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Almost every government body around the world has legislation regarding snow chains for automobiles. Are chains bad for tires?

Putting snow chains on your tires, when used in the correct circumstance and in the correct way, is not damaging to the tires. In fact, one of the benefits of using tire chains is that your tires will spin less, creating less friction with the snow, which saves tire life in addition to getting you out of the ditch.

The rules for snow chains vary around the world and everyone has a rightfully different opinion of them. They do help provide traction, but do they harm your tires, your car, or the road? We can all agree that tire chains are a traction life hack, but enthusiasts are always focused on whether chains harm the road. No one ever discusses the potential damage chains may do to your car or tires.

As a motorcycle racer and motorsport enthusiast I have explored many traction strategies. From snow tires, to studs, to chains, and even just screws, I have found these tire tools are all useful when you know how to use them in their own right. Each trick comes with its own unique cost, that when used correctly, creates a net profit of benefits over cost.

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Are Chains Harmful?

In the case of tire chains, we are talking about the cost of abnormal tire wear versus the benefit of improved traction. Can chains cause tires to wear unevenly? Can snow chains chip off tire tread? In order to understand how tires are affected by chains, we need to understand what chains do.

Tire chains wrap around the outside of car tires to provide traction when driving on loose terrain. This can be snow or dirt, but never pavement. It may not damage your tire, but you can break the chains or do damage to the street. Chains and pavement do not mix.

Types Of Tire Chains

There are two types of tire chains. Both are used for the purpose of traction but in two opposite climates.

Dirt Chains

In dirt or sand, chains usually relate to farming or auto racing. Chains that are used on tractors and race cars may do damage to the tire because they are put through rigorous, repetitive stress. In these conditions, the chains are a necessity of the job and utility is worth the risk of damaging any rubber, but the unpredictability makes for uncertain outcomes.

Snow Chains

The most common settings for tire chains are snow and ice. When there is snow on the ground, chains help dig into the snow to give you traction. As long as a layer of snow is maintained, chains are a great way to provide safety and efficiency in the snow without causing any damage as long as they are legal where you are driving.

Many government vehicles such as snow plows and mail trucks will utilize snow chains to maintain traction up and down slopes in any depth of snow. There is even a version of automatic chains that spin below the tires of school buses and snow plows in certain areas.

What Are Snow Chains Made Of?

Snow chains are typically made of steel. They can also be made of different materials such as plastic or fabric, but steel is the most common because of its strength and affordability. Even at this level of durability, tires are unphased by snow chains when used properly.

Are Snow Chains Legal?

There are different rules for snow chains all over the world. If you live in Colorado and drive a commercial vehicle, you can be ticketed for driving without snow chains. In Colorado, chains are good for tires!

If you live in California, the state will put up signs around your town on special occasions of surprise snow storms prompting you to drive with tire chains.

If you live in Wisconsin or the United Kingdom, chains are simply permissible at your own discretion as long as you aren’t doing damage to the road or other cars on the road.

In places that get a lot of snow, chains are more common practice. Chains can even be found in Japan and Germany!

Snow Chain Fitment

Tire chains come in all sizes and in many different designs. Regardless of your tire size, you can find a set of tire chains that will fit around the tire. What you need to be careful of is whether there is enough clearance between the tire and the quarter panel of the car. Especially with sports cars, sometimes chains will be too large to fit in this clearance. This can cause damage to the wheel well in the form of scratching. In a worst case scenario, the chains could break off and get tangled in the wheel itself.

Do Chains Damage Tires?

It may come as a surprise to you that rubber tires aren’t only made of rubber. Actually over 200 different materials are used to produce modern tires, making them very strong. Because tires are made to be strong on purpose, they are not damaged by snow chains. In fact, the opposite is true. Snow chains can be damaged by hard tires, especially in particularly cold temperatures or when driving on frozen bodies of water.

Do Studs Damage Tires?

The real damage begins when you start adding studs and screws to keep traction on sheer ice. Doing so will put hundreds of little holes all over the surface of each tire. Usually when people do this, they are willing to devote an entire set of tires to be ice tires because the integrity will be damaged if the studs are taken out.

Tires are only made to last about five years. Unless they are being put to heavy agricultural, industrial, high-speed, or icey use, tires usually die of old age. Snow chains don’t put any extra wear and tear on tires when used properly, but it is important to take them off before switching from snow to pavement, even if only driving a short distance.

Are Chains Bad For Tires?

About The Author

Charles Redding

Charles Redding

I've spent many years selling cars, working with auto detailers, mechanics, dealership service teams, quoting and researching car insurance, modding my own cars, and much more.

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