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Re: What are Your Snow Chain Techniques?


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In the midst of all this snow throughout the US, how many light-duty tow companies rely on chains when snow and ice accumulation makes it tough to drive? Many towers I’ve talked with say they don’t use chains because of the hassle of installation. Obviously, a chained-up truck gains better traction than one that isn’t. Some companies chain only the outside rear dual's while other chain all four rear tires. I personally think chain installation is a cinch by setting a long 4x4 under one side’s inner dual tire and slowly backing-up on top; doing so leaves a 4-inch gap at the bottom of the tire to ease chain install. For additional safety and before starting the chain-up process, as a solid safety reminder, I set chocks in-front and behind the opposite-side tire to help avoid slipping in icy conditions and never get under the tow truck’s body in-case the truck were to slip off the 4x4. If you’re located in ice, snow, even mud recovery environments, what tricks do you have up your sleeves to ease chain installation?     R.

Edited by rreschran
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Randall C. Resch

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I put mine on the outside tires and only when we're getting over 10 inches. Anything less and they're more a hassle than a help. When I put mine on I put them on inside the shop where it's warm and dry. 

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IF I ask myself if I should put them on they are going on. I see too many incidents where chains would have prevented the problem so accordingly I don't want to end up like the casualty. I have taught my drivers if they wonder about chains put them on . We charge by the hour but I can't charge if we are in the ditch with no chains. A new set of lightweight TRYGGS costs less than $450 and lasts for years and what type of repairs can you do for $450 these days?

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Snow rated tires are my first line of traction.  

Second is 4x4. 

Chains are the last tool.  

Dont forget about chains for muddy situations as well.

I carry dual rails and single for the 4x4 wrecker.  With a wheel lift making chaining up the rear so easy (put down to lift rear tires off the ground), I usually throw the duals if I feel the need to chain up for a job. Even though the chains are camed , I still use the spider style rubber tensioners.  I also use a large zip tie to tie off the extra couple links of chain adjustment.  Call me ocd.  

If it’s a local dot requirement type of situation, then the singles get put on the outside.

Before I had the duals, putting the singles on the inside for goat road situations caught the ruts better.  Dually trucks don’t usually drive on old forest service roads and are too wide. 


Chain up rule: Don’t stick your head between your tire and wrecker body.  Act like it could drop at any second.  Arms in only and from the uphill side if there is a slope.  

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I use the alloy chains with ice V bars or Pewag square cut chains, they seem to hold up pretty good & have good grip. Both my small wreckers are 4x4 so I chain up front & rears just so I have no question of traction as many of the snow 

/ice covered driveways are 10 degrees & steeper, no messing around here or you end up down a ravine. I always fit/cut the chains in the warm shop, I usually move the cross links nearest the hooks about 1 or 2 links away from the hooks to allow the next step. When I install the rear out on the road I use thin waterproof gloves, drape the chains over the tire, reach through the wheel openings & connect the rear hooks though the wheel holes, then connect the outside, adjust & install the spider tensioners. The fronts also start by draping chain over tire then reach around, hook inside, hook outside, adjust & install a circular bungee as I have not found a big enough spider tensioner to not get caught up in the portruding lug studs.

Hello from sunny (when its not raining) Orcas Island

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Here is a picture from a few years ago on one of my trucks.   We were getting prepared for what turned out to be a major ice storm.  Alot of down trees and limbs, so we were carrying a chainsaw so we could cut and winch trees out of the way as needed. 


Anyway, many years ago I managed to get one of our 4x4 wreckers stuck bad in a deep snow on the way to a police call.  That day I came back to the shop and ordered chains.  I tried them all... The cheap ones worked, but they would get torn up in a hurry.  After a while i found Pewag square link chains... about $300 a pair for the singles.  I now have 2 full sets for each of our truck, front and rear.   I just use singles on the outer rear wheels typically, but when its real bad or icy, i have a pair for the front.   I usually stick a bungee cord or two on to keep them snug.  I carry heavy duty zip ties in case a link breaks so i can make a temporary repair, etc.   They are great.  I wouldnt be without them.   I have a bunch of them in our shed ready to go for winter as needed.    When I have chains on, my minimum call out fee is $175, typically far more for accidents, etc.   I have two wreckers that have plows to help keep our lot open, and on occasion we plow an accident scene, or have to open a roadway to get there.


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