2021 tire chain laws.

Tire chains are used by trucking companies, pilot cars and passenger vehicles during icy or snowy conditions to provide traction during operation. Many states/provinces have tire chain laws and regulations mandating tire chains be inside of a vehicle during the weather months. It is imperative for you to know when they’re in effect. Tire chains are made out of steel chain links that are linked together to make chains. Once this is done each length of chains is measured to match the tire size it is made for. A single set of tire chains is made of two long lengths of chains that go around the circumference of the tire. Cross sections of chains are then measured to cross over the width of the tire. Each of the two ends of the tire chains then have a master link chain allowing the installer to lock them onto the tire securely.

How to install tire chains on a commercial truck.

Having tire chains in your passenger vehicle, pilot car or commercial truck during icy or slippery road conditions is not only the law in many locations but also smart. Knowing how to install them properly is even smarter. To install them simply place each set of chains in front of or behind the drive train tires and drive onto them. Once the tires are on top of the chain the installer then completes the tire wrap and connects the master link locking each of them onto the tire. Once installed the driver of the vehicle will instantly notice the vehicle has much better traction on the road. It’s easier to install them after you’ve watched someone else do them so we included this video created and submitted to YouTube by Prime Inc. showing how to properly install tire chains on a semi-truck.

Preparing for mandatory tire chain restrictions.

Being prepared during inclement weather conditions is very wise.  Trucking companies prepared for poor weather conditions are even smarter. If a truck driver is unable to keep the truck and trailer moving down the road no revenue is being made. Many accidents are preventable with the proper equipment, one of them being tire chains. While many states do not have tire chain requirements for vehicles there are many that do. Some states/provinces (see below) have both passenger vehicle and commercial vehicle chain laws that mandate the use of tire chains when posted. The most common months tire chain laws are in effect are from September 1st until May 1st.

States with permanent mandatory tire chain laws.

  • Arizona. There is no legal requirement in effect. However, be prepared between October 1 – May 1 as they may be required temporarily.
  • California: There are no specific dates for chains, signs will be posted when chains are required.
  • Colorado: Commercial vehicles traveling on certain roads must carry chains from September 1 – May 31.
  • Idaho: Contrary to popular belief there is no mandatory state law in Idaho requiring chains.
  • Montana: October 1 – May 1 not mandatory unless notices are posted.
  • New Mexico: May impose mandatory chains during inclement weather conditions.
  • New York: Required if snow emergency has been declared.
  • Nevada: Required on all vehicles over 10,000 pounds (4,535.924 kilograms) when requirements in effect.
  • Oregon: Required on vehicles over 10,000 pounds (4535.924 kilograms) when SNOW ZONE signs are posted.
  • Utah: Between November 1 – March 31 if signs are posted, vehicles must have chains or snow tires.
  • Washington: Signs marked “chains required” will be posted. On certain routes chains must be carried from November 1 – March 31.
  • Wyoming: Signs will be posted indicating when chain laws are in effect, must use adequate snow tires or chains.

Knowing when tire chain laws are in full effect.

States and provinces that have existing tire chain laws usually require vehicles carry tire chains during their inclement weather months. Knowing exactly when the law is in effect is another story however. We do suggest you carry chains with you during the winter months as you’re better off safe than sorry. While poor weather condition regulations are usually published on-line many mountain passes have advisory signs notifying drivers chain laws are in effect. While it is the vehicle operators responsibility to know when the laws are in effect, it isn’t always apparent. If you ever have concerns or questions about the law we strongly urge you to pull safely off of the road and contact the appropriate authority. Ignorance of the law is no excuse to break it. You can usually dial 511 on any telephone and get advisory information about current road conditions (USA). Making certain you are aware of the tire chain laws and current road conditions greatly enhances your personal safety as well as the safety of other motorists.

Can I be fined for not having/using tire chains?

Yes! If you are operating a passenger vehicle or a commercial truck you can be fined just for not having tire chains aboard. If the state/province you are operating in has chain laws and you are on the road you can be fined on a nice sunny day. Chains must be carried during mandatory months regardless if the chain law is in effect of not. The typical fine for not carrying chains is around $50.00. The typical fine for not using chains when posted is $500.00 and can be as high as $2,000.00. You can also be cited for wreck-less endangerment or operating a vehicle unsafely which could cost you more or force you to appear in court. Some states/provinces have severe chain restrictions and can force you to pull off of the road until the conditions have changed. Or worse, tow your vehicle and cite you! The bottom line here is to be prepared. Always carry tire chains in your vehicle from September 1st until May 1st and if the chain law is in effect immediately pull over in a safe area and put your chains on your drive tires. Note that in some locations trailer axles that have breaks on them must be chained too.

Tire chain laws required.

Once this oversize load reaches the mountain base tire chain laws are in effect.

What about tire cables and tire studs?

In some locations cables are allowed to be used in place of tire chains. From our experience the tire cables we tested were not able to pass our rigorous test as the cross connections came apart. We feel chains are much more reliable and safer. However some locations do approve of the use of tire cables in lieu of time chains. Be sure to check the regulations for your state/province. As far as tire suds are concerned the damage to roadways done by studded tires has led to them being illegal. Se sure you check to make certain they are legal. It should be noted we’ve never heard of any instance where tire studs were able to be used in stead of chains when chain laws are in effect.

Using tire chains is the safest way to go.

While technology creates new opportunity the most portable and reliable tire traction technology openly and readily available is chains. A good set of dual tire chains will usually start at about $250.00 and go as high as $1,200.00. While we’re not going to refer you to a specific tire chain for safety reasons we can suggest you don’t purchase them at Walmart. You’re going to want solid, well made tire chains that have high quality locking cams. Not only will good chains on your vehicle ensure your safety during poor road conditions it ensures the average motorists safety too. In many cases good chains ensure you continue to travel as many commercial vehicles are forced to pull over due to poor quality chains that either don’t provide traction or have fallen off. It’s always a good idea to carry a extra set of tire chains in your frequently transporting items in locations with the worst weather conditions. Using chains on your vehicle is safe. That’s why laws mandating the use of them exist.


Are motorcycles or mopeds required to use/carry tire chains? Only within the state of Wyoming that we are aware of. We are aware motorcycle tire chains are manufactured and they do work well at low speeds but know of no state or province other than Wyoming that has laws that mandate the use of tire chains by motorcycles or mopeds.

Are pilot cars required to use/carry tire chains? Yes. If tire chain laws are in effect, all types of passenger and commercial vehicles are required to either have tire chains inside of the vehicle or installed on the drive wheels of the vehicle if the law requiring the use of them in mandated at that time.

Additional chain law information.

Also see:

Tire chain laws by state.
Learn frost/thaw laws.
Trucking regulations.
Federal bridge formula.


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