By on January 12, 2022

2020 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk

People tend to have some pretty strong opinions in this neck of the woods, ranging from thoughts about this year’s crop of NHL rookies to unsolicited sentiments about how Uncle Walt really should have added a ledger board when he built that new deck last summer. Hey, at least the thing is still standing. For now.

While the works of us are largely united on the subject of winter tires – it’s broadly accepted that driving aids such as pedestrian detection and lane centering and even the basics like stability control aren’t of much use if those four fist-sized patches of rubber on each corner of the car have less traction than pork at a PETA picnic – there’s still plenty of debate over the usefulness of studded winter tires. One group swears by them while the other swears at them.

This author was in the latter group – right up to the moment I bolted a modern set of studded tires to my Cherokee Trailhawk. Turns out, a lot has changed in two decades.

What spurred the change? New driving patterns for one, plus a Farmer’s Almanac promise that there’d be plenty of freeze-thaw cycles this winter in this part of the world. While the images in this post show a decent dusting of postcard-like snow, it’s all been replaced in the last couple of days on our roads with inch-thick ice thanks to temperatures which rise and fall faster than the value of Bitcoin.

These particular hoops are Nokian Hakkapeliitta 10, the latest in a line of studded tires from a Scandinavian company where the residents know a thing or two about driving in foul winter weather. In fact, it’s rumoured that babies in Finland exit the womb on full opposite lock, which is great for future hotshoes but does little to ease the complexities of delivery. Ok, perhaps we made up that last bit.

Alert readers will have noticed the newest spellcheck-vexing but fun-to-say Hakkapeliitta winter tire uses a directional pattern with an ample number of sipes. For those of you who fell asleep during the last lesson, sipes are those little zig-zag spaces in each tread block, designed to open slightly when pressed into a driving surface to provide more biting surfaces in the never-ending quest for traction. If you’re a resident of the Sun Belt and are skeptical about the need for winter tire sipes, try this experiment. Take a block of Styrofoam from your next overpackaged Amazon parcel and slide it across the kitchen table. We’ll bet it slid relatively easily across the surface. Now, use a blade and make several shallow cuts along the surface, then push the block across the table again. Different, huh? That’s sipes at work, or the basic concept behind them, anyway.

2020 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk

All this is well-trodden ground for your author, a person who religiously installs winter tires each annum and expounds their virtues to anyone who doesn’t. After all, if the guy next door has tractive rubber on his vehicle, he’s less like to slide into mine when coming in hot to the cul-de-sac after a night of socially distant bingo at the Legion. What isn’t familiar to these jaundiced eyes are studs in winter tires, a type of traction aid I haven’t utilized in about 20 years. That set, installed on an aging Ford Escort wagon with a dodgy amount of rust on its rear suspension towers, roared like Chewbacca on a bad fur day and created so much headache-inducing din that it was nearly impossible to communicate with passengers without using hand signals.

You can imagine my surprise when these studded Hakkapeliitta tires did nothing of the sort. Oh, sure, there’s the typical hum of winter rubber and a slight plinking sound depending on the road surface but it’s hard to believe this is the same concept in traction that nearly drove your author to arson back in the late ‘90s. What changed?

Tire technology changed, as it turned out. It seems big companies like Nokian and others plow untold time and money in the R&D of their tires, coming up with new ways to increase traction while – in this case – keeping a lid on road noise. Gone are the days when Bill at the service station would hammer studs into tires one at a time; modern studded tires are fitted with these pins from the factory. In the case of this Hakkapeliitta 10, there are two different stud designs in the tire – one in the center rib and another on its shoulder. The latter are star-shaped and used for lateral grip, helping ensure traction in the corners while the others help with acceleration and deceleration. After this latest freeze/thaw, I can confidently say the concept works.

2020 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk

But what about the ungodly racket, my nemesis from that winter two decades prior? Turns out these tires have an added base layer thickness plus a special stud rubber cushion (make your infantile jokes now, please), both of which work together to reduce tire noise and road wear. Unlike old-school studs, these things have a cushiony base into which they can slightly sink, absorbing a lot of the roar associated with winter tires. It would be disingenuous to suggest they’re equally quiet as a non-studded ice radial, but the difference is now more akin to levels 2 and 3 on a Fender amp instead of 2 and 9 volume levels. Modern tread compound also helps immensely in this regard, with the tread and tire structure absorbing most of the noise before it reaches the cabin. My ears are grateful, though the pharmacy’s sales of Tylenol have surely plummeted.

Consider me a convert to studded tires, then – at least to this set of Hakkapeliitta 10 rubber. Turns out some opinions can change, after all.

