By on October 13, 2017

Our 1985 Nissan Maxima was heading south on 219 from Niagara Falls at 70 mph. The Falls are beautiful in winter, but of course traveling through New York at that time of year can mean bad roads. My dad was behind the wheel and, with no snow in sight, he was confidently chauffeuring us home to the Carolinas. That’s when he turned to my mom and said, “I wonder if this is black ice we’re driving on? Let me tap the brakes and see.”

“Dad! WooHoo!” I grabbed onto the silver metal posts holding his head rest up with both hands. That tap of the brakes had sent the tail of our Maxima suddenly passing the front of the car for the lead. Of course, as a kid I was safely buckled into a child seat. That is, if by child seat you mean we had the seats folded flat and sleeping bags spread out so we could lay down and play. Oh, the 1980s.

“Daaad!” I was still convinced at this point in my life my dad could do anything, which would include throwing our family sedan into a 360-degree spin on the highway on purpose. As cool as the first spin was, I was ready for it be over. What with the semi truck barreling towards us from behind and all.

“Daaaaad!” As if my yelling would help him saw any faster at the wheel in a failed attempt to recover. The OEM all-season tires did nothing to slow us or stop us from doing three full revolutions down the highway. Miraculously, we avoided all guard rails and ditches, and spun for such a long distance that the semi could come to a full stop behind us, protecting us from other traffic.

The “Miracle on 219” helped cement my faith in God, but left my mom with a serious fear of winter driving. Nowadays, I try each year to convince her to put winter tires on my parents’ cars but to no avail. After attending a recent Tire Rack/Michelin Winter Driving Experience, I now have the actual data to show her (and you, dear reader) the merits of using winter tires. Perhaps we could have used them on our old Maxima?

Full disclosure: Michelin and Tire Rack paid for my travel, room, and board. Tire Rack calls itself America’s largest independent tire tester and consumer-direct source for tires and wheels. In addition to testing winter tires on ice rinks, they also have a test track on-site at their South Bend, Indiana facility they use when it is snow covered, and take a trip to the Arctic Circle each year to test in northern Sweden.

First off, they are “winter” tires, not “snow” tires. And second, they aren’t for everyone. Looking at the map below, you can see the areas of the U.S. that tirerack.com recommends for winter-tire usage (the dark areas). Tire manufactures like Michelin say if the temperature where you live consistently stays below 44 degrees (Fahrenheit) during the winter, then winter tires will help.

The biggest misconception is that winter tires are only for snow. There are two main differences between a winter tire and all-season tire. Tread depth/design and rubber compound. Of course the tread depth and extensive grooves are great for moving snow and slush. But the rubber compound also makes a huge difference.

A summer tire begins to lose performance and traction at temperatures below 60 degrees F as the rubber hardens. An all-season tire stays soft and sticky at a much lower temperature but most will begin losing traction performance below 40 degrees F. Colder temps reduce a tire’s flexibility and grip, meaning winter tires will outperform an all-season tire on dry pavement at temperatures beginning as high as 40 degrees. That means it doesn’t need to snow for you to realize the benefits and safety of driving on winter tires. The makeup of a typical winter tire stays soft, flexible, and grippy well below freezing, allowing it to hug the frozen yet dry roads.

Living in Columbus, Ohio, I was already a believer in winter tires when I experienced the night-and-day difference they made on my Honda Fit. Winter tires have come a long way over the last few years. No longer are winter tires a compromise to drive on the occasional 70-degree February day.

In fact, tests show most winter tires perform equally to a comparable all-season tire in hot weather. A winter tire will wear slightly faster in warm weather though, so it’s still best to keep an extra set of wheels/tires for the nicer months. Here are the most common excuses for why someone doesn’t use winter tires, along with the data from our tests that proves them wrong.

PS: Anyone want to guess what percentage of cars in the dark area of the map at the top actually use winter tires? I’ll answer in the comments.

1. I Have All-Wheel Drive

The tests we did involved using the University of Notre Dame’s hockey stadium to compare two otherwise identically prepared vehicles that were equipped with different tires, on ice. One had Michelin X-ICE Xi3 (for cars) or Xi2 (for SUVs/trucks), and the other had the factory all-season tires. First, we drove all-wheel drive Kia Sportages with both winter and all-season tires. The goal was to see how fast we could get the vehicle to go in 70 feet.

THE RESULTS
All-Wheel Drive w/ Winter Tire = 18.8 mph
All-Wheel Drive w/ All-Season Tire = 14.8 mph.

What that means in the real world is driving an all-wheel-drive vehicle with all-season tires would take about three seconds longer to cross an intersection that had some ice than the same vehicle with winter tires. If you are making a left with oncoming traffic coming and don’t know there is ice on the pavement, that three seconds is huge. Even with all-wheel drive and traction control on and new tires, the performance was still not sufficiently close to that of the same car with winter tires.

2. They Cost Too Much

Looking at the chart below, you can see that purchasing a winter tire does not effect the amount of money you will spend on tires to a significant degree. Your nice all-season (or summer tires, as the case may be) will not be used for three-four months a year, extending their usable life, thus saving you money since you won’t have to replace them as often.

The current average length of ownership of a new car is six years (five years for a used car). With a 60,000 mile all-season tire from the manufacturer, you’ll likely be replacing your tires at year four. However, if you were alternating those with a winter set, you can go well over seven years on your original set of tires. So in seven years of ownership you would only have had to purchase one set of tires for your vehicle, but you would have enjoyed the best in safety and handling in all situations. Especially if you were alternating with a summer tire.

How much is your deductible? $500-$1,000 for most folks. I was able to buy a set of wheels and winter tires for around $600 for my Fit.

Bringing the Kia Sportages to a stop showed another huge difference between tire compounds on the ice. If you can avoid even just one fender bender by coming to a stop in a shorter distance, how much would that save you? Not to mention your insurance rates not going up, and not having to use vacation days when you can’t drive to work due to weather.

I saved additional money by purchasing a -1″ wheel and a tire with a taller sidewall. The smaller wheel/tire combination saved me hundreds on my Fit, provided a softer ride, and more protection from potholes in the winter.

22

THE RESULTS
Stopping from 20mph in a CUV with winter tires on ice = 88.6 feet.
Stopping from 20mph in a CUV with all-season tires on ice = 121 feet.

The difference is more than the length of two cars. At 20 mph. That stopping distance will grow exponentially with increased speed, so imagine what it is at highway speeds. I don’t have to. I’ve been backwards at 70 mph on the highway once and that was enough for me. I’m confident that little tap of the brake my dad did would have resulted in nothing with winter tires on. At least we were lucky. Michelin claims their winter tires offer up to 50 percent more winter traction than all-season tires in cold temperatures.

3. It’s Too Much of a Hassle

Knowing I’m supposed to rotate my tires at least every six months, I just arrange to do it when it’s time to swap tires. Most shops will not charge you to instead put on winter tires as opposed to doing their free tire rotation. Storage an issue? Stacking four tires is about the size of two rubber totes. Here is my set up:

Next we drove equally prepared front-wheel drive Kia Cadenzas with either all-season or winter tires. This was set up as a drag race.

THE RESULTS
Accelerating to 60 ft in a FWD car with winter tires = 5.00 seconds.
Accelerating to 60 ft in a FWD car with all-season tires = 8.98 seconds.

A real hassle would be taking nine seconds just to get to 10 mph with new tires on. You can image the dangerous situations that can present while trying to pull out onto any street with ice.

4. Traction and Stability Control are Enough

See the pictures below as a visual demonstration of the turning abilities of an all-season tire compared to a winter tire on ice. We were traveling at 10 mph attempting to make a slow 90-degree turn, the kind you would see in a neighborhood, while avoiding the row of cones. Even traveling that slow and knowing we were on ice the results were staggering. The first vehicle with all-season tires repeatedly skidded well off course. If this were a neighborhood, the all-wheel drive Sportage with all-seasons on would be over the curb and through the front yard. Image how much more drastic the difference in turning abilities on ice would be at a higher speed. The winter tires did not even slip.

