Driving a BMW Rear Wheel Drive in the Winter Snow and Ice

Why Are BMW's Rubbish in Winter?

How come the world’s best car is rubbish, dangerous and useless when a bit of snow and ice appears?

This article explores some of the reality of BMW winter driving, looks at reasons for their poor performance, and considers the solutions.

It is written from a UK perspective where we have occasional snow, winter tyres are an unfamiliar concept and the four wheel drive BMW is a rarity rather than the norm.

Have Your Say

Are you disappointed with your BMW in the snow?

  • Yes
  • No.
  • Don't know. I can't afford one.
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Two disappointed owners

First of all, a couple of experiences of the lunacy that a BMW on ice represents.

My neighbour attempts to drive to the shops in her BMW One Series.

She gets stuck on the camber of the road with the car sliding all over the place. It is going sideways rather than forward, and cannot get over the massive incline that a normal road camber suddenly represents.

She gives up, car is in the middle of the road, and asks me for help. I am confident - I am an experienced (and rather good in my opinion) driver, and she is a woman. I don’t say that of course.

I don’t drive a rear wheel drive.

After five or ten minutes of gently trying to persuade this piece of crap on wheels to navigate the icy road I give up. I reverse it into a passable imitation of a deliberate piece of parking – it’s off to the side of the road, no longer blocking it – and there is no hope of driving it anywhere or putting it back on her drive.

When I use my front wheel drive Toyota, no problem at all. Any skidding is purely for fun – I love doing handbrake turns when the roads are iced up. Yeah OK, I’m just a big kid – but when no one is about and the roads are sheet ice – it’s an opportunity to practice controlled slides.

The all new luxury branded snow kit is available for just under a thousand dollars.
The all new luxury branded snow kit is available for just under a thousand dollars.

The million mile driver

A colleague of mine has driven about one million miles over thirty years.

If I were to point to what I would call an experienced driver, he would be it.

He has had a variety of company cars – one every three years for thirty years – and does thirty thousand odd miles a year.

Two years ago he got a BMW 3 series – good mileage, low CO2 and all round ticks the boxes for company taxation benefits.

He says he will never get a BMW again. In winter it is an absolute menace with loss of grip, a no goer in the ice and snow – he sees it as dangerous.

His company won’t stump up the extra money for winter tyres so he will suffer this car until it is time for the next model.

"Brother Gary's Beemer is stuck on the M25 in one inch of snow but he hopes we have a good supper"
"Brother Gary's Beemer is stuck on the M25 in one inch of snow but he hopes we have a good supper"

What’s the Problem?

I can’t believe that BMW’s are rubbish cars. They are desired by many drivers and they are great to drive.

So why do they turn into an object of ridicule over winter?

The BMW driver is the one parked up or sliding across the road – while the theoretically crappy 1.1 Panda sails serenely along – unaffected by a bit of snow or ice.

One theory is that BMW drivers are badge obsessed idiots who don’t know how to drive properly.

Well that’s a theory but it doesn’t help when you have gently tried to negotiate a road camber in the ice using years of driving experience.

Let’s ignore that and put it down to the opposite of badge obsession – badge jealousy.

The main problems are…

Rubber - the compound for summer tyres is effective down to about 7 degrees Celcius. Below that it hardens rapidly. The winter tyre silica rubber mix is optimised for lower temperatures.

Rear wheel drive – an eye opener for someone like me who drives a front wheel drive. I could not believe how much harder to control a spinning back wheel is compared to a spinning front wheel.

Weight distribution – the perfect 50/50 of the BMW’s is not as good as the engine over the front wheel drive arrangement for winter conditions.

Tyre width – there are complex arguments about grip distribution and the actions on snow. I am not a physicist.

Run flat tyres – I am dubious about these anyway. They seem like a compromise to me, or maybe I am just being old fashioned.

Performance – the BMW tends not to be a gentle car to drive, it is a power machine.

One of the key elements, and one that is hard to get round, is that in cold weather the rubber of the summer tyre hardens. It becomes naturally less grippy, at a time of year with leaves, wet, ice and snow when you need it most.

Every rear wheel drive BMW should come with a free snow shovel
Every rear wheel drive BMW should come with a free snow shovel

What is that juddering sound?

That sound is the noise made when the automatic anti-slip systems come into play.

If a wheel loses grip - either when braking or accelerating - the power or brake will be temporarily interrupted.

This enables the worst of the slipping to be controlled.

It is a sign that you are driving too hard or the roads are particularly slippy. In any case you should take it as a warning and be as gentle as possible.

Danger - BMW Ahead!
Danger - BMW Ahead!

