Piston Slap: A Winter Tire for All Seasons?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap a winter tire for all seasons
Ryan writes:

Esteemed Mr. Mehta, what tires should you use when going from cold to hot weather? Imagine you were driving from Canada to Arizona in March.

Earlier this year, my parents drove their shiny new 2018 CR-V AWD to Phoenix in order to attend the Vintage Stunt Championships. The event happens in March, a perfectly temperate, even zesty, time of the year in Arizona. (Daytime high in Phoenix last March was 33C). Unfortunately, we all live in Canada. The trip went across the Rockies, and they definitely encountered nightmarish winter conditions. We’re talking near-whiteout, slippery roads, Subarus in the ditches.

Even for Canadians, a bit much!

My Dad praised his new AWD rig; he drove through (albeit at a prudent speed) and felt in complete control even as the car wiggled a bit this way and that, the traction aids obviously acting as guardian angels.

Did I mention they did this whole trip on the stock all-season tires?

Anyway, we argued about what the right tire choice was for the trip. I say that if you’re driving the Rockies in the winter, you mount real snow tires, and suffer through whatever consequences there are driving them around in Phoenix for two weeks. My dad’s argument is the “M+S” stock tires worked fine, and true snow tires would melt (or worse) during their Springtime in Phoenix.

So, what say you? Aside from the obvious answer of carrying a second set of tires on the roof for the trip, what should they do when they head to the Vintage Stunt Championships in March 2019?

Sajeev answers:

I doubt snow tires “shall melt (or worse)” in Arizona, but they’ll wear out quicker and provide inferior summer performance relative to a high quality M+S tire. I’ll spare (sorry) you the details; watch Engineering Explained for that.

Imagine making the journey safely only to not stop quick enough to avoid an accident once there with snow tires!

Newer M+S tire designs and modern handling nannies are awesome: I was absolutely dumbfounded by the performance of my 2WD Ford Ranger with OEM M+S tires — hardly the best of that breed — traveling from a dry, 60F degree Houston to few plowed roads and 6″ of snow in small town Decatur. The drive back home included watching superior performing sedans, CUVs, and trucks sliding off two lane roads and divided highways like Interstate 45, and I credit my safe travels to:

  • Driving slow, smooth throttle/steering/brake inputs, and occasional use of engine braking.
  • Active Handling, Traction Control & ABS brakes (going up/down steep hills was magic!)
  • 80-100 lbs of ice between the cab and the rear axle, exact weight unknown as it was water sloshing around/out a Yamaha Quint Case while leaving Houston.
  • Starting in 2nd gear and sloooowly letting out the clutch. (hashtag Save The Manuals)

If a 2WD, open differential Ranger lacking appropriate ballast survives a somewhat-difficult snow storm with the handling nannies, I reckon your folks in an AWD Honda CR-V shall fare well with M+S tires provided they:

  • Plan stops around the weather: The National Weather Service recommends doing so in 6 hour time blocks, among other great ideas here.
  • Stay on the largest freeways to maximize the chance of plowed roads: hopefully the journey is done completely on interstate-sized highways.
  • The M+S tires still have plenty of tread left, and (as time goes by) do not dry rot.

Of course, as always, do ensure they are prepped for the journey as weather could outsmart our smartphones and sat nav systems.

I am beyond optimistic after experiencing today’s active handling technology on a vehicle far inferior to your folk’s Honda. What say you, Best and Brightest?

[Image: © 2017 Timothy Cain/TTAC]

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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2 of 99 comments
  • Suto Suto on Jan 27, 2019

    I understand they can't compete with a true snow tire, but in northern Ohio Continental ExtremeContact DWS does great in the winter and in standing water, better than Michelin all seasons. Cheaper, more comfortable ride and longer wearing too. A bit more flex when turning quickly.


    Try the TOYO CELSIUS... it seems like the perfect blend for this application.

  • Nrd515 I bought an '88 S10 Blazer with the 4.3. We had it 4 years and put just about 48K on it with a bunch of trips to Nebraska and S. Dakota to see relatives. It had a couple of minor issues when new, a piece of trim fell off the first day, and it had a seriously big oil leak soon after we got it. The amazinly tiny starter failed at about 40K, it was fixed under some sort of secret warranty and we got a new Silverado as a loaner. Other than that, and a couple of tires that blew when I ran over some junk on the road, it was a rock. I hated the dash instrumentation, and being built like a gorilla, it was about an inch and a half too narrow for my giant shoulders, but it drove fine, and was my second most trouble free vehicle ever, only beaten by my '82 K5 Blazer, which had zero issues for nearly 50K miles. We sold the S10 to a friend, who had it over 20 years and over 400,000 miles on the original short block! It had a couple of transmissions, a couple of valve jobs, a rear end rebuild at 300K, was stolen and vandalized twice, cut open like a tin can when a diabetic truck driver passed out(We were all impressed at the lack of rust inside the rear quarters at almost 10 years old, and it just went on and on. Ziebart did a good job on that Blazer. All three of his sons learned to drive in it, and it was only sent to the boneyard when the area above the windshield had rusted to the point it was like taking a shower when it rained. He now has a Jeep that he's put a ton of money into. He says he misses the S10's reliablity a lot these days, the Jeep is in the shop a lot.
  • Jeff S Most densely populated areas have emission testing and removing catalytic converters and altering pollution devices will cause your vehicle to fail emission testing which could effect renewing license plates. In less populated areas where emission testing is not done there would probably not be any legal consequences and the converter could either be removed or gutted both without having to buy specific parts for bypassing emissions. Tampering with emission systems would make it harder to resell a vehicle but if you plan on keeping the vehicle and literally running it till the wheels fall off there is not much that can be done if there is no emission testing. I did have a cat removed on a car long before mandatory emission testing and it did get better mpgs and it ran better. Also had a cat gutted on my S-10 which was close to 20 years old which increased performance and efficiency but that was in a state that did not require emission testing just that reformulated gas be sold during the Summer months. I would probably not do it again because after market converters are not that expensive on older S-10s compared to many of the newer vehicles. On newer vehicles it can effect other systems that are related to the operating and the running of the vehicle. A little harder to defeat pollution devices on newer vehicles with all the systems run by microprocessors but if someone wants to do it they can. This law could be addressing the modified diesels that are made into coal rollers just as much as the gasoline powered vehicles with cats. You probably will still be able to buy equipment that would modify the performance of a vehicles as long as the emission equipment is not altered.
  • ToolGuy I wonder if Vin Diesel requires DEF.(Does he have issues with Sulfur in concentrations above 15ppm?)
  • ToolGuy Presented for discussion: https://xroads.virginia.edu/~Hyper2/thoreau/civil.html
  • Kevin Ford can do what it's always done. Offer buyouts to retirement age employees, and transfers to operating facilities to those who aren't retirement age. Plus, the transition to electric isn't going to be a finger snap one time event. It's going to occur over a few model years. What's a more interesting question is: Where will today's youth find jobs in the auto industry given the lower employment levels?