Uncle Walt still needs that ledger board on his deck, though.

[Images © 2022 Matthew Guy/TTAC]

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25 Comments on “Studly Moves: Installing Studded Winter Tires for the First Time In 20 Years...”

  • avatar

    A friend of mine is a true believer in studs. I experienced his vehicle on a shiny glazed icy road where he definitely had an instance requiring stopping as fast as possible. Personally, I surprised at how little extra traction the studs had compared to my vehicle which has studless winter tires.
    An actual test pitting the tires in this article against other options would be fascinating to see.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Very detailed informative – thank you.

    Here in Pennsylvania, studded tires are permitted between November 1 and April 15 – almost half the year.

    I’ve occasionally run studs, but only on RWD cars, and I haven’t owned a RWD car in over 25 years. Nor have I ever owned an AWD vehicle. Studs installed by the garage, running on the back of an 82 full-size LTD – not fun – and dry traction was compromised.

    YMMV, but in the Pittsburgh area I wish for AWD maybe 3 days per winter, and studs maybe a few more. My lifestyle just doesn’t require those measures. However, in the future I expect to travel more and perhaps that will be the time.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      Same thing in New York, studded tires are permitted between November 1 and April 15. That’s quite reasonable given the damage to the asphalt that can occur off season.
      I would put studded snows on my rear drive cars in the 70’s and 80’s. Many of the snows were designed with the holes in them for studs. Most tire shops would install them for a few dollars per tire. Once the all season tires became widespread and popular they seemed to fall out of fashion. The impact of milder winters as well, why bother with the studded tires if it’s only going to snow a few times in the season.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        There is also a cultural thing going on, I believe.

        Snowy roads were a staple of winter in the past, but today there seems to be demand for black, wet roads no matter the snowfall or temperature. Maybe it’s due to schoolbus liability, or increased last-mile deliveries.

        Snow is a hassle, but I detest road salt – and today it’s thrown down even before the snowstorm starts. Consequently, I rarely find my car struggling in the weather – but I’d rather endure the cost of AWD than the cost of damage by road salt.

        • 0 avatar

          Definitely. I grew up in that area, and I am very comfortable driving on snow. In fact, I enjoy it. (While still knowing that it requires extra respect and caution behind the wheel.)

          I am not comfortable driving in a salty slush-haze that covers every square inch of a car and works its way into every crevice. It even ruins clothing, like leather shoes. I don’t even want to leave the house when the salt trucks are out.

          I am happy to see the snowplows clearing the roads when appropriate (say, 2 inches or more of snow cover). Anything more than that would be dangerous, especially as it drifts. For anything less than that, I would be happy to see them keep the plow in the garage.

          On the other hand, one thing you can’t control is other people’s tires.
          For example – some people’s insistence that bald summer tires will be fine because their Audi or BMW has AWD. Reality is not going to work like that.

  • avatar

    The only time I saw studded tires used was on 2WD trucks and old RWD boats, I’ve never seen anything other than soft snow tires needed by any FWD vehicle, and I would hope a “Jeep” could hold its own without even them. So, why do you see a need for studded tires other than material for a piece?

  • avatar

    Timely article for me. Just became the second owner of a 2WD 1995 Explorer. It’s in great shape and it pains me to put it on salty NY roads but I cannot afford another barn queen. I’ve added sandbags and am actively exploring (ha) my snow tire options. Side note (15 inch wheels are more expensive than the big hoops I guess since they are rare). My research so far says studs would be a bad idea. They increase traction in icy conditions obviously but most days here it’s snow or dry salt and on dry roads the studs slightly reduce traction as they suspend the rubber slightly off the road in the area immediately around the stud.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m in western NY and got myself a great deal on a set of new old stock Nokian Hakka 8 SUV studded tires for my Chevy Colorado this winter. I’ve always run winter tires (except for a brief experiment with Nokian WRG4s on a Subaru) but never studded ones until now.

      I do find the ice traction better but I will likely stick to friction snows in the future. As you mention, the dry traction is less and I notice this more than the improvement in ice traction when comparing to past experiences with friction snows.

      • 0 avatar

        Thanks, that confirms what I’m hearing. I’ll stick with studless snows.

        • 0 avatar

          But what in the world does “Hakkapeliitta” mean? Enquiring minds want to know.

          Hakkapeliitta (Finnish pl. hakkapeliitat) is a historiographical term used for a Finnish light cavalryman in the service of King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden during the Thirty Years’ War (1618 to 1648).