Solutions - Cheap

There are a few short cuts which might improve things, or might make your car even more dangerous.

These are purely down to you, and your experimentation.

Driving technique. All the old boring stuff about starting in second gear, being gentle, leaving lots of space, anticipation. All very well and good, but if the car cannot negotiate an icy camber on a road, it doesn’t really matter how skilled a driver you are.

Weight in the boot. Sandbags, cement, kerbstones – anything that gives a degree of extra weight over the rear wheels will probably help traction. At first I thought that would be a great idea until I read about weight distribution and the need to be able to steer as well as move forward!

If you overload the rear weight, you may compromise the steering at the other end.

Deflate the tyres slightly. It might help, but it is not an area I would want to get into. You buy a perfectly made balanced driving machine, and then fiddle about with it to persuade it to run ‘safely’ in winter conditions. I don’t believe this is a sensible or safe solution.

Wheel gloves. These are emergency, get you home, solutions for a bit of snow. They do not offer months of safe winter driving, they will last for a few miles that’s all.

Do not overdo the additional weight in the rear or you can affect front-wheel steering
Do not overdo the additional weight in the rear or you can affect front-wheel steering

Solutions – Winter Tyres – Expensive

I believe a set of winter tyres for a One series comes in at about one thousand pounds. That includes wheels as well, because they have different dimensions to the usual wheels.

Note. I'm not sure about the dimensions being different. It may be because they are run flats, see below.

At first glance that seems ridiculous, and of course it is, but then you get used to an amount of excessive pricing with BMW. It’s how they make their money.

Winter tyres would appear to be the right solution, although costly.

In Germany, they are required by law to change to winter tyres for several months. Overall the tyre wear is half as much as normal, because you change twice a year, so the total cost is not much more than just using one set of normal tyres.

There is no such law in the UK, and winter tyres are still a bit of a rarity. Unless you have been struggling with your BMW over the last couple of hard UK winters.

It might be possible to pick up a set of second hand winter tyres for your model, or to cut a more reasonable deal with a local garage.

In my opinion, having read as much information as I can bear on the subject, winter tyres are the only option to keep running through the bad winter periods.

A set of winter tyres for the BMW is astronomically expensive
A set of winter tyres for the BMW is astronomically expensive

Other Less Likely Solutions

Get rid of your BMW and buy something else. After the experience of winter driving this is an attractive idea. But it’s costly to change for something that should just work.

Buy a winter runabout – a secondhand front wheel drive anything – that works in bad conditions. In all seriousness, a piece of ‘crap’ like a 1.1 Fiat will out perform your Beemer. Five hundred pounds and up, plus road tax, insurance, and so on.

Don’t go anywhere. “I won’t be in today, I have a BMW” – a great excuse (not) for avoiding work and social engagements during the winter months.

If only you could test drive a rear-wheel drive BMW in the snow before buying...
If only you could test drive a rear-wheel drive BMW in the snow before buying...

Run Flat Winter Tyres

A little bit more info on these.

Why do you have to buy steel wheels, steels, when it would seem all you need to do is swap the summer tyres with the winter ones and then back again?

It's because run flats are special. They 'might' come off and back on again perfectly well. Or they might not.

So the proper way to do it is to get a spare set of wheels with the winter tyres on, and swap the whole lot come spring or autumn.

The price these tyres are anyway who would want to risk having a few fail when it comes to putting them back on?

Traction Tip

From Dom in the comments.

If you need extra wheel grip to get out of a stuck situation, try turning off the traction control.

This should give you more control over what the wheels are doing.

Another Traction Tip

If you are stuck on an incline with loss of traction it ‘might’ be possible to gain extra traction by using the handbrake.

Apparently it is possible that one rear wheel can be slipping, while the other is not doing anything due to the slip differential (whatever that is).

By using the handbrake, gently!, it can slow down the spinning wheel and divert some power towards the non moving wheel.

In theory this might enable both rear wheels to put some effort in.

I haven’t tried this, it sounds a bit ‘rally’ style to me, but I am prepared to be very impressed if someone masters it.

Emergency Supplies

A lot of cat litter was sold last year. And salt.

Buy now while stocks last.

The cat litter is not for use inside your car if you are, er, stuck without a toilet – it’s for scattering under the rear drive wheels to get some quick grip and get moving.

I’ll add to this list when I get stuck and remember the things I should have brought with me.

Winter coat, drinks, something to wee in, torch, charged phone, keep that fuel topped up, and so on.

It would be madness to drive out when there is an inch of snow on the ground
It would be madness to drive out when there is an inch of snow on the ground

UK Weather Note

For overseas visitors.

