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Old 11-13-2022, 11:52 PM   #1
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Automatic tire chains for other than snow

I have the OnSpot automatic tire chains that I'm working on repairing. I was wondering if anyone had any experience with automatic tire chains for added traction in other than snow/ice conditions. For example, wet grass, mud, wet clay, etc. I'm considering putting a highway tread on my bus, and am wondering if the chains can make up for not having deep lug tires in slightly less than ideal conditions.

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Old 11-14-2022, 12:10 AM   #2
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They work well when the tires are turning...especially on flat ground. But if you're stuck in a rut, they don't work as well. The chains are thrown outward by the spinning tire and they don't tend to get "sucked" into a hole the tires have dug, very well. I hope that makes sense? In other words, they're great in snow on roads. But if you sink your bus in the sand, they may not help much.
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Old 11-14-2022, 11:15 AM   #3
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I've never used chains, but it's my understanding that chains only work for hard surfaces with low traction. Snow, Ice, hard pack, wet clay, etc. If you're in something soft, like sand or deep snow, they'll only serve to dig you deeper.

I feel that you'd still want some sort of block or lug type tire on the rear axle, even if you're using chains, but I don't have any experience in the matter to say that you can't use chains with a rib type tire.

I tell people that the only time you really can use a highway tire is if you're certain you'll only be driving on the highway. If you're uncertain of that, then stick with a block or combination type tread. You don't necessarily need a lug tire, as lug tires are really only needed if you're off-road frequently.
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Old 11-15-2022, 02:01 AM   #4
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Crown used to offer optional sanders for winter conditions, made by Elston Manufacturing. Would they help you?

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Old 11-15-2022, 12:44 PM   #5
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I should clarify, I am not planning on taking my bus on anything more severe than a maintained dirt road or grassy field. I also do not plan on taking my bus in the snow. However, things happen. Since the bus already came with the chains, I figured I'd see if they might make a difference between getting unstuck vs. staying stuck. Otherwise, I wouldn't bother with them. I just remember my dad getting his big diesel pusher stuck on some wet grass, and I don't want that to happen.

Booyah, is this what you meant by a combination tread?
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Old 11-15-2022, 12:54 PM   #6
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Yes, block in the center with rib on the outside. Less noise and irregular wear issues compared to a block or lug, but still provides some traction compared to a straight up rib tire.
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Old 11-15-2022, 12:57 PM   #7
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FYI those automatic chains are only supposed to be engaged/disengaged while moving. I don't think they'll work to get you unstuck, they're supposed to be engaged and in use before that happens.
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Old 11-15-2022, 01:59 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Booyah45828 View Post
FYI those automatic chains are only supposed to be engaged/disengaged while moving. I don't think they'll work to get you unstuck, they're supposed to be engaged and in use before that happens.
You are right, because they rely on the tire turning against the drive wheel to fling the chains outward. But I do know from experience that they will also do this if you're stuck but the wheels are spinning. Unfortunately, in that one experience the tire was sunk in enough that the spinning chains of doom just sort of beat against the sidewall as they rode on top of the soil. I guess that if you were on ice and the tires were spinning, even of the bus were stationary, they would help. That's a pretty limited scenario though and I wouldn't rely on the auto chains.

By the way, Skoontz, in addition to the tire you found...I can highly recommend these Dynacargo Y601 if you can find them. We put a set on our Freightliner ambulance conversion and they've been across the country on the freeway several times, but they also work well on our forest service roads.

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Old 11-18-2022, 10:38 PM   #9
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OnSpot and other automatic chains are intended for road surfaces with limited traction.
They ARE NOT something to rely on in ruts, mud, soft grass you're dug into, etc. They MIGHT give you that tiny bit of extra traction but they're far more likely to do nothing but beat up the sides of your tire and rim.


Deep lug tires are also worthless in many situations. That nice grass field you just broke through into the dirt below..... You may find yourself with lubricated slicks when the mud packs the lugs and you're just spinning a mud surface against a mud surface. It the dirt is dry.... probably good...but if it's dry you probably won't break through.
Keep a heavy duty snatch strap or a winch handy.
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Old 11-19-2022, 05:59 AM   #10
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An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Before you head off the pavement, take a walk. Flex your toes upward and stomp down with your heel. Did you leave an indentation? If so, don't drive on it.

And from experience, those chains only make things worse in mud. They are for snow and ice traction in states that don't plow the roads clean, but rather they leave a layer of pack on the road which then chains provide a traction up to a point. That's why you hardly ever see chains east of the Mississippi in spite of many eastern states getting plenty of winter snow and ice... Their roads are cleared and salted or brined so chains would only destroy the road surface.
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Old 11-19-2022, 01:14 PM   #11
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That's why you hardly ever see chains east of the Mississippi in spite of many eastern states getting plenty of winter snow and ice... Their roads are cleared and salted or brined so chains would only destroy the road surface.

When I bought my (new) 1992 GMC Dually in Maryland I went to the auto parts stores looking for chains......didn't have them and didn't even know what they were!!!!!

