How to Chain Up a Semi Truck

When truck driving in snowy and icy conditions, it may become necessary to put chains on your drive tires. It can be time-consuming, and if you don’t do winter driving very often, you might worry about missing steps. But we’ve got you covered with a full step-by-step outline as well as answers to some common questions from truckers who use snow chains

Which axle do you chain up on a semi?

Different states have different chain requirements for commercial vehicles. The laws may differ based on the gross vehicle weight. For the most part, CDL drivers must chain the tires on at least one drive axle. In certain conditions, chains may be required on all drive tires. When planning your trip, make sure to look up the state-specific rules for the areas you will be driving through. 

How many chains do I need for a semi-truck?

Depending on the local laws regarding semi truck tire chains, you may need enough chains to cover every drive tire on your truck. You may not always need that many at once, but it’s better to have them ready to go than get stuck without enough chains to drive safely and comply with the local tire chain laws

How do you install chains on a big rig?

Putting tire chains on a semi-truck is not that much more complicated than putting tire chains on a car. Below are the basic steps for adding chains to your tires.

1. Park Safely

Make sure to park your rig safely away from the road, in an area that is brightly lit. You don’t want to have to put on tire chains in the dark in the middle of the road. That’s not safe for you or for other drivers. Pay attention to weather conditions so you don’t get caught outside your cab in a sudden storm.

2. Lay Chains Flat

Lay the chains on the ground and make sure they are untangled. The clips for the cross chains should face outward. Inspect all chains for any damage before you start putting them on. If your chains are damaged, and you don’t have a spare set of chains, the safest course is to not proceed. Wait until the roads are safe for unchained driving. 

3. Drape Chains Over Wheels

Lay the chains over the top of the wheels. Make sure the chains are evenly distributed and will fit the tires. This may take some tugging and pulling to get the chains centered on the tires with even overhang on all sides. 

4. Connect the Chains

To connect the chains, you’ll have to get underneath the truck, so we recommend having something you can lay on to avoid getting wet and dirty. Hook the inside clips before moving to the outside clips. It may take a little time and patience to get all the hooks clipped properly. If you have a fifth-wheel hook, you might find that it’s a valuable tool to help you get the hooks on your tire chains clipped as well. Make sure you have the same number of links on the inside of the tire as you do on the outside, otherwise, the chains will not rotate around the tire properly.

6. Tighten the Cams

Leave one finger’s worth of space between the chain and the tire. You may not be able to tighten every cam, but you should be able to tighten most of them a little bit. If you’re finding it difficult to reach and tighten the cams, pull your truck forward a couple of feet to make it easier. 

Add Extra Security (Optional)

You can add regular bungee straps or tire straps to maintain even spacing on the tire chains. These are not strictly necessary, but many truck drivers find they add peace of mind in winter weather. Just make sure any hooks are facing outward so they don’t damage the tire wall. 

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