front chains on a superduty


Senior Member
Ok it has snowed here twice this week and I have snowflake dreams..

I have run chains on the rear of my 250 superduty before, but am nervous about the front with the ABS line and Brake hoses. Has anyone had any experience doing this??

FYI, I am using Pewag squareling with cam tensioning. (industrial quality)



Senior Member
Be careful

Keep chains off the front of your truck!!

It has been my experience with chains that as long as they are tight, and you are going slow, you should be ok, but I always suggest putting chains on in the back for two reasons.

1. Less moving components - Front tires roll and turn, rear tires only roll.
2. I had a chain break on me plowing about 3 o'clock morning. Ripped the front drivers side brake hose in half.

I was plowing an extremly long (1/2mile) steep driveway. There was about 24 - 26" on the ground and it was comming down good. Blade up, and I get about 1/4 the way up. I guess there was to much wheel spin for the chain, and it gave way, taking the brake line with it. I hear the chain get thrown, and my first reaction was to stop, well I realized it is much easier to stop when you have brakes. I dump the clutch, and the engine dies. As I am gaining momentum (backwards), I drop the plow hoping this will slow me down. Its not helping.

What felt like 20min later, I slam into the snowback at the bottom of this drive where all the snow gets pushed down to. I was going fast enough to go thru the bank, down into the gully behind the bank, and take two cottonwood trees with me.

After climbing out thru the passanger window, I fully understand that I need some help getting this out. A 416 and a D3 later, I am plowing again. (In my backup truck) Truck was totaled. When we were pulling it out, the frame was hung up on one of the stumps of the trees that I took out. On level ground it sat with the passenger rear tire off the gound.:realmad:

01 F-250 / 1,700 miles - It went out with a bang!!!

Anyway, I kind of got on a rant here, but if at all possible, keep chains off the front of trucks.



Senior Member
Don't whip your chains...

I strongly disagree with your position regarding chains on the front axle wheels. Front wheels do 70-80% of the braking on a truck. Truck direction is controlled by the front wheels, and in my experience it is absolutely essential to chain the fronts on a 4 wheel drive truck when plowing steep drives or extreme snow storms. If you are doing a drive that you have not maintained before chances are that there may be ice underneath the snow, a very dangerous condition on steep runs. In fact, if I had just two chains I would rather chain the fronts than the rears.

Chains must be maintained like every other piece of equipment. Each link should be checked closely every time before you put them on. Worn or cracked links should be replaced. Chains should be installed with a good snubber belt, either rubber or steel springs. I prefer steel springs. A properly installed chain will sit between the mid point and inner third (the point close to the steel wheel itself) of the tire sidewall. The chain must be the correct length. Too high on the tire shoulder wall? then add some links. Too low on the shoulder wall and you risk damage to your vehicle as the tire chain will be thrown outward from centrifical force when you drive. If the chain is too long that is when you catch fenders, wire or brake lines. This will become more dramatic as your speed increases. There should be no extra chain to wrap back into itself. Side chains should be one to three links longer than the circumferance of the tire at that point.

Since most of us do not jack our trucks up to put the chains on, this is the method I use to install chains. To properly install your chains, drape your chains over the top of your tire, with the open end at the bottom. Make sure the cross links are equally spread out around the tire circumference. If you are doing your front axle, roll your truck in reverse until you have two cross links under the tire and in contact with the road. The chain will stay in place and then you can easily fasten your chains as the open portion of the chains will be on the leading edge of your front tires. You need to back up so that the end of the chain is at about 7 o'clock on your front wheels. Again, check your fit, if you have more than 3 side links in slack, your chain is too long. Cut it down, don't tie it back into itself.

When installing the back axle chains, you follow the same procedure but drive forward to make your final connection. The chain end should be at about 5 o'clock when you connect. Again, watch your chain lengths.

Make sure your truck is off, plow down and the brakes set before you get in front of or behind your wheels.

If you do jack your truck up to install your chains you will find it will take that extra 2nd or 3rd link I spoke about above as the tire is not compressed from the weight of the truck, so its circumference is larger.

Install your snubbers in a 5 or six "star" pattern, equally around the wheel perimeter. This is really important, because you want equal distribution of the spring load from your snubbers. If you do not have as close to a perfect star, reposition your cross links on the tire to get that pattern. That means you may have to move some cross links around or over your tire lugs to get them in the right position.

