Snow chains are devices that are fitted to the tyres of your vehicle to provide extra grip when you're driving through snowy or icy conditions.
It is highly recommended to carry snow chains with you if you are travelling on any high country or alpine roads in the South Island during winter. As an example, the Lindis Pass, which connects Christchurch with Lake Wanaka and Lake Pukaku, should only be driven with snow chains when there is snow on the road. Other popular roads to be cautious of include Lewis Pass, Arthur's Pass, Lewis Pass, Porters Pass, and The Crown Range.
The Queenstown Lakes District Council recommends that you carry snow chains as a precaution in winter, no matter where you plan on travelling in the area. In areas where snow chains are needed, such as treacherous alpine roads, you'll notice designated areas where you can safely pull over to fit your snow chains to your vehicle.
There are some routes where the New Zealand law on snow chains means you need to carry them with you. For example, if you plan on driving to Milford Sound in winter, you'll need to take snow chains.
If you ignore signs saying you need to fit snow chains, you risk being fined.
However, you should only fit your snow chains when there is snow on the road, or when you are instructed to put them on. Driving on a dry road with snow chains can increase your risk of sliding when braking, and damage to the vehicle.
Snow chains add extra weight to your wheels. This can affect the steering, handling and responsiveness of your vehicle. To drive safely, you must reduce your speed. DO NOT EXCEED 20 KILOMETRES PER HOUR.
You should also be careful to accelerate and decelerate slowly.
You only need to fit snow chains to the driving wheels of your vehicle (driving wheels are the ones that spin when you put your foot on the gas). A two-wheel drive vehicle has two driving wheels (these can be either at the front or back), while a four-wheel drive has four.
If hiring a two-wheel drive vehicle, make sure you check with our team whether you should be putting snow chains on the front or back tyres.