The UK does not normally get a lot of snow so we are unable to deal with it.

One inch is enough to cause absolute traffic chaos.

We had TWO whole inches a while back and some unlucky drivers were stuck in their cars overnight for twelve miserable hours.

Stay at Home When It's Snowing

The great thing about owning a rear wheel drive car is that you won't be expected to come into work.

Every one knows they are lethal in the snow and ice. And nobody wants to be stuck behind one while the owner attempts to drive in a straight line.

So do yourself and other drivers a favour and take a day off.

BMW Sales Spiel

"Yes Sir, these are the best cars money can buy.  A drivers machine, engineered, precision, expensive.  Winter driving? Oh well, you'll need to buy another car if you want to do that"
"Yes Sir, these are the best cars money can buy. A drivers machine, engineered, precision, expensive. Winter driving? Oh well, you'll need to buy another car if you want to do that"

Some Hard Questions for BMW Dealers

If you are lucky enough to be purchasing a BMW then you might like to wipe the smile off the dealer's face.

Ask him if they recommend winter tyres for their real wheel drive cars. Watch him squirm.

Ask him how much they cost and whether they will be thrown in as part of the deal.

Once you have negotiated that part then ask how they plan to service your car - swapping the tyres in and out for the winter season.

Where are they going to store the tyres?

They suggested to a friend that she take the tyres home and store them in her garage!

Yes, four tyres and wheels in the back of a One Series - for a lady owner to manhandle in and out of her car. Not what I thought the BMW owner image was about.

Ask them if they think that is the sort of service BMW should be providing? In Germany the garage stores the tyres and swaps them at NO cost.

You would think as BMW have a connection with Germany they would provide the same service for UK drivers.

If you have just realised how poorly a rear wheel drive performs in the snow and ice you might also ask your dealer - why didn't they tell you about winter tyres being a necessity not a luxury?

Yeah well. Good luck with that!




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Comments 105 comments

charmin99 2 weeks ago

Hi Alan, you never know, the rubber might have perished before it shows again... ;-)

But to be honest, it says it all, "I had to buy a second hand set of wheels and tyres off eBay to be able to drive my very expensive BMW in the snow..." it could have been worse, you could have picked them up in a charity shop...


Alan Porter 2 weeks ago

I bought some 16" wheels from a Z3 for my 320D SE E91 which has 17 x 225 x45 tyres. I bought 16 x 205 x 55 tyres. Same circumference so no gearing or Speedo issues. Wheels from eBay.

No snow since I got them 2 years ago.

charmin99 4 weeks ago

Hi Jack, congrats on yr new car, so we will all wait in anticipation for the snow and perhaps when your at work and can't get to your old land rover... I personally can hardly wait for you to come back on here and let us know your BMW snow experience, your apologies, your new understanding, your humility for being such a dumb ase before the fact, you will return, the the always do.


Jack 4 weeks ago

My first three cars were rear wheel drive in the late fifties early sixties front wheel drive was rare. Then we bought an old Landrover for the very bad weather

I have just taken delivery of a new 5series d530 sportI don' expect it to handle very well in icy conditions so I have kept my 20 year old Range Rover

So if you can afford a high powered BMW don't winge buy an old 4*4 to knock about in in bad conditions

Mike 4 months ago

Best cars for the snow were the Sierra and Granada Scorpio 4x4's, the very best forsafe driving in it and much improved roadholding in all conditions. Their viscous coupling diffs were much superior to the other 4x4 cars such as Audi, Skoda, Subaru and so on, they have systems that activate the second axle which usually causes a sudden change, the Ford Ferguson system is continuously connected so works all the time. Winter tyres don't cost a fortune and are excellent, just don't use the stupid run flat ones which are a rediculous price just so the manufacturer doesn't have to provide a spare.

charmin99 4 months ago

Hi guys... nice round-up, anyway, no snow where I am in the UK since 2013, so still not tried my own design snow straps, this is a real double edged sword, don't want snow... do want snow.. haha.

Anyway to Tommo the tosser, yea fit winter tyres... I make that £1000 x 3 years = £3000 for no snow and a waste of time tyres... cheers dumbo..

