A lesson on chaining up a big rig truck for truckers.
Chaining up is something you hopefully won’t have to experience in your trucking career.
However, you should know how to do it because once in a while you may find yourself in a situation where it’s necessary.
There could be chain laws posted in an area where you’re traveling or your truck could be stuck. It may be a necessary skill for you to know as a professional driver.
Personally, I don’t do a whole lot of chaining as I don’t do much mountain driving any more, but I do some.
If I were doing a lot of mountain running, I wouldn’t have half fenders installed on my truck. I would run quarter fenders as it’s easier when chaining up to drape the chain over the tire, rather than squeezing it up under the half fenders.
How to Chain Up – Single Chains
1. The first thing I do is place the chain flat out on the ground. I’ve found this is the best way to start.
Be sure the adjustment cams are placed facing outward on the outside of the tire, so they are easily accessed. The tire chains have locking clips.
They are a simple configuration. They’re relatively easy to hook up. They are used to fasten the entire chain down at the end of the process.
Some truckers install them by rolling ahead on the tire chains, and then fasten them up.
I find it easier to just take a few seconds, by placing them down on the ground and draping them over the wheel.
2. I pick up the chain on the side farthest from me and then drape it up over the tire.
When I pick it up, I grab it around the middle. Pick it up and drape it over the wheel, so the chain is distributed as evenly as possible over the tire.
Be sure that the clips that secure the the cross chains are facing outward, in order that they don’t rub on the side wall of the tire.
3. Then, I reach in behind the duals to hook the inside clip of the tire chain.
I find the fifth wheel hook a handy tool for this step. I use it to hook the inside clip, between the tires.
I move the mudflap out of the way if necessary and reach in with the hook and grab the hook from the far side, and pull it forward, and clip the inside clip with the chain, so it’s fastened on the inside of the dual now.
4. On the front face on the tire, I tighten the cams up snugly with an adjusting wrench. The wrench is inserted into the cam and turned to increase the tension in the chain.
Try to tighten each cam, to help snug up the chain.
You probably won’t be able to get a turn from each cam…. probably just one or a few of them.
5. For extra security and tension for the chains, you can use regular bungee straps.
However, I bought a specialized set of tire straps, in Wyoming at a truck stop. They are very handy for securing them.
The rubber straps can be hooked onto the chain, evenly spaced to secure and tighten up the entire configuration.
8 Useful Tips For Chaining Up a Big Rig
- Test your chaining installation
When I have all the tire chains installed that I require and well secured, I’ll drive perhaps an 1/8th of a mile, stop the truck, get out and double check everything to make sure they are secure.
By driving slowly for a short distance, you can test the security of the chaining. The last thing you want is for the chains to come off while you’re driving. The chains can cause serious damage to the truck if they come loose.
- When to remove the chains
Tire chains are designed to run on snow. Once you hit wet or dry pavement, it’s time to stop and remove them. Hopefully, once you’ve chained up and you’ve reached the the top of the hill, the road will be dry and you can remove them.
A truck with chains isn’t meant to travel fast. They are meant to get the truck through rough spots. They can break away, fly loose and damage the equipment. I don’t like to exceed 30 or 40 mph with a set of chains on.
- Chain Requirements
It is necessary to check the states and provinces where you’ll be traveling, to find out what their requirements are.
Some states only require that a truck carry them, some indicate that it’s necessary to chain up under certain conditions, when chain requirements are in effect. So be aware of what the requirements are, or else you’ll be forced to wait out the road closures.
- Number of Chains
The maximum number required that you carry, is 6.
However, six tire chains for a tractor trailer can add up to a lot of weight.
So when you put your them away in your truck storage box, be aware that you’ve potentially gained almost 1000 pounds in weight as a result. Remember, that will add to your gross vehicle weight, so be aware of that before you pick up your next load.
I used single chains in the demonstration. A single will cover one tire.
Doubles will wrap around both tires.
Triple chains will wrap around both tires but align in the middle to hook up between the duals, which helps to secure them.
- Chain Weight
These bad boys are very heavy. They are awkward to install, store and handle.
The welded cleats on the cross-links gives them great traction, but also adds to the weight.
When you’re carrying a full set of triple chains, you’re carrying a lot of weight. It makes the truck difficult to maneuver, and they’re especially tough to install.
- To Chain Up or Wait It Out?
Unless you lots of mountain driving, you’re often better to just to wait it out. If you’re in California for example, I-80, you’re better to sit in Boomtown and wait it out. CalTrans does a good job of cleaning off I80. By the time you invest the time and effort into chaining up your rig, you’d be better to just go in and have dinner and spend the night. Attempting to go over the hill at night with a full set of chains, can be quite an adventure!
California sometimes requires chaining when the road is only wet. Remember, that’s hard on your chains. Especially in that situation, you are better to sit and wait for the road to reopen to regular traffic.
Chaining up a big rig, is by no means one of the fun things about being a truck driver.
However, it can be a handy and necessary skill to know……kind of a necessary evil.