Which Tires Do You Put Chains On? (RWD, FWD, 4X4 + AWD)

Tire chains are often necessary for snowy and slippery conditions. Not only do they help your car get some extra grip, but they are legally required in some areas.

Putting the chains on the correct tires is essential for them to work correctly. Placing the chains on the wrong wheels would be akin to not using them at all. To figure out where you should put your chains, keep reading below.

Which Tires Do You Put Chains On?

For front-wheel-drive vehicles, you should place the chains on the front wheels. For rear-wheel-drive vehicles, you should place the chains on the rear wheels. AWD and 4WD vehicles are a bit more complicated. Preferably, you should place chains on all the wheels. If you only have one pair of chains, the rear wheels are often your best option.

In many cases, where you should place the chains is quite simple. However, things can get a bit complicated, especially for AWD and 4WD. Keep reading to learn precisely where your chains need to go.

Do I Need 2 or 4 Tire Chains?

Preferably, you should put chains on all tires no matter the type of vehicle. Using four chains gives you the maximum grip and balance possible, which can be essential when driving in slippery conditions.

As you might imagine, problems are more likely to occur if you just chain one axle.

With that said, most vehicles can do find with just two tire chains. If you have a front-wheel-drive or rear-wheel-drive vehicle, you can put the chains on the dominant axle.

Because only those tires are doing the actual pulling, they are the only tires that need the extra grip.

With that said, you often only need snow chains on one axle legally. However, you should check with your local law just to make sure.

When it comes to all-wheel-drive vehicles, it is often recommended that you put chains on all tires. Since all tires are doing the pulling, they all need extra assistance when in slippery conditions.

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However, it is still often not legally required to put on more than one pair of tire chains.

With that said, following the advice to put chains on all tires can significantly improve your car’s ability to grip the road and decrease the cancer of accidents.

What Tires Do You Put Chains On For 4-Wheel-Drive?

What Tires Do You Put Chains On For 4-Wheel-Drive?

Legally speaking, you usually only need to put chains on one axel.

However, you probably want to go beyond the legal requirement and put chains on all your wheels for a four-wheel-drive vehicle.

In this circumstance, your tires are all doing the work of moving your car along.

If you don’t put chains on all the car’s wheels, then you risk one set slipping and sliding around. As you might imagine, this can lead to accidents.

With that said, you can choose just to put snow chains on one set of tires. In this case, we recommend using them on the back wheels. Doing this will allow you to meet the legal requirement.

With that said, if you have the money, we do recommend purchasing four snow chains and putting them on all your wheels.

What Wheels Do You Put Chains On AWD?

Technically, all-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive vehicles function slightly differently. However, the result is very similar.

Just like a 4-wheel-drive, you should put chains on all the wheels of an all-wheel-drive vehicle.

Since all the wheels are doing work, you want them to have a steady grip on the road. In icy conditions, this means using tire chains.

However, many jurisdictions do not require you to use chains on all your wheels.

Instead, where snow chain laws are in effect, you often only need to utilize one pair of tire chains – no matter what sort of car you’re driving.

Therefore, if your only concern is meeting the legal requirements, you can get away with using only one set of tire chains on an AWD vehicle.

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However, for those concerned with safety, we highly recommend utilizing chains on all your wheels.

When in doubt, it’s nearly always better to spend the money upfront on extra chains than to increase your chance of an accident.

Do I Need 4 Chains for All-Wheel Drive?

Do I Need 4 Chains for All-Wheel Drive?

Preferably, yes. AWD vehicles use all their wheels. Therefore, all the wheels need to grip the road to push the car forward. If you leave chains off of some of the wheels, you risk the car slipping and sliding.

In other words, not using four chains will lessen the grip your car has on the road – which is never a good option.

However, not all laws require that AWD vehicles use four chains. In many cases, they just require one axle to be chained – without much regard for the type of vehicle.

Due to these laws, it may be tempting to skip the extra chains and simply chain one set of tires. In this case, we do recommend chaining the rear tires.

With that said, it is best to purchase four chains upfront. It may be more expensive, but it is best for those looking to avoid accidents.

Should Chains Go On the Back or Front of 4WD?

If you only have one set of tire chains, we recommend putting them on the back for 4WD vehicles. While both axles are technically the “driving axle,” the rear wheel is often the safer bet.

However, you may also consider checking your user manual, which often provides information about where to put the tire chains.

Plus, an increasing number of 4WD vehicles cannot be fitted for tire chains. Advancements in suspension design have caused reduced clearance around the front wheels.

Due to these changes, it is impossible for snow chains to be used safely.

With that said, your user manual should have information on whether or not snow chains can be used on your vehicle.

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Preferably, you should use chains on all four wheels of your 4WD vehicle. However, this does mean spending twice as much on tire chains. But it does increase the traction and driving capabilities of your car by nearly double.

In many cases, if you want your car to stay 4WD, you’ll need four tire chains. Otherwise, only those with the chains will have enough traction to perform appropriately.

What Wheels of My Two-Wheel Drive Should I Fit Tire Chains?

What Wheels of My Two-Wheel Drive Should I Fit Tire Chains?

When fitting an FWD or RWD vehicle with tire chains, you should always put the chains on the driving axle.

In other words, front-wheel-drive cars should be fitted with tire chains on the front. On the other hand, rear-wheel-drive vehicles should be fitted with chains on the rear tires.

By following this guideline, you’ll ensure that the driving wheels get enough traction.

Otherwise, you’ll likely just slip and slide everywhere – as if you never had tire chains on, to begin with.

Of course, you can always check your user’s manual for information on tire chains. Most of them will contain information on whether chains can be used on your vehicle, as well as where they should be placed.

To learn more, you can also see our related articles on how long do all-season tires last, how long do winter tires last, and what are tire socks.


For FWD and RWD vehicles, putting on tire chains is quite simple. Simply place them on the axle that does the driving.

For front-wheel-drive vehicles, this will be the front tires. For rear-wheel-drive vehicles, this will be the rear tires.

AWD and 4WD aren’t quite as simple. Preferably, you should have four tire chains and use them on all four wheels, ensuring that all wheels can get the proper traction.

However, if you just have one set, we recommend using them on the front wheels – unless your user manual states otherwise.

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