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FAQs - snow chains and winter driving advice

Always try on your chains when you receive them

Tyres (of the same size) can vary between manufacturers, especially mud & snow or off-road treaded tyres therefore no online snow chain retailer can prescribe the correct size of chains with 100% reliability. If you think you have received the wrong size just give us a call so we can arrange to exchange them for a better fitting set. Please remember to try them on in clean/dry conditions, and not to drive on the chains in case you do want to exchange them.

What are the best snowchains for my vehicle?

We offer a full range of snow chains to suit all vehicles - the key considerations are:

1. Chain size/type (suitable for your tyre dimensions and vehicle weight/power);

2. Clearance - at the back of the wheel (see below for more on this);

3. Clearance - between the tyre tread/surface and wheel arch (and space to get your hands into the arch).

Our budget range are perfect for getting you out of trouble, both here and abroad and will ensure you meet all legal requirements when driving in Europe and on mountain roads.

Our Premium range of snow chains are made of high tensile steel, so are more hardwearing and come with a 5 year warranty. They also offer variations in the ease of fitting and removal, as well as catering for vehicles with limited clearances.

We also sell snow socks; a textile sock that wraps around the wheel to give increased grip in snowy conditions. They are easy to fit and are a great solution for local use.

What are the easiest snowchains to fit?

Nowadays most snow chains are easy to fit, although we strongly recommend you practice fitting them in the dry before you are faced with roadside fitting in the snow.

Some snow chains have been designed specifically to be extremely easy to fit, and generally as you move up through the ranges the chains become easier to fit and/or remove.

Both our budget chains and some high tensile steel chains (Our Polar Range, Zip Transport, CK7 range and the XD range) can be fitted without moving the vehicle, but will need to be manually tensioned. Manual tensioning means that you need to fit the chains, drive forward for approximately 50m (minimum 10m) then get out to re-tighten the chain. This isn’t difficult – as the wheel turns the chain will settle onto the wheel and the excess chain needs to be pulled through the ratchet, but some people would rather not get out of the vehicle again. The self tensioning chains (Zip Ultra, CG9, CS9, XG12, Easy Fit range and the K-Summit ranges) will tighten onto the wheel as it turns, removing the need to get back out again and tighten the chain after a few meters.

Which are the easiest snow chains to remove?

All snow chains are relatively easy to remove, but the Easy-Fit and CS9 ranges are particularly simple, with CS9 chains having a patented ‘rip cord removal’

How much clearance is needed for snow chains?

Clearance describes the amount of space there is between the wheel and any obstructions, such as the bodywork, braking systems or suspension of a vehicle.

A standard 9mm car chain would require a gap of about 15mm between the inner edge of the tyre and any obstructions (to allow for movement of the chain) Our standard 4x4 or van chains protrude 16mm from the wheel and would therefore need a minimum 21mm of clearance.

How many snow chains do I need?

Snow chains are sold in pairs and need to be fitted to the drive wheels. This is generally seen as sufficient and meets the legal requirements on mainland Europe and mountain roads. However, with some vehicles it is recommended to use four snow chains, or chains and socks (two sets) for additional traction – see below:

What are the best snow chains for a rear wheel drive vehicle such as a BMW or Mercedes?

Although a single set of chains would meet legal requirements on snow covered roads in mainland Europe, the handling of a rear wheel drive vehicle can be difficult on snow and ice. The chains need to be fitted to the rear wheels, meaning the steering wheels are left with no traction assistance. This can be exacerbated when a vehicle is heavily loaded in the boot and therefore it may be advisable to fit a second set of chains (if clearance allows) or a set of snow socks to the front wheels in order to improve handling.

How many snow chains do I need on a 4 x 4?

Legally, it is only necessary to have snow chains for one axle when travelling in mountain areas. However, when driving a 4 x 4 some drivers prefer to use 4 chains (two sets). Although in most conditions a single set of chains will provide enough traction, there are significant benefits with using two sets. It is important to refer to your vehicle handbook, as some manufacturers recommend fitting two pairs.

Which wheels do you fit chains to on a 4 x 4?

On a four wheel drive vehicle snow chains are generally fitted to the front wheels, but this can vary so please check the manufacturers handbook for advice. If there is restricted space between the wheel and the suspension or bodywork of the vehicle at the front, then the snow chains may either need to be fitted to the rear or a specialist chain used. There are chains designed specifically for vehicles with reduced clearance, such as our XG-12 Pro or K-Summits. The space available will dictate whether the XG12 Pro is suitable or whether a K-Summit is required. A K-Summit has been designed for vehicles that have no internal clearance, as they are fixed to the wheel bolts and no part of the chain sits on the inside tyre wall.

