Do You Need 4 Snow Chains on a 4WD Vehicle?

As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. We may also earn commissions if you purchase products from other retailers after clicking on a link from our site.

Even though 4WD vehicles have higher traction than their 2WD counterparts, winter driving can still be a nightmare. For this reason, motorists with 4WDs resort to using snow chains to enable their vehicles to get through the slippery and smooth roads. Yet, do you need four snow chains on a 4WD vehicle?

You don’t strictly need four snow chains on a 4WD vehicle, as a pair is enough to get you through a snowy road. However, two pairs are preferable when the terrain requires extra traction. Putting snow chains on all four tires also provides better balance and control.

In this article, I’ll discuss a few topics related to snow chains on 4WD vehicles. Keep reading to learn more.

Why Install Snow Chains on a 4WD Vehicle?

You should install chains on a 4WD to improve tire traction in regions experiencing heavy snowfall. These tire chains will prevent your vehicle from skidding or sliding on snowy road surfaces. Keep in mind, however, they’ll also affect your car’s speed. 

Also referred to as tire chains, snow chains come in a wide array of designs to fit different vehicle types. The most common designs include ladder, square, and diamond-shaped patterns. 

Snow chains are specially designed chain systems covering tires or their whole setups and enhance the wheel’s grip on the road. By doing so, the tires have more traction and will rotate freely on a slippery or smooth road surface. Therefore, your vehicle won’t slide or skid on a snow-covered road.

Snow chains improve the tires’ traction by digging into the frozen road surface. They also allow the driver to control the vehicle by steering and braking the wheels more efficiently than studded winter tires. Nonetheless, you shouldn’t exceed a 30mph (50km/h) speed while using snow chains since they make the vehicle lose balance.

Although 4WD vehicles have good traction, some weather conditions require you to mount them on your car. For instance, it’s a road safety requirement for all vehicles (including 4WDs) to have snow chains at Level 3

Keep in mind, you have to install snow chains before the snow starts piling up for them to work effectively. Therefore, even if it’s not snowing heavily when you’re starting your trip, put the chains on if you notice any signs of snow. If you’re driving when the snow starts falling, just pull over in a designated area and mount the tire chains.

How Many Snow Chains Do You Need on a 4WD Vehicle?

You need at least two snow chains for a 4WD vehicle. However, for better traction and balance, four snow chains are preferable. Additionally, ensure that the chains are ideal for your 4WD.

States have different laws on the use of snow chains during winter. For instance, in California, every tractor or trailer should have eight snow chains only when the weather permits.

Contrastingly, Oregon requires all drivers to carry snow chains or traction tires on all highways. Moreover, they must read and comply with the road signs on when to use these devices.

4WD vehicles don’t need snow chains in some states, including California and Utah. In a 4WD system, the engine supplies power to all the wheels (4) via the differentials, allowing the tires to overcome slippery conditions. Hence, 4WD vehicles have higher traction than 2WD cars.

Factors To Consider When Buying Snow Chains

Most snow chains are available in sets of two. Some even have tensioners that allow you to fit the chains on your tires. However, when shopping for snow chains for your 4WD, you have to consider a few factors, including:

  • Size: Your snow chain set should be suitable for your 4WD’s tire size. Check the manufacturer’s recommendation before you get yourself a pair of snow chains.
  • Purpose: You’ll require a specific snow chain design for a particular need. For instance, the tire chains needed to drive on the road differ from those needed for off-road driving.
  • Chain material: You’ll find both high-quality and poor-quality snow chains depending on the material used to make them. It’s recommendable to purchase snow chains made from heavy-duty, rust-free materials such as manganese-nickel alloys.
  • Pattern: Some snow chain patterns are more suitable for 4WD vehicles than others. Therefore, consult the dealer before settling on the ideal ones for your 4WD. For instance, tire chains with a square pattern provide better traction on snowy and icy roads. Contrastingly, diamond-shaped chains are less comfortable and cause bumpy rides. 
  • Installation procedure: You’ll encounter jurisdictions (or states) that have different laws on the use of snow chains. Hence, it’s essential to buy chains that you can install or remove easily when the need arises.

How To Install Snow Chains on 4WD Tires

Installing snow chains is not a complicated procedure. However, this will depend on what type of snow chains you’re using. Moreover, your vehicle’s tire sizes will determine how fast you can mount the tire chains.

It’s crucial to install snow chains properly and ensure they’re tight-fitting to avoid accidents. For instance, if loosely held, these chains can fall off the tires and 

Here’s a simple way of installing snow chains on your 4WD tires:

  1. Remove the chains from their pack and untangle them.
  2. Place the chains on the ground in front of the front tires with the latches on each side.
  3. Start your vehicle and drive the tires over the chains. 
  4. Switch off the engine and cover the tires with the chains by connecting the latches on both ends.
  5. Secure the snow chains by connecting the hooked edges to the inner part of the tires. 
  6. Rotate the closing link or the tightening cam to prevent the chains from slipping.
  7. Re-start the engine and drive a short distance, then stop the car to verify the snow chains are well-positioned and tight-fitting.


Heavy snowfall and poor road conditions can be disastrous even to high-traction vehicles like the 4WDs. Hence, it’s essential to have snow chains, especially when it’s a requirement by your state. Although 4WD vehicles are good to go with two chains (on the front tires), four chains will improve your vehicle’s balance.

Recent Posts