Introduction: Snow Chains for an Emergency

About: I miss the days when magazines like Popular Mechanics had all sorts of DIY projects for making and repairing just about everything. I am enjoying posting things I have learned and done since I got my first to…

Sometimes you need just a little more traction to get out of a problem on snow or ice without really needing a full set of tire chains. Some years ago we lived where we had more snow than we do in our present locale. I saw emergency snow chains in stores, but they were often flimsy and not satisfactory. I made my own for a very reasonable cost.

I apologize that I do not have photos. This system will not work on my current automobile because of too little clearance between the wheel rim and the disc brake caliper, and I no longer have the chain assemblies I made up when I made use of these.

For each of two wheels you will need--

One foot of chain--3/16 #30 is about the right size.

Two feet of 3/16 inch wire rope.

A 3/16 inch clamp for wire rope (It is disproportionately large in the graphic.)

You will also need a wrench for the clamp.

Step 1: Keep the Wire Rope From Fraying

Wire rope tends to fray, especially when it is handled as you will need to do for installing emergency chains on your drive wheels.

Braze the ends of the wire rope. The yellow represents braze material on the end of a piece of wire rope. It is not required, but you may want to make the ends of the wire rope a little pointed after you have finished brazing them. A little gentle grinding on an abrasive wheel will do the trick.

You can try using electrical tape instead of brazing, but it will not hold up well for long. Still, it could be a substitute for brazing. This would be helpful to those who do not have access to a torch suitable for brazing the wire rope.

Step 2: Insert the Wire Rope in the Chain

Bend the wire rope at its middle and slip one end through the end link in the chain.

Step 3: Push the Ends of the Wire Rope Through the Wheel Slot

The graphic is a cutaway view of your wheel and tire.

Place a piece of cardboard on the snowy ground. Reach around to the inside of your drive wheels. You may have to remove any full wheel cover hubcaps on your drive wheels. Stick the two ends of the wire rope through one of the slots in your wheel. Pull the free end of the chain around the circumference of the tire. Place the two ends of the wire rope through the end link in the chain. Put the two ends of the wire rope through the clamp. Snug it up. Tighten the clamp with your wrench. Double check to make certain these emergency chains will not interfere with your disc brake calipers, if you car has disc brakes on its drive wheels. Do not use these chains if they do not clear your disc brake calipers.

Get into your car and start your engine. Apply a little pressure on your car's accelerator, but do not spin the wheels. The emergency chain will grab once on each rotation of the wheel, but that is enough to get you out of some otherwise difficult situations.

Remove the chains from the wheels as soon as practical. They will wear a great deal if you drive with them on "dry" pavement, that is, pavement with no snow cover. But, you can replace any one part of these emergency chains without replacing the whole chain assembly.