Snow Chains - Getting a Grip on Ice

June 26, 2015
Snow Chains - Getting a Grip on Ice

Driving on roads covered by snow and ice can be extremely dangerous, so it is necessary that you have the right equipment for the job to make sure you arrive at your destination safely. Snow chains or tyre chains are the most effective way of adding traction to your wheels in snowy and icy conditions when they would otherwise fail to get a grip.

Snow chains wrap around your vehicle’s tyre helping it to dig into and break hard packed ice gaining traction. Snow chains are designed to work in conjunction with specific wheel sizes and need to be fitted correctly to ensure you can drive effectively.

Where should I use chains?

In some areas, (such as mountain roads) and in some conditions (such as in the full force of winter) you could be required by law to use tyre chains as a safety precaution. Driving with tyre chains fitted will usually limit your driving speed and greatly increase fuel consumption.

Travelling at a reduced speed will allow your tyres time to force their way in to the snow or ice, reducing the chances of sliding or spinning out. You should also allow a lot more time for braking before corners if you are driving with chains fitted to your tyres.

The use of snow chains is prohibited in some regions around the world in an attempt to preserve the road surface. Tyre chains can cause serious damage to the tarmac over time, worsening the standard conditions of the road even when covered in ice or snow.


Snow chains are made from a range of materials. It is common to use steel as they primary gripping material that lies across the face of the tyre. Often polyurethane, rubber and even fabric can be used in their construction to allow them to be tightened around the surface of the tyre.

The Fit

Most tyre chains are fitted to your vehicles wheel by laying them open and flat on the ground and then driving the wheels on to them. This job is best performed with two people as it can be hard to align them correctly on your own.

Once your tyres are in the centre of the open chains, you can then fasten them around the wheel by lifting the loose ends up and hooking or bolting them over the top of the tyre. This process may be different depending on the type of chains you are using.

Your chains should fit the tyre as closely as possible. It is a good idea to check their tension after you have driven for a short while as the links may have come loose while driving. If required, tighten the chains further to account for any looseness and you are good to go.

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Common Problems

Chains are known to fail or brake when they are not fitted correctly or the driver is not driving in the correct manner while they are fitted.

Make sure you reduce your speed to the suggested maximum speed in your snow chains’ manual. Travelling too fast can not only cause the links on your chains to fail, but also greatly increases your chances of losing control of your vehicle in snowy or icy conditions. Loose chains are prone to breaking as they will twist and create uneven pressure at various points around the chain. Make sure to tighten your chains so that there is no space between them and the tyre.

Driving on dry roads is another common cause of chain failure. Chains rely on their ability to slip a little on the surface of the ice, and the cold ice and water helps lubricate and keep the links cool. When they get too hot they can lead to failure and even damage your wheels if you are not careful.

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