Driving with snow chains

It’s been snowing, and as we were planning to see friends who live in the country and Lidl have been selling snow chains for £20, I decided to buy some.  We used them this afternoon, and as it’s the first time I’ve used chains I learned a few things which I thought I’d share.

I was very glad to have tried putting them on in the driveway before we left — that gave me extra confidence and it really helped as I was under a bit more pressure when actually fitting them for use.  I only practised fitting one tyre, that was enough.

My first lesson was that chains are only useful when you actually use them.  Our friends live at the top of a hill, and the road past their house, up that hill, was the only non-gritted part of our drive.  I looked at it, and thought I’d probably make it up anyway.  Of course, I didn’t — we stopped half-way, and a tractor came the other way while I was trying to put the chains on (both blocking the single-track road for the other).  We reversed back down (with one chain on) and parked at the bottom of the hill.

Later, as we really wanted to avoid having to walk back to the car with the children in the dark, I went to put the other chain on so I could bring the car up to the house.  It was already quite dark by this point, and the second chain was a little twisted.  Lesson two: if your chain is at all tangled, untangle it completely before putting it behind the wheel.  I had to take it back out, untangle it, and try again.  The instructions said to lay it out on the road; I can see why now.  At this point, it’s worth mentioning lesson three: you may need to kneel.  I had waterproof trousers on already and they made it much easier to decide to do that.

Both chains on, I could drive up the hill with no issues at all.  Lesson four is that snow chains actually work.

A concern of mine (which was what prompted me to try the hill without chains) is that you’re not supposed to use chains directly on tarmac.  There wasn’t much ice, so I was worried I’d damage something.  After we left, having come back down the hill and on to the gritted road, I learned lesson five: it’s very obvious when you hit tarmac with chains; you can really hear the noise they make.  This indicates that you don’t actually need much ice (or even slush) on the road to be able to use chains, if it’s a consistent covering.

The last lesson is that removal is, if anything, even easier than putting them on.  Unclipping the chains was easy and this time I providentially has my wheels the right way up first time, so I could undo the clasp at the back of the wheel.  I then ran the car down the road a few metres and went back to pick the chains up.  I suspect that getting the wheels the right way up is the key to easy removal.

I’m glad to have got the chains, and I’m much more confident about using them now.  I doubt they’ll be a regular sight on my tyres, but for the last icy bits of journeys, or if our estate gets frozen up again as it was a couple of years ago, they’ll be very useful.

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