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Installing Tire Chains on Your Vehicle

Now that you’ve purchased your chains it’s time to put them on. The first thing to do is lay them out on a long flat surface and get the kinks out of them. Compare photos 1 and 2. Look at the difference where the cross links attach to the outer chains. In photo 1 the bottom cross link is twisted. To correct this, lift up the chain at the outer ends of the lower cross link then roll the attaching ends under the cross link and bring them around inside and back over the top. Then the chain will look like the one pictured in photo 2. That’s how it should be the entire length of the chain.

Inatall Tire Chains Photo 1 

Install Tire Chains Photo 2 

Now that you have the chain straightened out it’s time to put it on the tire. Begin by draping it over the tire as shown in photo 3. Important: be sure that the outer “latch” is to the outside of the tire as shown in the photo. It doesn’t matter whether it’s in front of the tire or behind it. (Usually it will be to the front on one side and to the rear on the other side.)

Install Tire Chains Photo 3 

With the chains draped over the tire, start the vehicle and drive forward. When you’ve gone about half of one revolution on the wheel stop (see photo 4). Now, take the end of the chain towards the center of the car and bring it up to the hook at the top inside of the wheel. You may have to crawl under the vehicle to see what you’re doing. (I always stash a small sheet of plastic in the bag I keep the chains in. I photo 5 I used an old dog food bag.) Once you’ve had some experience you’ll be able to do it by “feel.”

 Install Tire Chains Photo 4 

Install Tire Chains Photo 5 

Chains come in lengths to fit several different sized tires. When you get yours install them on your tires and make a note which link you hook the connectors through. On our Cherokee I put the hook through the third link on the inside chain. When you finish you should have the same number of links “dangling” on both inner and outer chains to keep the chains centered on the tread.  Photo 6 shows how the inside "hook" should appear once installed.

Install Tire Chains Photo 6a 

Once you’ve hooked up the inside chain it’s now time to hook up the outside connector. The outside connectors usually provide some leverage to help tighten the chain. Photo 7  shows where to place the link before closing the connector. The way the connector is designed, as you pull the end over to the closed position it tightens the chain and also uses the chain’s tension to hold the connector closed. The more pressure applied the tighter the connector becomes.

Install Tire Chains Photo 6 

When the connector is closed install a chain tightener to help center the chain. As in photo 8. I use a bungee cord instead of the commercially sold chain tighteners. Note how the cross links sag in photo 9. What will happen now is when I drive the vehicle centrifugal force will straighten out the sagging links. When that happens the chain will loosen slightly. If I’m going far (over a half mile), I’ll stop after a hundred yards, take off the bungee cord and move the outer connector one more link tighter (I’d have three “dangling” links instead of two as shown in photo 7.) I’d then re-install the bungee cord and go my merry way. Some of the newer chains have cam tighteners built into them. Those are great and eliminate the need for bungee cords or elastic chain tighteners.

Install Tire Chains Photo 7 

Install Tire Chains Photo 8 

When it’s time to remove the chains take the chain tightener off, unhook the outer connector then unhook the inner connector. Pull the ends of the chain to the outside and drive the vehicle forward until the chain is free. (See photo 10).

 Install Tire Chains Photo 9 

Now pick the chains up by lifting them in the center or either end and drop them in a bag or box for storage. Now they're ready to use the next time you need them.