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Socks and Chains

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
A bit of a conundrum, driving to Courchevel Le Praz for Christmas in a 2016 BMW X3 with no intention of using the car when in resort but don't want to risk the summer tyres only. The car is a lease and will go back next year and not be replaced with a similar vehicle, so don't want to buy winter tyres (I appreciate this is probably the best solution). I am advised that I can fit chains to the rear wheels only and then because of clearance issues have to use 'Ladder Track' chains like the K Summits - about £300. Or I am advised I can fit AutoSocks on all 4 wheels - about £150. Keeping in mind that this is a solution for one week only what what would the best solution be?
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@jcgull, socks every time, I use them on my artic. they work beautifully, just take a bin bag with you as they are very soggy when you take them off. They install in seconds.
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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Socks
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Yep socks
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I prefer chains. Oh sorry wrong thread. Toofy Grin
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Although front-fitting chains like the Spykes Spider EASY Alpines I have for my BMW are definitely more expensive (£290), one advantage they have over 'normal' chains is that they are much more adjustable, and fit a much wider range of wheel/tyre sizes. So I won't end up changing chains every time I change our car, or want to use the on the 2nd. car. This doesn't go all the way - mine come in one of three sizes so there's still a chance they won't fit if my next car has significantly smaller/bigger wheels. But it does go a long way towards helping. My last three cars have all needed different conventional chains where I could have used just one from Spykes - in which case the economics change.

I appreciate that this doesn't change the problem that in an ideal world you'd have winter tyres and 95% chance would never need chains. But if you know what your next car is likely to be then it may be worth checking the wheel size and seeing whether you could get front-fitting chains that would fit both. In which case you might still opt to get them, even if you get socks. Sort of belt-and-braces.

And I can attest to the fact that my front-fitting chains are as easy to fit as they say, even in the cold, dark and snow. We're talking about a few minutes at most. And you don't need to stop after a few hundred metres and re-tighten them either. But if you do go for these, you must fit them before you go - given they fit a much wider range of wheel/tyre sizes it should be no surprise that you need to adjust them to your specific wheel size and circumference: for me this took about 40 minutes in a nice warm and well-lit garage.


Last edited by You'll need to Register first of course. on Tue 19-09-17 14:57; edited 2 times in total
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@jcgull,
You could always try ebay for second hand winter tyres I've sold mine in the past when I changed cars. Just make sure there is more than 4mm of tread on them. Also sold unused Maggi Trak snow chains without taking too much of a loss. As you are going at Christmas you will be able to resell in January ready for the Feb half term rush in demand.
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Maybe buy socks from Amazon and then return them a week later if you don't need them! (or ask your mother in law to knit you some for Christmas) Very Happy
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Another vote for Spikes Spiders (Sport version in my case) here. Having changed my car I've noticed that the chains will no longer fit the new larger tyre, requiring the "large" model rather than my existing "medium" size. All I need to change, it turns out, are three pairs of links in each chain at a cost of £35.70.

I've had these chains for years and they are very well made and long lasting; spare parts are readily available. They are genuinely very quick and easy to fit or remove. If you're definitely only going to use chains for one trip then their cost would seem to be OTT but if you plan to continue driving to the Alps albeit in a different vehicle, they may be cost effective in the long term.
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Oh, and check your BMW Owner's Manual for how to set DTC ON to TRACTION for snow and chains (also referred to as DSC OFF). That's the [wiggly-lines-and-car-OFF] button, if you have one. This will help prevent wheelslip on sludh/snow. But it's important to deactiviate it once you're back on dry tarmac as it reduces the way the car intervenes to moderate oversteer (which is something you probably want to have in normal driving).
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@LaForet,
Quote:

This will help prevent wheelslip on sludh/snow.


Slightly OT, but I thought that turning DSC off (it's actuially all very confusing because it's all tied up with DTC - Dynamic Traction Cotrol) allows MORE wheelspin. The alternative is that you never get to go anywhere on ice/snow because all power is removed from any wheel that slows the slightest slip. I do agree that you want to turn it back on again asap!
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And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
Yes, the terminology is extremely confusing as the button isn't usefully labelled (just a car-with-wiggly-lines-OFF) and the Manual uses terms like 'Activating DTC' and 'DSC OFF' and 'TRACTION is displayed ... DSC OFF indicator light is illuminated'. Probably clearer in the original German, I suspect. So here goes from the manual. My comments in [brackets]. It would reallymake more sense if the button was simply labelled with a snowflake symbol and TRACTION. Then what you do and what happens is more logical ....

