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In this post, we’ll examine what speed you should travel in different weather conditions when snow chains are fitted to your tires.

After that, we’ll examine why different states have different rules and what damage a loose or broken chain can cause to your tire and car.


The maximum suggested speed is 30 mph. It’s important to drive carefully when using snow chains. They may break if snow chains are put under too much strain by abrupt acceleration and hard braking.

Compact Snow

Up to 30 miles per hour. Tire chains are designed for packed snow and ice, not fresh snow.

Fresh  Snow

It will be unusual if you’re the first car to drive on the road after a snowfall, but it does happen. If so, although snow chains aren’t designed for this, they may help grip. 

Better though, to wait until someone else has driven on the snow and compacted it or drive without the chains until you get to a section of compacted snow and put the chains on then. 

Take more caution and reduce your speed below the 30 mph limit of compacted snow.

No Snow

You shouldn’t drive with snow chains unless there is a layer of snow on the road. 


Tire chains will work on ice as it’s, by definition, compacted snow. The chains will dig into the ice and give you a decent grip. Again don’t exceed the manufacturer’s recommended speed – which can be difficult to find online – but as a rule, 35 miles per hour is the maximum you should drive at.

Can I Use Tire Chains In My State

Good question! Some states are happy to allow snow chains with little restriction, while others ban them outright and insist on studded tires instead.

The rules can be difficult to enforce and are open to interpretation of what is ‘snow covered’ or ‘hazardous.’ 

Some states are clearer and state that snow chains can only be used when a snow emergency is declared.

Some mountain states make snow chains mandatory on some roads – the highest – during certain months of the year.

A great resource is over at  Peter Suess Transportation Consultants. It has a database of different state laws relating to snow chains and studded tires.

How Long Do Tire Chains Last?

Four factors will dictate how long your tire chains last

  • How often do you use them – I know obvious
  • If they are tightened correctly
  • If they have been used in other conditions and not just compacted snow.
  • Has the car been driven within the speed limit indicated by the manufacturer?

Visitors also read: How Fast Can You Go With Winter Tires?

If used correctly, they should easily last a winter season if you live in a state subject to prolonged snow.

In states with sporadic snowfall, expect the chains to last several winters.

What Damage Can Be Caused By Chains

  • Buried In Tread

Driving with snow chains on can make them embed in tires if they are used on surfaces they are not designed for. Compacted snow and ice offer less resistance to chains than a firm paved road with no snow cover. This added resistance from the road forces the chains against the tire tread, causing it to dig in.

  • Wrap Around CV Joint

When tire chains snap, they don’t normally fall off right away. Often the link that has snapped will wrap around the outside cv joint. This can cause the boot to split and let debris and the chain come into contact with the joint. Often they will break because of excess speed or being driven on slush or snowless roads.

  • Damaged Body and Rims

If the chain snaps and starts flailing around, it will damage the rims and your car’s bodywork. Metal against metal, at best, will leave scratches, but at worst, large gouges and dents.

Once again, higher speeds than the chain was designed for and being driven on unsuitable road surfaces are more likely to cause the chain to snap.

How Often Should I Tighten Tire Chains?

It’s best to get out and check them every 10 to 25 miles. Always err on the side of caution the first couple of times you’ve put them on or if you’ve fitted new tires recently. 

If you drive speeds near the top end of the recommended range, then checking more regularly would be best, and if the road conditions are generally poor with potholes and gravel.

Can Cars Have Automatic Snow Chains Fitted?

It can be a hassle putting on and taking off chains. As you know, tire chains work best when used on compact snow. They’re not meant for ice or slushy roads and not meant for roads that are clear from snow.

The difficulty arises when some roads have been cleared, and others have not. If you followed the rules above about when to use them, you could be forever taking them off and putting them on.

It would be great if automatic chains could be deployed when you reach a road with compacted snow. Sadly this isn’t available for cars yet. 

This is because of the number of kits the manufacturers would have to design – think about all the different makes and models of cars on the road compared to the number of different delivery vehicles, and you can see why.

There is an alternative, but it’s more like having a studded tire deployed than a chain. It’s an adapter that fits on the rim of a car wheel. 

Unique Automatic Snow Chains For Cars

Can You Leave Chains On Overnight?

If you’re not expecting a sudden thaw followed by a freeze again, then you can. If the snow was to thaw and then refreeze, the chain could be put under more strain when you start in the morning.

Remember that chains are designed to provide grip when moving and not to get your car tires out of thick ice from when you’re parked.

Generally, snow chains are made from cheap metal – to keep them affordable – and won’t cope well with this extra strain.

Many visitors read this article next: How Fast Can You Go With Studded Tires?

Do You Need Snow Chains On All 4 Tires?

Snow chains are usually sold in a set of two. They should be fitted onto the drive wheels of a car as these are the ones that are turned by the transmission and need to grip.

It will do no harm if you buy a second set. It will increase your car’s grip, but they aren’t really necessary.

4WD cars, though, should use two sets to ensure even grip across all wheels.

In Conclusion

30 mph is the highest recommended speed. When employing snow chains, careful driving is required. Snow chains may break if subjected to too much stress from sudden acceleration and harsh braking.

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