During winter, temperatures in high altitude areas can easily drop below zero degrees and driving conditions can become hazardous without the right preparation.
Motorhomes are big and heavy, it’s therefore vital to be prepared for icy or snowy road conditions. The heavier the campervan, the more traction is required to stop the tyres from slipping and get the vehicle moving. Snow chains are a common tool carried by drivers to add additional grip to their vehicle’s tyres.
Before hiring out your campervan during winter, it’s worth understanding what snow chains are, when they’re needed, and how to attach them.
Why use snow chains in winter?
Tyre chains—also known as snow chains—are fitted to the exterior of the tyres to add further grip to the vehicle in snowy, icy or slippery driving conditions. Without the additional grip provided by the snow chains, the wheels would simply spin and the vehicle would become stuck.
Campervans are heavier than standard cars and this additional weight can make it difficult for standard tyres to find traction in slippery conditions. The horizontal links on the snow chains bite into the surface, allowing the wheels to gain traction.
When should snow chains be used?
If snow chains improve the grip of a vehicle, why don’t drivers simply leave them on throughout the winter? Snow chains should only be fitted to the tyres when the road surface is covered by snow, mud, or ice and removed immediately once the conditions improve.
Snow chains are designed to bite into softer surfaces and without this, the chains will cause permanent damage to the vehicle’s tyres and the road surface. Furthermore, the use of snow chains significantly reduces a vehicle’s fuel efficiency and inhibits the top speed, so it’s wise to remove the snow chains as soon as it’s safe to do so.
In some areas, signs will appear at the side of the road informing the driver that snow chains should be carried on that route. Signs such as these are typically found at high altitudes where temperatures are low and snowfall is common. Some local authorities have made it mandatory to carry snow chains at certain times of the year, so drivers should always check the policies of the country they’re travelling to.
How to attach snow chains?
Snow chains are designed to be attached over the exterior of the tyres without having to remove the wheels, although fitting them to the vehicle’s tyres can be a hassle without the right know-how. Therefore, in wintery destinations, it’s always worth installing the snow chains at home, before trying to do it for the first time atop a mountain amid an icy blizzard.
When looking for snow chains, it’s essential to buy ones that are the appropriate size for the tyres on the vehicle. To find the right size snow chains, take note of the tyre’s diameter and tread width and make sure these measurements correspond with those listed on the snow chain specifications.
To attach the snow chains to the vehicle, first lay out the chains, remove any twisted or kinked links and make sure side chains and cross chains are all straight. Then, carefully pick up the chain and lay it over the tyre, ensuring it’s evenly centred. Campervan tyre chains should only be attached to the drive wheels of the vehicle. Make sure to read the user manual of the motorhome to make sure you know which wheels are the drive wheels.
Once happy with the placement of the chain over the tyre, hop in the campervan and drive slowly forward about a meter. Now, the loose ends of the chain can be linked together. Make sure to fasten the inner chain first. After linking the chain, make sure it is attached over the tyre as tightly as possible. Some snow chains come with tighteners that can be used to further increase the chain’s tension around the tyre. It’s important to make sure the chain fits snugly around the sides of the tyre to ensure optimal performance.
Remember, these are only basic guidelines for installing snow chains, for a more in-depth guide on how to instal snow chains, see here. Always make sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully before attaching snow chains to the vehicle.
You’re ready to go on a winter camping adventure!
Travelling by road offers unparalleled freedom to discover the unbeaten tracks and little-known destinations. So, if you hire out your campervan and want to give your renters a wonderful and safe winter experience, snow chains are essential. For more information about the right maintenance for a motorhome, make sure to check out our top motorhome maintenance tips.
About the Author