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How to Size Tire Chains

by Gail Logan

If you live in or will be visiting an area that is prone to receive snow or ice, it is essential that you keep tire chains on hand. Chains are installed around the tire and will provide you with traction on the roads. Tire chains can be purchased in auto supply stores or tire centers. They are sold in varying sizes to fit different tires. To determine which size of tire chains you will need, check the size of your tires first.


Look at the sidewalls of your tires. You will notice a collection of letters and numbers.


Locate the first three numbers grouped together. This may follow a letter such as P. These three numbers represent the width of the tire in millimeters.


Find the two numbers after the dash and before the R. These numbers are the ratio of the tire width to height.


Locate the two numbers directly after the R. These represent the size of the tire.


Write all three of these numbers down, separated by dashes or slashes. Your numbers will look something like this: 185/75R/14.


Take the piece of paper that contains the numbers to your local auto supply store and have the clerk retrieve the right size chains for you, as they are usually not kept in the area of the store accessible to shoppers.


  • If the chains are available in the main portion of the store, match the size label on the package with the numbers retrieved from your tires.

About the Author

Gail Logan is a magazine editor and freelance writer based in Atlanta, AL. She received her B.A. in Journalism from Patrick Henry College. For the past four years, she has written home design, travel and food features for national magazines, including "Coastal Living," "Texas Home and Living," "Log Home Design," and "Country's Best Log Homes." When not writing, she mentors inner-city children.

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