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Learn2 Install and Remove Snow Chains (continued)
Step 2: Lay 'em on the line

Once you've figured out the ladder analogy, understanding how snowchains work is fairly simple. The two long strands are designed to wrap around the tire, one on the inside of the tire and the other parallel to it along the outside. The rungs of the ladder, as it were, cross over the tire tread. This ingenious design somehow manages to give your tires support and traction over slippery, soft snow.

Important: Protect your hands and toes! Make sure to apply the parking brake before laying out the chains, and later before hooking them up. We've received word from a few EMTs that crushed fingers and feet are not an uncommon result of applying snow chains--due to cars unexpectedly rolling a few inches at the wrong moment. As an extra precaution, you also might consider placing blocks under the downhill side of a couple of tires.

  • Determine whether the car is front or rear wheel drive. (Do the front wheels propel the car, or do the rear ones?) You want the chains hooked up to the tires which are doing all the work. If you're on an incline then prepare to let the tires roll downhill onto the chains.
  • Rear wheel drive: Clear a path in the snow about five feet long in front of the tires. If you have rear-wheel drive you're lucky: the front wheels should have already cleared a path for you. Lay the chains out underneath the car, with the first rung laid against the tire where it meets the ground. If you have cables with studs or some other form of corrugation on them, make sure these are lying face down on the ground.
  • Front-wheel drive: If you have front-wheel drive, or need to back up your rear-wheeler, then clear a path by stomping down on the snow, shoveling, or driving your car back and forth (if the road conditions allow the last option). Again, lay the chains in the path of each tire. The rung closest to the tire should be wedged up against it. The long strands should extend straight out away from the tires, parallel to each other.

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Step 1: Pull out the chains
Step 2: Lay 'em on the line
Step 3: Drive-up
Step 4: Hook 'em up
Step 5: Clip them down
Step 6: Start out slow...
Step 7: Remove the chains


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