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Are Snow Chains Required On All Four Tires?

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Driving on icy or snowy roads is a problem many of us could have, and you don’t always have the option of staying at home until the roads are cleared. To prevent slipping and sliding on roads in winter, you might want to pick up some snow chains. But how many should you get?

If you are wondering if snow chains are required on all four tires of your vehicle, read on. You don’t want to waste money buying more than you need, but you still want to be safe.

Snow chains are a common tool used to gain additional traction on snow and can be lifesaving on mountain roads where conditions are particularly dicey. Snow chains come in pairs, and you will want to apply them to at least two of your wheels.

Generally, the amount of snow chains required depends on your car’s transmission, your country’s laws, and the weather conditions.

Be sure to check out all of our helpful Emergency Preparedness articles for dealing with snow and ice.

Front-wheel and rear-wheel drive

Whether your vehicle is front-wheel drive and rear-wheel drive indicates the two wheels that provide drive power. In general, it is recommended that you attach snow chains to the drive wheels of your car. As a result, placing snow chains on these two wheels should suffice. 

Despite recommendations that you use snow chains on your drive wheels, you may find it better with snow chains on all four wheels in certain conditions. Snow chains on all four wheels will not affect your car and will give you added traction. Extra traction is especially handy on snowy roads without any grit. 

Applying snow chains to your vehicle’s drive wheels is in line with the laws of most regions, including the US and Europe. In some parts of Europe, it is a legal requirement to have snow chains on your car, so ensure you’re always carrying around a pair and watch out for signs signaling you to put on your snow chains. At the same time, it is illegal to use snow chains altogether in certain countries, so check your local laws before hitting the road. 

Four-wheel drive

Alternatively, you may have a car with four-wheel drive, in which case you will need to apply snow chains to all four tires. Four-wheel drive transmissions provide power to all four wheels, giving your vehicle more traction on the road, which is standard on most trucks. 

In heavy snow, you may find having just two snow chains doesn’t quite cut it. While four-wheel drive affords additional traction, you may find your car struggling to accelerate with just two snow chains as half of your drive wheels aren’t getting enough traction. While you may be able to drive without four snow chains with a four-wheel drive vehicle, you will have to reduce your speed by at least 5mph. If the roads are very slippery, you will slide around, which may cause an accident. 

Other Considerations

Size and Clearance

You will want to ensure you have the correct size snow chains for your automobile, as some snow chains will only fit certain tires. Furthermore, check your vehicle’s clearance before buying a new pair of snow chains. If there isn’t enough clearance between your tire and the body of your care, you will find thick snow chains either won’t fit or will cause severe damage your car.

Here’s a helpful guide for buying snow chains for low profile tires.

Snow Chain Link Patterns

Snow chains come in four different styles and patterns: 

  • Diamond
  • Diagonal
  • Square
  • Ladder

Each pattern type is better for certain vehicles and conditions. Square pattern chains tend to be the most durable, while a ladder pattern may be better suited to off-road driving. Diamond pattern chains are ideal for cars with anti-lock braking. Diagonal chains are great for cars with traction control systems. 

There are a variety of different types of snow chains, so be sure you choose the correct one.

Did you know that snow chains work in mud, too?

Installation

There are several ways to attach snow chains to your tires. Some modern snow chains have a self-tensioning system for easy application. As you drive forward with your snow chains attached, self-tensioning snow chains will automatically tighten to your wheels, removing any slack and improving overall performance. 

As an option, you can purchase manually tensioning chains. Manually tensioning snow chains tend to be easier to install, but you will need to feed any slack through the ratchet manually, which may be time-consuming and frustrating during a blizzard. 

Many of the best snow chains have an automatic release system, so you can quickly remove your snow chains with little effort. This feature comes in especially useful if you have to remove your snow chains frequently while driving. 

Best Snow Chain Brands

Regardless if you’re looking for two snow chains or four, it is important that you pick a high-quality brand to ensure you are getting the best product for your money. Here are a few brands that produce some of the best snow chains on the market today.

Konig

Konig is well-known for making hassle-free, long-lasting snow chains. Konig snow chains often utilize the diamond pattern design, which is ideal for cars with anti-lock braking and provides great all-round traction.

One of their most popular products is the Konig CB-12, which boasts a simple, sturdy design with 12 mm cabling for excellent grip. These snow chains have a manual tensioning system which guarantees durability.

Peerless

Peerless live up to their name, thanks to their range of superior snow chains. Peerless makes an array of different designs, from ladder cables to diamond chains. The Peerless 0153005 is a great example of the manufacturer’s snow chains, with its alloy steel chains and self-tensioning ratchet system for impeccable traction and easy installation.

Security Chain

Security Chain manufacture snow chains which are versatile and ideal for cars with low clearance. Security Chain uses diagonal cables on their snow chains, which are ideal for tackling snow and ice.

One with their most popular products, the Security Chain ZT741 Super Z LT, features a durable rubber self-tensioning system that means you won’t have to keep stopping to tighten your chains.


Snow chains on all four tires are not the only option for winter driving. Snow tires are another option. Compare the difference between winter tires vs snow chains.

You could also use snow socks, which work differently. To know which will work best for you, visit my helpful comparison of snow chains vs. snow socks.

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snow tire on left compared to snow chains on a tire on the right hand side of the image
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