How do I check the clearance of a vehicle? (Or what thickness of chain can my car accommodate?)

Some vehicles have very little space between the wheel and the suspension of the vehicle or other obstructions, meaning the chains could come into contact with the bodywork, braking systems or suspension with serious consequences. It is possible to check if your vehicle has a clearance problem by placing your hand into the wheel arch, onto the tyre and feeling around the tyre for obstructions which come close to it, especially the far/inside wall of the tyre. Move your hand from 9 ‘O' Clock round to 3 ‘O' Clock along the back/inside of the wheel to check the distance between the wheel and any obstructions. Keep in mind that a chain sits over the rubber of the tyre, thus any obstruction which comes close on any side of the tyre could be an issue. You should also consider the proximity of the wheel arches when the steering is turned if you are fitting to the front wheels, usually the squeeze point is at 3 or 9 o clock on the back of the wheel when the steering is on lock. (Check by putting the steering on lock and putting your hand into the squeeze point to assess the proximity of arch to tyre, and the same for the opposite lock.)

My vehicle has limited clearance - can I still use snow chains?

Our standard car snow chains have a 9mm protrusion and so there needs to be a gap of about 15mm between the inner edge of the tyre and any obstructions (to allow for movement of the chain). For 16mm chains you need at least 21mm of clearance. When it is not possible to fit a standard snow chain we have various options to help. The Thule K-Summit snow chain requires no clearance around the back of the wheel as it fixes to the wheel nut on the outside of the wheel, making it suitable for the most affected vehicles. We also have a 7mm chain which has been specially designed for cars with insufficient clearance for a 9mm chain. A snow sock is another solution; a textile cover that wraps over the wheel to give improved grip on snow covered roads. The traction given by a snow sock is not as good as that of a snow chain and you have to move the vehicle to fit them, but they are intuitive, light/small and cannot damage the vehicle. The legality of snow socks on mountain roads is a grey area - some areas accept them and others don't. In practice, the conditions dictate who is allowed to pass, so if the weather is bad you can be turned back with a sock when you would be allowed to pass with a chain.

Many 4x4/SUV/Van and mid-size vehicles also have clearance problems and again the Thule K-Summit offers a very comprehensive solution, for those vehicles that have really poor clearance. The Thule XG12-Pro snow chain can be used on some of these vehicles as it protrudes only 12mm from the wheel (compared to the standard 4x4/Van/Motorhome snow chain protrusion of 16mm). And the Easy-Fit SUV has an even smaller protrusion at 10mm, so that can be fitted to vehicles where even the XG-12 Pro is slightly too chunky.

In order to fit a regular snow chain you also need enough space between the wheel and the arch to get your hands into the arch on top of the wheel, and ideally be able to reach an inch down the far side of the tyre (as you will need to push the first connection down the back, off the tyre tread). If you can't do this, then the best (sometimes only) solution is the type of chain that attaches to the wheel nuts, like the K-Summits.

How many snow chains do I need?

Snow chains are sold in pairs and need to be fitted to the drive wheels. This is generally seen as sufficient and meets the legal requirements on mainland Europe and mountain roads. Some drivers prefer to use four snow chains (two sets) for additional traction. This would give more control, especially if you are driving for long stretches in areas requiring snow chains, but is not essential - some vehicles handle better than others in cold conditions so it's difficult to generalise. On a four wheel drive vehicle they are generally fitted to the front wheels (please check manufacturers handbook for advice, many are 'fit to rear'), if there is limited clearance at the front you will either have to buy a more expensive chain for the front or they will need to be fitted to the rear wheels. If unsure please call/email us.

Where and when should I carry snow chains?

On mainland Europe a driver is responsible for equipping his vehicle for all weather conditions. A driver can be fined if he fails to use snow chains when they are needed, thus impeding the normal flow of traffic or causing an accident.

Snow chains are a legal requirement on all European mountain roads. Roadside checks are carried out and drivers may be fined if they do not have a set in their vehicle. Snow socks do not meet the required standard in European ski resorts.

How fast can I drive whilst using snow chains?

We would always recommend driving with caution in snowy conditions, even when using snow chains. The maximum recommended speed is 30mph.

A gentle driving style is essential when using snow chains. Excessive acceleration and hard braking will put too much pressure on snow chains and may cause them to snap.

What accessories do I legally have to carry in my car when driving on the Continent?

