The Frugal Car Owner: How to Install Snow Chains


RelayRides’ automotive expert explains how to put chains on your tires just in time for winter snowstorms and skiing trips.

How time flies! Winter is already starting to take shape around the country, and for many of us, that means contending with snowy conditions when driving. It also means you may find yourself in need of tire chains as well. But instead of forking over a chunk of change to have those chains installed by a shop, or someone on the side of the road on your way to go skiing or boarding why not save a few bucks and do it yourself? Since you’ve already replaced your battery, rotated your tires, changed your oil and installed new wiper blades, you’re basically a veteran grease monkey now anyway! Nice thing is, this one’s pretty easy. Let’s get started.

What You’ll Need

Fortunately, you shouldn’t need any hand tools for this job. First, you’ll need is a set of tire chains that’s made to fit the tires of your vehicle. You can find the tire size information on the sidewall of your tires. The tire measurement information will read something along the lines of ###/##/R## – the #s will be replaced by numbers indicating the measurements of the dimensions of your tire. You’ll want to make sure you’re installing the chains on the wheels that “drive” the car. If you aren’t sure, consult your owner’s manual. Aside from that, the only other thing you should need is some room to work.

Lay Down the Chains

Start by clearing some space in front of your vehicle. Lay the tire chains flat on the ground in front of your vehicle’s drive wheels with the metal hooks of the chains facing down.

Make sure that both the chains and you tires are aligned and drive slowly onto the chains, stopping in the center of the chains so that there’s about as much extra chain in front of the tire as there is behind it. Turn off your car and set your emergency brake. Now, take the chains and drape the excess chain in front of and behind your tire over the tire.

Connect the Cables

Now it’s time to connect the chains together. Start by bringing the connector cables from the inside of the tire (the connectors closer to the center of the vehicle as opposed to the outside of the vehicle) together. If your car is front-wheel-drive and you find that space is an issue connecting these inside cables, try turning the steering wheel a bit to provide more room to work.

Before connecting the outside cable, try to remove and much slack from the cable as you can, which should bring the tire chains taut with the tire. Once that’s done, connect the outside cable.

Keep the Chains Tight

It’s important to keep the chains as tightly wrapped around the tire as possible. An easy way to do this is to use a bungee cord to keep them tightened down. Hook the bungee cord up in a circular pattern to the outside cable connector with equal tension on all sides. Check your chains periodically to make sure they’re still tight because if they get too loose, they can break free and cause damage to your vehicle.

Go Slow

Tire chains are designed to be used at under 30 miles per hour. If you exceed this, it’s likely that the chains will come off, and it won’t be pretty when they do.

Pretty simple, eh? Just make sure you get your ride ready for winter before you go forth and conquer the elements!