Winter is fast approaching, and with that comes concerns about staying on the road safely through all the weather winter throws at us. Snow and ice on the roads can lead to accidents, but having a good set of tires for winter driving can help get you more safely to your destination.
All tires, regardless of driving season, need the ability to perform well between some contradictory extremes. Tires with good grip are sensible for winter but wear out more quickly in warmer temperatures. Conversely, tires that perform well in summer’s hot and dry weather will not usually do so well in cold or snow. Once temperatures drop, winter tires afford a higher level of traction on snowy and icy roads than all-season tires as they feature a unique tread compound that will stay flexible in cold weather to ensure a better grip. Grip and traction can be improved even more with studded tires. Studded tires have metal studs that penetrate snow or ice, and can enhance acceleration and braking in snowy or icy road conditions. Like all winter tires, studded tires ought to be used on all four wheels of a vehicle.
Snow Tires – To Stud or Not to Stud?
So which one is correct for you – studded or studless winter tires? It really depends on how and where you drive. Several studies have been conducted and the results conclude that studded tires perform best on clear ice in temperatures around the freezing mark, whereas the stud-less winter tires deliver the most efficient handling and braking as the temperature drops well below freezing, whether the pavement is wet or dry.
If you think that you would like to try studded tires, there are a couple of different points to consider, the first being where you live.
Metal studs are prohibited in eleven states – Wisconsin, Texas, Mississippi, Minnesota, Michigan, Maryland, Louisiana, Illinois, Hawaii, Florida, and Alabama.
Some of these states permit tires with rubber studs; Maryland permits studs only in certain counties.
Only six states allow the use of studded tires without restriction: Wyoming, Vermont, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Kentucky, and Colorado.
Most of the remaining states permit studded tires with date restrictions. In Alaska for example, studded tires are permitted September 15 – April 30 north of the latitude of 60 degrees, and October 1 – April 15 south of that same line.
If you opt to use studded tires, take care to follow your state’s laws or risk paying a hefty fine.
When you embed metal studs into your snow tires, they are going to get superior grip. Studded snow tires are designed for the best grip in the absolute worst conditions. Studded tires are best for winter conditions that are nearly constant – if you reside on the side of a mountain, or if the snow comes in the fall and does not melt until spring, then studded tires may be a good option for you.
Another issue you need to understand concerning studded tires is that they are slightly noisier and can damage road surfaces. The Department of Transportation states that studded tires wear down the pavement at a much higher rate than standard tires. Studded tires also cause ruts in roads, particularly interstate highways, which can lead to safety issues. These issues can include excessive water spray, hydroplaning, or other dangers. Another potential safety issue with studded tires is their reduced usefulness on roads that are merely wet and not frozen. As the studs are designed to grip solid material, they provide reduced stopping ability when compared to standard tires.
So, going studded or studless comes down to a personal decision based on where you reside, where you’ll be driving, and what kind of weather you expect to encounter. A couple of different options to studded tires are the use of all-season or all-weather tires, but there are pros and cons associated with these tires as well.
Other Snow Tires
All-weather tires are year-round tires that carry a mountain or a snowflake symbol. This symbol indicates that the tires meet winter performance standards set for dedicated snow tires by the Rubber Manufacturers Association and the Canadian Rubber Association. There are only a few selections in this category. Several other manufacturers claim to have all-weather tires, but these tires do not carry the mountain/snowflake symbol, so their usefulness in winter conditions may be questionable.
All-season tires bring a balance between temperature extremes. Dedicated snow tires address the problems caused by cold winter conditions. These tires use special rubber compounds that are at their pinnacle of flexibility and grip under colder conditions. Consequently, these tires should be removed in the spring, as they will perform poorly and wear out more quickly in warm weather. If you live in an area where winters are shorter and less severe, all-weather tires might be worth consideration.
One last thing to keep in mind is that if you decide on snow tires, you may want to get an additional set of wheels to minimize the cost of mounting and balancing each season. If you decide to purchase an extra set of wheels, you may want to consider downsizing and/or using steel wheels for a better winter performance.
If you’re lookig for tires for driving in more hospitable conditions, check out our post on other tire types.