Coming to this event I was hoping to have an “ah-ha” moment where it really proved to me that winter tires are worth the expense. I had numerous such moments. The bottom line is that if you experience most of your winter with temps under 44 degrees F and are at all concerned with things like stopping, accelerating, and steering, then you will benefit from having winter tires. Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that wintery weather accounted for more than 681,000 crashes in 2012. Using winter tires extends the life of your other tires so price becomes almost a non-factor. Winter tires aren’t for everyone, but as for my family and I, we will drive with winter tires.

16

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167 Comments on “Winter Tires – Are They Worth It?...”


  • avatar
    JimZ

    AWD doesn’t help you stop or steer on slick surfaces. winter tires do.

    spending thousands of dollars more on a vehicle to get AWD instead of a few hundred on winter tires is asinine.

    • 0 avatar
      Carrera

      AWD and a bit of ground clearance does wonders. Sure, if you add winter tires to that combo, you should be golden.
      I lived in Halifax, Canada for 5 years driving a Honda Ridgeline AWD. Never had winter tires for the first two years, and afterwards I bought ” all weather” tires which are fancier all seasons but not quite winter tires. Not too many companies out there make them, but Nokian and Goodyear. My work started at 0500 every day and it was located 25 miles away from town. I’ve been through some really bad weather conditions. I’ve always tried to respect winter and always adjusted for conditions.
      I’ve seen FWD cars with winter tires get stuck all the time…particularly on steep inclines and I’ve seen AWD vehicles, including my own with good all seasons just climb with no problems.
      I know on this site we like to crucify drivers with all seasons in winter, but we should crucify idiot drivers, regardless of what tire they use.
      As a side note, the wife drive a FWD Honda Pilot with all season Michelin LTX MS2 and we lived on a steep hill ( everyone in Halifax lives on a steep hill LOL ). Very rarely she had problems making it up the hill and then the traction control would gently kick in and help her out.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      @JimZ – the most common vehicle to be involved in a winter time single vehicle roll over is a 4×4/AWD mid-sized SUV.
      I’ve had arguments with people who swear that 4×4/AWD improves traction when stopping or turning.

      • 0 avatar
        Carrera

        Yes Lou, I’ve seen plenty of full size trucks and SuVs in ditches. Overconfidence does it every time. Not sure what tires they’ve used.

      • 0 avatar
        brandloyalty

        The trucks and large or old suv’s you see in the ditches and upside down in the winter typically are equipped with BF Goodrich All-Terrain T/A tires. For some reason rednecks love these tires and regard them as winter tires. But they actually totally suck.

        The other mistake people with 4wd or lockable awd make is to use the lock for highway driving. They think the lock must give better traction. Trouble is that on corners all wheels are forced to turn at the same speed, which on slippery surfaces causes some tires to break traction. And off they go.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          Actually the BFG AT does carry the snowflake on the mountain symbol but it is not a ice tire.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          “The other mistake people with 4wd or lockable awd make is to use the lock for highway driving. They think the lock must give better traction. Trouble is that on corners all wheels are forced to turn at the same speed, which on slippery surfaces causes some tires to break traction. And off they go.”

          I agree with the theory, but I will say my 4Runner is much more stable in 4Hi (mine sadly is part-time only) on the highway than keeping it in 2Hi. And I’m running snow tires BTW. The difference is that in 2Hi when the vehicle gets unstable from an expansion joint or something, and the back end starts to go, it is much harder to catch. With 4Hi, as much as I agree that a open-center diff setup would be preferable, is still more stable than 2Hi.

          The root cause is actually the 4Runner’s stiff and tall suspension and short wheelbase. Honestly my wife’s Camry on all seasons is more stable at higher speeds in slick conditions. And I can already tell my newly bought AWD Pilot will likewise be better in that scenario than the 4Runner, even comparing all season to snow tires.

          • 0 avatar
            rpn453

            A locked 4WD drivetrain can do nothing unpredictable. One axle can only break loose if both axles break loose. In which case, there are no yaw changes and the vehicle will continue wanting to go wherever it’s pointed.

            I would comfortably sip my coffee while driving any locked 4WD or full time AWD vehicle with decent tires, on a straight icy highway, at the speed limit, with the cruise control on.

            FWD or FWD-based reactive AWD would also be fine. None of these layouts can induce significant yaw without intentional driver inputs.

            I would not be comfortable doing that with a reactive RWD-based system like the current Ram 1/2-tons use, regardless of stability control.

          • 0 avatar
            brandloyalty

            rpn453, I was hoping not to explain this any farther, but…

            When you corner all four tires take different tracks in the same amount of time, so the tires have to turn at different rates. This is not a factor in a straight line but I clearly addressed cornering. Locking differentials forces tires to rotate at the same rpm. So you will break traction with locked differentials on slippery surfaces, and gravel. On bare dry surfaces you will get wound up forces in the druvetrain and either get crow-hopping or break something. That is why you are advised to not lock differentials on bare dry pavement.

            There is a big difference in behavior between tires with no slippage against the ground and breaking that traction. Basically you end up with one or more tires skidding. Which greatly compromises control. The very dynamics that make lockers useful at low speeds in rough stuff makes them liabilities for bad conditions at highway speed – in corners.

          • 0 avatar
            rpn453

            I’m not talking about differential lockers, I’m talking about basic part-time 4WD that locks the front and rear axle speeds.

            No need to explain anything. I grew up with a 4WD vehicle and have owned one and driven many. I probably spent more time playing around in winter conditions in 4WD in my first year of driving than you have spent driving in snow in your entire life. True 4WD never does anything unpredictable.

          • 0 avatar
            brandloyalty

            gtemnykh, you raise valid points that taller vehicles with stiffer suspension when initiating a turn will experience more and more abrupt weight shifts than lower cars with softer suspension. When you combine this with mistaken use of lockers, it’s a full recipe for trouble.

            The most stable car I ever had for icy driving was a loaded positraction-equipped full-size rwd station wagon. The scariest was a 1st generation Pathfinder. It was rwd or 4wd high or low, both locked. I avoided putting it in 4wd as much as possible and cut the speed when in 4wd.

            The best basic setup for highway driving in bad conditions is full-time awd with the transfer case in limited slip mode. Like the Suzuki Grand Vitara. It also benefitted from perfect weight distribution. Subarus shine in this respect also.

          • 0 avatar
            brandloyalty

            rpn453:”
            I’m not talking about differential lockers, I’m talking about basic part-time 4WD that locks the front and rear axle speeds.

            No need to explain anything. I grew up with a 4WD vehicle and have owned one and driven many. I probably spent more time playing around in winter conditions in 4WD in my first year of driving than you have spent driving in snow in your entire life. True 4WD never does anything unpredictable.”

            Your enthusiasm to make assumptions about my driving background compared to yours reinforces doubt about your grasp of the subject.

          • 0 avatar
            cak446

            “The very dynamics that make lockers useful at low speeds in rough stuff makes them liabilities for bad conditions at highway speed – in corners.”

            @brandloyalty

            The difference in speed in-between the two axles while going around a curve at highway speed is so minuscule, it is absolutely insignificant.

            I’m with rpn453 on this one. I question your winter driving experience, if you believe a traditional part time transfer case that locks the two axles together, is a hindrance while driving at highways speeds in severe winter conditions.

          • 0 avatar
            rpn453

            brandloyalty, you’re the one suggesting that people are driving around with locked differentials. That’s so ridiculous that I didn’t even know you were referencing such a thing.

            “The other mistake people with 4wd or lockable awd make is to use the lock for highway driving. They think the lock must give better traction. Trouble is that on corners all wheels are forced to turn at the same speed, which on slippery surfaces causes some tires to break traction. And off they go.”

            For one thing, very few people even have lockable axle differentials. And what AWD vehicles have lockable axle differentials? Who would think that anybody who understands 4WD would be referring to differential lockers there?

            I think you don’t understand how part-time 4WD works. You apparently think that all the wheels turn at the same speed rather than just the outputs to each axle.

            “. . . So you will break traction with locked differentials on slippery surfaces, and gravel. On bare dry surfaces you will get wound up forces in the druvetrain and either get crow-hopping or break something. That is why you are advised to not lock differentials on bare dry pavement.”

