How to Choose and Use Tire Chains like a Pro

How to Professionally Select and Utilize Tire Chains

Tire chains are useful tools when driving on icy roads filled with hard-packed snow. Their purpose is to improve a vehicle’s traction and climbing capability. It also boosts a car’s stopping distance due to a tire chain’s ability to cling to ice or snow. Chains are ideally used during harsh winter conditions and when your winter tires have insufficient traction.

Tire chains do not need to be used when there is no ice or snow as doing so could damage roads and destroy your vehicle’s tires. Preparation is a necessity, thus it is a must that you have a set of tire chains ready in your vehicle just in case a snow hits. Do purchase a toolbox or carrier where you can put the tire chain in for the purpose of protecting and organizing them.

Truckers and motorists do not need to risk their lives while riding through hazardous winter conditions as long as they have quality tire chains on hand. In order to know the best tire chains, see the below details on how to properly select and use them.

  1. Determine the size of your tire

Tire chains come in a slew of sizes to suit various tire measurements. You can find your vehicle’s tire size by checking its sidewalls. Notice the collection of numbers and letters and see the first three numbers that are grouped together. These digits represent the tire’s width in millimeters. If you want to know the width of the tire to its height, look for the two digits after the dash and before the letter R. The two numbers which come directly after the R indicate the tire’s size. Make sure to note down these three groups of numbers, and separate each with a slash or a dash, such as 175/72R/11. Go to an auto supply store and give the numbers to the clerk. He or she should be able to give you the correct chain sizes.

Before you make a purchase, do read the owner’s manual of your vehicle. See if any restrictions exist on the specific type of chains you will be using. Most car’s wheel well has a limited clearance for tire chains. If this applies to your truck or car, a Class S chain is highly recommended as these are specially designed for limited clearance vehicles.

  1. Know the class designations of tire chains

Three tire chain class designations exist as according to The Society of Automotive Engineers. Every class is distinguished by chains that fall in specific minimum clearances.

Class S tire chains are specially made for motor vehicles with wheel well clearances that are restricted. Such vehicles could include small trucks with big aftermarket tires, vans, cars. Two types of Class S clearance exist. Type A has a minimum measurement of 37 mm or 1.46” between the wheel well and top of the tire tread. Type B measures 15 mm or 0.59” between the vehicle itself and the sidewall of the tire.

There are also two types of Class U clearance. Type A measures at least 50 mm or 1.97” between the wheel well and tire tread. Type B measures 23mm or 0.91” between the actual vehicle and the sidewall of the tire.

Two types of Class W clearance exist. Type A measures at least 63.5mm or 2.50” between the wheel well and top of the tire tread. Type B is at least 38 mm or 1.50” between the vehicle and sidewall of the tire.

Be aware that some tire chains are not at all tested against such standards. Situations could occur where a 15-millimeter clearance might suit your vehicle despite the latter having limited clearance, and the chain bears no Class S marking.

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  1. Be aware of tire chain features

Having sufficient knowledge on tire chain features allow you to know which chains are easy to install. These include chains described as ‘clamp-on installation’ or drape-over-the-tire’, as well as automatic chain tensioning. Entry level chains (e.g. Glacier Cable Chains # PW1034) that are ideal for emergency use do not have the mentioned features. Meanwhile, S class chains are best for vehicles with limited clearance wheel wells.

Knowing a tire chain’s features will also help you know which to prioritize as according to your needs. If you value a product for being cost-effective, the Titan Chain Alloy Tire Chains # TC1540 might be a good choice as it has drape-over-the-tire feature and offers assisted tensioning. If you prefer a chain that provides a good grip, you would need a chain with a diamond pattern such as the Thule CB-12 Diamond Pattern chain set # TH01221090.

If you prioritize easy installation, you might want to choose chains which you can install with no difficulty – a critical feature that is ideal when you are in the midst of an emergency during harsh winters. Knowing the below tire chain features will help you know which chains to choose for your vehicle.

