2-Series Winter Wheels, Tyres & Chains Guide

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2-Series Winter Wheels, Tyres & Chains Guide

Postby babybmwadmin » Wed Sep 07, 2016 10:48 pm

The below article was kindly written by msej449.

A Guide to Winter Wheels, Tyres and Chains For 2 Series Owners

Disclaimer: The information and advice in this article is provided without liability or guarantee. Always consult your dealer or an expert retailer concerning your specific vehicle and requirements. The author disclaims all liability arising from the information in this article. This is not endorsed by BMW.

The choice to get winter tyres, and whether to also get new winter wheels, and whether to get chains (and what type) is quite difficult for UK 2-Series owners. It’s a bit like the related question of whether to get xDrive or not. There are lots of variables: how long you keep your car; where you live; whether you use the car for Alpine winter trips; how much you rely on a car for travel; and so on. These factors apply differently to different owners and I can’t evaluate them all for you, but here are some thoughts and information on the subject.

In the UK?
The average UK winter temperature is 5.5°C. and winter tyres only start to be beneficial at temperatures under 7°C. However, this average is lower for the morning and evening commute periods, and you may see up to 80 days a year when winter tyres are beneficial if you’re out at these times. Obviously, if you live on moors or mountains, you’re more likely to see low temperatures and snow. But if you garage your 2-Series in bad weather and commute by train, then of course, you might not opt for winterisation.

A no-brainer for Alpine Driving
For anyone going to or through Austria or Germany in the winter, then winter tyres are effectively a legal requirement (so that’s an easy choice). And for anyone who takes their 2-Series on winter Alpine trips then they also make sense, because just about all the local cars will carry winter tyres and drive accordingly. You’re also likely to encounter mixed tarmac /slush /snow conditions, where chains are useless and you are at risk without winter tyres.

See chains as something for only the worst conditions: typically deep snow, ice, a steep drive out of your ski apartment etc. They are an addition to, not a substitute for winter tyres. They don’t work in mixed tarmac/snow/slush conditions - you can’t keep putting them on and taking them off every few hundred metres.

I’m a fan of xDrive and would probably have had it on my M235i had it been available. But that said, it does make the front steering less responsive and for 95% of my driving, it’s not needed. I’d say make the choice for/against it separately to winter tyres.

M+S, Studded and ‘All-season’ Tyres
Studded tyres are only used in Nordic countries for permanent snow/ice driving and aren’t relevant here. Mud-and-Snow (M+S) tyres are mis-named ‘snow’ and not to be confused with winter tyres – more for agricultural vehicles. All-season tyres are not a favourite of mine as they offer the worst of all worlds: poorer than summer tyres in summer and winter tyres in winter. However, they are popular in the USA.


Question: What are the ideal fittings in winter conditions?
Answer: Winter tyres plus a set of chains for the worst conditions, on an xDrive.

Question: Is an xDrive best for snow?
Answer: I’d rather be in a RWD M235i with winter tyres then a 220d xDrive with summer tyres. The M will be able to negotiate conditions that the xDrive can’t cope with. (Obviously, an xDrive plus winter tyres is the ideal, but you can’t get an M235i/240i or M135i/140i xDrive in the UK, although you can in Europe).

Question: What about just having chains?
Answer: Not as good as having winter tyres and chains. Winter tyres provide significantly better traction below 7°C, even on dry tarmac. They’re not just for snow. And in mixed tarmac/snow conditions you can’t be taking your chains on/off all the time. In mainland Europe and certainly in the Alps, most of the locals will have their winter tyres on and will be driving at their usual speed - you may not realise how disadvantaged you are ‘till it’s too late.

Question: OK, I’ll get winter tyres, but do I still need chains?
Answer: If you might hit deep snow, steep inclines or ice, you will still need chains to hand, especially in the Alps. And you may be forced to fit them by Alpine Police.

Question: Do all four tyres need to be winter ones?
Answer: Yes. Don’t mix winter and summer tyres.

Question: Can I just swap the tyres i.e. keep the same wheels?
Answer: Generally, UK 2 Series wheels can replace summer with winter tyres. But on performance models, there may not be enough room inside the driven wheels for chains to rotate freely. In these cases, you need to decide whether you can manage without chains if you just swap to winter tyres alone.

Question: Why would I get separate winter wheels (as well as tyres)?
Answers: Most likely because you take your car on ski trips, and being a performance model, you want chains - and that means new wheels. Sometimes, BMW or a retailer bundles wheels and winter tyres together at a minor premium over tyres alone; it’s less wear and tear to swap 4 wheels rather than 8 tyres.