            Why would some serious off-roader lock their differentials on dry pavement? Isn’t using 4WD at all on dry pavement bad enough? Again, these statements indicate ignorance of the 4WD drivetrain.

            You’ve also already told us that you don’t have enough experience to gauge your available traction, or the experience to be confident in your ability to recover from simple control inputs.

            “The only way you can tell how much traction there is, is to increase speed until you notice breaking traction. Or do a braking test. But there’s a good chance either will result in a skid you cannot recover from. So how do you determine the limit to stay below it?”

            You should already be pretty comfortable with that stuff after the first few thousand times you go sideways or lock your brakes.

            You’re one of those people that the marketers are targeting when they talk about keeping you safe by preventing wheel spin through transferring torque from the wheels that slip to the wheels that grip and blah blah blah. You think that breaking traction or locking your wheels is something scary, and want a drivetrain that babysits you.

            “There is a big difference in behavior between tires with no slippage against the ground and breaking that traction. Basically you end up with one or more tires skidding. Which greatly compromises control.”

            “The scariest was a 1st generation Pathfinder. It was rwd or 4wd high or low, both locked. I avoided putting it in 4wd as much as possible and cut the speed when in 4wd.”

            If you’re actually having fun enjoying winter conditions in a AWD/4WD vehicle, all four of your wheels are slipping almost all the time. I prefer a vehicle that allows instant modulation of the degree of slip at both ends, with full control of yaw, but that still goes wherever I point the steering wheel while under power. Traditional 4WD provides that as good or better than anything in the most predictable manner possible.

            Obviously it has the disadvantage of poor usability on mixed road conditions. For that reason, it doesn’t make a lot of sense on mainstream passenger vehicles.

            As for your initial response:

            “This is not a factor in a straight line but I clearly addressed cornering.”

            I may have thrown you off by adding the “straight” qualifier to my first reply. That was only to clarify that I don’t use cruise in winter conditions when I’m driving a windy mountain road. But of course I’d still be in 4WD, and I’m even still in cruise for the more gentle curves typical of Saskatchewan and Alberta highways, or the main BC highways. The point was simply that 4WD drivetrains are so forgiving under power, the throttle or surface changes will not change your path if you have some basic skills in steering control.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            guys, lockers are irrelevant here. even if you have open diffs front and rear you’re still going to get slippage around turns; all four wheels are going to be trying to spin at different speeds, which means the two driveshafts are going to try to turn at different speeds. if you don’t have a viscous coupling, center differential, or some sort of clutch mechanism then you will get wheel slippage since the two driveshafts are locked together by the transfer case.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Woah, this is my kind of discussion :)

            I think it needs to be clarified what “lockers” mean. In common parlance, that refers to actual locking axle differentials (as in, front and/or rear diffs). Versus a transfer case that splits power to front and rear axles in a fixed 50/50 split. What happens to that power once it reaches those axles is typically a plain jane open differential concept.

            I’ve thought about this a lot: is the difference in the arc traced by the front and rear axle on the highway (changing lanes or a curve) enough to cause forced loss of traction in a part time 4wd system? Not 100% sure. My only anecdotal evidence is that my ’98 MPV with a open center diff option behaved much better on slick highways than my current part-time 4Runner. BUT, there are many more factors at play. The Mazda had a better sorted ride with lower ride height and less of a bouncy truck suspension. It also had a longer wheelbase, and I suspect a better front/back weight distribution. A better test would be to compare my friend’s ’02 4Runner SR5 with the multi-mode transfer case (4-hi unlocked option) with my ’96 4Runner with the part time system.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            @gtemnykh, You are correct that the difference in radii is very small when making a lane change or most freeway curves. The thing to keep in mind is what happens when those rear wheels are spinning faster than they need to because they are locked to the front. Yes some slippage of the rear tires will occur and the rear will tend to slide out. However once it slides just a bit it is now on a path where the wheel speed matches then ground speed. In tighter turns it actually forces the vehicle to turn, especially with a limited slip rear diff.

            I have or have had all sorts of different systems to drive wheels at both end of the vehicles. They are listed in order of my preference for overall stability and control.

            Part time 4wd with limited slip rear diff.
            Part time 4wd with open rear diff.
            AWD with open center diff and limited slip rear diff.
            Electronic automatic “AWD” ie electronic clutch with both gas and go and slip then grip programming.

          • 0 avatar
            rpn453

            “My only anecdotal evidence is that my ’98 MPV with a open center diff option behaved much better on slick highways than my current part-time 4Runner. BUT, there are many more factors at play.”

            Yeah, so many factors involved, and vehicle behavior is always a personal preference.

            I would think the 4-Runner’s locked setting would be preferable to an on-demand setting. My buddy hates the on-demand system in his newer Ram. His older Rams, and Chevs, and his Legacy GT, and, well, pretty much any other AWD or 4WD system he or I have ever driven is preferable. He’s planning on swapping in an older part-time transfer case now that he’s approaching the end of warranty. You don’t want to wait until after the rears are spinning to have the fronts join in under any conditions, and it’s very slow to engage. Toyota’s system might be better.

            Are the suspension and steering components on the 4-Runner in good shape? I’d think that would be a fine snow vehicle, as it’s so similar to the R50 Pathfinder I owned. I can’t find any legitimate specs on that generation, but the previous gen Pathfinders and 4-Runners had a 52/48 distribution. Basically 50/50 once you get some cargo in there.

            I loved that compact and communicative Pathfinder in the snow so much that I strongly suggested that another buddy get one when he was talking about getting a truck. He did, and it turned his B8 S4 into a winter garage queen. The rusty old Pathfinder is simply more enjoyable to drive in the city in winter, especially toward the spring when the roads begin cratering. He redid the front end and put new KYBs all around right when he got it. It feels plenty tight and composed.

            Nothing but studded winter tires on all these vehicles, of course!

    • 0 avatar
      I_like_stuff

      It’s not an either or decision.

      AWD *AND* snow tires is the way to go.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      Torque vectoring rear end will help you steer. You just have to have a little throttle to rotate the rear and help keep steering line.

      • 0 avatar
        brandloyalty

        I’ve been faced with this situation and unless you are a skilled winter rally driver you don’t have sufficient control to add speed and be certain to stay in your lane, on, say, a slippery blind corner that might have a semi or other innocent party coming in the other direction.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Slip then grip AWD systems do not help you steer, but better AWD and 4wd systems do help you turn.

      We had a lot of snow for our area last year and I had to teach the wife to power through corners since it has a gas and go AWD system.

      Plain and simple splitting the power to all 4 wheels means that the front wheels have more available turning grip.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    Really good article! You just about covered everything- science, costs, myths.

    I suspect that your poor dad did a little more than “tap” the brakes for the car to have done a 1080. I’ve driven on snow and ice of all kinds but I’m still not a member of the swapped ends club, let alone 360/multiple 360 club ;)

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      @JimC2 – the only time I’ve done 360’s is when I planned on doing 360’s.

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit-Iron

      I was driving down 95 in a 2wd Ranger. I think it was like 35 degrees and a very light dusting of snow was falling. I don’t know if I hit an expansion joint or something but all of a sudden I was traveling sideways about 70mph. Slid across three lanes twice but didn’t actually spin. It was a miracle there weren’t any cars near me when happened. That thing had a real bad habit of stepping out.

      • 0 avatar
        Matt Fink

        A 2wd Ranger is so light in the back I bet that was an adventure to drive in the winter! Sounds like you got lucky like we did.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          I just sold mine in apprehension of this very thing. Just wet ground made starting from a stop an interesting affair with some careful clutch/gas pedal work. I guess it forces you to be a better driver, but at 6:30 in the morning, I just want to get to work without undue stress.

          I had a hairy situation like that with my 4Runner the first winter I had it, still on all seasons, driving on a partially snowy road, in 2Hi. Hit an expansion joint, rear end went sideways. By some miracle, I dialed in just enough counter steer to correct the slide without any further oscillation or fishtailing. It would have looked fairly impressive to onlookers, but I spent the next 20 miles white knuckled clenching the steering wheel, and put the truck in 4Hi and reduced speed. The very next winter I bought snow tires for it.

        • 0 avatar
          Reino

          Yeah, RWD trucks without ESC have a habit of doing this. This once happened to me on Loveland pass in an F250–thank god I spun into the mountainside instead of the exposed side!

