How To Guide: Put Tire Chains On Your ATV | Hunt or Shred

Installing tire chains on an ATV is no joke. However, if you're going to ride your ATV on snow, you should know how to put tire chains on your ATV.

To correctly put tire chains on your ATV, you need to follow these steps in the right order: park your ATV, deflate the tires, lay the chains on the ground, drag the chain over the tire, roll the ATV, connect the fasteners, and finally, connect the tail ends of the chains.

Installing tire chains on an ATV is something you need to know if you're going to drive your ATV in snowy or slippery conditions. Most people don't know how to do this, or they go about it the wrong way. Well, that ends with this simple how-to guide.

To give you the best information possible, our experts have laid out a simple step-by-step guide that will help you install your tire chains the right way. So, without further ado, let's get into it.

Table of contents


What Are Tire Chains?

If you are new to ATV riding, especially if you're riding in snowy conditions, then one of the first questions that will come to your mind is, "how can I get a safe grip on the road while driving my ATV on snow or ice?" Well, the short answer is – you use tire chains. So, what are tire chains? Tire chains are the length of the chain links or the cable that fits around the tire of an ATV. These chains serve up that extra traction and grip that's required to drive on snow or ice.

You might also want to use tensioners to ensure that the chains remain in place while driving through snow or ice. Some of these tensioners come in the form of star-shaped rubber bungee types, while other chains come along with specially designed tightening cams placed on the chain itself, which are used to pull tight the chains once they have been placed on to the tires.

It goes without saying that tire chains are, by far, one of the best ways to make sure that you are able to drive your ATV safely and have more control over the vehicle as you move through snow and ice. So, the next time you see an ATV drive by during winter with chains on the tires, you know exactly what they're there for.

Tire chains come in two types, the lighter tire chains are cheaper, while the heavier tire chains are designed to go the distance and come with a higher price tag. It should also be noted that different chain styles and types are used for different vehicles. For instance, tire chains used in cars are considered to be much cheaper than the large chains used on SUVs, graders, or even ATVs.

Best ATV Tire Chains

Tire Chain Types and Shapes

So, it's best to keep the vehicle in mind when selecting a tire chain. It is also crucial to make sure that you get the right size tire chain for your ATV since a smaller size won't fit on a bigger tire, and getting a large size is only going to make the tire chain sit loose or lug on the tire, which can be equally bad for driving.

Installation Preparation for an ATV Tire Chain

Before you can begin with the ATV tire installation process, you will need to make some preparations for the task at hand. The following are some of the factors to consider when it comes to installing a tire chain on an ATV:

Get the Size Right

The first factor that you will need to consider when installing an ATV tire chain is getting the appropriate size. This cannot be stressed enough since a smaller chain will not fit the tire size, and getting a tire chain that's too large will end up hanging loose on the tire and will not be able to provide the necessary traction that's needed to drive through snow, ice or slippery terrain. This is why it is crucial to make sure that you get the size of the ATV tire chains that you are about to install on your ATV right.

The easiest way to find out the right tire chain size for the ATV you drive is by looking at your tires (sounds obvious, but it's more technical than that). Most ATV tires have the size inscribed on the sides, making it easier for you to find the correct size tire chains for your ATV. The good news is, you can easily find the right tire chain for your ATV by either searching online or going to the local brick-and-mortar store. Since there is no dearth of tire chain manufacturers out there, it should not be a problem to find the correct size tire chain for your tires.

Get the Necessary Tools

While some folks might want to go to the mechanic to get their tire chains installed, most people would rather go the DIY route. If you are one of them, you need to have the correct tools on hand to install tire chains on your ATV. Some of the tools that you are going to need to install tire chains on an ATV include a wrench, angle grinder, zip ties, and if required, a valve system removal tool.

Because not all ATVs are intended to support tire chains, you must determine if you have enough clearance. By clearance, we mean a minimum gap of two inches on any side of the wheel. If you don't have this area, the chains won't rotate when they are joined to your tires. Your front wheels will cause you trouble because they are the ones that turn. It is also advised to make sure there is enough space between the sidewall of your tire and any other pieces that might break when you spin or move your wheels.

Another thing to consider when putting tire chains on your ATV is wheel spacers. When attaching chains to your tires, they must fit snugly, but if you don't have enough room, you may want to try purchasing wheel spacers. This will help close the space between the chain and the tires, reducing the risk of an accident.

This is important since the critical components of your tire, such as brake lines, etc., will be damaged if the tire chains are not properly attached. When you often accelerate, you will notice this. This might cause the chains to come loose from the tire, so be sure you have enough room. These wheel spacers can assist in moving the wheel to the outside so that more room is available on the inside.