It'll snow this year now.... !!


j.martinez 4 months ago

ok can't be bothered to read a load o crap boring comments!.the fact is the bmw rear wheel drive system is " totally crap"had a 2016 bmw parked on a cravel base that has a slight incline," it failed big time"thats in summer no snow & totally dry condition's. ye its a really nice car" but"BMW GET UR F!!!!NG ACT TOGETHER " really pathetic":( :( :(

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Mark Ewbie 9 months ago from Euroland Author

Lol ze - cool friend comment!

ze 9 months ago


im driving a bmw 330d (306 hp) in central europe, i have snoe 3 months in the year... well, driving a bmw in snow its like go out with friend, you know how it starts but dont know how it gonna end... if you have a FWD, you cant drive a RWD in snow, you have to know what the car gonna do, and its very very diferent comparing to a FWD, but if you have good winter tyres and a ligth rigth foot, you can drive all the year, but off course, for those who dont have much expirience with driving in snow and driving a RWD its hard...

Austin 17 months ago

I guess someone never heard of the legendary 325ix... and supprised you didn't mention any of BMW newer AWD X-Drive models. They are far more effective than most AWD cars and certainly more effective than FWD or RWD. Sounds to me like you just want to bash on BMW...Shame on you!!

heidithorne profile image

heidithorne 18 months ago from Chicago Area

I just saw this in the "Also from Mark Ewbie" area. Too funny! However, I can sympathize on the "run flat" tires. Had 'em on a van. What a nightmare in the cold! We'd barricade the whale in the garage for almost the entire winter since, well, we're in Chicago... land of the never ending winter and "Slip Slidin' Away..." When I had to replace a run flat that did go flat, it was about $400+ USD. When I traded in the van, I got all-wheel drive. Lesson learned. Voted up and funny, of course. Hope it's springtime where you are. We're FINALLY up above freezing and will be doing the happy dance when our May 15 frost date passes. Woohoo!

Nessimmersion 18 months ago

Mmmmm - it appears a lot of people can neither read the manual, drive their car or know the basics about tyres.

Just had a warmer than average winter with less snow than normal, my BM was fine on snow, forestry slopes & tracks of up to 16" snow were no problem, I used hill descent mode to come down back to the public road after skiiing, again no issues - weird eh? and I'm not german!.

Point 1 - snow tyres & winter tyres are different. In the UK there is no need to buy snow tyres. For the last time - sporty rear wheel drive cars with summer performance tyres do not perform well below 7 degrees.

The reason 70's cars performed better in winter is the tyres were more similar to an all weather, were thinner & lest we forget, just how good was a 70s car at a) starting in winter in the first place, b) going fast round a corner in any weather c) remember the Capri - mine went sideways at any roundabout tackled at more than 25 mph !!!.

Small reminder - if you fit winter tyres - your summer tyres aren't getting worn out at the same time - cos they are not on the car.

Drving a car with summer tyres in winter is like driving with defective brakes, there is a reason a lot of conti countries treat this as an offence, inability to stop is hazarding other road users, pedestrians etc.

It's a good laugh poking fun at the average british drivers inability to go round corners in the winter & the way our roads / airports / trains come to a grinding halt in 1" of snow, while the continentals keep going with 10 times as much, but really - it's a bit pathetic as well.

charmin99 18 months ago

Hi Barney, Woody

We all agree with you, but the question really is, do you fit winter tyres (tires) for a few days snow here in the UK (south) or do you live with the inherent poor handling in the snow without, and just stick to normal tyres.

You see all the cars I've had before, without winter tyres, have never been good in snow, but nothing compared to my BMW, and that's what gets people going... my 1975 Ford Cortina could have knocked spots off the BMW....!!

Comments from earlier...

"I should read back some of the comments, it's all been said before, however it doesn't detract from the simple answer to your comments is Yes BMW rear wheel drive with normal tyres are ##** in the snow, simple as that. But do you fit £800 worth of tyres for some few days of snow, or perhaps as this year down south in the UK, no snow..."

Buy a BMW, doesn't have to be to sporty, not 4 wheel drive, like mine a 320 I M, if it snows and you can get it off the drive with normal tyres, I'm certain Mark will hail you as good as a German driver... haha. Thanks for your comments, they all add to the good banter in this blog. Cheers.

Barney 18 months ago

Err BMW's have a snow setting...

Read the manual

Woody 20 months ago

Clearly most people don't know how to drive. My wife has had a 320i for 5 years rwd and it is one of the best cars we have had in the snow except for our AWD cars. Often we will take the BMW when it is snowing instead of our 4x4 F150 supercrew.

We live in Canada and the only time we have any trouble is when we have over a foot of snow and the car just gets hung up because the car doesn't have that kind of ground clearance. When winter starts we put on snow tires add 2-50lb traction bags in the trunk over the rear wheels. Once we do that the car is a beast.

When the snow is really deep I shut the traction control off so when the car spins I can keep the rpms up to plow through the snow.

graham 20 months ago

Try reading the manual. Pressing the DSC button once briefly disables the giro and allows the car to move around a bit more before cutting power to the the wheels.