          The best method to control is to drive in as high of a gear you can without bogging the engine, to limit torque.

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Fink

      Thanks JimC2! You may be right, but he couldn’t do anything to stop it from spinning once it began. I believe the ’85 Maxima had even switched from rear to front-wheel drive but that didn’t help either.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        As far as a spinout in the Maxima is concerned, it could be any number of things, but this somewhat related economy car test from ’82 has the Nissan on crappy Yokohamas really have trouble staying oriented in emergency braking situations:
        youtu.be/HS8XoLH9ovQ?t=1181

    • 0 avatar
      pragmatic

      Was a passenger in a Saturn that did a 360 at about 45mph on the NYS Thruway when we hit a pile of slush. The car slid sideways to the left, the driver steered into it (right). I thought he had it, then we got traction and whipped around fast to the right. Saw the 18 wheeler behind us change lanes did our 360 and came to a stop facing the correct direction on the shoulder.

      Just ordered my snows for the XJ8.

  • avatar
    Jagboi

    I’ve always said AWD is a performance feature. Nice to have, but does nothing for braking – we’ve had 4 wheel brakes for a long time! It’s actually time to put my winter tires on now, they usually stay on until the end of April.

    • 0 avatar
      brandloyalty

      If you are lucky enough to have an awd with a low range, “walking” it down a steep slippery descent is vastly safer than using the brakes. Given front-bias in the braking system you will lock the fronts first and so also lose steering. Low range spreads the braking evenly over all four tires and preserves steering.

      People in flat or warm places will have no idea what I’m talking about.

      • 0 avatar
        pragmatic

        Low gear with a RWD MT(with snows) works for this as well.

        • 0 avatar
          brandloyalty

          Pardon my ignorance but what is an MT? I wasn’t aware you could get a low range with 2wd.

          • 0 avatar
            tedward

            Manual transmission. But don’t worry about it, these guys are mostly arguing at this point as opposed to disagreeing. A low range gear is just a step down in gear ratios, so a truck with a low range case can function more like a tractor. The idea that this is useful outside of serious off road scenarios is pushing it.

            What makes it especially irrelevant is that the vehicles so equipped are currently all massively disadvantaged for on road snow use on other grounds. A top heavy, overweight, stiffly sprung, massively front weight biased truck is a crap snow vehicle. Full stop. Fun, but crap. AWD or 4WD in any of its permutations don’t move the needle enough to overcome that.

          • 0 avatar
            rpn453

            “A top heavy, overweight, stiffly sprung, massively front weight biased truck is a crap snow vehicle.”

            I’m no fan of driving pickup trucks, but this is a little harsh. On snowy roads, I’ll take any truck with real 4WD that I’ve driven over anything 2WD that I’ve ever driven, assuming tires are equal.

            But they are terrible winter highway vehicles for mixed conditions. On clean, but potentially icy roads, you have to leave it in 2WD with the cruise off and stay very focused in case the light back end kicks out. On the snow and ice covered sections, you can put it in 4WD with the cruise and relax for a bit.

            I agree on the low range. I’ve never used that on a public road.

    • 0 avatar
      Reino

      Yeah I don’t get the “3-4” months in the article. Mine are on a full 6 months, equal with my summer tires.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    Family been running snows for the last 25 years, every winter, in Idaho.

    1) Studded tires should be banned or taxed for the damage caused. Had 1 one set once and hated them. They’re bad on dry roads, really bad, and the ruts and damage they cause results in pulling and ponding of water throughout the year, especially dangerous in snowy conditions. And the noise from the stripped concrete/blacktop… Rarely can you have true cruising silence up here any time of year thanks to that wear. I hate hate hate them and they’ve been easily passed in effectiveness by modern non-studded snows. I don’t know why Idaho, Washington, etc still allow these

    2) There is a difference in snow tires. We’ve generally run a more “performance” snow on a few cars, the idea being they will handle better when the roads aren’t snow covered. They’re pretty good, a step up from all-season but not off the charts amazing.

    But, last year we installed our first set of Blizzaks, hard core, deep snow and packed snow type tires. They do not handle particularly well (but it is on a walloy crossover so who cares), but holy crap are they champs in deep and packed snow. I was shocked how much better they are in that stuff than the other snow tires (I think Michelin).

    Bottom line, very good all seasons are pretty solid. I think they’re safe enough. But if you want extra security definitely get snows, and if the roads are deep or packed, get the really hard stuff like Blizzaks.

    Only way I would not do snows is if for some reason I just couldn’t afford it. But I plan on that cost during car purchase.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      I run Michelin X-Ice on one vehicle and though I find that they are excellent on dry, clear cold roads and on ice, they are subpar on slush and heavy snow.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        A ‘mud and snow” tire is great in deep snow or slush for the same reason they work well in mud. I’m a big fan of the Michelin X-ice tires on light passenger vehicles.

      • 0 avatar
        thornmark

        agree – I got them because Tirerack ranked them higher than the Blizzaks

        the Blizzaks I had previously dug through heavy snow much better, but wore much faster and handled poorly under normal conditions

      • 0 avatar
        tedward

        Arthur

        My experience matches that. My Michelin xices were the least helpful snows I’ve ever had in real accumulation. They seemed like a solution for wide tire sporty cars driven just on the edge of snow country.

    • 0 avatar
      brandloyalty

      Blizzaks come with deeper tread than Michelins, so they are squishy and noisier, but grip snow better.

    • 0 avatar
      chuckrs

      Second the observation on differences between cold weather semi-performance tires and real snow tires. In my case it was Conti 810s vs Blizzaks. Of course the Blizzaks weren’t speed rated to a speed I wouldn’t go in good summer conditions, let alone winter conditions. The Contis are still OK for me as they aren’t on a DD, but rather a toy car. If it is cold and dry I’ll take that car, but not in winter slop. As well, unlike many, I can and often do work from home.

    • 0 avatar
      karlbonde

      100% agree about the studded tires, I HATE them. I don’t understand why they allow them here in Oregon/Washington. The ruts they create in the road make for awful opportunities for hydroplaning due to the standing water in said ruts. The noise of the pavement while driving is horrible due to the studded tire wearing away the smooth surface of the pavement down to the cobblestone-like aggregate underneath.

      I drove a Volvo XC70 with brand new Goodyear all-seasons tires last winter during our 11-inch snowfall in Portland, and they worked reasonably well. I had performance snow tires (Pirellis) installed on my Scion FR-S one season, and of course, it never snowed that year (winter of 2012-2013).

      I’m still debating whether to purchase a new set of all-seasons, versus dedicated snow tires for my 2004 Volvo V70R…

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      Studded winter tires are similar to studless winter tires on dry and wet roads. If anything, they perform better.

      http://www.skstuds.ca/2015/10/05/studded-tires-on-dry-and-wet-pavement/

      You have probably never even seen a modern studded tire. There are good reasons that 50% of Scandinavian drivers use them.

      http://www.skstuds.ca/2017/10/11/enter-hakka-9-the-2017-naf-winter-tire-test/

      Studless tires are a little better than studded tires on cold ice, but on the slipperiest ice – warm, wet ice – studded tires are vastly superior.

      http://www.skstuds.ca/2015/10/04/the-studless-tire-deception-ice-temperature-and-why-studless-tires-frequently-outperform-studded-tires-in-tests/

      It might not be necessary to ban studded tires outright in your area. I’m sure the vast majority of that damage is caused by trucks running studded tires with obsolete stud designs, often poorly installed.

      http://www.skstuds.ca/2015/11/12/studded-tires-and-road-wear/

      http://www.skstuds.ca/2015/11/15/quality-control-dont-accept-inferior-stud-installation/

      Studded tire users should pay for their contribution to road damage, but for a passenger car with modern European studded tires the cost would be minimal.

      • 0 avatar
        TOTitan

        I lived in Alaska for years and loved my studded tires. I used to have a 70 Olds Toronado that I used for my winter car. As long as I didnt get high centered that tank would go anywhere with four studded tires. It would easily take six people and their skis down to Alyeska for a day of skiing in comfort.