Automatic adjustment feature

Automatic adjustment is a feature premium tire chains have. This allow chains to tighten itself and align automatically while driving. All a user needs to do is install them according to the instructions indicated. Then, proceed to drive forward. Do make sure the tire chains are sufficiently tightened. The benefit of this feature is that drivers need not adjust the chains regularly as it is done so automatically. The following brands offer automatically adjusting tire chains: LowPro, Easy Fit SUV, K-Summit, CG9, Konig, Sportmatik, Pewag, ServoRS.

Assisted Adjustment feature

This feature that makes the process of fitting tire chains quick and easy. Though these will not align and tighten automatically, they are quick to install compared to models which need manual adjustment. Brands which have assisted adjustment feature includes Konig (with specific models as CB12, CD10, CS10, XB16, and XD16); and Pewag (models include Brenta-C 4×4, Square Link with cams, CL, Tite N Lite, and ASV). Affordable brands include Titan and Glacier.

Manual adjustment feature

Manual adjustment is a feature that allows tire chains to be physically adjusted using a few steps. One type of manual adjustment requires the chains to be laid out. The vehicle then drives on the chains.

Another way is by draping the chains over the tires and proceeding to drive forward. Doing both allows the chains to be positioned properly. The next step is to hook these into place and driving forward the second time to further align and tighten them.

Manually adjusted chains are cheaper. They are ideally used as back up chains during occasional snow mountain trips. Brands which offer manual adjustment features include Titan and Glacier.

Quick-release mechanism feature

A chain’s quick release feature mechanism makes the removal of tire chains quick and effortless. This could either be a lever or a quick-pull release. This mechanism’s objective is to decrease the time a driver spends in the cold. Brands which carry this feature include Konig, and Pewag.

Plastic coating feature

This is another feature a tire chain has. A few snow chains add this to their product in order to make the chains convenient and less cold to handle. Plastic coating makes your fingers freeze-free while removing or installing chains without gloves.

Rim protection feature

A tire chain with a rim protection feature keeps tire chains from scratching the wheels of your vehicles. A few chains have rubber buttons to keep the metal from touching your vehicle’s rims. Some rims are specially designed to keep it from scratching the wheels. Brands which have these feature include Konig, Pewag, Servo RS, and Snox Pro.

Off-road feature

A tire chain with an off road feature allows it to perform heavy duty work due to its decent traction. This includes being able to drive through muddied streets. Brands which offer this feature include Konig, Pewag, ASV. Less costly products are Titan and Glacier.

Icebreakers feature

Icebreakers or ice spikes is a tire chain feature that sees the presence of cleats or studs within the tire chains. It offers steady ice grip while driving through intense winter weather. Icebreakers give drivers additional traction and safety. The Konig brand offer tire chain models with icebreakers already installed. Less costly brands such as Glacier V-bar and Titan also have icebreakers that will improve a chain’s ability to drive better amidst icy weather. Other than ice spikes, chains with square links also offer good traction. The Pewag brand has such chains with square links.

  1. Know the purpose each link type offers

The type of link a chain has largely dictates the grip strength and traction it is capable of. Some links are best used during light snow, while others are ideal for heavy winter conditions.

D-shape

D-shaped links provide excellent traction and grip in snowy weather. It also offers a smooth drive due to its round edges.

Twist links

Though these links similarly provide excellent traction, it only gives adequate grip on icy roads. However, they also allow a smooth drive thanks to its round edges.

Rollers

These links are made up of steel pieces that cover cables. They provide good traction during light or mild snow.

  1. Know the purpose of each chain pattern

The way a tire chain’s pattern lay over your vehicle’s tire tread has an effect on its traction. Below are the various patterns tire chains can have.

Ladder pattern

This pattern crosses horizontally over the tire tread. Its ladder pattern offers excellent grip as well as stoppage even while driving forward.

Diagonal V pattern

This pattern shows diagonal crisscross chains on tire treads. Its purpose is to provide better traction and stoppage specially when doing turns.

Diamond pattern

This pattern sees chains cross vertically and diagonally over the tire treads. The additional coverage it provides helps increase a tire’s traction and stoppage during forward driving and turns.

Full-coverage chain pattern

This pattern sees chains cross in numerous ways over tire treads thereby giving maximum coverage. It offers superior stopping/lateral/ forward traction. It is ideal for either off road use or heavy-duty purposes.