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Mark Ewbie 21 months ago from Euroland Author

Glad you are OK Mary and maybe there is more than a little wrong with British roads and our general inability to cope.

Mary Day 21 months ago

Forget winter tyres. I came off the road on Saturday in East Yorkshire and needed rescuing from ditch. Car has fairly new winter tyres on which it had just been to Vienna then St Anton. Me and car unscathed but now I know all about rear wheel drive and, sadly, will never feel the same again about driving this lovely old lady.

john 22 months ago

Have winter tyres on rented x1 sdrive, they weren't any use on a moderate icy incline. Had to wait for the deinst and watch all the cheap cars pass me by. BMW Traction control means you stop all traffic until you can try to slide gracefully backwards off the road because its solution is to stop you completely in the center of the road. I should have taken the skoda

Shawn 22 months ago

From Canada.

I drive a RWD BMW. It's better then most sedans. You need a full tank of gas to give the rear end weight and a decent set of all seasons (minimally) summers won't cut it. I have winters and have driven in every storm that has happened in southern Ontario and Calgary Alberta.

I find it has nothing to do with the car and everything to do with its driver, and tires.

uniclic 23 months ago

Can't wait to try out my 330d, first winter, we'll see

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Mark Ewbie 23 months ago from Euroland Author

Lol SDean - point well made but a large number of those sporty BMWs are sadly bought by rich people with no clue how to drive them. Arguably. Perhaps the dealer should suggest a Corolla...

SDean 23 months ago

The point is though, BMW don't pick the options list. The CUSTOMER does.

If someone options SPORT package in a place that snows all the time they are fools.

Im sure BMW of Finland, or Norway don't sell cars assuring their custoners that a 255/40-ZR18 Bridgestone RE050 will be just great in ice and snow.

Horses for courses sir...

Your next article should detail how the latest Corolla absolutely sucks for trackday use and the MXV4 tires delaminated on lap 5 and the car understeered horribly compared to the Porsches, BMWs and Lotuses....

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Mark Ewbie 23 months ago from Euroland Author

Thanks SDean - my main beef is with BMW supplying a car with tires that are not really suitable for winter driving. Most of us are not professional rally drivers - just trying to drive to work and back. Thanks for your advice on widths - that is interesting.

SDean 23 months ago

So, you do realize BMW's are sports sedans right? They aren't econo-boxes with crap skinny tires and horrible weight distribution.

Your complaints are the equivalent of crying that a shovel doesn't work good for hammering nails....

The problem is not RWD, or even 50/50 weight distribution. The problem is the TIRES. Many BMW buyers choose sport options, and most BMW sport packages include summer rated, 255mm (or wider) rear tires! Wide tires float on snow.

For snow use, I would recommend a tire no wider than 195. If you want to use the winter tires all year round, maybe put a 205 on all 4 corners.

-Professional race driver with rally+snow experience.

David 24 months ago

So they're saying bmw suck in winter? All I gotta say is a lot people must not know how to drive because I live in the mountains an my bmw does fantastic. Sure the rear slides a little but what's a little countersteer? Drove through a good 4" of snow or more on the road up mountains and areas four wheel drives were gettin stuck on summer tread that had almost not tread. Got hung up once because of my own fault playing around. Btw in the 4" or more didn't slip a tire. Just take it slow and easy and your gravy..e36 baby. Also driving a standard is a huge benifet in snow with a rear wheel drive. Autos suck cause you get stuck. 5 speed? Lug itdown in 4th or 5th and be on your way. Learn how to drive and a bmw is fantastic in the snow.