      • 0 avatar
        srh

        Studded tires get a bum rap. Yes, it’s ridiculous to drive in Portland, OR on studded tires all winter. But the conditions for which they’re good, they’re really really good.

        I grew up in Anchorage, AK where studded tires were the only way to get up to our house in the winter. Now in Portland, a few years back I was buying winter tires from Les Schwab. They accidentally installed studded winter tires. I was leaving the next day for a trip to Canada so I didn’t have time to get the right tires installed. This happened to coincide with one of the biennial great NW ice storms.

        I was astounded at how easily my pickup with studded tires (and 500 pounds of sand in the bed) handled stormy mountain passes in Washington and BC. I had zero problem handling or stopping at highway speeds, quite the different experience than long, long lines of cars and trucks driving at 30MPH.

        Should they be banned? I don’t know. No doubt they do severe road damage especially when used inappropriately. But when used appropriately, I have little doubt that they save lives and money.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        I can’t say I’ve ever seen studded tires on big trucks in our state and over here on the west side of the state you don’t see them on that many cars.

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Fink

      The areas of the country and months of the year that studded tires are banned in America is growing. They seem to only be better than winter tires in a small temperature window, usually 25-32 degrees. Colder or warmer than that and a regular winter tire will usually be better anyway.

      • 0 avatar
        rpn453

        “At -19C, the studded tires took 19% longer, on average, to come to a stop. By -13C, the tires performed equally well, with less than 1% difference between the studless and studded tires. After that, the braking distances of the studless tires begin to increase dramatically. At -5C, they required 88% more distance to brake than the studded tires. At -1C, the difference was 149%.

        Think about that. If you’re approaching a busy intersection with unexpected black ice at 50 km/hr and have 110 feet to stop, you will safely come to a halt with a quality studded tire. With the best studless tires you can buy – the ones that Consumer Reports and other publications recommend – you’ve barely scrubbed off any speed and will slide another 170 feet beyond the intersection, assuming you’re fortunate enough that a collision doesn’t occur first. Imagine the differences in control at highway speeds on that surface.”

      • 0 avatar
        TOTitan

        “Colder or warmer than that and a regular winter tire will usually be better anyway.” Warmer I agree but in colder temps studs win. In Alaska we had glare ice and black ice from October to March. Nothing comes close to studs in those conditions.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    This really is a classic ‘no brainer’ and congrats to Matt for debunking the most common arguments used by those who resist winter tires (re-hashed below).

    Since having dedicated winter tires extends the life of your ‘summer’ tires, then there is no extra cost involved regarding tire purchase.
    Since the switch over from ‘summer’ to ‘winter’ tires eliminates the need for tire rotation, there is no extra cost involved.
    There is an extra cost involved in purchasing a set of winter ‘steelies’ however generally they retain a good percentage of their value if cared for and are easily re-sold.
    And at least in Ontario, most insurance companies offer a discount to their clients who use winter tires.

    Matt: regarding your storage 1) The tires should not be sitting directly on concrete. You should put some wood/rubber/etc between them and the floor of your garage. 2) The tires would also benefit from not being exposed to sunlight, so you could cover them with an old sheet. 3) Learn from my experience, wipe down, wash off accumulated salt and then dry the ‘steelies’ before putting them away. Never leave them in tire bags.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      “there is no extra cost involved.”

      Depending on the shop, they might try to charge for switching the TPMS RFIDs stored by the car. One nice little “easter egg” feature on my parents’ 09 RX350 is that the car has a small button near the driver’s footwell that can switch between two stored sets of TPMS. Program it once and from then on just press that small button. Of course, other OEMs have switched to indirect TPMS monitoring, which extrapolates inflation from the speed sensors (via wheel diameter and comparing the four tires).

      • 0 avatar
        brandloyalty

        I like the 2-sets tpms feature. Every time I change my wheel sets I have to go through a somewhat tedious reset procedure, for which I had to buy a tool also.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        TPMS is legally mandated in USA but not Canada. Many car dealers and tire shops will try to sell you TPMS for winter wheels. Our Toyota Sienna has a “silence” button which shuts off the chimes but you get to stare at a tire warning all winter. 8th winter on that van and never an issue.

      • 0 avatar
        Matt Fink

        That’s a really cool feature in your RX350 gtemnykh, thanks for sharing. A lot of newer cars can automatically recognize 2 sets of TPMS now. Unfortunately my Fit does not, so I run all summer with the TPMS light on and leave the sensors in my winter tires.

      • 0 avatar
        MBella

        That Lexus setup doesn’t sound bad. I wish more manufacturers would do that, or just use a system that auto learns. The Siemens system that Mercedes started using with the 08 C-Class will self learn in about 5 minutes of driving above 25 mph. No programming required.

        GM’s system requires a triggering tool, but is otherwise also easy to use. The tool has come down in price.

        For other direct systems, a good tool is the ATEQ quickset. It lets you store 5 vehicles IDs, both summer and winter. You program it with your PC, and it can also learn from the vehicle. Once programmed, it has a summer and winter button. Connect to the OBD2 port and hit the correct button. Once the status indicator changes, you’re good to go.

        The indirect systems are pretty much worthless. They are either oversensitive and can come on for some vary insignificant reasons, or won’t come on until your tire is actually been damaged from running tire pressure that is too low for too long.

    • 0 avatar
      brandloyalty

      Used oem alloys look better than those ugly black steel rims. No fit problems and machined to higher tolerances. Means you also have oem spare rims. But oem alloys don’t scream: “look at me, I’m a responsible driver using real winter tires.”

      Most people don’t get much sun in their garages or storage lockers. And is there any evidence sitting tires on concrete hurts them, or is this a claim that has credibility only through repetition?

      • 0 avatar
        musicalmcs8706

        On my old Impala I had a set of winter alloys. They definitely looked better than the black steel rims. And when I bought my TSX wagon last November, the previous owner had put the stock 17″ on the winter tires, and had summer tires on 18″ RDX wheels. So I still have the stock look all year long!

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          I put Camry ’15 inch junkyard steelies on my beige ’96 ES300, and snow tires in a higher aspect ratio. It ended up looking a bit mad maxish all jacked up with beefy tires (Firestone winterforces are gnarly looking things with big tread voids). Really softened up the ride and compensated for the worn struts nicely.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Used OE wheels are the way to go, if you shop around you can usually get them for less than the price of the new steelies and they are higher quality than those and low priced aftermarket alloys. I picked up a full set with center caps for $50 for my car and my wife’s last car. I spent a whopping $100 for the ones for my Daughter’s car.

        A lot of time though I’ll use the wheels that came with the car and then find some factory +1″ for the summer tires.

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Fink

      Thanks for the feedback Arthur. I appreciate your advice on my storage, I will absolutely be making some changes! Michelin shared the most important storage tip is to avoid UV light, so I keep them in the garage. I always clean and wax them before putting them away for storage. Plus it feel so good putting nice clean wheels on the next year.

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    Enjoyed the article. But no mention or test of all-weather tires, given the interest in them, seems like an omission.

    And what about lower mileage drivers who, due to the decreased usage resulting from running two sets, will run into the concerns about over-aged tires long before wearing out any of them? What should they do?

    • 0 avatar
      Jagboi

      Partially depends on the storage conditions. Rubber mainly ages through ozone and sunlight exposure, so keeping them in a cool dark place when not being used helps extend their life.

      • 0 avatar

        I ended up with an old car with new tires. Prior to sending it to the crusher, I pulled the newish tires off, and per Tire Rack suggestions, wrapped and air sealed them in black garbage bags, taking care to tie off the open part. I’ll let you know in two-three years, when the current tires on one of my cars wear out and I crack the bags.

      • 0 avatar
        Ermel

        I pulled a set of nice Pirellis out of a friend’s cellar and put them on my Citroen this summer. Way, WAY better than the no-names that it came on, even though they were half as old.

    • 0 avatar
      thornmark

      all weather tires are generally poor in all weather

      • 0 avatar
        raph

        Depends, Michelin’s AS3+ does pretty good in my area. Decent all-season tire for the odd week or two it snows (2-3 inches) and for the rest of the winter when it’s 34 degrees and just pisses cold rain they are more than adequate and in the summer they compared favorable to a number of tier II summer tires.

