How to Install Snow Chains for Semi-Trucks

Winter is coming. 

And that’s not just the motto of House Stark from Game of Thrones. Colder weather is on its way, and with it, slick precipitation. Winter snow and ice make a trucker’s job more dangerous. Truck drivers should know how to install snow chains in case they drive into bad weather. 

Snow chains give your tires more traction and help you drive through less than ideal conditions. This article explains how to put on snow chains and socks to add traction to your tires.

How to Put on Snow Chains for Semi-Trucks

What’s your route look like? You may drive in the mountains or head into a wet Midwest week. You never know what Mother Nature will bring. 

If you’re an OTR driver, keeping snow chains is more than one step to winterizing your truck. Since you drive across the country, you can experience very different weather on your route. It’s best to be prepared. We recommend carrying chains starting September 1! 

Be sure to research your route before you head out. States have differing chain laws. Some require snow chains to be used as indicated by highway signs or carried during certain times of the year on specific highways and interstates. 

Hint: Use Prime’s Chain Advisory Guide within the Prime Mobile App. We have all the information you need about tire chain regulations! Download on the App Store or Google Play.

Time to pull out the semi tire chains? Follow these steps to attach them to your tires. You only need snow chains for the drive wheels. 

1. Park Your Truck 

Find a safe place to install your snow chains. You’ll need plenty of room to move around your tractor-trailer and be out of the way of traffic. Park the truck and set your air brakes. 

2. Get Out Snow Chains 

Place the tire chains on the ground flat. Untangle and spread them out. The hooks or cam locks on the chain should face up. 

3. Place Chains on Tire 

When you lay the snow chains on the tire, they should fall evenly on either side of the tire. Start by laying the chain over the top of the tire and adjusting from there.

4. Connect Snow Chains 

Hook the tire chains on the outside of the tire first. The cam locks must face out. You don’t want them rubbing on the tire’s sidewall. 

Then connect the inside chains. The chain links should be even on the outside and inside of the tire.

5. Tighten 

Use a tensioning or cam tool to tighten the chains around the tire. You don’t want the chain to have any slack. 

You should be able to fit one finger underneath the chain and tire. That’s how tight the chains need to be. 

6. Add Bungee Cords

You can hook bungee cords from one part of the chain to another in an “x” pattern. The “x” from the cords will appear across the tire’s rim and wheel disk. Start by hooking one cord at the bottom tire chains, then attaching it diagonally to the top chains. 

7. Drive!

Now you’re ready to roll. Always remember to drive with caution in less than ideal conditions. Aim to go slower and give other vehicles more space.

Need help? Ask us! Prime drivers can receive hands-on chaining training at our terminals. 

The Roll Method for Putting Chains on Tires

Draping is not the only method you can use to install snow chains. You can also apply chains by rolling the drive tires onto the chain. 

  1. Lay the chain out flat and evenly in front of the tire.
  2. Make sure the cam locks are on the outside. 
  3. Pull the truck forward. The tire should be on top of the chain. Stop before the second tire rolls onto the chain. 
  4. Drape the chain over the tire. 
  5. Hook the chain on the outside and inside. 
  6. Tighten the slack with a tensioning tool or cam tool.  

How to Install Snow Socks for Semi-Trucks

Snow socks are an alternative to chains. Many states allow snow socks to be used in place of tire chains. 

AutoSocks is one brand of snow socks legally approved as a chain alternative in all 50 states. That said, do your research on state chain laws. You may still need chains for conditions where the Department of Transportation states chains must be used. 

Need to know how to install snow socks? Follow these steps to put tire socks on a semi-truck. 

1. Park Your Truck 

Pull into a safe place to park. Make sure you have room to work around your tractor-trailer and safely back up a few feet. 

2. Unfold the Semi Tire Socks

Take the tire socks out of the bag. Unfold them on the ground before you. 

3. Dress the Tire 

Try to get as much of the snow sock as possible on the tire. The snow sock’s elastic band goes around the tire’s inner side. Start from the top of the tire, catch the elastic band around it, and work your way to the bottom. 

The sock’s textile material should be on the tire tread. 

4. Move Back 

At this point, the tire sock should be half to two-thirds of the way on. Move your truck and trailer back a few feet. The un-socked portion of the tire should become accessible. 

5. Pull the Snow Sock on  

Pull the remainder of the snow sock on the tire. The tire should be covered by the snow sock all the way around. 

Once the sock is on, you’re good to start driving—just be cautious. Socks and chains are not meant for high speeds. If the weather calls for socks and chains, you should go slower than you would normally. 

The Prime Inc. Store stocks tire socks for semi-trucks online. Order yours here! 

You’re the Captain of the Ship

Safety is our highest calling. Remember that you, the Prime driver, are the ship’s captain. Your safety is more important than any freight or delivery schedule. 

If you don’t feel safe driving, pull over to a safe spot and contact your fleet manager. Don’t push through bad weather. 

Stay safe this winter! 

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Apply online to put your career’s wheels in motion. 

Questions? Concerns? You can also chat with our Recruiting Department at 866-290-1568. Our CDL training program helps you learn the ropes—including tips for winter driving. 

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