By on August 9, 2019

Greg writes:

Good day Sajeev,

I recently signed a three-year lease on a Grand Cherokee Upland. The Upland is an appearance group that includes tow hooks, blacked-out trim and great big (20”) wheels wrapped in some fairly aggressive all-terrain tires (Goodyear Wrangler All Terrain Adventure). Boy, does FCA love “appearance groups.”

I live in the great white snow belt of Western New York where we get around 100 inches of snow per year. On my last two vehicles (Ram 1500 and Toyota 4Runner), I used winter tires for about 4 months of the year and was very happy with them.

I have the opportunity to purchase winter tires on steel wheels for this Jeep at a steep discount from a coworker. My question is, do I need them or should I rely on the A/T’s that are on the Jeep already? The stock tires are well-reviewed for winter use but I’ve heard horror story about low profile tires and big rims in the snow.

What’s your take?

Sajeev answers:

Western New York, eh?  So how far away do you travel from cities/towns that sport readily available snow plows?

Greg replies:

Almost never, but I often have to leave for work before the roads are cleared. I’m a firefighter so in my line of work we don’t get snow days.

Another factor is that this is a lease and I feel like using winter tires for part of the year might keep me from having to replace the tires before I trade it in. But if these tires perform as well as reviewed in the snow, I wonder if it’s a waste to play the snow tire shuffle every spring and fall.

Sajeev concludes:

Because of your location, my gut feeling is to not buy the winter tires and give the All Terrains a shot. Because, if I Googled right, these Goodyears carry the Three Peak Mountain Snowflake (3PMSF) symbol which suggests not terrible traction in packed snow. They aren’t winter tires, but does the 3PMSF certification cut the mustard?

I’m cheap/hate buying stuff sitting with no foreseeable future value, and since we don’t know how cheap that steep discount is, that money could be applied elsewhere. I’m stating the obvious (i.e. Firefighter training is superior to what we get in Driver’s Ed), but keep the usual stuck-in-snow removal tools (kitty litter, shovel, etc.) in the cargo area if 3PMSF can’t save your bacon.

But your bacon is extra valuable in your community! So perhaps:

  • If you’re getting those dedicated Jeep snow tires/wheels for cheap, you can easily re-sell them and lose (almost?) nothing.
  • Firefighters need/deserve every tool they need for success.
  • The spare winter tires are cheap insurance. Which is inherently valuable.

Yeah, just buy those winter tire/wheels…Best and Brightest?

[Image: Shutterstock user Klopping]

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34 Comments on “Piston Slap: Faith in the Three Peak Mountain Snowflake?...”

  • avatar

    You’re piloting a 2-ton (or more?) chunk of metal and plastic, likely worth more than $40k.

    Snowtires don’t just help in snow. When it’s cold, the rubber compound stays softer than A/S or A/T tires so they grip better even when the roads are plowed.

    IMO, snow tires worth it.

  • avatar

    Being a lease, it doesn’t seem worth it but if it’s really cheap like $250-300, why the hell not. The additional confidence on icy roads is already worth it, assuming the pre-owned winter tires still have good tread remaining.

  • avatar

    Related question: I’ve always heard that the “thinner” the tire the better for handling in the snow. Since the OP mentioned this aspect of the tires I was wondering if this is still considered an accurate statement about snow tires?

    I know when I went from a 70 series tire to a 50 (changed car ownership) I had more handling issues with the 50s.

    • 0 avatar

      The statement is correct, but you’re thinking of thinness in the wrong dimension.

      The first number in the tire size is the width in mm, and the narrower that gets, the better in general in snow, because the narrower contact patch sinks down farther than a wider tire which tends to “float” on the snow.

      The aspect ratio (70 vs 50 in your case) is the height of the sidewall as a percentage of the width. Generally, a lower aspect ratio goes with a wider tire and a more summer oriented tread, so it makes sense in your case that the snow traction went down, but not directly because of the aspect ratio. A 245/70/17 would be theoretically equivalent to a 245/50/17 assuming equal tread pattern.

  • avatar

    I would spring for the winter tires given the first responder profession. Winter tires provide the added edge that can be critical in winter condition like notapreppie mentioned. I find winter tires are so much better in braking performance.

    Two other reasons:
    1) Steel wheels keep the nicer alloys out of the salt and grime of winter. Degradation of alloys exposed to winter salt often is evident a few years into ownership.
    2) Miles traveled are miles traveled. The winter tires save your standard all-seasons. Winters are usually cheaper to purchase than all-seasons, so there is a win in the cost-per-mile category.