Stormbusta 24 months ago

With regard to the comments about Winter tyres being an un-neccesary expense for 1 or 2 days of snow... I don't think you are giving this proper thought. OK, the extra expense of £1K for a set of 4 Wheels and Tyres, seems outrageous for the few days a year when we actually get snow. So I understand you are thinking, why waste £1k for a few days every year. You are not really understanding the key point of changing your tyres. If you have Summer, Low Profile tyres, and as most cars these days are fitted with Summer tyres, you probably have got them, they are not going to give good grip when the temperature falls below 7ºC. That is a fact. The rubber compound of Summer Tyres hardens significantly below 7ºC and when you are driving on cold surfaces, with rock salt, these tyres will wear out significantly quicker and will sustain more damage than on Hot roads because they do not have enough'Give'. This is simply because Summer Tyres have less 'Silica' compound in them. This is the stuff that keeps rubber soft in sub-zero temperatures. But just think about it... You need to have tyres on your car whenever you want to drive it, so.... if you buy winter tyres, your summer tyres will last longer anyway, so the only real Extra Expense is for the Extra Wheels. I'm lucky enough to have the space in my massive double garage for 2 spare sets(1 for mine and 1 for the wife's) and once you make the original 'Investment' for the extra wheels, the tyres don't cost any more. Alternatively, you could try an 'All Round' tyre suitable for both summer and Winter use if you don't want the extra expense of another set of wheels. Personally, I like to protect my Gorgeous 19" wheels (and Expensive Summer tyres) on my Rear Wheel Drive CLS and am happy to put on 17inch alloys with winter tyres on for 4-5 months of the year (October to End of March usually). All you who say a BMW or any other similar performance RWD car are useless in the snow, have obviously never tried them in the snow. I point you to this: 2 years ago when we had an early snow downfall (5 inches here in West Yorkshire) it caught a lot of people out. I had my winters on my CLS and managed to negotiate some slippery inclines. I had to visit a sick elderly relative at the weekend and he lived on quite a steep road, which by the weekend was not just covered in snow, but had a sheet of ice over the top of it. I was in 2 minds whether to try to drive up it, but try I did. And slowly I made it in my CLS! Behind me, I watched as a 4x4 BMW X5 tried to follow in me. He couldn't get any traction, all 4 wheels were not making any difference on this slippery surface. I watched his expression and he was in utter disbelief that a RWD had made it and his 4 wheel drive was useless. I looked carefully at the tyre/wheel package on his car, he had on huge 22" wheels which were really wide and a practically smooth summer profile tyre on all 4 corners. His choice of vehicle was OK for the conditions but the choice of tyres, completely unsuitable. It isn't the car which needs changing, it is the tyres. Get the point???

charmin 99 2 years ago

Hi nessimmersion,

I should read back some of the comments, it's all been said before, however it doesn't detract from the simple answer to your comments is Yes BMW rear wheel drive with normal tyres are ##** in the snow, simple as that. But do you fit £800 worth of tyres for some few days of snow, or perhaps as this year down south in the UK, no snow...

Buy a BMW, doesn't have to be to sporty, not 4 wheel drive, like mine a 320 I M, if it snows and you can get it off the drive with normal tyres, I'm certain Mark will hail you as good as a German driver... haha. Thanks for your comments, they all add to the good banter in this blog. Cheers.

Nessimmersion 2 years ago

What a load of partially informed opinion.

So to summarise - all RWD cars with sporty suspension set ups are crap in the snw, is this just BMW or is it all RWD, is this a revelation to anyone who has driven a ford capri,(which had narrow tyres & only went round roundabouts sideways on a wet summers day).

Every tyre review done in the northern hemisphere in the last decade has concluded that below 7 degrees you get substantially improved performance / safety/ braking especially in the wet on winter rubber ( note winter not snow)

Some manufacturers now recommend that winter rubber is a more prudent choice for the british driver, given that you should be choosing your tyres for when you most need grip (November - 2 degrees, dark & wet). Interestingly the BMW is not the most likely car make to be in an accident in winter.

BMW like everyone else in the sporty market, tunes their cars for sporty summer performance cos that is what sells.

Alternatively you could just conclude that the germans manage to drive BMWs & Mercs all over the Alpine ski resorts in winter because they are just better drivers?????

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Mark Ewbie 2 years ago from Euroland Author

Thanks charmin99 - I thought I was an OK driver too till I tried to get a woman's one series out of the middle of the road. Never knew a bit of icy camber could be so difficult to deal with. Back in my Avensis and although slipping about a bit - the front-wheel drive made everything a whole lot easier.

charmin99 2 years ago

This is hilarious, everyone has an opinion, but different... ha ha..... however quite common is " it's the driver" well of course I agree that a lot of the time it probably is.. but not always.

The fact is I've been driving for over thirty years, front wheel, rear wheel, four wheel you name it, and in the snow, but not until did I get my 320i M did I know the real meaning of "catastropie in the snow" I do know how to drive but when you can't get the car off your driveway which has the slightest of a slope and a two inch dip where it meets the road, then you know you have met your match.

Of course without repeating myself time and time again, this is without winter tyres, yes we know... fit them then, but for a few days snow in the South of the UK you would have to be mad, or very rich...

So please take my (our) word for it, rear drive, BMW in the snow, with fat flat normal tyres, driven slow and careful, traction on or traction off, correct gear, slow revs, bit of handbrake, is just an embarrassment. PS no, I'm not rich or mad, well not until next winter...

emil 2 years ago

Just leran how go drive. I live in sweden and BMW is no problem to drive just idé your Brain and be Gentle...

paul kent (again) 2 years ago

That being said I drove a 2011 mustang v6 in the winter for a month. It had winter tires and it was completely hellish to drive. Throttle input became sideways motion and its excessive weight made breaking Nearly impossible.

