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How to Put On and Remove Tire Chains/Traction Cables for Snow

With many different snow chains and cables out on the market, it can be difficult to figure out which ones are right for your vehicle, if your vehicle actually needs them, and/or how to install them correctly. One of the most common options for passenger vehicles is traction cables, which RepairPal KB installs on a 2003 Honda Civic in the video below.

RepairPal recommends that you practice the installation and removal of snow chains/traction cables before you need to install them. Practice installation in a safe place, with your flashers on, and fully away from moving traffic.

Which set of tires should I install the snow chains/traction cables on? Do I need snow chains/cables for all four tires?

You'll see in the video that RepairPal KB has traction cables for her FWD 2003 Honda Civic, therefore she installs the traction cables on the front two tires. It's important to know whether your vehicle is front-wheel drive (FWD), rear-wheel drive (RWD), or all-wheel drive (AWD), or four-wheel drive (4WD). This will determine if snow chains/cables are needed and which set of tires the chains/cables must be installed on, since the chains/cables must be installed on the drive wheels.

Do I need snow chains/cables if I have four-wheel drive (4WD) or all-wheel drive (AWD) vehicle?

The short answer is yes. Even if you have four-wheel drive (4WD) on your vehicle, if you're entering a snow chain/cable requirement area, you're required to have a set with you. In some circumstances, you will be required to have them on your vehicle with absolutely no exceptions (including 4WD and AWD). In general, it's always safer to travel with a set of chains/cables than without.

Do I need snow chains/cables if I have snow/winter tires?

The same rules apply as above with 4WD and AWD - yes, although you might not have to put them on. If you're entering a snow chain/cable requirement area, you're required to have a set with you. In some circumstances, you will be required to have them on your vehicle with absolutely no exceptions (including 4WD, AWD, and snow tires). In general, it's always safer to travel with a set of chains/cables than without.

What size snow chains/traction cables should I purchase for my tires? Do sizes matter?

To figure out which chains you should purchase for your tires, verify the size of your vehicle's tires, which is printed on the side of them. You can then match it to the size of the chains/cables you're purchasing, displayed prominently on the box.

Can you put on snow chains/traction cables on backward? Which way should your snow chains/traction cables go on the tire?

Your chains/cables may have a visible piece that says "Tire Side" or something similar, telling you which edge should be positioned facing the tire or hitting the pavement. This is visible when RepairPal KB holds up the writing facing the camera.

Also on the traction cables RepairPal KB installs, there is a visible opening, or split side, in the cable that allows her to wrap the cable around the tire, immediately showing which side should go on the front versus the backside of the tire. The cable should predominantly feature the smooth, eyelet side positioned toward the front side, or part of the tire that's facing you, with the larger clasp in the back.

How do snow chain/traction cable requirements work? Do I have to put them on my car?

This depends on the requirement level and the vehicle you're driving. If you have FWD or RWD and there is a requirement for snow chains/cables, you must install them on your vehicle. If you have 4WD or AWD, it can be dependent on the requirement level. In general, it's always safer to drive with snow chains/cables than without.

Can I drive normally with snow chain/cables on?

You'll want to read the instructions on your chains/cables very carefully, but for the most part, you should try to accelerate and brake slowly and cautiously, while not exceeding speeds of 30mph with chains/cables on.

How do I remove snow chains/traction cables from my vehicle?

In the video below, RepairPal KB demonstrates how to remove the traction cables that she installed, with tips for efficiency.

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