable to drive on.
  • They can damage the road surface if not removed promptly.

Tips for Driving with Chains on Your Tires in Slippery Conditions

Driving on slippery surfaces with tire chains can be challenging. Even a skilled driver may need help handling slippery conditions, whether or not they have tire chains on. Here are some tips to consider when driving with chains on your car:

  • Drive slowly and cautiously, especially when turning, as chains can cause your vehicle to slide.
  • Leave ample space between your car and other vehicles. The extra traction provided by the chains can make it difficult to stop quickly if needed. Giving yourself plenty of time and space to slow down is essential.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Familiarize yourself with the roads and weather conditions to help you stay safe and make informed decisions, such as when making a U-turn.
  • Do not overload your vehicle; excess weight can cause chains to slip or break. Ensure that your car carries only what it can handle.
  • Learn to control your vehicle by practicing driving on slippery surfaces with chains. This way, you can become familiar with how your vehicle responds.
  • Do not procrastinate on vehicle maintenance. Properly maintained brakes, tires, and other components are essential for driving safely with tire chains. This will help you avoid accidents or mishaps.

Bottom Line

Tire chains are beneficial for winter driving. However, using them properly on slick surfaces is essential to ensure better traction in snow and prevent wheel spinning. By doing so, you can guarantee your safety while maximizing your winter driving experience.

About the author, Laurence Perkins

Laurence Perkins is the passionate car enthusiast behind the blog My Auto Machine. With over a decade of experience in the automotive industry, Perkins has knowledge and experience with a wide range of car makes and models. His particular interests lie in performance and modification, and his blog covers these topics in-depth. In addition to his own blog, Perkins is a respected voice in the automotive community and writes for various automotive publications. His insights and opinions on cars are highly sought-after.