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Vehicle & Driver · Traction Devices

From passenger cars and pickups or large commercial trucks or buses, we answer the most common questions about traction devices here. Read Washington's standards (Chapter 204-24 WAC) for tire chains, studded tires, and their use and approval.


Questions and Answers


What qualifies as a traction tire? Do mud and snow tires?

Tires labeled as all-season, all-weather, snow tire or studded (must be labeled M&S or with the mountain/snowflake symbol on the sidewall) qualify so long as they meet the standards set in WAC 204-24-040 Traction Devices.

When can I use studded tires?

Studded tires are approved for use from November 1 to March 31. The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) determines additional periods in which they can be used. Studded tires are not allowed on vehicles over 10,000 pounds. For more information see WSDOT's studded tire page.

I drive a vehicle with studded tires. When DOT requires chains to be put on, do I need them with studded tires?

Yes. Studded tires are not a substitute for chains.

I have an all-wheel or four-wheel drive vehicle. When "Chains Required" signs are posted, do I have to use chains?

No. All-wheel drive vehicles are exempt from chain requirements when all wheels are in gear and are equipped with approved traction devices, provided that tire chains for at least one set of drive tires are carried in the vehicle. See WAC 204-24-050.

I can't use regular cable chains because there's not enough clearance in the wheel well. What other approved traction devices can I use?

It is recommended you consult the vehicle owner's manual to see what the manufacturer suggests. The following alternative traction devices are certified by their manufacturer as meeting or exceeding chain requirements in accordance with WAC 204-24-035 and are therefore considered approved for use when "Chains Required" signs are posted:

  • For passenger cars the following alternative traction device is approved:
    • Autosock
  • For Vehicles or vehicle combinations over 10,000 pounds:
    • With five or less axles: Autosock
    • With six or more axles: No alternative traction device has been certified by a manufacturer as meeting the requirements for approval.

Where can I find information on the chain requirements for vehicles and combinations over 10,000 pounds GVW?

The State Patrol's Commercial Vehicle Division (CVD) has a Chaining Requirements brochure that illustrates chaining 2-4, 5, and 6 or more axles. It is available at all Washington State Patrol offices and weigh stations. For additional information, see the Commercial Vehicle Division.

You may also call the Washington State Patrol Equipment and Standards Section in Olympia at (360) 596-4017 or send your inquiries via e-mail to equipment@wsp.wa.gov.



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