'DTC is a variant of the DSC optimised for forward momentum. In particular road conditions, for example roads on which snow has not been cleared, or unconsolidated ground [gravel?], [the] system ensures maximum forward momentum but limited driving stability. There is maximum traction with DTC activated. Driving stability is limited on accelerating and cornering' [and then] 'best to activate DTC for a short time .. slush ..snow-covered roads ... started in deep snow or on a loose surface ... driving with snow chains.'

To translate the translation, I interpret this to mean

If you are driving on slush, snow or gravel; have chains on; or are starting on gravel or snow, then press the car-with-wiggly-lines-OFF button for a few seconds, (not longer). The LED on the button will illuminate, and the word 'TRACTION' will appear on the instrument display. Leave it like this while you are driving in these conditions - BUT once you move back onto tarmac or a solid surface, you should press the button again similarly, and the button light and TRACTION should disappear.

When you go into TRACTION mode, the car allows the wheels to rotate but electro-mechanically stops them spinning on the snow, slush or gravel. Both wheels will rotate when otherwise one would just slip uselessly. This maximises the traction between the car and the road surface, but specifically only for these conditions. On a dry tarmac or concrete road the overall effect is to remove the driving aids that help prevent oversteer and sliding under more vigorous driving. This is why you should deactivate once you on 'normal' roads.
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Hi
there are companies that hire snow chains - never tried it myself as I have winter tyres and chains .. but his may be a cheaper option than buying...eg https://www.roofbox.co.uk/scripts/rbvehsel4_tab.php/car-accessories/spikes_spider_hire_package_13_days_hire_at_basic_price_/njNA_v7aihb%7BbFay8NCEOgKc3J

and if the BMW system is anything like my volvo XC, turn the TC off (or the DSC element) as soon as you hit the slippery stuff. Its programmed to think that you are an idiot who can't drive and is assuming that you're out of control on tarmac so kills the power with any wheel speed difference rather than letting you get on with pulling the car out of or through the mush.

regards
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You know it makes sense.
Le Praz is pretty low - I think I'd be taking a punt on just using the summers.

Just keep an eye on the forecast and have a plan B.
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My company car was involved in a rear end crash 2 weeks before heading off to Italy. I had everything organised for my car, winter tyres - chains etc..
so they gave me a X3 x drive 2017 model 5 days before my holiday. I hired snow chains for the X3 from a company in Tonbridge wells, snowchains.com. Good service. Never used them but they were there as a just in case scenario. For me it would be chains.
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 Poster: A snowHead
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Traction / Stability control: it may be dependent on what you're driving, but in most cars I drive it's not quite like that.

I leave it on in snow, and either I'm a much better driver than I used to be, or it really helps in poor conditions. I've driven cars hard with traction & stability control turned off, and I'd not do it on an ordinary road. The time you may want to turn it off is when you're trying to start off in snow, I think.
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Yeh off to get started and use second gear if you can IME.
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In driving all over the Alps for 25 years, with up to 3 or 4 trips each winter, I've only had to use chains 3 or 4 times - so there's a very high probability that you won't need them to drive to that altitude - BUT a slight chance is still a chance....

Hire chains seems a good way forward.
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jcgull wrote:
Or I am advised I can fit AutoSocks on all 4 wheels - about £150. Keeping in mind that this is a solution for one week only what what would the best solution be?


Had some socks. Great as light and small to carry. Never had to use them though so cant comment on their effectiveness. Sold them for a decent amount after I sold the car they fitted.

But I thought you only fitted them to the drive wheels not all 4. Or is the X3 4wd so needs them on all 4?
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Socks, used them several times on trips up to Belle Plagne. Fantastic bit of kit. We use these ones http://www.autosock.co.uk/
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Thanks everybody, some really good advice....the hire chains are a good shout, although with socks i can probably Ebay them if they are not used and that's a real possibility based on the last couple of years (although I would forsake the cash for decent snow!) For those that have used Socks, how easy are they to fit? I'm guessing that a practice in the driveway before setting off should suffice? Autosocks seem to be the best brand?
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We got the Autosocks.

Not sure about needing a dry run as looked pretty easy on the vids and breaking the seal on the packaging would I imagine reduce the resale value if that is what you thought you might want to do. But then its risk and return!
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
Can I just mention that driving in the mountains in winter with summer tires is not a great idea? Summer tires suffer a rapid falloff in traction below 7°C, so even without snow you shouldn't be surprised if you end up in a ditch. at this point your insurers will rub their hands in glee, as will the police!
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I keep a baseball bat if somebody drives into me on summer tyres in winter - free car (and face, depending on outcome) tuning services from me Twisted Evil Twisted Evil Twisted Evil
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Charming. So you have an assault charge plus criminal damage, and of course if you attack someone who can fight back you're likely to be spitting teeth too. Not funny.
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@philwig, you are right, a baseball bat and old boxing skills with age is of little use, I should get a gun ...

