DIY Snow Chains




Introduction: DIY Snow Chains

About: I am a 21 year old DIY ist and Tinkerer with a deep interest in the field of robotics, electronic and cooking. I am skilled in wood and metal work as well. I work in my basement workshop and i am mostly scra...

Few days ago my family and I planned a trip to the hilly areas of our country. In the winters, snow fall is pretty common in those areas. Although the spectacle of snow fall is very pleasing but the trouble it causes is of concern. One of the major trouble is driving in the snow. Snow driving can be dangerous and deadly in hilly terrain.

To counter this danger I decided to buy some chains for my car to increase the traction of the tires. There are many ready made solutions but they are all expensive. So as a true DIY ist I decided to build my own using regular chain and some rope. Its really easy and gives you and edge on the snowy roads.

With the snow storm in the USA this is a pretty effective and cheap way to get by and stay safe on the roads.

Step 1: Materials

The things you would need are pretty straight forward. The quantities mentioned are for one tire.

  1. Chain = 18 Feet
  2. Chain Lock = 1 Peice
  3. Rope = 20 Feet
  4. Tire to test on

Step 2: Calculations

Well first you need to calculate the lengths. my tire was almost 2 ft diameter. You need to calculate the circumference of the tire. Use the formula

Circumference = Diameter x (22/7)

The cut the chain almost a foot short of that circumference. For me it was 5 ft.

Step 3: Cutting the Chain

The best way to cut is to put the link in a vise and use a hack saw. Then juse use a chisel to expand the gap and remove the adjoining links.

Cut the following:

  1. 1 x 5ft
  2. 12 x 1ft

The images show two 5 ft pieces but i later changed the design and used rope for the front edge as opposed to chain.

Step 4: Making the Links

When you will make the cuts, the piece you cut will become the link you will join to the chain. We will use these links to join the chain.

Step 5: Assembly

Lay the 5 foot length and attach the one foot lengths to the long chain. Attach each after every four links. Add the cut link and hammer it shut using a hammer.

Here two chains are shown but later i removed one of the sides and added rope. The rope is much easier to work with. Just start the rope from one edge and tie a knot with every link, making sure the distance is equal between the links.

Step 6: Putting It On

Putting on the chain is a little tricky. First you would lay down the chain and drive the wheel over it almost half way. Then using the chain lock you would lock the back side of the chain on the back of the wheel. For the front end you would take the rope and tie it as tight as possible. The goal is to keep the chain centered from all sides. After the front ring is tied, use a second piece of rope and start to thread it from every rope segment. Dont tighten it at first. Once you are all threaded, straighten the chains and tighten it from all point. This way the chain will be taught and most effective.

Step 7: Conclusion

This was a fun and easy way to build chains. The practical report will be up soon as to how they performed. I hope this was helpful. If you found my instructable up to the mark, please vote for me. Thanks.



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    20 Discussions

    Nice work, but they won't last very long. Commercial chains are made of hardened steel for a reason. A sprung chain adjuster (cheap) would be better than all that cabeling to keep them in place too.

    man you are an artist lol :)


    2 years ago

    Wow. This is brilliant! the only modification that I would make would be to weld the chain links back together after attaching them or using a "quick link"

    despite the comments below I can see real value in creating these. they're not a highway speed solution but an amazing snow driving option. are they the same as cable chains? no. but they are definitely a capable solution for smart people who know the limits of something like this.

    keep up the good work, and thanks for sharing this innovative solution! Would work great on back roads and remote mountain passes I end up on! I think I'll make myself a set sometime next autumn.

    You should zig-zag the crossing chains so there is always a section of chain in contact with the ground. This should be done in conjunction with the cross-wise chains you currently have. Much better traction than the slip, grab, slip, grab setup that your current design employs.

    Keep in mind that a lot of places, chains are illegal due to how damaging they are to the roads. Even having them stored in your car during winter can incur a fine. Check your local laws to find out if they are legal.

    I can't say that I've ever thought of making my own chains. I own a good set of cable chains for my car as they are required when travelling over the passes here in Oregon from November to May. Easily approachable method to making your own set.

    2 replies

    Well here in my country we only use chains in hilly areas as snow is only on the mountains. The other designs maybe more road friendly but these are the ones that offer best forward traction as they dig in the snow and push forward as opposed to pushing the snow sideways which results in less traction.

    I agree with the traction. That's why I said that it should zig-zag in addition to the lateral chains. Please excuse my MS Paint picture, but I think that it more clearly illustrates (get it?) what I'm referring to in my post above.


    Thank you people. For all the haters. These chains are meant for those people who only need them for a trip to snowy area. They are not meant for everyday use. For the purpose i built them for, they held up great and provided superior traction.

    You could replace the rope with bungee straps. Much more easy to remove than the rope.

    1 reply

    Cool build. Most commercial sets use a cable with quick connector for outer side, tensioned by a bungee. this might be a bit more secure than the rope , which could slip when lubricated by snow/sleet. Looks clean & solid!

    1 reply

    this may work as a temp solution if your jammed up but do yourself and other drivers a favor, just buy a good set of chains. ive used chains and cable setups for over 40 years on cars, tractor trailors, light duty and heavy duty wreckers. i dont think you realise how much force is exerted on those chains and that rope. good instructible write up but a bad idea.

    3 replies

    Agreed. This looks like a cool project, but realize that the only part of the vehicle that makes contact with the road is the tire. This is not the place to compromise the safety of you and your loved ones for $. The force on that rope is likely to be more than it can handle. Nice instructable, but not worth the risk.

    I used these chains on a snowy mountain for 4 hours. They held up wonderfully and worked better than store bought chains since the links are larger and offer better traction

    I only need for couple of hours. But i tested them for 4 hours on the road and they held up wonderfully. Better than store bought chains i must add.


    2 years ago

    As I have lived in a snowy, icy, and any combination or extrapolation of winter driving for 77 years, must concur with the other posters that chains are very primitive and hazardous solution to traction aiding. They are best suited for slow moving vehicles or home use snow machines. In Quebec we have a mandatory four snow tire law in effect from Dec 15th to Apr 15th, and there's no harm in starting sooner and finishing later. Most people get four extra rims to avoid the hassle of seasonal mounting & dismounting. The downside is the storage required, for the non-used set.

    If the road/weather conditions are so bad that good snow tires don't work, then better to stay home. However, in winter I always carry a good compact shovel and metal foldable traction grip links just to get going out of an uncleared spot. BTW, one should switch to "summer" or all-season tires, when the warmer weather kicks in, as most dedicated snow tires (there are exceptions) wear faster and have poorer dry/wet pavement traction at that time.

    1 reply

    These are for hilly areas where snow is plenty and it isnt cleared much. In my country mountains get snow and the only way to drive there is to use such chains. Pre made solutions are expensive and dont work as well.

    I like the design

    This is so OP!!!!@

    I think these are the fanciest snow chains I've ever seen! Very nicely done :)