  • avatar
    Nick 2012

    I am a winter tire evangelist, and have dedicated winter tires for 2 of my 3 vehicles.

    I took a bit of a gamble for the third and got a set of Vredenstein Quatrac 5s, one of the newest generation of ‘all seasons’ with a 3PMSF. I didn’t believe that one tire could do it all, but it does. For my area, I think they work as good if not better than Yoko Ice Guards.

    Tire Rack has test data to compare against dedicated winter tires.

    I’d keep them and give it a shot. Its not as if these are a summer-only tire.

  • avatar

    Personally, I have no experience with dedicated winter tires, despite having lived and worked in areas where they might have been useful. I’ve even driven down Wolf Creek Pass (yes, that famous song) in the dead of winter in a rental sedan wearing rental rubber, without issue (wish I could have said the same for the woman driving the big ORIGINAL Jeep Grand Cherokee in 4WD at the time.)

    However, as a fire fighter and First Responder, your responsibilities require you to get there first time, every time. I’ve experienced what driving on essentially ‘invisible’ ice is like and it’s a risk you cannot afford. Cutting through new-fallen snow is easy, relatively speaking, but plowed roads may look clear and still have a layer of pure ice (on concrete pavement it does not LOOK black, like wet asphalt) and your traction even with those “Three Peak Mountain Snowflake” tires may simply not be good enough.

    Go with the winter tires for that added traction, even if it is more expensive than you really want. I usually don’t NEED to go out in those conditions, so I don’t really NEED that extra security. I worry more about the other guy whom I can assume has not done so and drives as though the roads were perfectly dry.

    • 0 avatar
      Nick 2012

      I would guess he is a paid full time FD, and would need to get to the station and back safely which is a different use case than responding directly to scenes. I used to be a volunteer EMT, and in a really bad snowstorm, got picked up by the Fire Department’s HMMMV (total overkill, but who turns down a ride in a HMMMV with lights and sirens) to make it into the station. Then the ambulance got stuck going out on the first call and we had to follow a plow truck to the house.

  • avatar

    I would wait and see until winter, the stock tires might be good enough especially riding on a Jeep 4X4

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Greg alluded to something that we have all disregarded. This is a lease. We don’t know the mileage that Greg will drive before he ‘turns it back’, but generally there is a requirement regarding the tire condition/tread depth on returned vehicles.

    So Greg can run the stock tires year round, which is a compromise, then possibly have to purchase another set of tires, probably with one year or less left on his lease. And therefore get minimal use/return on them.

    Or he can purchase the winter tires. Have the best possible tires for every condition. Have piece of mind. Possibly get a discount from his insurance company. And when he returns his Jeep, he will have at least one set of tires on it that will meet the lease return standards. If these are the original stock tires, then he might even be able to re-sell the winter tires.

    So the answer seems pretty obvious to me.

  • avatar

    Winter-Tire Certification: In the US and Canada, winter tires are certified using a specific test protocol ASTM F1805 referenced to a Standard Test Tire having known tractive properties (ASTM 2016). A similar standard is used in Europe ECE R117 (ECE 2011). Tires that conform to these performance standards display on the tire sidewall the so-called ‘Alpine’ symbol, or the three-peak-mountain with snowflake referred to as ‘3PMSF’

    Ref: Surprising Findings About Winter Tires: It Is Not Just About Snow

    ASTM = American Society for Testing and Materials

  • avatar

    Careful! There’s a couple of different versions of the Goodyear All-Terrain Adventure tires. Only the LT versions are rated for severe snow and have the 3PMSF symbol. The passenger versions are NOT rated for severe snow. If you separate out the reviews of the two different versions you’ll discover the passenger version reviews of snow/ice performance are pretty average.

    And I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest Jeep put the passenger version on the OPs Grand Cherokee. You might think, oh, it’s an SUV, they’ll put the LTs on it, but Ford put the passenger version on my FX4 Expedition (with a 116 load rating). Mine don’t have the 3PMSF on the sidewall…

  • avatar

    Personal anecdote. I live in eastern Ontario and commute 40 km each way. On a 2015 F150 I ran the stock Hankook all terrains through the winter then subsequently BFG K02s. No issues whatsoever and very rare use of 4WD.

    Eastern Ontario gets lots and lots of snow and an annoying amount of freezing rain.

  • avatar

    One thing that isn’t mentioned is the age of these used winter tires, nor the brand.