Food for thought

Paul Kent 2 years ago

I live in northern Alberta in Canada. Its mid April and its still snowing.

I bought my BMW 3 series car in the winter, with stability control off yet with abs and traction control still on (this is very important) it handles really well. Really well. It has the perfect amount of over steer (better in snow) and it doesn't require gross oversteer to fix any accidental drifts due to overzealous driving in poor conditions. I was in fact convinced to purchase it in the snowy winter before ever driving in on a dry road. I do have snow tires.

Any issues with driving in the snow is not the fault of the vehicle, rather the driver. BMW cars are driver cars and they respond to driver input. If you can't keep the car weighed properly due to inexperience you'll be off the road fast in the winter.but I can keep my BMW on the road better than in a VW or Honda or front wheel drive Lincoln,

Mark Ewbie profile image

Mark Ewbie 2 years ago from Euroland Author

Cheers charmin99 ! It's you guys who make it. I said my piece... now I'm learning. And yeah... what happened to snow this year?

charmin99 2 years ago

#Mark I love this blog...

Anyway, no snow in the UK this year so far (South of Scotland that is), so no chance to try my straps and saved at least it seems $122 by not buying snow tyres, but of course the down side is I never got to hire me 4x4 Land Rover... yet.

Ryan 2 years ago

*** This article is total garbage *** I own an 2004 325ci w/ 2 cheap "sunny snow tires" 225/45/17 at 61$ ea... I haven't gotten stuck yet, even driving through 7" of heavy wet snow on a 30° incline... Although I will say this...

I turn off the traction control if I'm driving up an incline, that gives me full control to spin the rear wheels instead of cutting off the power... The snow tires dig right through with the tires spinning.

traction control on if I'm driving on the highway or back roads for extra safety. .

30% relays on driver experience with rear wheel drive cars

50% relays on actual "snow" tires

20% relays on bmw ' s 50/50 weight distribution

mikeyr 2 years ago

Just an update on the SnoClaws I recently purchased, they were utterly disappointing. The buckle/strap mechanism were the main failure point as they would not keep the straps from loosening. I even removed the tires to ensure a tight and even fit as shown in the installation video to no avail. I would drive about 50 feet and you could hear the buckles slapping against the wheel well. Clearance (wheel well to SnoClaws) was not a problem with the SnoClaws,, I got it to look identical to the video demonstration, it's just that their buckle and strap mechanism just would not remain secured. I guess the best alternative is to buy an extra set of wheels with snow tires installed and just use them during the Winter.

BTW, first time installation is a bear. You HAVE to install the SnoClaws while the wheel is dismounted because it's almost impossible to trim the straps that are behind the wheel with the little clearance that you have. I could barely reach behind the wheel let alone trim the strips comfortably. I do not recommend the SnoClaws for BMW owners, particularly sedan and coupe owners.

mikeyr 2 years ago

@charmin99 - I remember reading about snow straps that were fed through the spokes somewhere else other than this forum, but caution to its use was made. It seems that some types may interfere with a vehicle's brake calipers. Anyway, I hope you've checked for this problem.

You can barely get the chains on an M Sport? That's great news for me as I believe the SnoClaws should work on my car. I just have a regular 3 Series with the sports package. It seems like it may have enough clearance. I haven't received them yet so I can't say if I have a clearance problem or not. We haven't had another significant snow storm either, just snow flurries. Will keep you posted.

charmin99 2 years ago

@mikeyr - Had a good look at the Snow Claws website, they seemed to mention clearance a few times and for me that is the trouble I have, getting your hands in behind the top of the wheel and the arch to actually connect anything, the 'Claws' look better but fingers crossed.

I can just about get the chains on but have to do it from the side of the tyre (towards front of car) it is the M Sport so suspension is a bit lower. This is why I came up with the straps through the spokes idea (earlier post) but that was last year and no snow as yet to try them, hard choice, snow so I can try them or no snow so I don't need to.. haha.

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Mark Ewbie 2 years ago from Euroland Author

Very cool mikeyr - that is the rally style I was referring too. One thing worth mentioning is the need to practice some of this stuff when and where it is safe, and before you really need it.

mikeyr 2 years ago

@Mark Ewbie - Oh, ok, sorry about that. Anyway, to briefly summarize what I absorbed from that web site, the trick to getting out of the snow, if you're stuck, is by using the emergency brake as described in the "One Neat Trick" section. However, you need to do it in the following way: 1) let off of the accelerator, 2) pull up on the emergency brake while still depressing the locking button (pull it up about halfway) and then 3) ease into the accelerator. You may have to play with the emergency a little to find that "sweet spot". I tried it this morning as my car got stuck in the driveway because of ice and it worked! Not sure if it'll work in somewhat more extreme conditions, though.

