Snow Chains Guide - What You Need to Consider in Winter

Kamilya - March 13, 2024

A thick layer of snow on the road is one of the biggest challenges for drivers in winter - especially in mountainous regions. If the tires lose grip and spin, it quickly becomes dangerous. This is why snow chains are compulsory on certain roads and stretches of road in Switzerland. We'll tell you what you need to bear in mind when touring through snow-covered winter landscapes, what rules apply in Switzerland and how to find the right snow chains for your vehicle.

Why are snow chains necessary?

Even winter tires with a good tread pattern have no grip on packed snow. You lose control of the vehicle and can no longer steer or brake effectively. In the worst case scenario, the tires will spin and you will start to slide on a slope. This can be prevented with snow chains on the tires of the drive axle. Find out here when snow chains are mandatory and what they do.

When are snow chains compulsory?

There is no general obligation to wear snow chains in Switzerland, but there is for certain routes. They are signposted with the signal "Snow chains compulsory". If you violate the snow chain requirement, you must expect a fine of CHF 100. Article 29 of the Signalization Ordinance states that at least two drive wheels of the same axle of multi-track motor vehicles must be fitted with metal snow chains (or devices made of other materials approved by the Federal Roads Office FEDRO) on road sections marked in this way. As the driver, you must have your vehicle under control at all times so that you do not endanger yourself or others. If you are involved in an accident with the wrong tires, you will be held partly responsible. You may also be fined.

You can also use snow chains on roads that are not signposted if ice and snow make driving dangerous or even impossible, for example in fresh snow, on uncleared roads, on inclines or in icy conditions.

Advantages of snow chains

Snow chains can be quickly pulled onto the winter tires of the drive axle as required and immediately provide traction on slippery surfaces. The network of solid metal links even digs into icy surfaces. This allows you to free stuck tires and make safe progress. A braking maneuver on ice quickly turns into a slide with winter tires. Snow chains shorten the braking distance and prevent the vehicle from skidding. As quickly as they are fitted, you can also remove them again when you leave the danger zone. In fact, you have to, because snow chains damage the road surface if there is no snow or ice covering the asphalt.

Before you set off and accelerate with the snow chains for the first time, you should test the changed handling of your car. The strong grip of the chains leads to more precise steering behavior and shorter braking distances on snow and ice. On dry stretches of road, however, this can be the opposite. The chains also wear out on chains

How do I choose the right snow chain for my car?

First of all, you should make sure you have good winter tires, because the snow chain is only as good as the tire it is attached to. Under no circumstances can you replace winter tires with snow chains on summer tires. Although winter tires are not mandatory in Switzerland, they are indispensable in snowy winters, and not only in mountainous regions. The rubber compound ensures better grip on cold surfaces; the braking distance is shortened thanks to the special tread and the risk of skidding is also far less.

The choice of snow chain also depends on your car type and driving style. The heavier the vehicle, the more solid the snow chains need to be.

  • If you mostly drive in the city and rarely drive in snow and ice, lightweight, quick-to-install snow chains, such as those made of textile, are sufficient. They are also ideal for small cars.

  • For the weight of an SUV or four-wheel drive vehicle, you will need much more robust chains.

  • If you drive a sports car, you should buy chains suitable for sports tires.

Your drive also plays a role, as the chains must be fitted to the wheels of the drive axle. If your vehicle has four-wheel drive, you can equip all four tires with snow chains. However, it is usually sufficient to limit yourself to the front or rear axle. On the front axle, the weight of the engine generates a little more grip, but rear-mounted snow chains prevent lateral movement better and help on inclines. These systems exist and these are their advantages and disadvantages.

  • Cable chains are inexpensive, but they must fit exactly. They are particularly suitable for front wheel drive. They can be a little tricky to fit (especially at the rear), but with practice they can be fitted when stationary without having to move the wheel.

  • U-bolt chains: Thanks to the spring steel ring that pulls the running net together, this variant is also easy to fit at the rear. Disadvantage: A quarter turn of the wheel is required for (dis)assembly.

  • Quick-mount systems with wheel adapters score points for handling and mounting, but not for traction. It's better to keep your hands off them.

From November 1 to April 30 each year, you can also fit studded tires as an alternative. These winter tires have embedded hard metal studs to give you the necessary grip on snow and ice. The disadvantages:

  • They are designed for a maximum speed of 80 km/h and are not permitted on highways and motorways.

