At the end of each summer or autumn season, many drivers start to consider their winter tyres and needs. Some people, however, often live in harsher environments and may require more than traditional snow tyres. In these instances, snow chains can be a great addition to have for the more severe driving conditions.
On the other hand, many drivers simply aren’t aware of snow chains or the benefits that they can provide. To help you, we’ve compiled this guide to snow chains, so you can learn what they have to offer.
What are snow chains
As the name suggests, these car chains are designed to fit around the car wheel and tyres. These cover the tread and are designed to offer additional traction.
Snow chains themselves come in many different designs and materials, although metal is typically used for its hardy, durable properties. The pattern of the chains themselves can also vary from product to product. Some might simply form lines across the tyre, while others might create a more intricate network of diamond patterns.
Snow chains are found in many vehicles, not just commercial cars.
Furthermore, snow chains for cars come in various sizes, so you need to find a size that matches your car tyre size.
The benefit of snow chains
As mentioned earlier, snow chains provide additional traction. They are primarily designed for surfaces with thick layers of snow and ice, where the traditional means of traction and grip found on winter tyres start to loose some of their effectiveness.
On the other hand, snow chains can be detrimental if used on normal road surfaces. Here, they can cause damage to both the road and your own car tyres, so it’s important that you only use them during the right conditions.
These chains also do not allow you to drive relatively fast, due to the nature of the conditions they are used in, often driving at no more than 20 mph. This speed can be even less with more snow and tougher road conditions.
Are snow chains legal in UK?
Snow chains are legal in the UK but are never required. If you live in a town or city, you may very well not need snow chains as there is typically very little snow in the UK - grit and sand often remove this in largely populated areas.
However, many drivers choose to have snow chains available if they are travelling somewhere remote, as they represent an extra layer of support that, unlike studded tyres, can be removed when they are no longer needed.
Outside of the UK, there are many European countries which, under the right circumstances, require snow chains to be fitted as a legal requirement. In countries such as Andorra, Austria, France, Germany, Norway and Switzerland, you are required to carry snow chains with you and fit them on appropriately signed roads.
In some parts of Europe, signs will clearly indicate when snow chains need to be fitted.
Of course, the vast majority of these roads are in remote, often mountainous areas where high levels of snowfall are common. Yet, if you are travelling to Europe in the winter, it is advisable to check whether or not you should bring some snow chains.
How to fit snow chains
Many commercial snow tyre chains are designed to be fitted easily, although there is still a little amount of work involved.
To fit a snow chain, keep the car parked (via the handbrake) and in gear. Next, place the car chains over the tyre, wrapping around as much as possible. Naturally, this will not be completely possible, since the bottom of the tyre is making contact with the ground. If your particular choice of chain has rings or clasps that fit on the inside of the tyre or wheel, you should fit these as well. For any open connection in the chains, these should be placed at the bottom of the wheel.
Modern, commercial snow chains are designed to be fitted as easily and efficiently as possible.
At this point, around three quarters of each tyre (that you wish to fit a chain on to) should be covered by the snow chains. At this point, you need to drive the car forwards, half a meter or so, before stopping and reapplying the brakes. This is necessary to rotate the wheels and grant access to the area that was previously obstructed by the road.
Now, you can fit the last part of the chains. The closing link can be used to tighten the chains at this point, as you can now connect the chain up with itself.
After this, you need to drive the car around 20 metres (65 feet) to adjust the chains. At this point, they will be quite loose, offering a bumpy ride, but driving forwards allows them to fall into place - just be sure to retighten the areas that do not find a natural fit.
What snow chains are right for me?
As already mentioned, it’s important to find a snow chain in the correct, matching size for your tyres. Similarly, you need to ensure that you have has adequate space to fit the chains. If there is little room between the car tyre and the rim, you will struggle to fit a big chain.
The best way to check this is to run your hand alongside the top of the tyre itself. This will show how much space there is and you can ensure such chains won’t interfere with any brakes, suspension system struts or other parts that can be found just behind the wheel.
On the other hand, relatively low profile tyres may also be unsuitable. At least, in this case, chains that have clasps to connect inside the tyre or wheel may be prove unfeasible, as a low profile model has little room to secure these.
It’s important to understand if your tyres are suitable for snow chains and how many tyres you wish to cover
Finally, you also need to consider how many snow chains you want. Many people opt for 2 chains, to be fitted on the wheels that offer the driving force. This would mean putting them on the front wheels for a front wheel drive system, on the rear for rear wheel drive vehicles and, in the case for 4x4 cars, putting chains on all four wheels.