How Do Snow Chains Work?

by Derek Odom

Added Traction

Snow chains or cables are designed to wrap around the tread of the tires on your car or truck and latch together tightly to prevent slipping. Snow chains look like chain link wrapped around the tire, and snow cables look more like thick wires. Both applications are adept at adding traction in adverse weather conditions. Snow chains come in different sizes, so not every snow chain will fit every tire. You can find the size of your tires written on the sidewall. Make sure the snow chains you purchase were manufactured to fit your particular tire and size to avoid buying the wrong chains. Do not attempt to fit the wrong sized chains on your vehicle.

Eliminate Wheel Spin

Snow chains provide massive traction gains by biting into the snow and ice on the ground. They work like added lugs on the vehicle’s tires, eliminating wheel spin, which keeps the car moving forward. Like the paddles on a sand tire help bite into the terrain, snow chains are an effective traction device. Snow chains are also tough and won't break under normal conditions.


Be sure to install them per the manufacturer’s recommendations for safety. Ensure that the locking devices are attached correctly as well. Also, install them on the correct wheels. If the car is front-wheel drive, the chains go on the front, and vice versa. It is acceptable to put them on all four tires, but this usually isn't necessary unless the vehicle is a four-wheel drive. Also, do not exceed 30 mph when driving with snow chains. And do not drive very long on asphalt with them; this can shorten the life of the chains significantly.

About the Author

Derek Odom has freelanced since 2008 and is also an author of the macabre. He has been published on, and various other websites. Odom has an Associate of Arts in administration of justice.

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Photo Credits

  • photo_camera snow image by Aleksandr Himcenko from