I took the chains from my S-10 pickup and modified them with additional chain so I'd at least have something.
That year we had several ice storms that shut down the entire area but I got to work (2 miles on base) with no problem. The only other ones that made it in had studded tires.
I helped that I put the chains on in the evening before the storm hit as I had to use an ice pick to get my door open. 30 minutes or so of running with the heat on full bore and all the rest of the 6"' deep ice just slid right off the windows.
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Old 11-19-2022, 05:09 PM   #12
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When I bought my (new) 1992 GMC Dually in Maryland I went to the auto parts stores looking for chains......didn't have them and didn't even know what they were!!!!!

I took the chains from my S-10 pickup and modified them with additional chain so I'd at least have something.
That year we had several ice storms that shut down the entire area but I got to work (2 miles on base) with no problem. The only other ones that made it in had studded tires.
I helped that I put the chains on in the evening before the storm hit as I had to use an ice pick to get my door open. 30 minutes or so of running with the heat on full bore and all the rest of the 6"' deep ice just slid right off the windows.
Yup, better prepared than sorry.

I will admit I don't carry tire chains on the semi because I'm on a dedicated route to the southeast and back. Even though it's through the Smoky Mountains they don't have chain laws. If I couldn't make I'd park. I'm far more worried about those local boys though who don't realize when you come around one curve you can go from dry to icy in a moment and they don't know to slow the heck down! Now if I ever get off this account or if I go west my first stop will be at the terminal for a full set of chains!
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Old 11-19-2022, 11:00 PM   #13
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I can say from experience that OnSpot chains are completely useless on wet grass, mud, and/or clay. I had a set on my bus which is primarily used for primitive camping in the summer months. There was multiple times I tried using them when leaving on a rainy day and they do absolutely nothing. They’re good for what they’re intended for which is snow/ice on a hard surface road. I removed them from my bus because it’s only out during the summer months.
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Old 11-21-2022, 12:16 AM   #14
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Yup, better prepared than sorry.

I will admit I don't carry tire chains on the semi because I'm on a dedicated route to the southeast and back. Even though it's through the Smoky Mountains they don't have chain laws. If I couldn't make I'd park. I'm far more worried about those local boys though who don't realize when you come around one curve you can go from dry to icy in a moment and they don't know to slow the heck down! Now if I ever get off this account or if I go west my first stop will be at the terminal for a full set of chains!
I'm glad they came on our bus because they're always there and always just need a flip of the switch (and the fuse installed) for a few reasons.
1) Because here on the west coast there are roads that require chains to be carried during the entire snow season.
2) They close roads unless you have chains installed and they often do so several miles (or more) before you actually hit the snow..... On Interstate 5 for instance they'll have a "chain check" point where they won't let you go past without chains on board and they they'll have a required chain up area down the road that you can't go past without them installed (this is where you encounter the several miles of bare road before actually needing them and it tears up chains) and they'll have a police officer ensuring no one gets past that point without chains installed. With the auto chains I can drive past all the people struggling to figure out how to install the chains that they pull new out of the box/bag and are clueless. I'm pretty quick at chaining my pickups and usually pull as far to the front of the line, slap them on, and pull out before anyone goes past. When that happens the police officer almost always stops me to tell me I have to install the chains and I tell him to take a look.... they're usually surprised. My chains are on and TIGHT.

3) I can flip the OnSpot switch, drive up to the police officer, clear the stop point and a short way down the road just flip the switch off and save my chains. When I actually get to snow it's just another flip of the switch.
4) I've been shut down on (literally ON) Interstate 5 in the past.... on one four hour drive (in clear weather) we spent 8 hours total between two shut downs and there was no need other than idiot drivers that would have closed the road under the existing conditions.


In situation four, it's real nice to have an onboard toilet and other facilities. My GF and I have even discussed being prepared to sell hot dogs, hot coffee, and hot cocoa at such stops. Perhaps even giving free coffee and cocoa to the women stuck out there knowing that they'll soon need to pee. Of course we'd also offer use of the toilet for say $5 or $10.
Why free coffee/cocoa to the ladies? Because the guys are going to step off the road and practice writing their names while the ladies are going to insist that their men pony up for use of the toilet.


The entrepreneurial spirit at work.
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Old 11-21-2022, 05:07 AM   #15
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Why free coffee/cocoa to the ladies? Because the guys are going to step off the road and practice writing their names while the ladies are going to insist that their men pony up for use of the toilet.
LOL that is brilliant marketing!!

And you make a valid point that chains are no good if one doesn't know how to install them properly. If west coast or rocky mountain driving is on one's horizon then absolutely automatic tire chains or learn how and when to chain up. Also chains or auto-chains are no substitute for caution. It's like Midwesterners in SUVs who every year forgot how to drive in snow. Just because 4WD can get you moving on snow and ice doesn't mean it can stop you any better.
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Old 11-23-2022, 11:32 PM   #16
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Not too well compared to a good set of 3 railers for mud use, more likely to either not get slung under the tire or to get torn off. Crossbar chains with icebreakers while inconvenient and a PITA to throw provide a level of traction that is unequaled.
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