Watch your speed when plowing with chains. If you are snapping links you are accelerating too fast or you have too much wheel slip from taking too big a bite of that snow pile. You start slowly and let them do their job to bite into the frozen ground or packed snow.

Speaking of tires, all your tires need to be aired up to the maximum range of the tire when plowing. This is necessary because of the load you are carrying when your plow is on it, and because an underinflated tire is more subject to failure from cuts or bruises when the weather is cold. Tires, like old plowmen stiffen up in the cold weather. Adequate air pressure insures the stiffness of the sidewalls sufficient to support the load the tire is carrying as well as provide a stable "frame" for your tire chain assembly.

Once your chains are installed, drive a mile or so to "seat them" in the correct position of your tire. And after that, keep your road speed down. Nothing wears chains faster than driving too fast on dry pavement, so watch that. Take your chains off if your truck is an everyday driver as soon as the roads in your area are clear. After a major storm, they should be taken off, hung vertically on your garage wall and sprayed down with a heavy coat of WD-40 or equivelant. Again, check each link as you spray them down. Look also for end connections that are starting to open up. That happens when you drove too fast, or spun the heck out of your chains when plowing. Close those links with a pair of vise grips or chain pliers, taking care not to bend them so extremely that the end link binds on the carrier chain. Do not box your chains up or let them roll into a ball on the floor of your garage. You should take care of them as any piece of equipment.

As to your brake lines and ABS, remember that your brake lines on the rear are more exposed because axle travel is greater, and if the rear wheels of pickups don't lock up first, you would have ABS to start with! Correctlly fitting chains will end those worries.

Chains are your faithful partner on steep drives or long heavy pushes. Take care of them and they will save your butt every
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Junior Member
Fairfax, VA
Excellent. Thank you. I'm saving your post for future reference. Now excuse me while I go down to the garage and take my chains out of the boxes and make a bracket to hang them on the wall.


2000 Club Member
I'm in agreement with Tommy on this one. When the Nor'easters come our way, the first 6 to 8" is usually heavy wet snow, then the temperature drops and the snow turns to powder. After you make your first pass, the surface instantly freezes, making subsequent passes almost impossible (bear in mind I do mostly residential with no pre-treatment). On these occassions, I run chains at all four corners, we have an abundance of long, steep driveways here.

In between uses, I check the chains as Tommy does and replace any crosslinks that are worn. I stay on back roads while plowing to keep the chains off bare pavement. If by chance a crosslink breaks, I stop immediately and use the bolt cutters I carry to cut the link off.

While I haven't used them on my Super Duty yet, I had run them many times on my '81 F-350 SRW with no damage to the truck. On one occasion, I had only 2 chains that were fit to run, so I used them on the front axle only.

One other point, not only does your front axle do the majority of braking, but unless you have loaded ballast in the rear, it carries more weight for traction as well.


Senior Member
Southwestern Pa.
Tommy gets an A+ for his essay on chains!

Spelling and grammer were excellent too!

It would be nice to see the rest of the class doing this quality of work. ;)

(All joking aside, that one is a keeper. Maybe it should find it's way into a handbook somewhere, if it hasn't already.)


Senior Member
excellent write-up THANK YOU, but

But no, there is only one flex hose going to the center of the rear axle. The caliper connections are hard line and far less exposed attached to the axle than the front which needs to move in 4 directions with a flex hose and attached abs cable. It sticks quite far out on the super duty and I was wondering if anyone had experience.

I am a big believer in chains in the rear for most street apps, chains in front for off-road, and front and rear when on or off road look about the same (NASTY).

Thanks for you help/


Senior Member

I am in 100% agreement with Tommy's definition of chain installation, storage and maintenance, but after my experience with front chains, you can understand my reluctance to continue with front chains. I agree that front chains can be/are more effective than rear chains.

In my case, I was very tired, which sometimes equals a heavier foot than needed. I was really getting with it, and that is the cause of my misfortune.

Whether I am right or wrong, make your own decision. All I am doing is offering a little experience with this topic.

If rear chains are not working for me, I am of the opinion that I need something bigger to complete the job.

Again Tommy, excellent writing on installation, storage and maintenance.


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