Tips to choose and use tire chains

No matter how much experience a driver has, winter driving presents unusual and unexpected challenges. Changes to temperature, precipitation, elevation and road conditions can make winter driving dangerous for even the best drivers. Snow tire chains are one piece of a car emergency kit that can help keep a car on the road, even through slush, ice, or snow.

Tips to choose and use tire chains

Here are some tips on how to choose and use tire chains.

Choosing the Best Tire Chains

Feeling lost when comparing snow tire chains in a store or online? Here are some guidelines for choosing strong and safe ones.

V-shaped crosslinks provide more traction to stop and corner on winter roads than straight crosslinks.
Look for ladder-style chains. In deep snow, ladder-style link chains are better than ladder-style cable ones.
Tungsten tips are very hard and are stronger than those made of case-hardened steel.
Make sure the chains are the right size for the wheels on the vehicle.

Buying the snow chains is only the first step; the driver needs to carry them at all times in their vehicle, especially when winter conditions are expected.

Chains, Snow, and Installation

There’s one tip that’s most important to follow before all others: practice putting on the snow chains at home, before leaving on a trip. They can be tricky to install, and learning how is much easier to do in a warm garage than in the midst of a blizzard.

Snow tire chains should be installed on the drive wheels: on the front wheels for front-wheel drive vehicles, the back wheels for rear-wheel drive, and on all four tires on all-wheel-drive autos. For all-wheel-drive vehicles, 2 sets of chains need to be purchased.

Make sure to set the emergency brake before installing the chains, and pull over to a rest stop or clearing on the side of the road. Try to pull over on a flat road, rather than on a hill. Watch the vehicles driving in the opposite direction to see if they’re using chains; if so, conditions ahead warrant them.

Driving with Snow Chains

Once the chains have been installed, a few tips can make sure the driving goes smoothly and the vehicle won’t be damaged.

tire chains

Accelerate slowly.
When coming to a stop, start slowing down much earlier than what a dry road requires.
Check the chain’s instruction booklet for the maximum speed to drive with them on.
If a chain breaks, stop and repair it. A broken chain can damage the vehicle and reduce the efficiency of the chains.
Don’t drive on a dry road with the chains. When the weather and road conditions clear, pull over at a rest stop to remove them.

Winter driving can be dangerous, but snow tire chains can make a snowy journey a safer one. When there’s ice, snow or slush on the road, make sure to slow down, drive defensively, and put on tire chains when required.

Studded Tires Vs. Snow Tires

Here are some tips for choosing between studded tires and snow tires based on average road conditions and other factors.

Studded Snow Tires

These are the benefits of studded snow tires:

They stop faster than any other type of tire on ice in freezing temperatures.
Studded tires chew up the ice on the roads, creating friction that benefits drives with non-studded tires.

Here are the drawbacks of studded snow tires:

Tips to choose tire chains

While they cut up ice, they also damage roads. If a section of pavement is clear during the winter, or if the studded tires are used in the spring or summer, roads are damaged.
They do not have the best performance on snowy and slushy roads.
In many American states and Canadian provinces, studded tires are illegal year-round, and in other states and provinces, they are only legal during the winter months.
They are noisy.

Anyone interested in purchasing studded tires should check with their local department or ministry of transportation to find out whether studs are permitted in their area.

Winter Tires

Winter tires, also known as snow tires, are designed for winter road conditions, including ice, snow, and slush, as well as cold temperatures.

Here are the benefits of winter tires:

They perform well on all winter road conditions, not just ice, as studded tires do.
The deeper tread means that slush and snowfall out of the tire as it rotates, so there’s less build-up.
Noise levels are the same as for all-season tires.

Here are the drawbacks of snow tires:

Regulation is a bit misleading. While many are labeled “M+S” (which means “mud and snow”), the amount of snow that they’re rated for varies. It’s best to look for the icon of a snowflake inside of a mountain for the best-performing snow tires.

Tips for Studded Tires and Snow Tires

No matter which type of tire a consumer chooses, there are a few basic rules that will make them most effective.

Don’t mix tread patterns, conditions, and sizes. All four tires should be the same, or the benefits of each tire are lost.
Replace tires that are worn-out or damaged.
Regularly check the tires’ condition and air pressure.
Watch for product recalls. It’s not worth the risk of driving on tires that have been proven unsafe.
Stay safe by following the rules for snow and ice driving, and packing a winter car survival kit in case the worst happens.

Winter driving can be made safer by preparing the vehicle with appropriate tires. For most vehicles and road conditions, winter tires are best. If studded tires are legal in a driver’s area, they should be reserved for the winter months, and used only if icy roads are the norm.

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