Step by step instruction on chaining up a big rig.
If you are a truck driver, there may be times in your trucking career, you ‘may’ be required to chain up your truck.
If you run in areas that don’t get snow or icy conditions, consider yourself fortunate!
However, as a professional truck driver, you may wish to acquire this skill as you may find yourself in another job someday and it maybe necessary to chain up!
For example, there could be chain laws posted in an area where you’re traveling or your truck could be stuck.
How to Install Single Chains
Step One – Lay Chains Flat – Inspect
- The first step is simply place the chains flat out on the ground. I’ve found this is the best way to start.
This is a good way to see that the chains are in good order, no damage and they are going to do the job you need them to.
Some truckers like to install chains by rolling ahead on the tire chains, and then fasten them up.
I personally don’t like this way as I find it takes longer. But do note, this is a good way to do it if your chains are excessively heavy.
I also find this method easier. It only takes a few minutes to lie them on the ground, inspect them and them drape them over the wheels.
Step Two – Drape Chains Over Wheels
When I’m satisfied the chains are in good working order, I pick up the chain on the side further away from me.
- When I pick up the chain, I grab it around the middle.
- I then pick up the chains and drape it over the wheel, so the chain is distributed as evenly as possible over the wheel.
- Be sure that the clips that secure the the cross chains are facing outward, in order that they don’t rub on the sidewall of the tire.
Step Three – Hook the Inside Clip
- Then, I reach in behind the duals to hook the inside clip of the tire chain.
You may have a tool that you like to do this job. But, I find the fifth wheel hook a handy tool for this step. I use it to hook the inside clip, between the tires.
The great thing about using the fifth wheel hook, is it’s a handy tool that most truck drivers have with them.
- Take the fifth wheel hook and grab the inside clip between the wheels.
- I move the mudflap out of the way if necessary and reach in with the hook and grab the hook from the far side. I pull it forward and clip the inside clip with the chain, so it’s fastened on the inside of the dual now.
Step Four – Tighten the Cams
The cams are a simple configuration and they are relatively easy to hook up.
The purpose of the cams is to fasten the entire chain down at the end of the process.
- 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. It’s most likely you’ll be able to get one turn on a few of them.
Step Five – Add Extra Security
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.
- When attaching the spider bungies, have the hooks facing outward, not inward. The hooks may rub and damage the outside of the tires, if the chains on for any length of time
Watch the Video Version – How to Chain Up a Big Rig
Extra Tips – Chaining Up a Big Rig
Testing your chain 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.
I then stop the truck, get out and double check everything to make sure the chains are secure and properly in place.
By driving slowly for a short distance, it’s a good way to test the security of the chaining job you just did.
The last thing any truck driver wants is for the chains to come off while driving. They can cause serious damage to the truck if they come loose.
Do lots of mountain driving?
For truckers who get regular runs in the mountains, here’s something to consider.
I would not recommend half fenders on the truck. Quarter fenders are easier to deal with when chaining up.
It’s much easier to drape the chains over the wheels with 1/4 fenders rather than squeezing the chains up under the half fenders.
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.
Can I travel any speed with chains on?
A truck with chains installed isn’t meant to travel fast.
They are meant to get the truck through slippery and dangerous spots.
At excessive speeds, over 30-40 m.p.h., they can break away, fly loose and do serious damage to the equipment.
They can also break loose and do damage to other vehicles around the truck.
What are the chain requirements?
Each state and province has their own specific requirements for their chain laws. Be sure to check where you are traveling ahead of time, in order that you are prepared, in case the chain laws are in effect.
- Some states/provinces 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.
Be aware of what the requirements are, or else you’ll be forced to wait out the road closures.
How many chains do I need?
The maximum number of tire chains to carry is 6.
However, six tire chains for a tractor trailer can add up to a lot of weight.
When you put them away in your truck storage box, be aware that you’ve potentially gained almost 1000 pounds in weight as a result.
Remember this adds to your gross vehicle weight, so be aware of that before you pick up your next load.
Types of chains.
Singles — I used single chains in the demonstration. A single tire chain will cover one tire.
Doubles — Double chains will wrap around both tires.
Triples — Triple chains will wrap around both tires but align in the middle to hook up between the duals, which helps to secure them.
These bad boys (in the demo) are very heavy.
They are also 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 do 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 I-80. 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. In this situation, I’d recommend sitting and waiting for the road to reopen to regular traffic.
Not a glamorous part of being a trucker.
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.
Frequently Asked Questions
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