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Do You Need Snow Chains For 4wd? [ Answered ]

Do You Need Snow Chains For 4wd? [ Answered ]

If you reside somewhere experiencing heavy snowfall during winters, you would probably be thinking about whether you should integrate your 4wd car with snow chains.

With snowy terrains and icy trails around, most drivers worry about the traction that their cars would generate.

Using snow chains, you can mitigate the risks of accidents. However, even if you have a 4wd vehicle, do you need snow chains?

The last thing to expect is to remain stranded on the roadside and encounter life-threatening conditions during heavy snowfall.

Well, we have discussed the requirement of snow chains in such cars in this article.

Once you read through it, you would be knowing the perks and cons of using snow chains on four-wheel drive vehicles as well.

Do you need snow chains for 4wd?

Yes, if the snowfall is too heavy, you would need snow chains on all four wheels of your car or SUV.

This way, you can maintain proper traction and balance as you navigate slippery terrains.

The requirement of snow chains on 4wd cars largely depends on the extent of snowfall and the condition of the trail.

At times, cars with snow tread tires might not need snow chains unless the road conditions are too bad.

For instance, when California experiences heavy snowfall, the road safety requirements can reach even level 3.

Under these conditions, you would need snow chains for your four-wheel drive car even after using snow tires.

All four wheels of your vehicle would need additional traction gears to maintain proper balance on perilous trails.

It appears that when the road conditions deteriorate significantly and become icy or slippery, you need snow chains in your 4wd vehicle.

When you navigate through these roads, you need to slow down your car by at least 5 mph.

When the road conditions deteriorate, you would find signs on the roadside, requiring you to integrate snow chains regardless of the type of wheels you are using.

You would find designated areas away from the main course of traffic where you can fit these accessories into your wheels.

Remember, in some cities, there are control points where the highway authorities inspect whether the vehicles are adhering to the requirements.  

This is how snow chains work

The reason to use snow chains during winter is their ability to cut deep into the ice and other frozen surfaces.

They perform better than high-grade snow tires or even studded tires.

Therefore, tires with snow chains installed on them ensure better braking and steering.

Well, it would be wise to mount the snow chains before your vehicle needs them.

So, when you notice snow or ice covering the road, it would be logical to put the snow chains on.

Don’t wait for the snow to pile up in large volumes around your vehicle, as this might leave you stranded.

When you decide to use snow chains, make sure to have a branded snow tire or snow and mud tire.

Otherwise, the tire might sustain damage when you use the accessory.

Advantages of using snow chains

Snow chains go a long way in ensuring a safe and comfortable drive with wintery conditions around.

You would have better control of your car through enhanced traction and accurate braking.

Besides, the terrains remain covered by bitumen and snow.

With snow chains, you can warrant the essence of security while driving.

You can use snow chains while the thickness of ice remains shallow or deep.

So, these accessories would bail you out of the adverse winter conditions.

Here’s why the highway authorities recommend drivers use snow chains in winter.

  • Gain better control of the vehicle and avoid accidents in icy conditions.
  • With modern versions of these snow chains, you can easily install and remove them as per your needs.
  • You can prevent the car from slipping on snowy terrains, thanks to increased traction.
  • Snow chains are customizable for all types of icy road conditions and cars.
  • Economically, it is more viable to purchase snow chains than snow tires due to their affordable cost.
  • When you navigate deep snow, snow chains turn out to be an effective accessory, and perform even better than snow tires.

Snow chains are available in two primary styles. These are:

Ladder pattern snow chains:

Since ladder pattern snow chains serve mainly private properties, you might not be able to use them on public roads. 

In these snow chains, the pattern surrounds the tire in a pattern that resembles square ladders.

The tread remains ribbed with the square pattern of the chains. However, this design is quite old, and you would find the diamond pattern in most modern cars.

Diamond pattern snow chains:

You would mostly come across diamond pattern snow chains in both on and off-road conditions.

The authorities have approved these snow chains for public road use.

In this case, the diamond pattern surrounds the wheel of your car from the inside.

So, they tend to clench together around the wheel’s outer side.

The pattern, which resembles diamond, connects the outer and inner hoops over the tread.

Disadvantages of using snow chains

With the roads covered with snow, you would not like skidding around with your car.

This is why most drivers prefer using snow chains.

However, you might encounter certain disadvantages while using snow chains.

  • You need to remove the snow chains from the tires every time the path clears up. This would be a hassle since you might not have permission to use snow chains in all parts of the city.
  • In case you fail to fit snow chains properly onto your car, you would end up damaging the vehicle.
  • You might not like the irritating noise that these accessories produce.
  • Carrying snow chains in the trunk of your car may take up a lot of the usable space.
  • With snow chains on your tires, you cannot pick up too much speed.
  • If the rubber compound in your tire is too soft, it might sustain damage if you use snow chains.

Do 4×4 need snow chains in California?

In California, all vehicles require snow chains and other traction devices except 4wd vehicles having snow tires.

If all your tires have snow-tread tires, the traffic norms wouldn’t require you to use snow chains.

However, it would be wise to carry the traction devices even when you do not have any legal obligation.

The reason is that the road safety requirements might reach level 3 under heavy snowfall.

The snow chains would assure adequate traction to your car and ensure that you don’t lose balance or control while driving.


With adverse road conditions in winter, snow chains can make a difference in your drive quality.

Even if you are using a 4wd vehicle, make sure to carry these accessories in your trunk.

In case the snow is moderate, you might consider mounting the snow chains only on the front wheels.

However, with perpetual snowfall, you would have to mount them on all four wheels.

We have discussed the perks and cons of using these accessories.

With proper expertise, you should be able to mount the snow chains on all the tires.