Installing Tire Chains on an ATV

Now that you have got the basics right, it is time to get started with putting the tire chains on your ATV. For that, you will need to follow these instructions carefully to make sure you get it right the first time.

Step 1 - Park Your ATV

Before you can proceed with installing the tire chains, make sure you've parked the ATV on a smooth, flat surface, such as the garage or driveway. This makes it easier to install the tire chains, and you won't have to deal with any sand or gravel. To be safe, leave the parking brakes on, but put it on neutral so that it can roll easily.

Step 2 - Deflate the Tires

The actual process of installing the tire chains begins with slightly deflating and then inflating the tires once the chains are on and secure. For those wondering just how much the tires need to be deflated, a PSI of 3 or 4 should be able to do the trick. You could also deflate the tires completely if you are going for an extremely tight fit. It is recommended to use a valve tool to streamline this process. The good news is that the valve stem removal tool is affordable and can be found easily at the tire shop or auto supply store.

While this procedure should be done with caution when it involves truck chains that are known to be weaker and break easily, ATV tire chains are considered to be much stronger and will handle the procedure. If you are not confident about installing the tire chains this way, then you can always use a chain tensioner instead.

Step 3 - Lay the Tire Chains on the Ground

You can lay down the tire chains either in front or at the back of the ATV during the installation process. Also, be sure to settle any tangles or twists in the tire chain. A good rule of thumb is to let the ends of the cross-chain hooks and the studs face upwards. You will find the C-hook on one side and the boomer fastener on the other. It should be noted here that there are some models out there where you will only get a boomer fastener on both sides without the need for a C-hook.

Before installing the tire chain, make sure the bend of the boomer fastener is always facing forward. That's in the direction of the tire's rotation. Doing this will minimize the risk of it coming loose while riding the ATV in mud or deep snow. However, it should also be noted that the boomer fastener you use will require more space as compared to the C-hook.

This is another crucial step since if there is not enough space, you will need to make sure the boomer fastener is outside of all of the tires, regardless of whether the bend of the boomer fastener is facing the other direction on one side of the ATV. Remember those zip ties we included in the list of things you need to install a tire chain in your ATV? Here's where they come in. Adding a zip tie to the mix can prevent the fastener from loosening up while you drive and ensure that everything remains in its place.

For those who are using chains that have boomer fasteners alone, all you have to do is lay down the chains with the boomers facing forward so that the tire chains are installed accurately. If you have bought diamond-patterned tire chains, then remove the shackles that are located at one end for now.

Step 4 - Drag the Tire Chain over the Tire

Now's the time to roll those sleeves up and use both hands to drag the tire chain up and over while making sure the chain remains straight. This is why it is recommended to lay down the chain in front of the ATV for the front tires and at the back of the ATV for the back tires.

Again, you will need to use both hands to adjust the tire chains to make sure that the chain is equal on both sides of the tire. This means the ends of the cross-chain hooks, as well as the studs, need to face upwards and away from the tire. Now, tuck in the front end of the chain under the front of the tire and roll the ATV backwards.

Step 5 - Roll the ATV

To roll the ATV freely, release the park brakes. You will have to push the ATV forward for the rear tires and backward for the front tires so that the chains are set in place. Don't go all the way, though. Just move the ATV until 15 inches of the tire chain is left on the floor behind the tire.

Step 6 - Connecting the Fasteners

Connecting the fasteners is another tricky step. Now, take a hold of those 15 inches of chain and lift it against the end that should be hanging at 2 o'clock to connect the side chains going around the tire. You should see some free links on the opposite side of the C-hook or boomer. For those using a boomer fastener, make sure it goes straight through the side chain link and to the bottom of the boomer fastener, and then level it back about 180-degrees to the side chain. This is where it is going to lock in place by using the keeper link.

Step 7 - Connect the Tail Ends

Now that you're done with the fasteners, grab the loose ends (if you're using a diamond-patterned chain) and thread them through the metal rings at the other end of the chain. Do this until you feel that the chain is nice and snug. When that's done, all you have to do is pull one tail end over the side chain and tighten it as much as possible.

Then, start connecting the tail end of the side chain with the help of those small shackles that you just removed. It is important to count the tail links of each of the tires so you get them right. This will ensure that they are balanced.

Now, all you have to do is re-inflate the tires back to their normal PSI, and you're good to go.

Once you've done this, take your ATV out for a short drive and test out the grip. Make sure to listen and feel for any odd movements or loose chains. If you feel that everything is good to go, then enjoy the ride! Make sure to check the chains every now and then to ensure that they're still fastened securely to the tires.




23 years old. I work at a motocross store where we specialize in gear, parts, and apparel for ATV and UTV riders.

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