Question: How do I choose the right winter tyre?
Answer: Leading manufacturers are Vredestein, Pirelli, Michelin and Continental. Take a look at the BMW Wheel Configurator.

Question: I have an xDrive. Do I need two pairs of chains?
Answer: Not normally. You would normally put a single pair of chains on the wheels that get the most drive.

Question: How do I tell if it’s a ‘real’ winter tyre.
Answer: Because it will carry the ‘mountain and snowflake’ symbol. Do not confuse this with any ‘Mud + Snow’ designation or similar.

Winter Tyres

Winter tyres begin to perform better than standard tyres at temperatures below 7˚C - the compounds make for better adhesion at lower temperatures. The difference can be as much as 25% on dry tarmac and x2-x5 on snow. Take a look at one of the independent tests comparing summer and winter tyres, such as


And remember that although the demo is on snow to underline the most extreme differences, the improved performance of winter tyres applies in cold and wet as well. The tread design will also provide much better traction in the slush and snow: Compare my winter tyres (left) with the summer ones (right) below.

Image Image

In theory, fitting winter tyres doesn’t cost you any more overall, as you prolong the life of the summer tyres correspondingly. In reality, you have to pay for switching them over every spring and autumn plus the up-front cost of the tyres themselves.


I’ve already said that even with winter tyres you may still need chains if you’re likely to encounter deep snow, inclines or ice. And in Alpine areas, police sometimes prohibit cars going up mountain roads unless they have chains (even if you’ve got winter tyres and xDrive).

All UK 2 Series cars out of the factory have summer tyres fitted. The Owners Manual will indicate specifically what wheels and tyres you have and what wheel/tyre combinations are certified for winter use. Your BMW dealer however should be used as the definitive authority on what you actually have. Here’s what my Owners manual specifies for my M235i Convertible:


[1] Shows the summer setup of 18” diameter wheels, where the front carries 7.5” wide wheels (7.5Jx18) and the rear carries 8” wide wheels (8Jx18).

[2] Shows the winter wheel and tyre combinations certified by BMW. Note that it excludes using 8” rear wheels – they have to be either 7.5” or 7” wide. This allows chains to be fitted safely.

You may be asking yourself ‘Is space really a problem?’ Well, you can see how little space there is on these two photos of my M235i rear left wheel arch (i.e. the driven wheel). I need the extra space given by the 7.5” or 7” wheels if I want to avoid the chains fouling the suspension/wheel arch (especially if I’ve not tightened them enough, which is a common issue).

Image Image

If you have a non-performance 2 Series model, you may have suitable winter driven wheels already fitted. In which case you can just fit winter tyres and swap them each autumn and spring.

If you’re unlucky, and there’s not enough space behind the driven wheels for chains to rotate freely, you’ll need new, narrower wheels as well (if you want to use chains). Alternatively, solutions like the Thule K-Summit® and Rud Centrax® don’t have any chain components on the inside of the tyre, so they avoid this problem (at a cost).

Alternatives to Conventional Chains

There are some alternatives to using metal chains. For our Peugeot, which we mainly use for local journeys, I carry Michelin Easygrip® (below, and see Michelin.co.uk) because they are relatively easy to fit; are quite thin (<10mm); and don’t need re-tightening after initial fitting. However, they are not really for prolonged use – more to get you out of a tight spot when your winter tyres can’t cope.


Snow socks are really for situations where you’re on summer tyres and need to ‘convert’ them to the same traction as winter tyres. In my view, they’re no substitute for proper winter tyres over longer distances as they quickly wear out and can’t take chains. But they are very easy to put on, and relatively cheap, so they’re attractive if you are very unlikely to encounter snow.


Feedback on both these products are that they work very well on first use, but aren’t so good for prolonged use or if re-used at a later date. Conventional metal chains are best if you have to drive for any distance in the snow.

Front-fitting with no rear components

Products like the Thule K-Summit® (below), Weissenfels Quattro® and RUD Centrax® don’t have any components covering the inside of the tyre. The tread chain is held fast using a tensioner on the front of the wheel. They obviate the problem of insufficient space behind the wheel. However, they are expensive. But with adapters, they fit a wider variety of wheel sizes, so are mire likely to be transferrable to your next car or a second car.


Buying Wheels & Tyres from BMW

BMW offers combined wheel+tyre packages which includes storage and wheel-swapping. This isn’t the cheapest option, but it saves the hassle of storage and gives you reassurance that this is a BMW ‘certified’ solution. This is what I went with on my previous BMW, as in the end, the cost premium wasn’t that great compared to a local dealer and it avoided my having to store the unused wheel set. I’d recommend asking them to quote and then using this as a benchmark against alternatives. What’s on offer from BMW is shown in their useful configurator:

http://www.bmw.com/com/en/owners/access ... te_wheels/

If you go for a non-BMW option, then be absolutely certain that they know what they’re doing, especially if you’re offered a wheel size and tyre size that isn’t in the BMW Wheel Configurator.