Mark Ewbie profile image

Mark Ewbie 2 years ago from Euroland Author

Hey mikeyr - I am sorry but I can't allow the juicy bits from that website because this site will see it as copied content. Original thoughts only please. sorry mate.

mikeyr 2 years ago

@charmin99 - Oh it can get hot and sunny alright, but the winters seem to be getting colder compared to years past. We just got hit by what they call an arctic blast twice this year. Weather is typically better south of the Mason-Dixon line, but times are changing.

charmin99 2 years ago

Mikeyr, Just tried posting a long question but seems to have disappeared, I'm very interested in how you get on with these snow claws. Cheers from the snow free (at the moment) UK.

charmin99 2 years ago

Hi mikeyr, I always thought Maryland was hot and sunny..

Mark Ewbie profile image

Mark Ewbie 2 years ago from Euroland Author

Thanks for your comment mikeyr :)

mikeyr 2 years ago

I do not live in the UK, I live in the state of Maryland, USA, but I have experienced the same dilemmas being discussed here when driving in the snow and/or ice. I tried disabling both the DSC and DTC, as I was trying to make it up a slight incline, in order to gain more control of my rear tires, but that didn't work. Not only was there snow, about a couple of inches, but there was also some ice. My 2011 328i had "all season" tires, front and back, and it absolutely refused to make it up that slight incline. I estimated the incline to be about 10 degrees. That would have been the perfect opportunity to try that emergency brake trick where you transfer some of the tire rotation to the other tire due to differential slip, but I just learned about it here. But it's going to snow again tomorrow so if I do use it I'll post the results of that experience here ASAP.

Snow tires sounds like a great solution, but like you guys in the UK, it doesn't really snow that much in Maryland either to justify buying and storing snow tires and wheels. Another solution would be to just buy a pair, or two, of snow tire chains, but of the rubber type. See for more details. I just placed my order today for a pair for the rear tires so I can't say if it works or not. The "SnoClaws" offered on this web site seem to resolve the problem of other snow tire chains that may interfere with your brake calipers. However, I won't know if it works or not until after I receive it and until the next snowstorm, if we ever get any more this year. In Maryland, USA it is legal to use snow chains, but they cannot damage the roads. The SnoClaws would work well here.

Red Star 2 years ago

Correction of text:

It should be that all season tires are not much better than summer tires during winter.

Red Star 2 years ago

Living in Sweden we must by law have snow tires on. I do not understand the problem of the "extra cost" of snow tires. Because of the change your summer tires will last much longer so in the long run the overall cost will probably be about the same apart from the cost of changing the tires. Driving with summer tires on ice or snow I would never do. Only idiots do that and wonder why they smashed in a crossing when they could not stop when needed. Also, do not buy wide winter tires. Buy narrower tires than the summer ones. There are lots of manufacturers of rims and tires. I never buy original rims for the winter tires but always the best brands on the tires as the quality is very different from the cheap ones. I would say that with winter tires there is not much difference in traction between front weel drive and rear weel drive and I drive in snow/ice every winter and have tried all kinds of cars. Modern 4x4 is supperior to anything else but also needs winter tires during winter because braking distance is the same no matter if you have rwd, fwd, awd. There are also big differences in traction and performance of the 4x4 systems. Quattro is great, so is X-drive, so is subaru system. Rav4, CRV, Lexus are not at all as good awd system but still better than fwd or rwd. If I would choose between rwd and fwd in snow it would depend on the driving. If smaller roads not high speed, I would prefer rwd (much funnier cornering which tries your ability to have the correct amount of gas to slide nicely through the curb) but if it would be high speed driving on highways for instance I would prefer the fwd as it is more stable and goes more straight, especially when switching lane through snow string. All season tires I would never recommend. They are not much better than snow tires in snow/ice and not at all as good as summer tires on dry/wet condition. Nowadays I drive a Mercedes GLK 220 CDI 4-matic from 2011 and it is fantastic during wintertime. Really can stop in the middle of a slope, pull away without any sliding at all. Incredible. But it is also fitted with Nokian R tires without any spikes which are developed for the nordic area. Of course on 17 inch non original rims. 17 inch is the standard rim size for this car. No need to move to 18 inch or 19 inch during winter time. Summer tires are on 19 inch rims and wider.

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