Do Snow Chains Damage Tires?

If you are living in an area where the temperature gets below zero and it’s snowing heavily, you must use snow chains to get around. But, do snow chains damage tires? This is something that we all want to know. I mean, snow chains do help, but is the price too high? Will it damage my tires?

”The snow chains will do damage to your tires if they come in contact with a hard surface(road), or if they are not installed properly. First, you have to make sure that the snow chains are installed properly and that they won’t get loose while driving and damage the tire and car body. Most importantly, you should only use the snow chains if there is a layer of snow or ice on the road, or if you are stuck in mud. Once you are out of the snow, ice or mud, remove the snow chains.”


How Snow Chains Work Exactly?

Before I talk about snow chains and whether they are going to damage your tires or not, it is important that we understand how the snow chains work.

Every tire has a tire tread. Some are with a decent depth, some not so much. This depends on how old is your tire and how much you’ve driven it. If the tire tread is not deep enough, you have no change of driving on snow or ice.

Will Snow Chains Damage My Tires - No friction on snow

Even if your tire is brand new, if its snowing heavily, you won’t stand a chance. The thing is that the tire tread gets filled with snow very fast and the tire loses all the traction. With no traction, the wheels would just spin without moving the car. That’s where the snow chains come in.

When you install the snow chains, they provide the tire with an extra grip. They act as an extra layer of tire tread and just get into the ice or snow and allows your tire to spin and get you where you are headed. If your vehicle is a rear drive, you should install the tire chains on the rear wheels. If you are driving 4WD, you need to have snow chains on all wheels.

Will Snow Chains Damage My Tires - Driving on snow or ice wont

Do Snow Chains Damage Tires

The snow chains will do damage to your tires if they come in contact with hard surface, or when they are not installed properly . This means that if you are driving your vehicle and there is little to no snow on the surface, the snow chains won’t be able to penetrate the road and they will slowly penetrate into your tire and do damage.

Will Snow Chains Damage My Tires - Driving on asphalt will

It is important to uninstall your snow chains once you are out of the deep snow or ice. Make sure that you are not driving over 30 miles per hour with the snow chains on. You risk a chance of your snow chains getting loose and damaging your tiresOpens in a new tab.

Do You Need Snow Chains on All 4 Tires?

This depends on your vehicle. It is different for front-wheel-drive, rear-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive vehicles.

  • If your vehicle is a front-wheel-drive(FWD), than you must install your snow chains on your front tiresOpens in a new tab.
  • On a rear-wheel drive vehicles(RWD), you need to install the snow chains on the rear tires only.
  • If you are driving a 4-wheel-drive(4WD), you must have snow chains on all tires.
Do You Need Snow Chains on All 4 Tires

TIP: The four wheel drive performs best on ice and snow because the power from the engine is delivered to all four wheels. The front wheel drive performs little bit less than 4WD, but still better than RWD. This is because on most of the cars the engine is in the front and is providing that extra weight needed for the tires to gain traction.

Should Tire Chains Be Tight or Loose?

Regardless what type of snow chains you have, the snow chains must sit tight on the tire without any loose ends. If they are not installed properly, they will do damage to your tire, rim and car body. Some chains come with cam tension devices which allows you to control how tight the snow chains are.

Should Tire Chains Be Tight or Loose?

The difference between the cam tightener snow chains and non cam tightener snow chains is that the way you can tighten the snow chains. The cam tightener has a lever action ”cam”. This allows to pull the chain tighter around the tire. The non cam snow chains have a hook that lets you hook each side of the chain. Either work, as long as the snow chains are tight.

If you read and followed the snow chain manufacturer instructions and you installed the snow chains properly and somehow they are still not tight enough, you must be using larger snow chains.

How Do I Know What Size My Tire Chains Are?

Different vehicles will use different size snow chains. The size of the snow chain depends on how big your tire is. In order to know what size tire chains you need, you must inspect your tire.

How Do I Know What Size My Tire Chains Are

Every tire has markings on it. This might look like a random number and letters, but they are not. These markings provide a detailed information about the tire. In this particular example the tire is 265/35/19.

  • The number ”265” provides you with the tire width dimensions. In this case, this particular tire is 265mm wide.
  • The ”35” is actually the aspect ratio. This number represents how tall the sidewall of the tire is. In this case it is 35mm.
  • The last number ”19” is the wheel diameter which is calculated in inches. In this case, the wheel diameter is 19 inches.

Now that you know your tire size, you can purchase your snow chains. I have made a list with Top 8 Best Snow Chains For Your Car, Van and SUV.

Igor Iwanowski

I am a certified Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) mechanic since 2018. I specialize in Brake systems, dashboard warning lights, EGRs, general engine problems, EVAP and Emissions issues.

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