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SAE Clearance Specifications

Pro Tip: Check your owner’s manual to find the "SAE" clearance for your specific vehicle. This makes a difference on what type of tire chains you can use.

When purchasing tire chains for passenger cars, light trucks, and SUVs, pay special attention to the “SAE” clearance class of your vehicle. The use of improper traction devices can cause damage to a vehicles components such as ABS sensors, brake lines, etc.  

The term "SAE" stands for Society of Automotive Engineers. They are the firm that sets the standards for the automotive industry. In this case we will be referring to their standards for the clearance specifications of a vehicle and what those clearances mean when it comes to buying traction devices. "SAE Clearance" refers to the area around the tire that is allowed for safe traction device use as determined by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). 

Clearance Terminology: 

Tread Face Clearance is the distance between the tread face on your tire and the wheel well and/or other components. 
Side Wall Clearance is the distance between the side wall of your tire and the nearest portion of the wheel well and/or other components.


SAE Classes:

SAE Class S This Class is applied to regular (non-reinforced) tire chains and cables for vehicles with restricted wheel well clearances. It has a minimum tread face clearance of 1.46”/37mm, and a minimum side wall clearance of .59”/15mm.
 

SAE Class U This Class is applied to regular (non-reinforced) and lug reinforced tire chains and cables for vehicles with regular (non-restricted) wheel well clearances. It has a minimum tread face clearance of 1.97”/50mm, and a minimum side wall clearance of .91”/23mm.
 

SAE Class W This Class is applied to passenger tire chains that use some light truck grade components, as well as some light truck chains. It has a minimum tread face clearance of 2.5”/63.5mm, and a minimum side wall clearance of 1.5”/38.1mm.

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   PASSENGER AND LIGHT TRUCK
SAE CLASS MINIMUM TREAD FACE CLEARANCE (A) MINIMUM SIDE WALL CLEARANCE (C)
SAE CLASS "S" 1.46"/37 MM 0.59"/15 MM
SAE CLASS "U" 1.97"/50 MM 0.91"/23 MM
SAE CLASS "W" 2.5"/63.5 MM 1.5"/38.1 MM