  1. Know what material the chains are made from

The majority of tire chains are built using extremely durable steel. Steel links that are individually created are specially made to be sturdy and powerful enough to journey through snow and even break ice.

Tire chains made of low-carbon steel is just as durable, strong, and affordably priced. Meanwhile, manganese nickel alloy-chains is made from steel that is resistant to corrosion. It is also durable, and powerful. Similarly, titanium alloy is very strong, corrosion-resistant, and lasts long.

Besides steel, tire chains are also made of rubber cords enveloped by steel rollers. Such chains provide a better riding experience, albeit a bit less durability and traction.

  1. Determine your tire chain requirements

The best way to choose tire chains is to first identify what, when, where, and how you will use them for. If you are looking for problem-free installation, while also valuing durability, you should select premium chains. See the below information to further help you limit and identify your choices.

Premium chains

If you require tire chains to be of excellent quality, perfectly suit the size of your tires, and be made of metal, you should choose premium tire chains.

The following are characteristics of premium tire chains: they are easy to install, adjust and remove; they are self-adjusting, self-centering, and self-installing. It also possesses a quick release feature.

The presence of soft bumpers on chains prevents rims from being scratched. Plus, the presence of icebreakers or square links give vehicles traction in icy and snowy roads. Premium chains with diamond-shaped pattern gives drivers a smooth journey.

Premium chains are made from nickel steel alloy, titanium, manganese that are highly corrosion-resistant. They also possess an automatic mount feature.

Best quality chains

Features-wise, best quality chains are similar to premium chains minus the easy installation capability. However, if you are looking for a chain that is best for long term usage and is able to rigorously last, these chains will do. Made from highly resistant metal alloys, best quality chains come in various styles. They could either be Class S or Non Class S, possess diamond or ladder patterns, and are either square/d-shaped/twisted/or have ice spikes. These chains could either have manual or automatic adjustment options and are made from nickel, manganese or titanium alloys.

Good quality chains

If you want affordable products, choose good quality chains. Though these might not last long compared to best quality chains, they do fulfill your specific chain requirements. Made from hardened steel, these chains come in styles similar to best quality chains.

Economical chains

Though these chains are the most affordable, they do not strictly fulfill the definition of what tire chains are. However, they do fulfill Department of Transportation requirements. Economical chains are usually wire or rubber cables connected by steel rollers. These are considered legal in areas where the use of tire chains are permitted. Styles of economical chains include those with Class-S marks, and have ladder patterns.

  1. Be aware of tire chain laws

Knowing laws on tire chains specific to your location helps you choose which tire chains are best for your use. In other countries, truck drivers are required to have their chains present in their rig 100% of the time. Whether you’re driving through Canada’s provinces or entering checkpoints at US states and you are not in possession of the appropriate number of chains, you could be fined. There are also areas which prohibit tire chains in specific situations. Knowing specific tire chain laws could save you money, time, and energy. See below each province’s regulations.

Alberta regulation

There are no specific regulations that explicitly prohibit the use of studded tires or tire chains.

British Columbia regulations

In British Columbia, studded tires and chains are allowed when necessary. Fines are strictly imposed when inappropriate tires are used. The province reminds its locals of this regulation via a sign posted by The Ministry of Transportation which states that winter tires or carry chains need to be used beyond a certain point on specific dates of the year (usually from October 1 to April 30).

It is not a must that chains be installed. Truckers and drivers are only required to carry them. But once they explicitly see a sign or amber lights flashing a reminder that trucks or vehicles whose Gross Vehicle Weight rating is more than the posted number, installing the chains is a necessity.

To aid people to abide by regulations, the government of British Columbia issued a guide on ‘best practices’ for tire chain use. Specifically, the dates ranging from October 1 to April 30 allows the use of studded tires measuring 3.5mm in height.

Vehicles which weigh more than 10,141 pounds (4,600 kg) are only allowed 175 studs for each tire. Vehicles which weigh less than 10,141 pounds (4,600 kg) are allowed 130 studs.

