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Tire chain laws.

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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.


Arizona road reports: 1-888-411-7623 or dial 511.
Arizona – preparing motorists for winter.

  1. Tire chains must be of reasonable proportions.
  2. From October 1st until May 1st studded tires are authorized.
  3. Local authorities in their respective jurisdictions may issue special requirements.

Difficult passes in Arizona: 17 mile grade on I-17, Texas Canyon on I-10, Salt River Canyon on US 60/70, and US 60 by Superior. Preparing motorists for winter.


California road reports: 1-800-427-7623 or dial 511 within CA
California chain laws (revised 10/16).

  1. Automatic Traction Devices (ATDs) are authorized.
  2. Tire tread minimum depth is 6/32 of an inch.
  3. All vehicles towing trailers must have chains on the drive tires when chain laws are in effect.
  4. Trailers with brakes must be chained on one axle.
  5. Front wheel drive must have chains on the front axle.
  6. On any semi-trailer only one set of chains is required.

Difficult passes in California: I-80 at Donner Pass, Redding on I-5, the Grapevine on I-5, and Tehachapi on CA 58.

Colorado road reports: 1-303-639-1111 or dial 511.
The Colorado chain laws.

  1. Chains are required on every state, federal or interstate highway.
  2. Metal chains must have at least nine (9) cross links.
  3. Driver may be fined for not chaining when required.
  4. Additional fines if unchained vehicle blocks roadway.
  5. Two level chain restrictions:
    1. Single axle tractor trailers must chain all four drive tires (cables are not permitted).
    2. Chains required for all commercial motor vehicles.
  6. Automatic Traction Devices (ATD’s) are authorized.
  7. Cables must be at least 0.415 inches in diameter.

Difficult passes in Colorado: Rabbit Ears Pass on US 40, Vail Pass and Loveland Pass on I-70, Raton Pass on I-25, and Monarch Pass on US 50.

Idaho road reports: 1-888-423-7623 or dial 511.
Idaho chain laws.


  1. One rear and one main drive axle minimum.
  2. Studded tires are authorized between October 1st and April 30th.
  3. Do not use studded tires until conditions warrant.

Difficult passes in Idaho: LoLo Pass on Hwy 12, July 4th and Lookout Pass on I-90.

Montana road reports: 1-800-226-7623 or dial 511.
Montana chain laws.

  1. Tire chains of reasonable proportions must be carried 365 days a year..
  2. Studded tires are authorized from October 1st until May 31st.
  3. Local authorities in their respective jurisdictions may issue special requirements.
  4. Chain laws overrule studded tires anytime if necessary.

Difficult passes in Montana: Lookout and Pipestone Pass on I-90, LoLo Pass on US 93, and Monida Pass on I-15.

New Mexico
New Mexico road reports: 1-800-432-4269 or 511.
New Mexico tire chain laws – they are so buried you need to trust us. Carry them from October 1st until April 1st.

  1. Tire chains must be of reasonable proportions on board from October 1st until April 1st to be safe and smart.
  2. Local authorities in their respective jurisdictions may issue special requirements.
  3. Studded tires are authorized.

Difficult passes in New Mexico: Raton and Lalabahada Hill on I-25 and Tijeras Canyon Pass on I-40.

Nevada road reports: 1-877-687-6237 or dial 511 within NV state.
Nevada chain laws.

  1. Studded tires authorized October 1st until April 30th.
  2. Vehicles over 10,000 lbs. are permitted in chain control areas if equipped with Mechanical Traction Devices (MTD’s) on drive axles.
  3. Trailers tires must all be chained.
  4. Minimum tread depth on tires is 3/16ths of an inch.
  5. All vehicles towing trailers must have chains on the drive tires.
  6. Trailers with brakes must be chained on one axle.
  7. Front wheel drive must have chains on the front axle.
  8. On any semi-trailer only one set of chains is required.

Difficult passes in Nevada: Conway Summit on US 395 at the California border, and Immigrant Pass on I-80 near Battle Mountain.

Oregon road reports: 1-800-977-6368 or dial 511 within OR state.
The Oregon chain laws.

  1. Studded tires authorizes November 1st until April 1st.
  2. Chain law applies to all roadways.
  3. Road signs will indicate any/all requirements.
  4. Drivers who disregard signage are subject to fines.

Difficult passes in Oregon: Siskiyou on I-5, Cabbage Hill on I-84, Detroit Lake/Sisters on 22 and Mt. Hood on US 26.

Utah road reports: 1-866-511-8824 or dial 511 within UT state.
Utah chain laws.

  1. Utah only requires tire chains where posted.
  2. The chains should have minimum traction.
  3. Studded tires are authorized from October 15th until April 15th.

Difficult passes in Utah:  Daniels on US 40, Soldiers Summit on Hwy 6, and Parlyes Canyon on I-80.

Washington road conditions: 1-800-695-7623 or dial 511 within WA state.
Washington chain laws.

  1. All vehicles over 10,000 gross (GVW) shall carry two (2) extra chains.
  2. Plastic cross links are not permitted.
  3. Must carry chains from November 1st until April 1st.
  4. Cable chains are permitted.
  5. Studded tires are permitted from November 1st until March 31st.

Difficult passes in Washington: Blewett Pass on SR 97, Chinook Pass on SR 410, Cle Elum to Teanaway on SR 970, Gibbons Creek to Intersection of Cliffs Rd. on SR 14, Mt. Baker Highway on SR 542, Newhalem to Winthrop on SR 20, North Cascade Hwy on Hwy 20, Omak to Nespelem on SR 155, Satus Pass on SR 97, Snoqualmie Pass on I-90, Stevens Pass on SR 2, and White Pass on SR 12.

Wyoming road conditions: 1-888-996-7623 or dial 511 within WY state.
Wyoming chain laws.

  1. Studded tires are legal all year round.
  2. Tire chains of reasonable proportions.
  3. Local authorities and their respective jurisdictions may issue special requirements.
  4. Travel on highways may be restricted to all wheel drive or chain equipped vehicles with snow tires.
  5. Minimum tread depth is 4/32 of an inch on steer tires and 2/32 of an inch on all others.
  6. Any company or individual who sells tires must comply with minimum tread depth.
  7. Applies to motorcycles, motor-driven cycles and mopeds.

Difficult passes in Wyoming: Elk Mountain Pass on I-80, between Rock Springs and Evanston on I-80, and South Pass near Jackson on US 191.

Also see:

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

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