          It’s shortened a bit (In Finnish: hakkaa päälle; in Swedish: hacka på) and used as a battle cry meaning “Cut them down!”.
          At least it doesn’t mean “snowball” or something like that.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    interesting . . . 30 or more years ago, a number of states prohibited studded tires (although they would seem to do less damage than a full set of snow chains). Studded tires would seem to have obvious advantages on ice and very hard packed snow. In my experience, Blizzaks (which are not studded) do amazingly well on these surfaces. I would be curious as to the incremental improvements offered by studs.

  • avatar

    I hear studs are popular with the ladies and certain gents.

    (Budda boom)

  • avatar

    Just ordered a set of all-weather tires, snow rated but you can wear them year round. Be interesting to see how they do, reviews are pretty good. We don’t get much snow here, so I’m hoping they’ll be enough.

  • avatar

    New England based driver of a RWD 2008 Lexus LS460, and I live on top of a steep hill that gets particularly icy and snowy.

    I’ve been running studded Nokian Hakka 8s on that beast for years and she is incredible in the snow thanks to those tires. Hakkas are absolutely fantastic.

    • 0 avatar

      My son has studded Hakka 8s on his 4×2 Colorado. He had a flat and the tire was wrecked. He had to run a few weeks with one all season while waiting for the replacement tire to come in. It was amazing as to how much a difference it made losing one rear tire even with the G80 locker.

      I run winter rated non-studded tires on my own truck since I use the same tires all year round.

  • avatar

    Tampa Bay and Other southern cities have NHL. And maybe Texas as far as I know. So where in the world do you live? Maybe Canada, or in Anartica. Some northern states in the US banned studded tires in the 70’s. Do these studded tires solve the problem of pavement wear?

  • avatar

    There should be a tax on studs directed straight into to a pothole fund, to account for the additional pavement wear.

    Current studiess tires, which don’t create extra pavement wear, are amazing on every surface except glare ice. (I have a set of 2020-build Blizzak DM-V2s for my Highlander that have been through a lot of weather in the mountains.) I’d only consider studs if I expected that my local conditions would feature glare ice during enough of the winter so that I couldn’t just stay home on an icy day. They don’t.

  • avatar

    I used to be a little bit on my high horse about “studs also wear out the pavement!”
    Then I realized that I-70 here through Colorado mountains has semi trucks with chains sliding and grinding their way up the steep grades during snowy spells, literally cratering new pavement within six months. A couple years ago there was a spot on Vail pass that was down to the dirt layer. Stud damage???? PFFFFT!

  • avatar

    Nokian is the number one in winter tyres. Here is explanation where the name “Hakkapeliitta” comes…it comes far from history….

    (Finnish pl. hakkapeliitat) were Finnish light cavalryman who served in the Swedish army in the 17th century. At that time, Finland was part of Sweden. The king of Sweden needed soldiers from Österland (Eastland), or Finland, to the wars he was fighting in Europe. Finnish soldiers were given the name hakkapeliitta because their Finnish battle cry was “Hakkaa päälle!” (English: strike upon [them], commonly translated as “Cut them down!”

    The Hakkapeliitta event in Tammela, Finland makes history alive.

    In proportion to population, the largest number of Hakkapeliitta who went to the Thirty Years’ War in Germany came from the region of Tammela. For this reason, Tammela is the place where the history of Hakkapeliitta comes to life every year on the first weekend of August. The Hakkapeliitta event has been organised for more than 40 years. You can see the live Hakkapeliitta on the courtyard of the Tammela’s grey stone church, steeped in history, where the wreath-laying ceremony is held in commemoration of the Hakkapeliitta from Tammela, the local men who were sent to the Thirty Years’ War in Germany.

  • avatar

    Just went through the exact same thing, Matt, on my wife’s old Honda Element “barn car”. Mostly because they were in stock and her old Blizzaks were worn down below the sticky rubber layer. Astounding grip, and for life in northern MT winter, a good call IMO. But the other two vehicles have studless winter tires and they are good enough in general.

    As you noted, a HUGE difference from the last studded tires we owned a billion years ago on my (ahem) Merkur Scorpio!

  • avatar

    I’m retired and just stay home when the snow comes. And really I can chain up if I have to, but mostly I just call Instacart when I run out of beer.

  • avatar

    More than I like I drive during black ice conditions. Studs work on black ice. They may somewhat increase stopping distance on dry roads and the thankfully rare panic stop. I can’t influence weather. I can control speed, how close I follow other cars, when I begin to slow for turnoffs, other stuff. There’s no perfect solution. But for some of us studded tires are the safest solution.

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