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Fink

      Tire Rack shared that tires not stored in UV light don’t start deteriorating until after 10 years from the time they were mounted on a wheel. Most winter tires are rated for lower miles than all-season, usually 40,000. So if you haven’t hit 40,000 miles on your winter tires after 10 years, it’s time to replace them. But that’s no problem for most people.

    • 0 avatar
      jalop1991

      “Enjoyed the article. But no mention or test of all-weather tires, given the interest in them, seems like an omission.”

      Absolutely.

      Nokian WR for the win.

  • avatar

    Thank you JimZ. I can’t tell you how many folks looked at my RWD car, with dedicated snow tires, and thought I was nuts for not having ‘a truck” or AWD in winter.

    I replied it made no sense to carry around 100 lbs and waste gas to spin another two gear sets for no reason for maybe three times a year.

    • 0 avatar
      brandloyalty

      4wd and awd were invented for a reason, not for marketing purposes. Some people really do benefit enough from 4wd and awd to justify the cost. Cheaper than one accident and worth reaching destinations without getting stranded.

      Usually such people also use winter tires. Any rally driver or person with common sense will tell you 4wd or awd with winter tires is more capable than 2wd with winter tires.

      Time to let go of this tedious argument.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        “4wd and awd were invented for a reason, not for marketing purposes. Some people really do benefit enough from 4wd and awd to justify the cost. Cheaper than one accident and worth reaching destinations without getting stranded.’

        My dad was a commercial trucker and as I kid I attended several funerals of friends of his who died in MVC’s in the winter. Due to his losses he developed the opinion that unless it is “life or limb”, if the roads are bad, stay home.
        I’ve seen it time and time again as a paramedic. Bad weather and people still go out in their 4×4/AWD vehicles. It isn’t worth the risk.

        • 0 avatar
          brandloyalty

          So does one quit skiing or going to work unless the roads are bare?

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            @brandloyalty – I’m talking about BAD weather. If you actually
            *need* 4×4 to get through the ice and snow , then yes, stay home. I consider bad weather as conditions with poor visibility and/or very slippery /poor road conditions.

            I’ve seen too much needless suffering and death in my life due to people underestimating danger and overestimating their driving skills.

      • 0 avatar

        I totally agree with you that AWD/4wd with winter tires rocks. AWD is also nice if you are lucky enough to drive a car with massive HP, or legit off road…it will almost always be smoother on unpaved roads than 2wd.

        The comparo here is AWD on all seasons vs. RWD on dedicated tires….

    • 0 avatar
      EquipmentJunkie

      Me, too…and I am one of those “crazy” people that prefers to drive a RWD car with winter tires over a FWD with winter tires. To me, RWD cars are just more predictable when things get slick. That being said, I will concede that my old Rabbit diesel with winter tires was like a mountain goat in the snow.

      • 0 avatar
        MBella

        I prefer RWD to FWD as well in the wintertime as long as there is some weight over the rear wheels. FWD is terrible as soon as any kind of incline is involved.

      • 0 avatar
        bunkie

        The problem with FWD in slippery conditions is that you lose steering if you apply too much throttle. Also, when going uphill, the weight transfer to the rear exaggerates this effect. With RWD, it’s much harder to lose steering and you get the added steering possibilities resulting from power-induced oversteer.

    • 0 avatar
      pragmatic

      Just bought snows for the new to me XJ8. I’ve been going to VT for 14 years in a Lincoln LS. RWD, MT and good snow tires. Very predictable and correctable slides going up the mountain roads. I get asked by others why not AWD and my answer is the last 10 miles of the trip over the App Gap is where AWD might help. So I’m not driving 15,000 miles a year with unneeded weight and complexity for 100 miles (10 trips per winter) where it might improve my odds of getting over the top.

  • avatar
    EquipmentJunkie

    I pick up my new set of Michelin X-Ice tires tomorrow. I’ve always had Blizzaks or Nokians in the past 20+ years, so I hope I’m not sorry I made the switch.

  • avatar
    Advance_92

    I know it’d be harder to simulate, but an inch or two of snow would probably have similar performance differences.

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    Apostasy here, for years I got by on all seasons and front drive, including commuting. Vail pass in the snowiest winter in my 40 years experience here. The ultimate winter driving tool is one’s skill set. The trick is discerening traction conditions and adjusting the driving demands to stay within those physical limits.
    That said, I do run winter tires now. Basically,they enable faster more lively driving on snow.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      @ttacgreg – I’ve argued that one should not change driving habits for the winter which is always met with an aggressive rebuttal. My explanation is simple: one should automatically adjust to road/weather conditions all year round.
      Adhesion and visibility governs all else.

      With that being said, one should have the right tires for the job at hand.

      • 0 avatar
        brandloyalty

        Important point. How do you determine how fast you can safely drive on slippery surfaces?

        Say you don’t want to plod along with the 50kph totally safe convoys on the 120kph limit mountainous Coquihalla? The only way you can tell how much traction there is, is to increase speed until you notice breaking traction. Or do a braking test. But there’s a good chance either will result in a skid you cannot recover from. So how do you determine the limit to stay below it?

        (I use brake tests on slow gravel/logging roads, in a safe place with no other vehicles around and with a warning to passengers first. Brake tests at highway speeds must be done with great caution, if at all.)

        • 0 avatar
          pragmatic

          I never do brake tests for traction. I find the throttle is a safer way to test traction. See haow hard you need to accelerate to break traction and use that to judge if you should increase your speed.

        • 0 avatar
          rpn453

          If your vehicle has communicative steering, that will give you a good idea of how much traction is available just from minute movements. It will be quite heavy on warm, dry pavement, and very light on ice.

          If not, you can also try steering, throttle, or braking inputs. If you are concerned that any reasonable inputs could make you lose control, then you’re already going too fast for your abilities in those conditions.

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          @brandloyalty-
          It is all a matter of feel, feedback, and experience. I prefer leaving my truck in 4×2 since the rear end will start to get loose more early than 4×4 even with a 500 lb tool box in the box. I rather not do brake tests or throttle tests to check grip unless I’m alone at slower speeds. If in doubt back off. I’ll engage 4×4 if things are getting bad or if I need to pass slower traffic. 4×4 helps acceleration but has no real benefit to braking. Using engine compression can be helpful and that is where 4×4 is nice.
          @rpn453 – agreed.

        • 0 avatar
          ttacgreg

          When the road is straight I do half second moderate taps on the brakes. On curves never. However if I feel like I am exceeding traction on a curve, getting the sensation I am at 10/10ths, will do a quick five degree jerk on the steering wheel in the tightening turn direction. If the steering responds then I am within the limits. If there is no perceivable response then I very gently back off the throttle. Curves are tricky because inertia wants you to leave the road. On straightaways inertia is your friend .
          After covering tens of thousands of miles on snowpacked roads I can visually judge successfully what to expect about 90% of the time. Multiple factors need to be considered. The colder the temperatures, the whiter and more matte the surface, the better. The warmer the temperatures and the darker and shinier the surface then back off and be cautious and hyper alert. One also has to be cognizant of your particular vehicle’s characteristics. I would say my Suzuki Vitara and my 2000 Corolla are roughly equal in capability with their snow tires, however the 4wd, Suzuki is less prone to differential response from the front versus the rear wheel sets on curves,
          By far the most unpredictable and dangerous variable out there is other vehicles. Winter conditions amplify other drivers idiosyncrasies. The angry get angrier the stupid get stupider the aggressive get more aggressive the cautious get more cautious. I also notice in poor visibility lots of people over drive the visibility. If I’m ever in one of those low visibility multi car pile ups that are common here in Colorado in snow storms, it will likely be me rear-ended at the head of the pack because I absolutely obey the two second visibility rule and I adjust my speed accordingly. One must assume just past that visibility limit in snow or fog is a stationary obstacle in the driving lane.

      • 0 avatar
        bunkie

        One of the benefits of riding motorcycles is that loss of traction can carry some very immediate and unpleasant side effects. That makes one very sensitive to available traction and much more likely to automatically adapt to changes in grip.

