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Blog category: Driving

Snow Chains 101: Everything You Need to Know Before it Snows

3 min read

If you live in an area that doesn’t see snow, your vehicle may not be four-wheel drive. Due to the mild climate, most Californians — unlike drivers in some parts of the U.S. — don’t even need to switch to winter tires. But since the mountain regions are easy to get to for a weekend or even a day’s fun, snow or tire chains can come in super handy.

Snow chains are an inexpensive, temporary solution that allows you to maneuver your car safely in deep or icy snow. If you do live in a mountainous area, you’ll want to keep chains in your car all winter — even if your vehicle is sporting its winter tires.

Below, we’ve unpacked all the info you need to stay safe and sane while attaching chains and driving on them.

Types of Chains

Diamond: The traditional type featuring strings of metal links, structured in a diamond shape. Offers better traction due to the increased contact surface to the ground.

Best for: Frequent, heavy snowfalls.

Cable: Features smaller lightweight links of spaced-out steel connected to a chain that covers the circumference of the wheel. The spaced-out cables make it easier to apply the brakes, which can be a boon when you have less control due to icy conditions.

Best for: Casual use on medium snow.

Alternative: Not snow chains per se, snow socks cover the tires with a thick fabric to enhance traction while giving a much quieter ride than chains. Another strategy is to use a thin but tough mesh, which also gives good traction. Both methods are easier to install than typical heavy chains and are lightweight, easy to store, and economical.

Best for: Smaller cars and SUVs in areas with intermittent snow.

Benefits of Tire Chains

  • Help you drive safer and avoid accidents in snowy or icy conditions.
  • Modern versions are easier to install and remove.
  • Increased traction for more control, which prevents slipping.
  • Effective on all types of vehicles and winter road conditions.

How to Use Snow Chains

Pro-tip: Don’t wait till the snow’s coming down thick and fast. Install the chains as soon as snow is imminent to save yourself future aggravation. If you’re not experienced, heavy snow will only make what can be an awkward task even more difficult.


  1. Determine whether your vehicle is front-wheel, rear-wheel, or all-wheel drive.
  2. Place the chains on the ground in front of the drive wheels. (All-wheel drive vehicles will need chains on all four tires.)
  3. If the chains have a tensioning system, make sure the mechanism is on the outside of the wheel for easy access.
  4. Straighten the chains and line them up with the tire.


  1. Slowly roll your vehicle forward onto the chains and stop in the middle.
  2. Connect the fasteners on all chains.
  3. Unless your chains are self-tightening, it’s time to tighten them. They’ll either have a ratchet system or come with rubber tighteners.
  4. Check that the tires have clearance to roll by running your hand back and forth around the top of the chains.


  1. Most manufacturers recommend a maximum speed of 30 mph with chains on. (After all, if road conditions warrant chains, you’ll be driving slower anyway.)
  2. If you drive too fast, the chains may break, which can scratch up your car’s exterior paint or result in tire damage.
  3. Avoid hitting potholes as this can damage your car and the chains.
  4. Be careful not to accelerate too rapidly as that can cause tire spin and put stress on the chains.


  1. Always remove your chains before driving on asphalt again to avoid breaking them.
  2. Move the car forward until the chain fasteners are on top of the wheel.
  3. Release each fastener and place chains on the ground.
  4. Gently drive the car off the chains.
  5. Wash the chains thoroughly to remove dirt, snow, and mud before storing them.

Follow these steps and you’ll be a snow-chain pro in no time. Whether you’re running errands, commuting to work or school, or heading to the mountains for fun, you’ll be ready for whatever winter weather comes your way.

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The above content is for informational purposes only and is not a direct representation of coverages offered by Wawanesa or its policies. The information does not refer to any specific contract of insurance and does not modify any definitions, provisions, exclusions or limitations expressly stated in any contracts of insurance. All references within the above content are illustrative and may not apply to your situation. The terms and conditions of the actual insurance policy or policies involved in a claim are determinative as to whether an accident or other loss is covered. To understand the coverage under your current policy, please log into the account management platform to review your policy or contact an agent directly.

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