On a serious note - I would rather prefer people skim on ski equipment/clothing than safety. Why buy skis or ski trousers you use 6 days a year when you can 'ski' in jeans and get some planks from the dyi store? What is the difference between drink driving and heading to mountains in winter on summer tyres? Not every drunk driver makes accidents and/or injure or kill innocent people - is that an excuse to tolerate drink driving? Same with summer tyres in winter in mountains and people do have options - don't go or use transfer services. Snow chains and socks are only partial solutions with many cons and just a few pros that work in a limited number of situations. Drive for a few km on a dry roads with socks on and they are of no use. Chains work only in deep snow. Slush or black ice and chains will not help much. If somebody without experience of driving in winter conditions are expecting to put on and take off socks or chains as road conditions changes - dream on. So a better advice - do not buy skiing gear, sunnies instead of googles, jeans (with cling film if snowing) instead of ski pants, garden jacket instead of a fancy ski jacket.... but safe equipment for driving up and down mountains in winter. I understand people try their luck and hope that it will not be snowing on a changeover days, but that is just plain ignorance. Would I care for a drunk driver who causes accident? What is the difference if somebody is ignoring safety and puts not only himself and his/her passengers at risk but also other road users? Rant over.
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And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
FWIW I drive a car on summer tyres all winter in snow and ice on mountain roads that would cause a lot of people to poo-poo themselves.

Haven't crashed for a few years or ever been assaulted Very Happy Just drive to the conditions.
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 So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
@hang11, agreed. I've been driving to the Alps over a period of about 30 years, including doing two full seasons, and have never had winter tyres. I drive with care and haven't had any issues.
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Snow socks bring your summer tyres up to winter tyre performance in certain aspects. Don't see them as an alternative to chains but a short distance help for people running summer tyres in winter conditions. Under hard breaking and cornering (accident situtation) I can't see the fabric holding up..

https://www.adac.de/infotestrat/tests/autozubehoer-technik/schneeketten_2011/default.aspx

A cheap set of chains are cheaper and perform better plus they last longer. Snow socks are just a fabric they deteriorate very quickly ( one report said circa 50 miles if I correctly recall )
Snow chains cut into the snow / ice and give far better performance (traction, braking, cornering, durability etc)

Running premium winter tyres snow socks would give me no performance advantage unlike chains.
https://www.consumerreports.org/cro/news/2016/01/snow-traction-when-you-need-it/index.htm

Drving to the alps (e.g. UK to France) and driving across the alps through Germany and Austria is not the same thing. For the latter the conditions and the laws are different (snow socks are not a legal alternative in some countries). For the price of a cheap pair of snow chains I wouldn't run the risk but you pays your money, you takes your chances - best of luck.

Remember once seeing a dutch car holding up hundreds of cars because he had summer tyres and couldn't get traction. Thankfully I was driving in the other direction. I did think about stopping and asking if they knew stanton but then I thought "what hapens if they say yes" and accelerated away.


Last edited by You know it makes sense. on Thu 21-09-17 11:43; edited 2 times in total
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Alastair wrote:
@hang11, agreed. I've been driving to the Alps over a period of about 30 years, including doing two full seasons, and have never had winter tyres. I drive with care and haven't had any issues.


Through Germany and Austria in high winter season?
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New Zealand. We don't have proper roads up the mountains. We have goat tracks with no crash barriers with instant death drops off to the side Very Happy

Focuses the mind on not crashing. Nobody here uses winter tyres - never even seen them for sale. Only car I've seen going backwards this year was a Tiguan - driver was screwing it trying to get traction. Was bloody funny - he slid into a ditch and I stopped to see if he was ok and he said his 4wd system must have broken Very Happy
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hang11 wrote:
New Zealand. We don't have proper roads up the mountains. We have goat tracks with no crash barriers with instant death drops off to the side Very Happy

Focuses the mind on not crashing. Nobody here uses winter tyres - never even seen them for sale. Only car I've seen going backwards this year was a Tiguan - driver was screwing it trying to get traction. Was bloody funny - he slid into a ditch and I stopped to see if he was ok and he said his 4wd system must have broken Very Happy


these are the roads to ski resorts?
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hang11 wrote:
New Zealand. We don't have proper roads up the mountains. We have goat tracks with no crash barriers with instant death drops off to the side Very Happy

Focuses the mind on not crashing. Nobody here uses winter tyres - never even seen them for sale. Only car I've seen going backwards this year was a Tiguan - driver was screwing it trying to get traction. Was bloody funny - he slid into a ditch and I stopped to see if he was ok and he said his 4wd system must have broken Very Happy


this is advice from your local mountain? Smile

https://www.nzski.com/media/2846/nzski-winter-and-alpine-driving-tips-2016.pdf
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In the UK and indeed many other countries even though the temperature is frequently below 7 degrees for a large part of the year there is no legal requirement for winter tyres. Maybe there should be. But if you make the assumption that it is deemed unnecessary from a safety point of view in the UK then I don't see why it should be to drive to a ski town at say 1000, maybe even 1300m without them. Higher than that clearly it gets more questionable - though I wouldn't be expert enough to say what the cut off point be.