    • 0 avatar
      Reino

      You know Vail pass then. How often traffic comes to a standstill: because too many cars with all-seasons can’t get going on the uphill grades. It’s a joke in the winter. If everyone had snow tires, we’d see a lot less accidents and slowdowns on Vail pass.

  • avatar
    Carrera

    I’ve used Nokians WG 2 SUV ” all weather” tires all year around on a Ridgeline. They have a dual compound winter/summer and they have the snow flake symbol on them. They are not a winter tire, but a good compromise. No need to line up in November and in April to swap tires.
    They are a bit expensive when compared to good all seasons and they only last about 40,000-45,000 miles as opposed to 60-70,000 a good LTX MS2 Michelin would and they cost a bit more than the LTX MS2. Mine were made in Russia.

  • avatar

    On a car you intend to keep for awhile, having a set of winter tires on separate wheels makes it easy. The only real cost is the second set of wheels, because your summer tires don’t wear in the winter and vice versa. Averaged over 5 to 10 years, that cost is modest. And a $30 light duty floor jack makes changing them yourself easy and free. We’ve been satisfied with whatever the latest Blizzaks are on both FWD and RWD cars.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    It was a few winters ago – an early November blizzard – that left my RWD 2004 BMW 325i stranded. A few inches of snow and I couldn’t get up any minor incline. The car became unusable to get back ‘n’ forth to work.

    A set of Blizzaks later and the car was great on ice ‘n’ snow. I never got stuck on plowed roads and even an ice storm didn’t stop the car. Also went to the Lake Michigan coast and got hit with a surprise blizzard. Even on those country roads I was able to get that summabitch through. There was a lot of packed snow which did cause some shimmying in the steering.

    The traction and stability control were constantly working but once you learned to trust the electronics, everything was good.

    My wife’s Mini with Pirelli Sottozero snow tires is also good in the winter, but it’s a low car so you have to be careful with packed snow.

    My old man still doesn’t believe in snow tires, even though he used to live out in the boondocks.

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Fink

      My Honda Fit with winter tires is a tank in thick snow. We had an AWD Honda CR-V previously that was fine, but nothing compared to the little Fit with winter tires.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        My parents’ ’07 Fit on cheapo Kelly snows (very noisy, very aggressive pattern) absolutely chews its way up steep hills near their house. Seemingly almost physics defying lol. Sad to report that when I saw the car a few weeks ago, it’s starting to get some rear quarter panel rot. A heated garage, the crazy amount of salt they use in Central NY, and my dad’s lackadaisical approach to car washes is tarting to take its toll.

  • avatar
    musicalmcs8706

    My family first was exposed to winter tires in 2006 when we bought a 1998 Volvo wagon from a car guy from our church. He gave us the winter tires for free, and my dad was more than willing to put them on the car as they were free! After that Volvo, when they got a V50 T5, my dad didn’t question the winter tires at all. For him, that’s impressive as he often can be rather cheap. And I’ve had them on my cars since 2012 where I’ve lived in colder climates. I will always run them during the winter!

    • 0 avatar
      Ubermensch

      I’ve never understood people being so cheap when it comes to the safety of themselves or their family. I’m not saying that no expense should be spared but winter tires are such a tiny expense in the grand scheme of things.
      Especially when you consider how dramatic the payoff is in overall vehicle safety in winter driving. I am even considering purchasing a newer vehicle just for the added safety features that are now standard on most cars even though my current vehicle is perectly serviceable and was fairly safe for the time it was built. At the very least I would like a vehicle with ESC, a feature my current vehicle lacks and could really benefit from since it is a tail happy Subaru.

  • avatar
    rpn453

    “. . . meaning winter tires will outperform an all-season tire on dry pavement at temperatures beginning as high as 40 degrees.”

    This is a myth.

    http://www.skstuds.ca/2015/10/07/do-winter-tires-really-outperform-all-seasons-on-cold-dry-roads/

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Fink

      That article is referencing a study that is over 8 years old. I suspect there would be very different results today with the updates that winter tires have received lately.

      • 0 avatar
        rpn453

        Don’t be silly. Winter tires haven’t changed that much in a single generation from the Xi2 to the Xi3, and if you look at the wet and dry cold weather braking results over the years it is typically the cheapest Chinese winter tires with the poorest ice performance that perform best.

        http://www.skstuds.ca/winter-tire-tests/

        This year, the Landsail and Linglong winter tires easily outbraked the Xi3 on dry pavement. On wet pavement, the Xi3 was outbraked by every studded tire.

        In 2016, the Xi3 took 10.5 *METERS* longer to stop than a Landsail tire from only 80 km/hr in the wet. The Landsail also easily beat it in the dry. Do you think even that Landsail would beat one of the premier performance all-season tires in a wet braking competition?

        In 2015, the Xi3 needed an extra 3.8 meters in the dry compared to the Linglong, and 5.6 meters more in the wet compared to a studded Gislaved.

        In 2014, the Chinese Sunny tire dominated the wet braking test, stopping 11.3 meters – *37 FEET* – shorter than the Xi3.

        Etcetera.

        Tires within the same performance category have not evolved enough to shed thirty feet of braking distance in the last 30 years, let alone a single tire generation.

        Michelin’s Pilot line is also on a new generation compared to that test. I would be surprised if the cold wet and dry performance of the Pilot A/S 3 hasn’t improved over the original A/S more than the Xi3 has compared to the Xi2.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      That test is not comparing the same tires. It is comparing the X-Ice 2, a normal winter tire is being compared to the Pilot Sport A/S performance tire. If they compared the Pilot Sport to Pilot Alpin, and X-Ice with a Defender, the results would be much the other way. A Michelin Defender tire would have a higher stopping distance in any condition vs. the Pilot Sport.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    It only snows here enough to affect driving maybe once every two years. And with very young kids we’re not going to the mountains much in winter. So I don’t do winter tires; the expense is just not worth it. But given the hills, that means that on the rare occasions that real snow does happen we’re not driving anywhere. Fortunately, we’re lucky enough to be able to walk everywhere we need to go in a pinch, including my job.

    I do use performance all-seasons rather than summers, because we do have months of temps in the 30s where summers can get really cranky. All-seasons do just fine when it’s 37 and raining.

  • avatar
    I_like_stuff

    Why people insist on making this an either or argument between awd and snow tires is beyond me. Best thing to do is have both. I’ve had both for as long as a I can remember and I don’t give it a second though. Where I live, in a very hilly and very snowy part of the world, you can’t give away a RWD car (sport cars and things of that nature excluded,, I’m talking your generic daily driver sedan or pick up/SUV). Everyone has either AWD or 4WD and just about everyone also has winter tires. And not just your run of the mill winter tires….studded winter tires as well.

    As far as cost goes….$800 for a set of winter tires that will last 5 winters. $13 a month. It’s absurd to not spend that money for the added safety they provide

  • avatar
    mikey

    The OEM all season Good Year Eagles on my Mustang are absolutely useless on a snow, or ice covered road.

    The Michelin X tires are a little noisy, and do impact the Mustangs handling . However here in Southern Ontario they are pretty well a necessity .

  • avatar
    markf

    I always why people are concerned about “getting stuck” and not about being to slow down or stop safely. I have run Blizzacks on a Sienna, Civic and TL. I drove all over Europe when I lived there all Winter and never had any issues. I used to see a lot of my fellow Americans off on the side of the road/highway cause “I got AWD, I don’t need Winter tires” I always asked how AWD helped you stop/slow down, no one ever had an answer. It’s always the folks with AWD/4WD who insisted Winter Tires were a waste of money

  • avatar
    Mitchell Leitman

    Matt Fink, when you pose the question about the percentage in the dark area above that use winter tires, that’s an awfully large area to consider. You’ve got Quebec, for instance, where they are mandatory, so I’d venture to say 95-100% there, but Ohio probably has low uptake. So, what are the stats?

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Fink

      Mitchell Leitman – Here is your answers. 64% of Canadians use winter tires (97% of people in Quebec where they are mandated though). But in America, even if you only look at the area of the map where it is recommended the use is… less than 10%!

  • avatar
    hausjam

    If you live in an urban area, no they are not. Don’t get me wrong. Blizzacks were awesome on snow and ice, on the ultra rare occasion I had to drive before the plows. But for the other 99.99% of the time I drive, all season tires are just fine. The main thing my Blizzaks did was wear down fast on dry pavement. And they SUCK in the rain.

