Winter has only just begun, and more ice and snow are likely soon. Be a smart and safe driver by thinking about winter preparation for your vehicle.

One of the easiest ways to get around in slippery conditions is with a set of tire chains. These metal bands temporarily slip over the tire and offer grip on even the flattest ice sheets. Plus, they are very inexpensive, and sold at just about any auto parts store.

A couple things are handy to know before you run out and buy them.

First, what size do you need? Obviously you know if your vehicle is a car or truck, but do you know what size tires it has? If not, take a look at the sidewall. There should be a series of numbers, something like “215/55R15.”  The number after the R is the diameter of the wheel. This means you would buy tire chains for a passenger car with a 15-inch wheel.

Second, you need to know where your drive wheels are. Most sedans, minivans, and economy cars after about 1985 are front wheel drive, so put the chains on the front tires. Most sports cars, full size SUVs, and trucks are rear wheel drive, but of course there are exceptions.

Waiting until it is negative ten degrees with two feet of snow on the ground is not a smart time to learn how to put on tire chains. So, on a sunny warm day, or as best we have this time of year, give it a practice run, so you know what you are doing when it is cold and slick.

Unroll the chains, and lay them hooks down. Now, you will have to drive onto some models. It does not have to be perfectly centered on the chain, just approximately halfway. Other models will disconnect at the sides, allowing you to slip the chain around the tire without having to move the vehicle.

With the tire centered on the chain, and with the engine off and the parking brake on, pull the chains up over the tire. Then connect the hooks on the inner sidewall. Get it as tight as you can, pulling out all the slack, then connect the outer sidewall hooks.

Drive forward about one vehicle length, then stop and tighten up any new slack. At this point, you should be good to go. A bungee cord can also be used to keep the chains tight, just remember to face the hooks out so they won’t scratch your wheels. Even with bungee cords, chains need to be tightened every few miles. Also, keep your speed down, but if the weather is bad enough for chains, you are probably already driving safely.

Check out the video below to see how it’s done:

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