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Homemade cheap tire chains that are gentle on blacktop  RSS feed

 
steward
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Thought I would share my homemade tire chains for my garden tractor.  I use it for snowblowing in the winter and with my blacktop driveway I was worried about normal steel chains damaging the surface.  They sell rubber tire chains for this purpose but they are pretty spendy.  While my blacktop damage concern may or may not be a real problem, the homemade chains work great and are cheap.

I started with some reasonably heavy chain, probably 1.25" long links.  I measured the diameter of the tire at the edge of the tread (on the side of the tire) and cut four lengths from the chain.  I then got some rope (manila I believe) that was about 1/2" diameter.  I wove it between two lengths of chain and tried to end up with the chains a bit wider than the width of the tire apart.  If it's not perfect, when you start driving with them they self adjust a bit.  If I were to make these again, I'd aim for more rope and less chain so that the chains are farther off the ground as you drive.

On one chain set I used black zip ties to hold the manila rope at each link, on the other I skipped it.  I haven't seen a difference in operation.  Once you have some running time on them, the rope forms a permanent kink at the link so it won't slip from then on.

Back the tractor over the chain sets and wrap them around.  I used the locking screw-on links to connect the ends of the chain (second photo).  If you made the initial chain too short, just use extra links.  If it's too long, cut some links off.  Then use bungee cords or in my case string to tie together the chains in 3-4 places.  Bungees are better but I'm cheap/lazy.  Do this on the inside and outside of the tire.  

You're off to the races.  These are on their third year and look like they have at least that many more years of service ahead of them.  Fair warning, I only use them for snowblowing so they probably wouldn't last on equipment you use daily without modification (synthetic rope perhaps).  
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Chains laid out for installation
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Closeup of link to connect ends
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Finished product
 
master pollinator
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That is a really great idea, sadly I do not have a paved driveway.

One trick that is harder than rope and has more "bite", but is softer than chain, is cable. I am not sure that it matters though, you are getting 6 years out of rope which honestly is far longer than I would have thought. Good for you in thinking outside the box.

Tire chains have been the ban of my existence for the last year. It has been a constant battle to keep them on my skidder. The links on the chains are so worn that they are breaking. I have been patching them as they break, but it has been a battle. I even resorted to taking 1/2 inch cable and "lacing" it across the tread of the tire. It worked for a few months, but now has worn through the cable. There is no real cure at this point but to buy new chains; a pricey option: $2500.00.

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Is that ride a Statesman? Cool chains. May last a season or two.
 
Mike Jay
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Not sure if you're asking me or Travis.  Mine is a John Deere 110 from 1974.  I hope they last a season or two, my prediction is 3-4 more years.  Then I get another piece of rope.

I like the cable idea too.  I'm imagining a twisted steel cable, maybe with green translucent plastic covering it?  Or am I imagining wrong?  If it can bend 160 degrees it should work.
 
Karen Donnachaidh
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Asking you, Mike. We have a Statesman here (couldn't afford the JD) and it's been like the Ever-Ready bunny. It keeps going and going, in spite of its' Duck tape patches. I think your chain idea is pretty cool. Just switch out the rope sections as needed. Ride on!
 
Mike Jay
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Well, my prediction of 3-4 more years was a bit off.  The rope on one set gave out today.  So I got 4.5 years from the system.  Since we have a layer of ice under the snow, I put on my metal chains for the rest of the winter.

Some of the things I've learned from this:
1.  Give yourself extra rope so the chain around the perimeter can be shorter.  My metal chain part was pretty close to the tread surface of the tire and occasionally would wander over and be on the tire.  Longer rope and shorter chain would have remedied this.
2.  I think more rope is better than less.  I zig zag'd the rope every 4 links.  I think every 3 or 2 would be even better.
3.  The black zipties held up well until the end.
4.  Relying on the little links with threaded closure nuts wasn't reliable.  Every once in a while they'd loosen themselves.  Having a better way to link the chain ends together would be worth it.  If #1 above is resolved, this could be less of an issue.
5.  Having a way to tighten the chain once it's installed would be awesome.  I just linked it together as tight as I could and then tied rope across the face of the tire to take up slack in the chain.
6.  I finally learned that using a floor jack to pick up the ass end of the tractor is MUCH easier than driving onto the chains and fighting with them.
 
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