  • avatar
    deanst

    I’d be interested in the downside to winter tires. There seems to be less snow in my neck of the woods every year, and average temperature seems to be higher. If you end up driving on clear roads with temperatures above 50, what do the winter tires subtract from performance? My winter tire michelins seem quite sloppy on clear roads, but im open to being presented with the facts.

    • 0 avatar
      brandloyalty

      The deeper softer tread slops around when cornering and hurts mileage a bit. They are noisier and wear out faster. They also become ineffective as snow tires considerably before the tread is worn out, so there is a hidden cost to having capable winter tires. Yes you can finish them off using them in summer. But then you’re not using your better summer tires.

      Note that special winter compounds often don’t go down the full tread depth, so winter performance can fall off somewhat abruptly and long before tread depth is too shallow.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        Blizzaks are dual compound. You get down to 1/4 of your tread life and they basically turn into an all season tire. I tend to replace winter tires around 1/4 of remaining tread. I won’t run them down to wear bars. It isn’t worth the risk. BC Ambulance service replaces winter tires at 50% tread wear.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          Yup the useful life of a winter tire is about 50% tread depth for most winter tires. To qualify as an approved traction tire many states not only require the snowflake on the mountain symbol they must still have a minimum of 6/32″ of tread. Most passenger car and light truck winter tires leave the factory with 12/32″ to 14/32″. Many also have some sort of indicator that lets you know when they have reached that 6/32″ point. Usually it is another set of wear bars at the 6/32″ mark.

          • 0 avatar
            MBella

            No. New passenger car tires are rarely above 10/32″ new. Usually around the area of 9/32″. Light truck tires, and some winter tires have dealer tread.

          • 0 avatar
            rpn453

            Most passenger car winter tires I’ve ever looked at have 12/32″. Under 11/32″ is a rarity outside of performance winter tires.

  • avatar
    George B

    90 F in the late afternoon as I type this. Air conditioning and auxiliary cooling for automatic transmissions are more relevant than tire compound at the edge of the yellow part of the map. However it does get cold enough for all season instead of using summer tires all year.

  • avatar
    jalop1991

    Nokian WR.

    You can have it all.

  • avatar
    SirRaoulDuke

    I got a good laugh at that map and Michelin thinking all of West Virginia has the same winter weather.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    I’m a winter tire believer and have many sets. The plan is to go buy another set tomorrow for the 4×4 pickup I bought this summer. I thought about an AT tire that has the snowflake on the mountain, but have decided to go with true winter tires. I’m going with the ones my state patrol usually run year round and that is my plan for this truck. It won’t see many miles so I can’t justify two sets of tires. Now that may change if I happen to come across a good deal for a set of tires and wheels on craigslist. Just going to have to figure out I can do a 3 set high stack.

  • avatar
    brettc

    My brother turned me on to winter tires and now I religiously swap rims/tires in late fall and April/May. I’ve been using General Altimax Arctics for a while. They’ve been reasonably priced and provide good winter performance.

    General is now selling the Altimax Arctic 12 model but it costs a bit more so I ended up buying a set of Pirelli’s new Winter Cinturatos recently for the wife’s car this year. I’ll see how they do but I did have good results with their Cinturato all seasons.

    I really wish more places would mandate winter tire use like Quebec has done, but I don’t see it happening.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      I read an article about Quebec a while ago. They said that winter tires were already used by 97% of the population before it was a requirement. I forget the actual percentage, but they found out that the other 3% were responsible for a very high percentage of winter accidents. I want to say it was something like 50%

  • avatar
    Michael Kurzdorfer

    Sorry, New York rte 219 doesn’t run up to Niagara Falls.

  • avatar
    CincyDavid

    I have never bought winter tires. I did, however, buy an 83 Continental with Firestone WinterForce tires on the back, and even though they were half-worn it did much better in snow than I would have expected. My dad used to get retreated bias-ply snowtires for his Olds Delta 88, and just leave them on all year. I still remember sitting in the back seat while that beast hummed its way down I-75 to Sanibel Island for summer vacation.

  • avatar
    tedward

    I love the article, but you should post one correction. You mentioned that the summer set can be stretched out because of alternating usage (7 years!). That’s not right. Tires expire, and the result is dramatic. After 4.5 years any tire needs to be junked. It’s a real safety issue.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      4.5 years is very excessive. No manufacturer recommends less than 6 years. The degradation is mostly from UV rays. The argument in the article is that since you are storing them in a dry place without the damaging UV rays, you can extend this by a year or two.

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Fink

      Tedward I appreciate the feedback. I am not a tire expert. But I can tell you that the folks from Tire Rack would disagree with you, and obviously that doesn’t help them sell more tires. They explained that a tire’s lifetime clock begins once it is mounted to a wheel, not before. They said you would need to think about replacing the tire after 10 years from that point. To junk a tire after 4.5 years seems very excessive. A lot of people wouldn’t even be near the mileage limit on the tires at that point.

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Fink

      tedward – I found this article from Road and Track that addresses your question if you are interested:

      http://www.roadandtrack.com/car-culture/buying-maintenance/a25577/how-to-make-your-tires-last-10-years/

      • 0 avatar
        rpn453

        Good article. I think this is the most important part:

        “”The reality is, service life can vary so much from one driver to another and one part of the country to another, that it’s really difficult to say that it’s X [years],” Rodgers said.”

  • avatar
    GenrlZod

    What about RWD cars? How would this help in PA with say a MX-5 or a Challenger?

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Fink

      GenrlZod – Great question. Unfortunately we did not get the chance to test RWD so I do not have actual evidence to show you. I imagine the results would be the same. If you read through the comments section of this article you will see there are others with RWD that swear by winter tires the same that I do with my front wheel drive cars.

    • 0 avatar
      Ubermensch

      We put performance winter tires on my girlfriends 335i RWD and it performs like a champ in the snow. Although last year was a mild winter without a lot of the white stuff. We will see how it does this year but I have no concerns as her vehicle will be safer than over 95% of the vehicles on the road around us as almost no-one uses winter tires here.

  • avatar
    NMGOM

    Q: “Winter Tires – Are They Worth It?”

    A: No.

    I put my Bridgestone Blizzak’s in storage for REAL heavy and severe winters, if they will ever again exist.
    They cost me a high penalty in acceleration, and 1.5-2.0 MPG in fuel mileage.
    (Have a ’96 Ram pickup with 2WD, open diff and MT. I put 500 lbs in the bed.)

    I use General Grabber HTS 60’s All Season (AS) — more than good enough.
    Most streets here (Appleton, WI) are cleared and salted in winter very promptly.

    Unless you live in areas with constant snow and snow pack on roads, winter tires are a waste of money, IMO.
    Modern good quality AS tires are adequately elastic and adhesive in cold temperatures.

    ============================

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Fink

      NMGOM – Just curious if you read the article? I don’t mind if you disagree at all. I just find the difference in accelerating, stopping, and turning on ice to be worth it. Personally I did not have a sacrifice in gas mileage in my car and I track every tank of gas.

  • avatar
    FalcoDog

    I’m going to take exception to this 10 year tire life claim. Are you kidding me?

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      I’d take a new tire that’s been driven only in cold weather for a season and then stored in my basement for ten years over one that’s been used for high speed in hot weather and then stored directly in the Arizona sun for a year.

      I’m currently finishing off a set of 12-year-old winter tires as my summer tires. They work fine. There’s no evidence of rubber deterioration.

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Fink

      FalcoDog – I’m not a tire expert, just sharing what I learned. Here’s an article from Road and Track where they interview Woody Rodgers from Tire Rack (the same person I spent time with doing these tests). Hope that helps clarify.

      http://www.roadandtrack.com/car-culture/buying-maintenance/a25577/how-to-make-your-tires-last-10-years/

  • avatar
    The Ryan

    Been using winter tires for nearly 20 years. Had a spinout once and that was it. Not only did I invest in winter rubber, I bought the best tires I could get. It really is a life saver, especially where I live since they rarely clear the roads and we don’t use salt.

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