When You Should Use Tire Chains Or Cables

by Jim on September 22, 2022

Tire chains and cables are intended for extreme weather conditions, for instance, when roads are covered in thick layers of snow or ice. While they’re primarily used for the purpose mentioned above, they can also be deployed in mountainous terrains that require more traction due to unsteady elevations.

Although it might seem okay to use them whenever you please, it might not be such a good idea to do so since driving with tire chains on perfectly normal roads can cause them to get damaged. Besides, some states have regulations on the use of tire chains.

What Are Tire Chains?

Tire chains are typically worn over tires and provide enough traction that helps drivers get around quickly in difficult road conditions. They’re made in such a way that allows them to capitalize on the weight of your vehicle, letting them dig directly into ice or snow while you drive. It might take a while for you to properly put them on your tires if it’s your first time, but once you’re able to, it gets easier with each try.

Tire chains allow better traction when tires are not adequately equipped. Not only this, but they also make it relatively easy to drive and brake on ice. They can be purchased at almost any local auto parts store and are usually offered in two sets.

The Appropriate Situations To Use Tire Chains

Make sure to equip your tire chains before heading out whenever you are faced with either of the following driving conditions

1. During Hazardous Weather And Slippery Conditions

Almost every state has no regulation against using tire chains when the weather warrants it, so long as they do not damage highway road surfaces. You might want to consider getting tire chains for your car if the driving conditions in the area you stay aren’t the best, as they will provide you with enhanced traction and extra grip.

2. For Winter Driving

Tire chains are the perfect solution for icy and snow-covered roads. However, using them on bare pavements or driving above speed restrictions is not advisable as they will most likely get damaged over time. Not only this, it can also have a profound impact on the road itself.

Laws On Snow Chains By State

Local laws regulating the use of snow tires vary with each state. This simply means that it would be best to know the tire chain laws of the state you’re driving into before getting there.

The reason why some states place regulations on tire chains isn’t all that difficult to figure out - the same way they can dig into snow and ice, they can also do the same to bare roads and pavements.


In Alaska, drivers aren’t allowed to drive with tire chains from the first of May until September 15. Drivers are also prohibited from using tire chains on Sterling Highway for the previously stated period.

Anyone who would like to drive with their chains during the prohibited periods must do so with sufficient clearance from the Road Safety Administration.


In Arizona, car owners must install chains on their vehicles when highways are slippery and before driving on deep snow.


Regular chains are permitted when used purely for safety reasons, such as on snowy roads, icy roads, and other conditions that can cause vehicles to lose traction and slip.


Starting from the first of September till May 31st, all truck drivers are required to use chains on the wheels of their vehicles when driving around Co and Mile marker 133 in Dotsero and Mile Marker 259 outside Golden, CO. Truck drivers who get pulled over by traffic authorities and are found not carrying tire chains in their vehicles are charged a fine of $66, which includes a surcharge.

Colorado enforces 2 different kinds of tire chain laws which are as follows:

Level 1 - All commercial vehicles that use single-axle drives must be equipped with tire chains. People who drive trucks are required to have all four tires in chains. As soon as the level one chain law is in effect, all individuals who operate commercial vehicles must have tire chains.

Level 2 - Drivers of commercial vehicles and passenger cars must use tire chains on their four-drive tires once level two is in effect.


In Connecticut, tire chains are allowed during adverse weather starting from the 15 of November till the 30 of April. Driving with chains on any other day apart from the assigned ones is not permitted as it can damage the road’s surface.


Anyone driving through Delaware can use winter tires but only on highways, starting from the 15th of October till the 15 of April.


At specific points in time, the Georgia transportation department may decide to restrict drivers from accessing highways due to bad weather. When they make such decisions, signs are usually placed around that area to inform motorists of the need to use tire chains if they are to proceed.


No individual is allowed to travel with snow chains on highways that are void of ice or without thick snow and neither is anyone allowed to drive with chains unless the snow level is at least 6 inches wide. Whenever tire chains are used on rubber tires, it’s required that the cross chains are not over 3/4 in diameter. The chains must also be spaced less than 10 inches around the tires.


The use of cable chains on tires is prohibited in Massachusetts from the first of May until the first of November unless the driver concerned can provide a permit. Tire chains are only allowed when necessitated by snow, ice, and slippery highways.

How To Get Snow Tires And Snow Cables

First and foremost, check your vehicle’s manual to find helpful information concerning how you can use tire chains so that they won’t interfere with other core aspects of your vehicle’s system, such as the suspension, steering, or brake lines.

Remember that your tire chains must go around your power axle, which is basically your rear wheels if you’re operating a rear-wheel drive vehicle, the front wheels if you drive a front-wheel-drive car, and on all four wheels if you operate an AWD vehicle. Some snow cables are made with steel cable or heavy steel links and concealed with alloy traction coils to allow low ground clearance in deep snow.

Practice makes perfect when trying something new. The same also applies to putting your tire chains on your vehicle. Anyone with any experience with this driving equipment would agree that it’s much easier to equip them while at home than by the roadside in harsh weather. This simply means that it would be best to practice putting your tire chains on and taking them off until you get the hang of it.

Do Your Tires Need Chains?

The answer to this question depends on your vehicle type, whether it is a four-wheel, two-wheel, or all-wheel drive vehicle, and most importantly, the weather conditions you tend to have where you live. If you happen to reside in a rural area where the roads are often slippery or covered in snow most of the time, then it would be a splendid idea to purchase snow chains.

As mentioned earlier, specific areas require using tire chains or cables, mountain passes, for example. If you plan on driving through areas like this, you should be prepared instead of assuming that your tires can handle it.

Finding The Right Tire Chains For Your Car

If, after giving it enough thought, you finally decide to invest in some snow tires, you mustn’t purchase the first set you come across. You need to do proper research to ensure that you buy a decent pair capable of fitting your tires perfectly, as tire cables differ and there are different tire sizes.

You should also consider the possibility of tire chain restrictions on your vehicle, which should be specified in your user manual. Snow tires usually sell in the range of $50 to $400. This, however, depends on the store you’re buying from, which is why it helps to do some research beforehand.

Final Words

Before equipping your vehicle with snow chains, you must check the manual of your vehicle to know whether they’re suitable for your car or not. Remember that snow tires are best suited for occasional use, not extended use. Also, to ensure a longer life for this traction device, make sure to drive safely and avoid going at maximum speed.

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