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Basics of Tie-Down Chains and Binders

Tie-down chain and ratchet binder

Of all tie-down methods, chain and load binders have the most muscle to handle the toughest tie-down jobs. They're made for big, heavy loads. But they're also heavy to handle. If you must strap down heavy loads though, chains may be your best choice.

To tighten chain, you use a binder, a device that pulls slack out of the chain.

Applications of Tie-Down Chains

Chains are possibly the best choice for hauling heavy items. They're perfect for use with big trucks. They can secure heavy agricultural equipment and industrial machines like bobcats and skid loaders.

Pros of Chains and Binders:

  • Resist wear and breakage - durable, heavy duty, and strong

Cons of Chains and Binders:

  • Weigh more than straps
  • Could damage finished surfaces
  • Can rust


Capacity is one of the most important considerations when you're choosing tie-down chains and binders. To get parts that have enough capacity to do the job, you need to know the weight of your cargo and the total number of chains you will use to tie it down.

The capacity of chain and binders is designated by safe working load limit (WLL), a measure of the amount of load the chain or binder can safely handle. The load being tied down must not exceed the combined WLL of all the chains being used. For example, if your cargo weighs 8,000 lbs and you will use 4 chains, each chain must have a WLL of at least 2,000 lbs. Four chains of 2,000 lbs WLL each will equal 8,000 lbs total, enough capacity to secure an 8,000 lb load. Each binder must also have a WLL of at least 2,000 lbs. A good rule to follow is to always use binders that have an equal or greater capacity than the chains they will tighten.

Chains are also rated by break strength, the amount of load that will cause the chain to fail. WLL is usually rated at 1/4 the break strength. WLL, rather than break strength, is used for calculating load limits because WLL is a realistic measure of a safe load limit for a chain.

At, we offer chain and binders with working load limits (WLL) from 4,500 lbs to 17,900 lbs.


Closeup of hook at end of tie-down chain

Tie-down chains and binders have hooks at the ends for attaching them to a trailer or tie-down point. You can anchor a chain by hooking it to a tie-down like a D-ring. Or you can wrap the chain around a strong, stationary part of your trailer, then slip the hook back over a link of the chain.


A chain binder works by pulling slack out of a tie-down chain. The hooks on this device fit over links in a chain and then, when you pull or crank the handle, the binder pulls the links together thereby tightening the chain.

Standard tie-down chain binder

A standard chain binder operates with a lever that you push to tighten the chain. All of the tightening must happen with one push of the handle, which means that this type of binder often requires more effort and strength to operate than a ratcheting type requires. Because this type of binder lacks a ratcheting mechanism, it is usually less expensive.

Ratcheting tie-down chain binder

A ratcheting chain binder uses a built-in ratchet to give you leverage when tightening chain. You push and pull the handle repeatedly until you get the chain tight. This type of binder doesn't require as much strength to operate as the non-ratcheting kind.

Convert-A-Ball chain load binder

The Convert-A-Ball load binder combines the weight savings of a strap with the ability to tighten chain. It's lighter than an all steel binder, but it includes hooks at the ends of the straps to fit over chain links. For convenience, it tightens with a ratchet.

Chain and Binder Fit

Tie-down chain and binder hook measurements with labels

Chain and binders must fit together as well as be matched in capacity. To fit together, the hooks of a binder must fit over the links of the chain. At, we list the sizes of chain that our binders will fit. This dimension is the diameter of the links in the chain.

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