    Fact is tires loose traction as they harden from age. One of the reasons winters tires work is because they stay softer when it gets cold. So check the date on those tires, if they are 3, 4 or more years old it may just not be worth it as they will fail to provide good grip in the ice before you are done with them. The other thing to check is the tread depth. Once the tires are down to 6/32″ of tread they are no longer good in snow. Many brands actually have wear indicators at that level to let you know it is time to replace them or use them as summer tires. Yes use them as summer tires as some brands specifically use a different compound in the remaining tread that is not a winter compound. You’ll have to check the exact model of tire to be sure.

    So don’t spend $600 if they are only going to be good for one season.

  • avatar

    I’m not trying to be too rude here, but if you live in an area where it gets cold enough to snow any amount you NEED winter tires. In my opinion, they should be mandatory. And as with summer or all-season tires, buy the best you can afford. When I rent cars in the winter the cheap winter tires they put on them are barely better than all-seasons. Those four wee patches of rubber are all that connects you to the road.

  • avatar

    Winter tires on a leased vehicle make a lot of sense, for reasons mentioned in the article. You are likely going to have to buy another set of tires before you turn it in anyways, so you might as well make that second set of tires something that helps you out in the winter.

  • avatar

    ScoutDude makes an excellent point about the age of the snow tires.

    If the snow tires aren’t old and you can pick them up cheap and you have an impact wrench ect to install/uninstall them yourself, I say: “What have you got to loose?”

  • avatar

    I don’t think he said it’s a 4WD, there are lots of 4×2 GC’s…

    But if it’s 4×4 the OE tires combined with double the drive wheels will be fine, however I get the idea of saving treadwear on the stockers for a few months per year so may as well.

  • avatar

    For what it’s worth, I’ve lived in the Buffalo area my whole life and have only had snows on one vehicle (my current Audi S4), only because the tires that were on it when I bought it were summer tires. On my Audi Q5, I used all-seasons, same on my Mazda CX-7 – those are both low profile big wheel setups. I didn’t have any problems with either of those vehicles.

    I’d say you’re probably OK. On the other hand if the snows are cheap enough, why not? I doubt you’ll have much trouble re-selling them when your lease is up.

  • avatar

    I live in western NY in a city that gets 100 inches of snow per year….Buffalo, NY and I would strongly recommend real snow tires on a set of steel wheels. I have always gotten smaller diameter wheels with narrower tires. They dig into the snow better and the higher profile provides better cushion during pot hole months. I have done this on all my vehicles I have used in winter…Honda Element, BMW X3, and currently a VW Golf Alltrack. All season tires were lousy in snow and especially ice. I justified the expense in that snow tires were much better and thus safer in the winter. The steel wheels saved my alloy wheels from the ravages of salt and keeping my summer tires off the car for 6 months doubled their life.In the scheme of things its cheap.

  • avatar

    I buy snow tires and wheels for all my vehicles, even the leases. Bought at the right time, you can save. Cheap steelies and good tires are cheap insurance. At around $80-$100 for a changeover on factory wheels ( plus your wait time) it makes sense on a lot of levels to have dedicated wheels.

    I live in Pittsburgh, where there’s snow but not like Buffalo. I’ve driven some miles in rentals on all seasons in snow and on icy, greasy roads and I never regret the extra expense of snow/ winter tires. The real difference I notice is when the temps really drop below 25F.

  • avatar

    winter tires if you can get them for cheap for the reduced stress of driving in the snow.

    you can get most places on all seasons if you are careful and when its really bad, with luck. on winter tires the drive will be so much more RELAXED. if you are doing any real amount of driving in snow that is worth it right there.

    i’ve had many a white-knuckle drive on all seasons in snow; with winter tires i’m just smiling… (i admit; i’m never as self-righteous as when i’m driving in the snow with winter tires. i’m pretty much the smartest person on the road at that point!)

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    I ran a Miata on summers year round in Watertown, NY. Every commute was like running flat out on a dirt track and handbrake turns were the norm. YMMV.

  • avatar
    Big Smoke

    Greg the fire fighter. Question. Do you want a almost fireproof boots, pants, coat, helmet?
    Buy the lightly used snow tires from your buddy. It will get you to work on time.
    OK. one more question, greg. How many accidents do you get called out for with bad tires, roll overs, how many in the winter.
    If you put more than 50k miles on your lease, you will need to replace the tire before your lease return. Pay now, or pay later, and give the new owner new tires.
    In my province, I get 5% back on my insurance for running dedicated snows. Check with your NY state provider.

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