  • You have to get used to the feeling of driving with spikes.

  • You have to affix a speed limit sign to the rear of your car.

  • You can't just put studded tires on and take them off. The restrictions mentioned will remain with you for as long as you drive with studded tires.

Tire size and profile

All vehicle manufacturers recommend a tire size for their cars. When choosing your winter tires, you should adhere to this specification, as this makes it easier to buy suitable snow chains. You will find this information in the owner's manual. The tires must have a tread depth of at least 4 millimetres. ASTRA generally recommends this tread depth as the minimum requirement for winter tires.

Material and processing quality of the snow chains

Not every snow chain is equally suitable for every terrain and vehicle. Especially if you frequently drive on uncleared roads or in the mountains, the snow chains must fit well.

  • Metal chains: Snow chains are usually made of metal such as high-quality galvanized steel. They are particularly hard-wearing and abrasion-resistant. As a result, these snow chains last a long time and provide sufficient traction. The chains wrap around the tire as a net and provide all-round grip.

  • Hybrid chains: In addition to pure metal chains, high-performance plastics such as polyurethane are used in these snow chains. Although these are lighter, they are less durable.

  • Textile snow chains (snow socks): These lightweight covers can be stowed away to save space and are easy to put on, but are only suitable for moderately smooth surfaces and thin snow coverings. They also tend not to last as long as metal tracks. On the other hand, they are quiet when driving, comparatively inexpensive and cannot damage the bodywork. They are a good starting aid for occasional use.

How do you fit snow chains correctly?

Experienced snow drivers only need 15 minutes to fit snow chains to an axle. If you have never done it before, you should practise fitting them beforehand. Then you'll know how to do it, even when it's cold and dark. With our instructions, you will definitely succeed in fitting the snow chains.

Preparation for fitting

Park your vehicle at the side of the road with the handbrake on and hazard warning lights switched on so that it does not obstruct traffic and you can operate safely. Put on a reflective safety vest. Check the snow chains for knots and damage.

Step-by-step instructions for fitting

  • Remove the snow from around the tires of the drive axle, lay out the chains next to them and make sure that the hooks and fasteners are pointing upwards.

  • Slide the chain over the upper part of the tire. Now connect the hooks on the opposite side of the tire and close them. Do the same with the second drive wheel.

  • Then tighten the chains, if present, using the tensioning device.

  • Ride about 100 meters and check the fit of the chains. If they are too loose, tighten them again.

Tips and tricks for installation

  • Mounting is easiest on a flat surface.

  • An insulating mat or a piece of cardboard will protect your clothes from getting wet and dirty when kneeling in the snow.

  • In winter, keep a headlamp to hand so that you can assemble even in the dark.

  • Thin gloves protect your fingers from the cold, but allow you to handle the chains.

Common mistakes and how to avoid them

  • Snow chains do not fit: Stick to the tire size recommended by the car manufacturer for the winter tires and choose appropriate snow chains.

  • Snow chains are too loose: The chains must be tightened firmly to avoid slipping and damaging the bodywork. To be on the safe side, check the fit occasionally and retighten if necessary.

  • Driving too fast: Keep to the maximum permitted speed. The Touring Club Switzerland (TCS) recommends a maximum speed of 50 km/h.

The right care for snow chains

Moisture and road salt corrode metal. You should therefore clean the snow chains after use with clear water to remove any residue, dry them well and store them in a dry place (preferably in the bag provided). Before you put the chains in the car for the next winter season, check them carefully for damage and wear.


Buying the right snow chains requires some care and advice. With the right snow chains, you can drive safely on snow and ice if you fit them correctly and adhere to the maximum speed limit. If you opt for a car subscription from CARIFY, you will receive expert advice on snow chains from our Swiss contract partners - and of course the right models for your vehicle. Cars Made Easy!


What should I pay particular attention to when buying snow chains?

Snow chains must be the right size for the tires.

How do I find out which snow chains I need?

The recommended tire size is specified in the vehicle registration document and operating manual. This serves as a guide for the size of the snow chains. The type of snow chain depends on the application, the drive axle and the vehicle type.

Is it compulsory to carry snow chains in Switzerland?

No, except on marked roads. There, snow chains are compulsory in winter when there is snow and ice.

How many snow chains do you need for four-wheel drive?

At least two to equip one axle. Four chains provide optimum grip.

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