28th January, 2015

Hi guys,

4×4 Action – always a great read with a very diverse topic range. My questions relate to the use of chains on vehicles. I am aware of the environmental impact the improper use of chains can have. However, my thinking lies along the lines of having a set of chains in the vehicle as an emergency recovery aid. I don’t have a winch or lockers, and I don’t see the need for them given my circumstances.

However, one never knows when a visit to the snowfields will occur or when a tricky off road situation will be encountered, so the insurance of a set of chains appeals to me. In fact, I once almost came to grief down in the cold country, and a set of chains then would have made me a lot more comfortable. I hope you don’t mind answering a few questions.

Firstly, I know snow chains exist but is there such an animal as a pure mud chain and if so what is the difference between a set of chains designed for snow and those designed for mud? What are the advantages/ disadvantages of the ladder style chain as opposed to the diamond pattern?

Based on only wanting to carry one set of chains, under what circumstances would I fit them to the front wheels instead of the rear and vice versa? Are there any vehicle speed related issues when chains are fitted? I couldn’t locate any chains on your website – do you sell them? Thanks for your advice. 


Enzo Santin

Hi Enzo,

Wheel chains have been around for a very long time as a means of ensuring your vehicle won’t get stuck in an overnight snow dump or just to keep you on the bitumen when the roads are covered in ice. Unlike the northern hemisphere where snow chains and winter tread tyres are a normal part of life, in Australia we rarely use them.

But it’s not uncommon to see vehicles in the bush using chains for traction in the mud. Earth moving and logging trucks, forestry and Parks Department vehicles have all been known to fit and advocate the use of chains as long as they are used correctly. Provided you drive the vehicle sensibly, wheel chains will have better grip and self clean faster than an aggressive tyre, but you should only fit them to get past an obstacle as continued use can do damage to tracks in good condition.

Your typical hire chains that you find at the snowfields are really designed for on road use only. They are of a lightweight design that would be easily broken if used off road on hard terrain. For off road and snowfield use ARB recommend and sell KONIG H/D Rallye diamond pattern chains. Manufactured from high tensile d-sectioned chain, they have the ability to bite deep into snow, ice and mud whilst self cleaning at the same time.

Diamond pattern chains are the preferred design for all road conditions as they always have a section of chain in contact with the road surface. This allows the vehicle to be able to travel at higher speeds without the ‘thumping’ associated with ladder pattern chains. For the same reason, diamond pattern chains also provide more lateral or sideways stability, whereas with a ladder pattern, there are gaps between the chain sections where there is no chain contact with the road surface and therefore the possibility of slipping sideways.

Typically chains are always fitted to the drive wheels to obtain maximum traction but in the case of a 4WD they would normally be fitted to the front wheels to help with steering as well. Depending on your vehicle type, whether it is full time or part time 4WD, the manufacturer’s handbook will normally suggest the correct mode of fitment. Some will suggest that all four wheels have chains fitted whilst others may not recommend the fitment of chains at all due to traction control systems and insufficient clearance between the tyre and other components such as steering, suspension and brakes.

Wheel chains are available all year round but as they are a seasonal product, are usually only stocked throughout the wetter seasons. Call into your local ARB store to speak to one of our trained sales staff who can demonstrate correct fitment and help you choose the right chains for your vehicle.

Mark ‘Lowmount’ Lowry
(Manager – Product Development & Evaluation)