My wife is German and used to the concept - and because she does a cross country commute and we drive to skiing twice a year she/we choose to have a set of winter tyres which are fitted Octoberish to when we come back from skiing in April. I don't see it as an hanging offence not having them but am open to arguments that that is should be.

I would imagine there would be uproar in the UK if the Government made it a legal requirement. Even though it is actually probably a good idea.
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Layne wrote:
I don't see it as an hanging offence not having them but am open to arguments that that is should be.


There are a few laws and in some countries the police have the power to stop you continuing your journey if your vehicle doesn't meet legal winter requirements.

https://www.theaa.com/european-breakdown-cover/driving-in-europe/snow-chains-winter-tyres
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jcgull wrote:
Thanks everybody, some really good advice....the hire chains are a good shout, although with socks i can probably Ebay them if they are not used and that's a real possibility based on the last couple of years (although I would forsake the cash for decent snow!) For those that have used Socks, how easy are they to fit? I'm guessing that a practice in the driveway before setting off should suffice? Autosocks seem to be the best brand?


Easy to fit, easier if someone stays in the drivers seat to turn the steering from side to side to ease putting them on and moving the car a little back and forth to get the last bit on. Just make sure you have the elastic on them right over the inside of the tyre all the way round before setting off. Even if they seem a little uneven as long at it is right over the whole tyre they will self level and pull themselves into place. Don't get caught out leaving them to the last minute on the main carriageway, put them on early if needs be in one the chain putting on places where you wont feel under any stress while putting them on. We have used them lots of times on ice and in deep snow on very steep roads in the alps and at home and have never been let down by them. Having said that when we changed the car two years ago we did buy snow tyres but not because we didn't have the confidence in the socks but more to do with motoring down through France and not getting caught out on the motorways and having to crawl at a snail's pace on summers if we hit winter conditions but I appreciate it is a lot of expense to go to for one trip and the height you are going to.

If your good lady is the one that will be putting them on (as is the case with me - hubby sits in the car and does the steering wheel bit) make sure she takes a pair of close fitting thin gloves to protect her manicure, snow sock fitting, nice nails and bare hands = potentially a chip or two. I prefer to fit them with bare hands as you get more of a feel when putting them on so therefore sensible length of manicure and clear nail varnish with back up emery board in the car just in case. Enjoy your trip, I know we will. Very Happy Toofy Grin Smile
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DB wrote:
Alastair wrote:
@hang11, agreed. I've been driving to the Alps over a period of about 30 years, including doing two full seasons, and have never had winter tyres. I drive with care and haven't had any issues.


Through Germany and Austria in high winter season?


No, France.
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I have driven to the French Alps most winters for the last 20 years on summer tyres and taken chains. Only used chains 3 times always going to Flaine. Only problem I've experienced was when the chains I hired broke, shortly after fitting, and I drove my 4wd Celica into Flaine with no chains but couldn't get back out after unloading. Buying suitable chains in resort was almost impossible!

Last year I drove to Austria and fitted winters to be legal. Didn't notice any difference in handling but then the temperature was above 5 deg in Mayrhofen. Smile
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mooney058 wrote:

https://www.nzski.com/media/2846/nzski-winter-and-alpine-driving-tips-2016.pdf


Yes Very Happy

They have these awesome landcruisers with big cushions on the front of them to push stuck cars up the hill.

It's carnage on the access roads sometimes, just because people don't drive to the conditions. The advice they give on those tips is pretty good advice - especially about not riding the brakes.
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hang11 wrote:
mooney058 wrote:

https://www.nzski.com/media/2846/nzski-winter-and-alpine-driving-tips-2016.pdf


Yes Very Happy

They have these awesome landcruisers with big cushions on the front of them to push stuck cars up the hill.

It's carnage on the access roads sometimes, just because people don't drive to the conditions. The advice they give on those tips is pretty good advice - especially about not riding the brakes.


Carnage you say? Landcruisers with big cushions? Smile

how is that consistent with your implied advice that summer tyres are ok in winter alpine conditions, also bearing in mind that dirt/gravel roads are non existent in Europe? Speeds and road surface conditions are differnt on a dirt road and on asphalt.

Driving to conditions and beeing equiped for conditions are equally important
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