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.

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