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For those of us in the snow belt of the country it is sadly time to put away our summer shoes and bolt our winter wheels and tires. While we'll miss the look of our hot summer rims and sporty tires the winter traction that a dedicated snow tire provides cannot be understated.
As usual this time of year threads are cropping up on the forum asking how well our rear wheel drive BMWs can handle in the snow. In a perfect world we would all have winter cars with 4 wheel drive and raised ground clearance. Not only would that give us increased winter weather drive-ability but it would also keep our babies free of intense winter road grim, salt and sand.
As we don't live in a perfect work and a second car has ownership, maintenance, insurance, registration and other costs associated with it many, myself included brave the winter in their E46! There will always be huge winter storm that will keep my car in the garage, but would you really be out in your SUV anyways? For 99% of the winter storms we get here in Boston or in my native state of MN a solid set of winter tires are all your BMW needs. My E46 M3 has more traction and grip with snow tires then a front wheel drive cars with all season tires. For more info on the difference between winter tire and all seasons watch the video at the bottom.
So if you've been worried about driving your E46 this winter I suggest you simply consider a set of winter wheels and tires. For an extreme example of how well the E46 can handle the snow watch this video of an E46 M3 owner enjoying the winter -
Winter driving, in any car, does require extra care. Getting stuck in the cold can be dangerous so run through this check list before the cold and snow comes!
Tip #1 - Check Your Tires for Wear
It is common knowledge that you should generally replace your tires when the tread has been worn down to about 2/32" left on the tire. While this is generally true, if you are planning on encountering snowy roads, you may want to consider replacements if your tread is less than 6/32".
So how do you check your tread depth? All you really need is a US penny (and possibly a US quarter). You can find all the details and pictures describing this at:
Measuring Tire Tread Depth with a Coin @ TireRack.com
If you find that you are in need of some new tires or if you are looking to get a dedicated set of winter tires and wheels, take a look at what TireRack has to offer for the winter season. You can use the Upgrade Garage to quickly locate a set of wheels and/or tires that will work for your car. Click the link below to get started!
Tip #2 -- Check Your Tire Pressures
Make sure you check your tire pressures on those winter tires; you can lose up to 5psi of pressure from summer to winter months and it can have a huge impact on the tires. If you are lucky enough to have your car parked in an attached or heated garage, be aware that you will lose air pressure when transitioning to the outdoors. According to TireRack.com, you should add 1 psi of "cold" tire pressure to compensate for each 10 degree temperature difference!
Tip #3 - Check Your Windshield Wipers and Windshield Wiper Reservoir
The winter months can wreak havoc on a set of windshield wipers and it is likely that you haven't replaced yours in quite some time. Make sure you inspect your wipers for damage where the wiper meets the windshield. You want to make sure that you wipers are going to do a good job clearing moisture away - especially if you get caught out in a particularly nasty storm.
You will want to keep an eye on the level of your windshield washer fluid reservoir too; drivers go through a very high amount of fluid clearing off the fluids and salts state/federal agencies use to de-ice roadways. Don't get caught out on the road without any windshield washer fluid!
Tip #4 - Check All Your Lights!
This seems like a silly step that most people would notice but the winter months and potential for extremely low visibility make this step even more important. Grab a friend, wife, neighbor or fellow enthusiast and have them help you check that all your lights are working on your car. You could probably manage this on your own but it will go a lot quicker with someone there helping you.
Tip #5 - Put Together a Winter Emergency Kit
You never know when you are going to get stuck on the roadways during a storm - accidents happen and sometimes there is nothing you can do about it. Take a few minutes to put together an emergency kit that will fit nicely into a duffle bag or back pack in the trunk of your car. Some ideas on what to include are:
- Flashlight - yes, one that is better than the one provided by BMW with your car!
- First Aid Kit
- Gloves, Hat, Blanket(s)
- Ice Scraper
- Jumper Cables
- Possibly even some food that will last like granola bars, energy bars, etc.
- Be creative and think of what you might need if you were stranded!
And as a last tip, don't wait like I did to put your snow wheels and tires on your BMW until after it is snowing :thumbsup:
Comparison video of an E90 BMW 3 series sedan with summer, all season and winter tires