Review/Test: Thule K-Summit Low Profile Snow Chains!
THULE K-23 K-SUMMIT SNOW CHAINS REVIEW, INSTALL AND TEST
Having a lowered coupe with fat summer tires is not the proper setup for winter/snow driving. However, given the weather conditions in my country, I wanted to have a backup solution in case I got stranded one day due to snow, icy roads etc. I have researched a lot for a suitable solution and unfortunately, the options are limited. Excluding the purchase of dedicated winter tires, I went ahead and tried various types of snow chains. All of them were rated for my tire size; 255/35/18 (Rear).
I performed the tests on empty road with a friend with his own 4x4 as backup. I am not responsible for any damages/injuries that may occur if you try this on your own.
-BMW E46 320CI
-Bilstein Sport Struts/Shocks with Eibach Pro-Kit Springs / Hotchkiss Antiroll bars @ medium stiffness front / stiffest rear
-225/40/18 front - 255/35/18 Rear tires / Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric II (These are max performance summer tires, not intended to be driven on below 0 weather or snow/ice).
Specifically the following results occurred:
- No chains: NO TRACTION, even with a slight layer of snow on 1 wheel only, the car could not move an inch forward or would actually go the other way if going uphill.
- Generic traditional type snow chains: Will not clear tire/shock or tire/fender, unable to properly mount them because of 0 clearance.
- Security Chain Company SuperZ6 Snow chains: Will clear both sides but very difficult to mount due to the hands unable to go inside the wheel well to wrap them around the tire. Add snow, freezing temperatures and this task becomes extremely difficult.
- Thule K-Summit snow chains. SUCCESS in all aspects, read the following review.
Manufacturers Link here
The concept of these snow chains is to use them on 0-clearance vehicles, where access to the inner side of the tire is impossible. This setup utilizes a mechanism that attaches to one of the wheel bolts (adapters & spacers provided for various sizes) and then pushes the chains on the tire using a ratchet. Thule's video on their side is much more easy to understand from the link above.
Anyway, I got these chains a few days ago just before new year and finally got the chance to test them. Extreme weather conditions covered all mountain roads with a nice layer of snow/ice.
The initial test/fit/adjustment was done at my driveway as we do not to find out that the chains don't fit after we become stranded in the snow.
Packaging: With reflective stripe too
Contents: Tools for mounting/adjustment, adaptors for various wheel bolts, spacers/bolts for weird rims, waterproof manual, repair hooks. The little things with the green plastic in the middle are the adjustment screws. For various tire sizes, you need to remove some or add, the manual lists all tire sizes that can be used with the K-23.
As seen below, it tells you how many screws to remove.
Tools are provided to remove these adjustment screws. All of them are threaded with loctite blue and were difficult to remove.
The mechanism that attaches to the wheel bolt
With the pre-installed spacer + adapter. I used the default setup for my alloys.
The mechanism basically grabs the wheel bolt as you tighten the bolt shown above.
Ratchet mechanism to push the chains on the tire
Without the supplied spacer (obviously don't use that on the security bolt)
Tested the shorter red spacer, would not clear, reverted to the bigger one (pre-installed)
Grab the chains as seen below and slide them over the wheel. Notice the orientation of the ratcheting / securing mechanisms.
Use the supplied wrench to tighten the bolt
No contact with the alloy, perfect fit.
Once the bolt is tight, start ratcheting until the red stitch shows, this means to stop ratcheting.
Drive a couple of meters forward/revers and the chains will automatically slide around the tire and center themselves. Total time: 1.5 Minutes per side!
To release, just press the red lever and the springs will pop out, relieving tension and allowing you to remove the securing bolt.
Forgot that, they supply a mat to protect your knees while working :)
And the real action (with Traction!) :
Chains installed in seconds and performed flawlessly. I had traction and stopping capability. Not even the ASC seemed to activate and the noise/vibrations are very low. Definitely recommended to get out of harsh road conditions.
Front wheels basically only for steering.
