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How to Chain Up a Big Rig

Truck Driver Academy / Blog  / How to Chain Up a Big Rig

How to Chain Up a Big Rig

Depending on the routes you typically drive, chains can be a big part of your routine or something you rarely (if ever) have to deal with. Regardless of your location, it’s important to know how to put on tire chains on a semi if you ever find yourself in a situation where chains are needed.

In addition to knowing how to chain up a semi truck, it’s also necessary to know the differences between the chain requirements as well as the types of chains available. Being prepared with the right knowledge and equipment will save you valuable time in a situation where chaining up a semi truck is necessary.

Read on to learn the steps of putting chains on a truck as well as what the different chain requirements are and what types of chains you may need for your truck.

how to chain up a semi truck

Step-by-Step Tutorial for How to Put Chains on a Semi

Step 1: Park in a safe location

Safety is key. Ensure that you are pulled over in a safe spot and that you have set up the proper hazard equipment if you need to alert other cars. When conditions require chains, accidents are far more likely, so try your best to keep yourself and other drivers safe.

Step 2: Lay chains flat on the group

This is an important step for setup, but it is also necessary for inspecting your chains. Ensure that there aren’t any broken links, cables, or clips. You never want to find yourself in a situation where you have broken chains and no way of getting a replacement or continuing your route, so it’s a good idea to inspect your chains as you remove them as well.

Step 3: Drape chains over the tire

It’s best to pick up the chains in the center of the side farthest from you. Then, place the chains over the tire so that there is an equal amount hanging over each side. Ensure that the hooks are facing out, not towards the tire.

Step 4: Connect the inside clip

Connecting the inner portion of the chain tends to be the hardest part and typically requires getting under your truck. This takes some time and some practice, so if you are struggling on your first go around, that’s normal.

Step 5: Connect the outside clip

Once the inside is connected, connecting the outer clip tends to be a bit easier.

Step 6: Tighten the chains

Once the chains are clipped in, it’s time to tighten the chains with tensioners. Tensioners help to keep the chains in place while driving, so it’s essential that your chains are tightened properly. It’s a good idea to drive a couple miles and then pull over again (if it’s safe) to check that your chains are staying in place and functioning properly.

Types of Chain Requirements

Specifically in California, there are three types of chain requirements. It’s important to know each level so that you can be prepared to get your semi ready for whatever conditions you encounter. Here’s an overview of the different types:

  • R1 – If you’re driving a light duty truck (under 6,000 pounds in total weight), it must have snow tires on at least two drives wheels, and you must be carrying chains. All other semi trucks (and any vehicle towing a trailer) must have chains on one drive axle.
  • R2 – Only all-wheel/4-wheel drive vehicles with snow tires can avoid putting on chains.
  • R3 – All vehicles must put on chains.

Now that you know how and when to put chains on your semi, be sure you have some good quality chains on hand. You never want to be caught without the proper equipment that will help you get to your destination safely. 

If you’re interested in learning more about safe driving and proper protocol, check out our truck driving school to kickstart your truck driving career.