How to Make Emergency Zip Tie Snow Chains




About: User Experience Engineer at L.L.Bean and Sculptor.

Are you stuck?

Are you constantly spinning your wheels?

Are you lacking the tools necessary to move forward with your life?

Do you know where you want to be, but don't know how to get there?

I was on the same road, but I found my motivation in zip ties.

Yes, you heard me correctly ties.

I'm going to show you how to become unstuck and move forward over any obstacle, building momentum to reach your destination.

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Step 1: Preparing the Build


  • 36" zip ties
  • 12" zip ties
  • Scissors
  • 6"+ of snow or ice

I had 24" zip ties on hand for the build, which was about 6" too short for my winter tires (225-65-17's), so I used two 24" zip ties daisy chained for the demo


You'll need to determine the number of "chains" that will you need for the situation and that will fit on your vehicles tires. My tires have six openings in the rim, so I made six "chains". The more chains you make, the more grip you will have, but I found six to be sufficient for the demo.

The long zip ties are the "chain" or base of the build, and the smaller zip ties are used for grip.

For my build this equaled six long zip ties in total, with six smaller zip ties per long zip tie, equaling 36 small zip ties in total.

Step 2: Assembling the Snow Chains

Building a chain

  1. Start by wrapping a smaller zip tie 6-8" from the head of a longer zip tie (the chain)
  2. Tighten as much as possible to prevent slippage
  3. Add a second smaller zip tie 1" down from the first small tightened zip tie
  4. Continue adding smaller zip ties in the same configuration until you've added six smaller zip ties to the chain
  5. Trim the smaller zip ties down to about a 1/4"

Loop through these instructions until you have the number of chains you need for your vehicle.

Step 3: Attaching the Chains to Your Tires

Tips for attaching:

  • Turn your wheel all the way left, then right for easier access to the backside of the tire
  • It's easier to thread through the rim and bring back around the outside of the tire than the opposite way
  • Be careful of the tire stem. The chains will shift with the rotation of the tire, so be sure to put the chain towards the end of the opening where it will naturally get pushed


  1. Insert your chain through an opening in the rim, head first, pulling the head around the outside of the tire back to the front
  2. Connect the zip tie, tightening while keeping the smaller zips (the grip) on the tread of the tire
  3. Tighten fully
  4. Do this for the rest of your chains/openings on the rim

Step 4: Driving

The video shows the snow chains in use in 6" of snow. I do have all wheel drive and winter tires, but I could tell that the snow chains were working because you can hear when the traction control kicks in acting to prevent slippage. The traction control was not engaging for this wheel.
  1. The chains will stay on your tire when driving through snow/ice. If you drive across stretches of pavement, the chains will likely breakdown and fall off
  2. Start out slow; don't spin your tires
  3. Remember that these are a temporary solution for traction

Have fun & good luck!

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    11 Discussions


    3 years ago

    Awesome! Thanks for sharing!


    3 years ago

    I made these, they don't really work. at least for me they didn't, maybe it was the plastic mine are made or the type of rim I have. but they broke off with 1 to 2 turns of the wheel. Great instructable tho.

    2 replies

    Reply 3 years ago

    It probably doesn't work with specific rim types. I think that the "chain" should be evenly touching across the rim & tire. My guess is that if any portion of the chain is elevated, this causes too much force at that spot resulting in breakage.

    Another idea I toyed with, which didn't work for my rims, but may work for others is to use bungee cords. I think if you wrapped bungees in zip ties (like my instructable) and wrapped then around the tire, you would get a similar effect.

    This may be an approach for these types of rims/wheels -

    If you try it, I'd love to know how it works. Thanks!


    Reply 3 years ago

    I don't believe there's a safety issue in using these. The plastic zip ties shouldn't cause any damage to your car, as they can't puncture a tire and they break away. As for usage, these will provide some extra traction, but shouldn't impact driving, stopping, etc.

    As with any DIY project, play it safe & smart, and use at your own discretion.


    3 years ago

    Do they last for any length of time driving, or are they mainly just for getting unstuck?

    1 reply

    Reply 3 years ago

    I believe they would stay on for some duration, as long as they were being used on snow at a low speed. I drove around the parking lot on fresh snow for about 20-30 minutes, and all of the 'chains' were intact. When I left the parking lot and was on pavement, they came off one by one over the course of 4 miles.


    3 years ago

    How incredibly useful! (And entertaining; great read.) Thank you!


    3 years ago

    Nice idea. I need to make up a set of these to keep in my car.

    I got stuck on an un-plowed side street last year and these probably would have gotten me out of there.

    These would also be less weight to haul around than conventional snow chains or a big bag of sand.

    1 reply

    Reply 3 years ago

    That was my thought too, that these would be something to keep in your car for emergency situations. And storing them is much easier than typical chains.