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Snow can be unpredictable and potentially hazardous. But with snow chains, you can help ensure your tires have the traction needed to keep you safe. So what are snow chains exactly? Are they necessary for all-wheel drive (AWD)?

What are snow chains?

Snow chains are a special tire traction device that attaches to your tires to provide extra grip on snow and ice. The chains are made of metal links, which help create additional grip on snow and ice.

The chains come in various designs, sizes, and materials to accommodate different types of tires. They may also be used in conjunction with snow tires, as they provide an extra grip that snow tires alone can’t.

Do you need snow chains with AWD?

A set of snow chains necessary for travel put on a tire.
Snow chains | Getty Images

The answer is yes! Most states will require snow chains on all vehicles when driving on snow-covered or icy roads. AWD vehicles are no exception. Snow chains prove essential for keeping your vehicle safe during winter.

This extra grip can keep you from spinning out of control, sliding off the road, or skidding into another car. Even if you have snow tires, having a set of snow chains or cables may come in handy and save you from a potentially dangerous situation.

When selecting snow chains or cable, you’ll want to ensure you get the correct size for your tires. One way to do this is by verifying your tire size with the printed manufacturer information on the side of the tire. Then match that information to the snow chain or cable size chart.

How to put snow chains on and off

The earlier you learn how to put snow chains on and off, the better. According to Get Jerry, you should learn how to do this before the snow is on the ground. Even after learning to put snow chains on, practice putting them on and off before hazardous conditions arrive. This will also allow you to become more familiar with the snow chains and ensure they’re the right size for your tires.

Installing snow chains

Snow chains or snow cables do come with a set of instructions. Read the instructions carefully before attempting to put snow chains on. But here are some essential snow chain installation tips you can use to help get started:

  • Park your vehicle on a flat surface before installing snow chains.
  • Lay off snow chains and examine the features of the snow chain. A hook or locking device should hold the snow chain to your tire. A color-coded cable may also help in the snow chains installation.
  • Ensure snow chains are placed in the correct order.
  • Remove the wheel covers or hubcaps, if applicable, and then thread the snow chains onto your tires.
  • Tighten the snow chains securely after putting them on.
  • Repeat the snow chain installation process for each tire. Drive the car slowly for about 100 yards to ensure the chain settles into the right position.
  • Re-tighten the snow chains if there is any slack.

According to Repairpal, always drive carefully after installing snow chains, and keep a maximum speed of 25 mph. Above 25 mph, snow chains may damage your tires or cause an accident.

Removing snow chains

Once the snow and ice have melted, or you are on a road that no longer requires snow chains, you’ll need to remove snow chains. To do this, you’ll first want to place your car on a flat surface and remove the snow chains one at a time. Inspect each snow chain for any damage or wear, as this can affect its performance during the next snowstorm. Store snow chains in areas where they won’t be exposed to snow and ice, such as a garage or shed.


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