Regulations regarding accessories are subject to change and we would recommend checking the AA website for the most up to date information. Currently it is compulsory to have a GB sticker, warning triangle, reflective vest, beam deflectors and spare bulb kit across most of continental Europe plus breathalysers for France.

Regulations regarding the use of reflective vests vary from country to country, with some countries requiring any passenger that exits the vehicle to wear one. We recommend all passengers have a reflective vest.

Are snow chains legal?

The use of snow chains is legal in the UK, as long as they are not used in a manner that will damage the road surface. This means snow chains must only be used on snow-covered roads and need to be removed when driving on a tarmac surface. The use of snow chains is legal across most of Europe, and in many areas they are compulsory. Local signs indicate when they are legally required and this includes all mountain roads/ski resorts. Outside of these compulsory areas, any driver found to cause a hold up or accident as a result of not being equipped for the weather conditions is liable to be fined.

Can I use snow chains on tarmac?

Snow chains are designed for use on packed snow and ice. Driving on tarmac is not recommended because it will wear the chains very quickly and increase the chances of breaking them. Snow chains can also be used in muddy conditions - very useful for motorhomes. We also sell snow chains to the middle east for use in sandy conditions!

What about snow socks?

Snow socks are an alternative to snow chains usually recommended when a car does not have clearance for snow chains. If you are unsure of which to choose you may find useful our snow chains vs. snow socks article. It remains a grey area whether socks meet the required legal standard in European ski resorts.

How easy are snow chains to fit?

Once you have the hang of it you should be able to fit each snow chain in a couple of minutes. We recommend you try on the snow chains before you go on holiday. We have also produced snow chain fitting videos, available on the fitting page, so you can see how it's done.

Snow chain maintenance - what should I be doing after use?

After using snow chains we would recommend washing them in warm soapy water asap, ideally with a firm brush to remove any salt residue and muck (jet washing is also an option for this stage). Finally having hung the chains to dry you should spray them with WD40 and then hang to dry again. The WD40 helps stop/reduce corrosion particularly with a view to ongoing storage. The longer chains sit in a wet (or worse, salty and wet) container the quicker they will rust and deteriorate.

Is there anything I should avoid doing when using snow chains?

The most common problems encountered are: (1) Wheel-spin or locking-up the wheels under braking - this is the most common way people break chains; (2) Incorrect fitting, in particular failing to centre the chains such that the inner or outer bands get run-over (or any of the working components like the springs, ratchet or connectors). You can see by looking at the chains that the chain sections intended to be driven on are more robustly built than the inner and outer bands, or the working components which should sit against the tyre wall away from the road surface. (3) Hitting curbs or pot holes can also break chains, but since this is usually not intended by the driver it's only mentioned here as something to avoid where possible. (4) Driving on clear tarmac (without a significant covering of snow or ice) is also to be avoided.

Are there limitations to what can be achieved with chains - do they work on all gradients in all conditions?

Chains massively improve traction on snow, ice, mud and even sand however they do not enable you to defy physics. Where you can and can't go largely depends on the vehicle's abilities, load, driver ability and myriad other factors. So do not assume you are invincible with chains on - some slopes for some vehicles will be unclimbable even with chains on. In such circumstance do not spin the wheels to try get up the slope, as there is a high chance you will break your chains and potentially damage your vehicle.

Do I need snow chains when travelling in the alps?

Generally snow chains must be carried in the European Alps from 1st November to 1st April. Spot checks are carried out and during periods of heavy snowfall vehicles without chains will be refused access to the mountainside. Each country has slight variations in regulations, as shown below:

Andorra

Snow chains – MANDATORY (should be carried and used as dictated by local signs or road conditions. Reduced speed limits may apply).

Austria

Between 1 November and 15 April snow chains are MANDATORY (should be carried and used as dictated by local signs or road conditions. Reduced speed limits may apply).

France

Snow chains – MANDATORY, must be fitted to vehicles using snow-covered roads. (Should be carried and used as dictated by local signs or road conditions. Reduced speed limits may apply).

Germany

Snow chains – MANDATORY (should be carried and used as dictated by local signs or road conditions. Reduced speed limits may apply).

Any vehicles incorrectly equipped that are found to impede the flow of traffic are liable to be fined

Italy

Snow chains – MANDATORY - Between October and 15 April or, at other times if conditions dictate

Switzerland

Vehicles not equipped to travel through snow and ice and which impede traffic flow are liable to a fine.

Snow chains - MANDATORY (should be carried and used as dictated by local signs or road conditions. Reduced speed limits may apply).

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