Manitoba regulations

Tire chain use in Manitoba are neither required nor prohibited as no regulations are currently in place. This does not mean Manitoba is not making road safety a priority. The province created a Winter Tire Financing Program that allow customers of Manitoba Public Insurance to receive a maximum of $2,000 low-interest financing if their vehicles weigh less than 4,541 kg. Four-wheelers are covered by the program. Studded tires are allowed in the province from October 1 to April 30.

Regulations in New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, and the Northwest Territories

No current regulations exist which prohibit tire chain use in New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador. However, both provinces allow studded tires. The former permits their use from October 15 to May 1, while the latter allows it from November 1 to April 30. In the Northwest Territories, no regulations exist which prohibit or require studded tires or tire chain use.

Nova Scotia regulations

Studded tires are allowed from October 15 to May 31 as long as studs are not sticking out from the tire’s tread or surface for more than an eighth of an inch. Also, each stud’s diameter must not go beyond half an inch. For vehicles that weigh more than 10,000 pounds, the number of studs must only be 175 for each tire. Plus, the number of studs on the left tires must be the same as the number of studs on the right.

Nunavut regulations

Nunavut adheres to Section 81 of the Motor Vehicle Regulation Act stating that no person will “operate a vehicle equipped with tracks, cleats or other protrusions designed for traction except (a) on road built on ice; (b) on seasonal roads; (c) on roads maintained by private individuals or companies”. The province is also obliged to follow Section 82 where it states that Section 81 is not applicable to vehicles with studded tires, and vehicles which also use snow chains in icy or snowy road conditions.

Ontario regulations

Though studded tires are allowed on Ontario roads from September 1 to May 31, users must be Northern Ontario residents. Another requirement is that they need to have a business existing in Northern Ontario, or are given road authority with jurisdiction as well as highway control. Residents which are not from Ontario are allowed to use studded tires as long as the vehicle has been in Ontario for not more than thirty days. If a vehicle with studded tires are seen in Southern Ontario, a fine worth $1,000 will be imposed.

Prince Edward Island regulations

There are no regulations specific to tire chains in Prince Edward. However, studded tires are permitted on island roads from October 1 to May 31. Studs are also disallowed from sticking out from the surface of the tire for more than 3.2mm. Studs must not be installed in worn tires.

Quebec regulations

Quebec allows chains to be used from October 15 to May 1, and only by emergency vehicles, vehicles designed for winter maintenance/snow removal, as well as farm tractors. Only passenger vehicles are allowed to use studded tires from October 15 to May 1.

Saskatchewan and Yukon

Though both provinces have no regulations on winter tires, they permit chains and studded tires.

  1. Additional tips on how to use and choose tire chains like a professional

Vehicles with tire chains are normally advised to drive not more than 30 miles per hour. But the Ministry of Transportation of British Columbia recommends a speed of 50 km per hour when using chains. Remember that when a vehicle with chain links is driving too fast, it could destroy your vehicle’s fenders or tires.

Always make sure to follow the instructions provided by the tire chain manufacturer. Using the wrong chains for your vehicle or installing them incorrectly can increase the risk of losing control of the vehicle.

The practice of placing and removing tire chains on a vehicle need to be done during good weather. Doing so avoids the possibility of having frozen fingers. Plus, it saves time.

Having a safety vest on hand keeps you highly visible if in case you need to install chains. Warning triangles also serve as emergency devices in order for other drivers passing by to see you during conditions where there is low visibility due to harsh winter conditions.

Refer to your vehicle’s owner’s manual in order to know the details of installing chains. Numerous all-wheel drives are mostly geared towards front-wheel drive unless a slip is seen. Though it is logical to place chains on the power wheels located at the front of the vehicle, it is essential that the vehicle’s manufacturer be consulted first. This is to avoid issues regarding possible interference with the wheel well, steering, brake lines, suspension or other vehicle components.

Two sets of chains are recommended to be on hand whether one is driving a two-wheel or all-wheel drive. Some drivers who prioritize affordability would rather have only one set of chains for the power axle. But a car with a front-wheel drive needs chains on the rear in order for it to not slip.

Chains will not damage roads as long as they are removed when driving on snow-free roads. Doing so keeps your tires from being destroyed. It also keeps your chains from quickly wearing down.

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