car stuck in snow

How to Fit Snow Chains to your Car

In Britain, it is relatively uncommon for us to need to fit snow chains as our winters tend to be relatively mild. However, over the past couple of years we have experienced short bursts of fairly bad snowy weather, so it is worth learning how to fit snow chains should the need ever arise.

What’s more, it’s a handy skill if you are heading on a European road trip in winter, as in some countries carrying and using snow chains when required is compulsory.

Fitting snow chains may seem like a daunting task, but hopefully, by the end of the blog, you will be able to see that fitting snow chains is a fairly straightforward process.

What Are Snow Chains?

Snow chains are devices which are fitted to your tyres to help provide more traction in snowy or icy conditions.  They are not a permanent fixture and can simply be applied or removed as required.

Most snow chains are made up of a series of strong durable metal chains that can withstand the full weight of the vehicle. They have been designed to fit tightly around a car’s tyres, so they do not get dislodged during travel.

Different snow chain designs are available so it should be easy to find the right snow chains for your requirements.

Why Should You Fit Snow Chains?

Snow chains help to improve traction in wintry conditions increasing the amount of grip car tyres have on the road. This can help make driving in adverse weather conditions much safer as it helps to reduce the risk of the car losing control and skidding.

As mentioned, snow chains are compulsory in some countries. Therefore if you are heading on a winter road trip abroad, it is a good idea to check the driving laws and regulations regarding snow chains beforehand.

When Should You Fit Snow Chains?

The first step in fitting snow chains is knowing when you should use them. Snow chains should only be used when the road is covered in a layer of ice and snow.

Driving on a road clear of these conditions could result in damage to both the road and your tyres.  Therefore if you reach a clear road that has been gritted, you should pull over as soon as it is safe to do so and remove the snow chains at the earliest opportunity. You may find that you will have to fit and remove the snow chains several times during your journey as the road conditions change.

car with snow chains fitted

Step-By-Step Guide on Fitting Snow Chains

  • 1. Put the handbrake on and place the car in gear

  • 2. Hold the snow chain over the tyre & lower it onto the tyre covering the parts you can reach

  • 3. Repeat the process on other tyres you are fitting the chains to

  • 4. Get into the car & drive forward enough to expose the uncovered section of the tyres

  • 5. Secure the car again by applying the handbrake and placing in gear

  • 6. Secure the final part of the chain using a closer link to tighten everything up

  • 7. Drive for 20-30m and then stop & check the snow chains

  • 8. Tighten the snow chains if they’ve become slack as they’ve settled on your tyres

  • Be aware that different snow chains may come with their own fitting instructions so while this provides a rough guide to the process, you should always follow the snow chain manufacturer’s instructions.

    NB. Some snow chains have rings on the inside of the wheel to help secure the chains in place. If using this type of snow chain, it is important that the open connection is at the bottom of the wheel.

    How to Remove Snow Chains?

    Removing snow chains is a fairly straight forward process. Simply disconnect and remove the snow chain, laying it down as flatly as possible on the ground. Drive forward a metre until the tyres are completely off the chains.

    Again this is a general guide to snow chain removal therefore if the snow chains you own come with different removal instructions, then you should follow those.

    How to Drive With Snow Chains On?

    When you drive with snow chains on you should follow the same advice you would when travelling on snow or ice. Not only is excessive acceleration and braking unsafe in wintry conditions, it also puts too much pressure on the snow chains which could cause them to snap.

    With snow chains fitted you should travel no faster than 30mph. You should slow down and accelerate progressively to avoid wheel spin, as wheel spin could cause considerable damage to your tyre and snow chain if a link gets caught on a hidden rock or debris.

    Generally, the cars traction control should be turned off when snow chains are fitted. However, it is always worth checking in your car’s handbook or get advice from the snow chain supplier as the advice may vary. Your cars handbook should also have information on how to go about switching your traction control off.

    Top Tips on Fitting Snow Chains

  • Practice fitting snow chains during warm and dry weather. Cold wintry conditions can make it harder to fit snow chains, so if you are already well-practised then you should it easier, despite the conditions being poor.

  • Make sure the snow chains are tangle-free before you attempt to fit them.

  • Use an old car mat, ideally rubber, to kneel on when you fit the snow chains to help keep you warm and dry.

  • As a minimum, you should fit snow chains to the drive wheels of the vehicle. So front wheel drive vehicles should at the least have snow chains fitted to the two front wheels, whereas rear wheel drive vehicles should at the least have snow chains fitted to the rear wheels. Meanwhile, 4x4 vehicles should have snow chains fitted to all four tyres.

  • Make sure you get the right size and type snow chains for your vehicle.

  • Make sure you stop straight away if you think the snow chains may be damaged or broken.

  • Wearing a hi-visibility jacket or vest will make you more visible should you need to fit/remove snow chains at the roadside.

  • It is a good idea to check for broken links when you remove the snow chains. You should also clean and dry the snow chains before you put them away to keep them in the best possible condition.

  • Snow chains are usually designed for a particular vehicle model, so if you sell your current car you will need to check whether the same snow chains will be compatible with your new car.

  • Make sure you stay safe when driving in the snow, whether at home or abroad. If you’re planning on driving abroad to take advantage of the snowy conditions, why not check out our ski & snowboard carriers and make sure all your gear gets there in one piece!