Excellent review! I was just thinking about getting chains for the e46 since I have the SCC Super Z6's for our odyssey and they work wonderfully and I thought those were quite expensive at $70...I don't think I can drop half a grand on snow chains..
Got them from ebay/Italy for around $250. Thule acquired Konig, where the same snow chains can be found cheaper. i.e. instead of searching for "Thule K-summit", I searched for "Konig K-Summit".
Good luck with your winter driving using chains on summer tires. Look like that is a solution for you. I was already to say this really works UNTIL I saw the picture of the SPACERS. They look like they are washers that allow the tire lug bolt head to extend further out from the wheel. I had to go back and second a second look at that picture and start thinking about the safety in doing that. So if appears that the tire lug bolt is not seated fully as designed by the engineers (BMW) to hold the tire in place. Some time back I had discussion on this site on the need for the existing additional lug bolt on the E46 compared to my prior E30 and the stress demands created by the E46 for the additional bolt. And now I am seeing that these chains are compromising the attachment of the wheel to the car. I am not sure by how much and how significant, or insignificant, that is--- but I would not be riding in my E46 with the lug bolt not fully engaged as designed. In addition, I would be concerned about the 'spacers' (washers) being seated properly, and the integrity (strength) of those spacers. I would not use this method whether I was doing 60 mph or 30 mph or any kph. I will stick to the old fashion method of mounting snow tires during winter months for MY safety, and the CAR'S safety, and the safety of OTHERS.
Interesting! I may keep some of these in my trunk.
Though I find it hard to believe that they don't cause much in the way of vibrations!
Thank you=yes, this video clears up the picture on the original video. Looks like a good option for some people, and I will keep this in mind.. Thanks for the update.
Although I'll never have to use this product, thanks for the well written and thorough review.
How about brake distance? summer tires are forbidden at winter here xD so im on the safe side with Nokian Hakkapeliitta :)
Just an after-thought. It appears that these chains are only put on the "drive" wheels, that would be the back wheels for a E46.
That helps the rear wheels, but what about the front wheels that you have Summer tires on. Am I wrong that that is not a good situation, not having at least all weather tires on the front, and even better winter tires on the front. But you cannot do that, having different tires on the front than the back is unsafe under normal driving conditions (without chains or with). Summer tires on the front axle would be the worse, slipping, side motion, lack to tracking--------and cannot be good even with these chains on the rear axle wheels. These chains look good, but I do not think I would be going through the winter without taking off the Summer tires (chains or no chains)
Lol. Chains are pointless and slow you down. Buy winter tires.
Not a bad thing to have in your trunk. I was considering those cloth ones as they seem easier and more convenient/compact to keep in your trunk, but probably don't work as well.
what are snow chains??
Thanks for the comments. Well as I mentioned in the first post, this setup is by far the proper one for winter driving. We have 8 months of pure summer and 3-4 months of winter and it snows on mountains only. My commute to work does not involve driving through snow but 220km daily on motorway. My way of thinking is to have a backup solution in the trunk just in case I get stuck when I go for a weekend for ski, meaning driving short distances very slow. Regulations here are simple; if it snows, then you need snow chains (whatever brand) OR 4x4.
I compared the stopping distance from 30km/h with no chains; the car accelerated (downhill at 15 degrees) instead of slowing down
From 30km/h to complete stop with the snow chains, I needed around 15m. Considering the safety factor, I will always keep a safe distance of over 50m from the car ahead.
Testing location: http://wikimapia.org/#lat=34.9172473...9&z=17&l=0&m=b
Lots of downhill/uphill with very sharp turns, if car is properly controlled with gears & light braking, there's no problem with steering, again, not recommended but only as emergency.
Nokian Hakkapeliittas or stay home.
WDE46---I would not be caught in ANY snow with SUMMER tires. At minimum have all season. Not sure how much snow you see in Auburn Alabama, a nice city, but driving in snow with Summer tires is a disaster and accident going to happen. For me, I want snow tires ANYTIME snow is on the ground.
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