Snow chains/cables for bmw x3


Getting some mixed responses, please clarify. I’ve a 2004 bmw x3, all wheel drive. I plan on going into the Sierra this winter and need tire chains or cables. I’ve been told the rear wheel drive is dominant. The question is, do I need to apply to all 4 tires or only to the rears.

All 4, otherwise the fronts will spin.

You put the chains on ALL the drive wheels…If fwd…then you only put them on the front…if rwd—…then only on the rear…if 4wd or awd…then all 4.



I’d consult the owner’s manual for information and advice about chains or cables for this vehicle. Surely the BMW engineers have covered this.

the manual suggests putting on the rears. Regardless, the foreman (25 yrs exp) at the bmw dealorship suggests putting on the front. And several others have opined differing ideas. Thought maybe Tom & Ray would have a thought on this. Thanks for taking the time to reply.

T&R never reply here, you’re stuck with us!

Also, your BMW foreman is wrong, with them on the front it’ll encourage a spin when you brake, as the rears slide and the fronts grip (I’ve seen it). On the rear would be much more stable, but I don’t get in an AWD vehicle how that would keep the fronts from spinning when you give it gas. I can think of no downside for putting them on all 4.

Are you just driving over the interstate pass? I’m pretty sure when it’s just chains required they’ll let you over because your car is AWD. If it’s 4wd AND chains required, you don’t want to go in this car even if you did have chains on.

I personally think the on-road chains are pointless on front-wheel drive and AWD cars-- if the snow is bad enough that you need them to get going chances are it’s too deep for your car anyways. My theory is that the west coast states require them on the passes because it slows people down and stops idiot lowlanders from speeding into ditches. So, I say, just drive as if you had chains on and you’ll be fine.

I’m inclined to agree with the manual. Putting chains on all four would make the vehicle VERY unpleasant to drive, even for a short distance, and I’ll bet you’d never do it a second time.

Driving with chains on the rear is no picnic, but at least the vibration isn’t coming through the steering wheel.

If you need chains on this vehicle the weather is too bad to drive in and you should stay home, or stay put wherever you are. Buy four winter tires and you should be able to go through anything you’re likely to encounter on the road.

Try a BMW forum with owners with X-drive. It all depends on how AWD is implemented. I believe RWD biased.

Do they not sand/salt in areas where chains are required?

I remember the signs and being hassled a bit by a state trooper in CO in my Hyundai Elantra rental with all-seasons but mentioned I was a New Englander and he waved me on. It worked quite well.

I have lived in Sacramento for 25 years. I don’t go up a lot, but I don’t recall ever going to the mountains when it was so bad that they made the AWD cars chain up. It would have to be pretty ugly.

If they make you chain up, I would do just the rears on an X3.

By the way, though this will ignite a firestorm of protests, among my friends who have cabins that they like to use in winter, the X5 BMW is the wintertime King of the Hill. On icy steep mountain roads, the X5 goes while the others wait for the sand truck.

First, use ONLY what BMW recomends. Some tires and wheels cannot handle chains.

If you use only one set of chains, put them on the front wheels for control.

They have snow plows in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

The X3 is designed to handle off-road driving. Unless you have highway tires, CHP will let you pass most of the time.

Chains are great. They give you considerable traction.
When you first buy them, you can’t wait to try them out to see how well they work.

Then, slowly but surely, you begin to wish you could avoid having to put on the chains. You’re in a warm car with nice clothes and the thought of getting out in the cold snowy weather to get on your hands-and-knees to install the chains becomes less and less appealing. Then having to repeatedly mount/unmount them for the stretches of plowed/unplowed roads wears on you as well.

I went through the above “learning curve” many years ago. Since then I’ve opted to use four aggressive winter tires.

Chains are great, but the human nature part of using them does have some very real drawbacks.

Just dropped in to ask a different question but saw your post.

I remember one Sunday in early 1983 when I was up skiing at Squaw. We left early because the weather was so bad. got to Truckee and found I80 west was closed due to a big rig jackknifed, so we were contemplating spending the night.

About 5:30 or so we I80 west was finally reopened. I put my chains on my 80 Toyota Corolla before leaving the restaurant parking lot.

A little bit west, we hit the first chain control and went on thru. A few miles further and we hit the second chain control – this was chains required on all vehicles. We had chains and went on up the pass. I drove about 15 mph in blowing snow and the road had twin ruts in packed snow I followed. Almost like being on rails as it would have been difficult to go to one side out of the ruts. Finally after a very l-o-n-g time, we were over Donner Summit and down into rain and snow-free road. I was oh so glad to see rain. Off came the chains on drove on back to the Bay Area.