Regarding chains, be similarly careful if you buy off-the-shelf or from a general motor retailer. Most know their stuff but a few may sell you on the basis of tyre size alone, which as we’ve seen, doesn’t deal with the wheel size problem. Be especially concerned if they’re not prepared to guarantee the chains will fit.

I’d always buy my chains in the UK and try fitting them at leisure here first (see below). I got mine from BMW at the same time as the wheel/tyre set.

Incidental Advice for Winter

I buy my winter screen wash in the BMW 5L container and progressively increase the concentration as winter progresses. See Part No. 83 12 2 298 207 in the UK. This is more cost-effective than buying 1L bottles. By the time I go down to the Alps, I’m on 100% concentrate, right up to the screen nozzles. Be careful about using non-BMW winter screenwash, as mixing different types can clog up the motor and pipes and mean an expensive replacement.


Carry a mat to kneel on, thin gloves, a torch, and boots all to hand with the chains. Assume it’ll be dark and snowing hard when you have to fit them. Have separate driving shoes to put back on once you’ve finished.

Chain Practice: With a new set of (conventional) chains, I practice on a spare wheel first, so that I can move the wheel ‘round easily and see clearly how they are meant to fit ‘round the interior side (you could probably skip this with any of the front-fitting types like the Centrax etc.). I then try fitting them onto the car.

This can also help me to store them in a way that makes it easier to refit them later.

[end of article]

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Re: 2-Series Winter Wheels, Tyres & Chains Guide

Postby msej449 » Wed Oct 26, 2016 9:01 pm

Addendum#0 (Spare?): Should you carry a 5th spare winter tyre? If money and space is no problem, then yes. Winter tyres are manufactured for a relatively short period to provide stock for the autumn change-over, plus some extra. So if you need a spare in the New Year, then they can be hard to find. If you're abroad and damage a winter,you may be waiting for a couple of days or more for a replacement to arrive, which could be a problem. Run-flats help you get off the motorway and to a local tyre dealer, but aren't meant to be driven for more than 50Kms on average. If you have changed to a 'square' wheel setup, as recommended, than you can rotate the five tyres annually to even-up the wear. It's a more difficult decision if you're short of storage space and it's expensive, given the odds are very low that you'll need to ever use it. One of life's typical cost-vs-risk decisions .....

Addendum#1 (Aquaplaning): Forgot to say that the other reason for going to a 'square' setup in the winter is that having narrower tyres significantly reduces the tendency to aquaplane. Since heavy rain is more likely in the winter, this alone might be a reason to change to narrower rear wheels for your winter tyres, even if you never intend to use chains. However, you do lose a certain amount of agility, although it's hard to quantify the trade-off. If you've never worried about aquaplaning much, just Google for it and look at some of the dashcam recordings - some of the incidents are pure bad driving, but many are in frighteningly ordinary wet weather conditions. Going 'square' also makes it more feasible to have a spare 5th tyre, as the spare can fit any wheel and be rotated with the other four to even the wear.

Addendum#2 (DTC): Read up about DTC in your Owner's Manual - in mine, it's recommended you engage DTC on snow and when chains are fitted.

Addendum#3 (winters in Summer?): Can you keep your winter tyres on through the summer? It depends on your driving and the tyres. If you only do short, local trips in the UK then probably yes. Some commercial users who need to drive onto muddy building sites keep winters on. And people may give it a try if they'd need a new set of summers. But it might not work so well if you do a lot of motorway driving and/or take the car abroad into much warmer climes. There are also some 'all season' tyres that are proper winters ('snowflake and mountain symbol) but are specifically designed to run in summer as well - feedback is that they're not necessarily the best pure winters but for some owners, the compromise is worth it.

Addendum#4 (some brands not so good for 'intermediate' UK weather): Some Nordic brands don't seem to behave well in the typical UK oscillation of frost one day and 12C the next.Sometimes the name is a giveaway - perhaps 'Ultra-freeze Arctic Sub-zero' isn't really for UK winters? So just check some of the reviews and technical description before you go for one of these.

Addendum#5 (winter isn't summer!) : Don't expect you winter tyres to compensate 100% for the reduced traction you suffer as temperatures drop and roads get wet. You have to adjust your expectations and driving, and you can't blame the tyres for letting you down if you don't.
2016 M235i Convertible Estoril Blue
Wolfrace Drive 7.5Jx17 + Pirelli Sottozero-3 225/45-17

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