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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

5 reasons why winter tires matter, and not just for enthusiasts

As winter approaches, the prudent Canadians among us begin to think of our tire choices for the snow and ice that are to come. Some of us still believe that all-seasons are a four-season tire, but that couldn't be further from the truth.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/opinion/5-reasons-why-winter-tires-matter-and-not-just-for-enthusiasts...
77 REPLIES 77
bradfa
Advanced Driver

I've always run friction snow tires in the winters here in western NY but this year I got myself a set of studded Nokians. We haven't had much snow yet this winter but I'm really curious if I will be able to tell the difference or not as compared to past experiences with friction snows. Time will tell.

The first like 250 miles the studs were pretty loud but they seem to have quieted down now, or I'm losing my hearing because of them or just getting used to it 😉
denali94
Intermediate Driver

Studs work only on ice - they do nothing to help on snow or slush and can make things 'exciting' (read that as worse) on dry pavement. They are also hard on the roads - states like Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota have banned them, and others restricted use periods.

 

Further, your 'quiet' studs equals minimal to no studs, if you are driving them on dry pavement, they will wear out rapidly. Check to make sure they are still viable before you rely on something that may not be there . . .

hyperv6
Racer

I grew up in Akron Ohio. I have family and friends of several generations of tire companies employees. The one thing in common with nearly all is they all use just regular all season tires even here in the snow belt of Lake Erie.

With no doubt that the winter tires have better traction. I will never say different. But generally most all season tires today are advanced enough with multi compounds on their tread face and employ computer aided tread design to make them more than adiquate and safe to use in most winter applications.

Also in most areas the roads are treated and cleared quickly and efficiently.

There are also different levels of all season tires now too. You really need to read and learn what tires best fits your needs and conditions.
A racing tire also has much better dry traction when hot but that does not mean you need slicks to drive in the summer either.
Winter tires are best in conditions where it is very cold and a lot of ice. If you live out in the country and have a long drive or roads where the are seldom plowed.

Also you will find some vehicles and some people are more able in the snow than others.

But the greatest issue in the snow and for most that have troubler is that many people are driving on tires that are nearly bald. I see it often many struggling in the snow and you look and they have little tread.

Also many people have lost the skill of car control. They don't know how to turn into a spin or how to use the throttle to control the rear end. Many controls jump in and prevent the driver from really controlling. That works up to a point. This also cause many to drive faster than needed and over ride the controls.
We also have the opposite where some will slow down so much they imped the ability to get over hills for others and often are seen holding the wheel with a death grip.

I really wish they would teach new drivers car control in the winter. That would go a long way. I learned much in a large snow covered parking lot just doing donuts.

But the long and short of it is this. Really read and learn the levels and abilities of tires and match the best ones to your needs. Winter tires are good but to be honest you generally can do as well with a good set of All Seasons.
uweschmidt
Instructor

I really get the Part about the Deathgrip see lots of them everytime there is a little snow lots of these unfortunate people have been blinded by tire advertising like29% more grip or so it goes lots of them have never driven junk cars on horrible roads just pavement which sometimes turns horrible when there is light snow on glare Ice I really wonder 25% more grip this year 30 % more grip last year 15 % more grip the year before that and185 more grip the year before that How much Grip is That?
hyperv6
Racer

Lack of skills and lack of adjusting to conditions. The first rush hour snow is always the worst. I used to dread it. Often I would take to the back roads to get around the traffic. That is one thing working from home Has eliminated. 

 

I did get caught in Columbus Ohio one day in the snow. Interstate 71 was backed up with crashes everywhere. I just took to Rt 3 and the back roads and got home with no issues. 

 

It was a longer route but I had no traffic and just motored on home. 

uweschmidt
Instructor

Excellent Action taken by you!
OldCarMan
Instructor

I like the first couple of icy snows. The Natural Selection Process removes the worst drivers for a while! Proper vehicle control for the conditions or events is all important. Not overdriving for the conditions because you have AWD, 4WD, or the latest Blizardmatic tires is the un-common sense part of the equation. With luck, it goes back to Natural Selection...
Hth70
Pit Crew

Agreed ! Lived in Cleveland area my whole life. Never have I or anyone I know,need winter tires. Maybe certain limited areas of the country. In most cases completely unnecessary.(this article sounds like a tire advertisement)
Marv48
Intermediate Driver

I agree! I live in NW Ohio and have used all season tires for more than 40 years with no problems. You just have to drive according to the road conditions.
Flashman
Technician

Also, here in Ontario, insurance companies modify your premium if you use snow tires (mine does anyway).
Zephyr
Instructor

As a native Californian driving in the snow is something I have almost no experience in, but my understanding is that many Americans who live in snow country have snow tires permanently installed - on the rusted out 15 year old beater that they drive in the winter. My personal opinion has always been that snow is God's way of saying "you should probably stay indoors today."
hyperv6
Racer

It is in all how you approach it.


They started drifting as a new sport. We had been doing it for years on snowy roads. 

I spend a lot of time in So Cal. I love it there for a week or two at a time but I still will put up with some snow to be able to where I live now. 

The snow is not the problem it is the people that make it worse. Think of it like rain on I5 at rush hour. 

SLD
Intermediate Driver

Hi Zephyr. If they had snow tires permanently installed the tires were probably made from a summer or all weather compound with a more robust tread. A winter tire has a softer compound than a summer or all-weather tire so that the rubber doesn't get as hard in the low temperatures. That way it can handle icy conditions better. If you keep a winter tire on your car in the summer you'll wear it out as fast as a race car driver wears out tires. I had a mechanic who said he did that during July (in southern Ontario), and he wore out his tires in a couple of weeks. Maybe a mechanic should have known better, but he also said that with the softer rubber compound his car handled better than it ever had before.
LamboEd
Detailer

I'm glad I live in Florida so I don't have to worry about snow tires!!! Or winter jackets! LOL BUT, I used to live in Massachusetts so I know what snow tires are, I even remember studded snow tires!
OHCOddball
Advanced Driver

One of the huge issues, no matter the tire type is the fact that it is impossible to steer with the throttle anymore. With rear drive, you just stab the gas and around the corner you go. Now with FWD/AWD, if you stab the gas, into the ditch or curb you go. Plus all the electronic BS won't let you drive. It does what the computer tells it. For years I drove standard RWD cars with bias ply snow tires, even an S10 truck. Seat of the pants driving>>you could feel the traction limit and adjust. NEVER got stuck and NEVER went off the road. These days you see cars off the road everywhere. People become complacent that the electronics and AWD will save them from their own stupid driving.
hyperv6
Racer

I drove my S10 and Sonoma for years with the throttle to steer. 

 

I hate FWD as you lose traction you lose steering. Even with traction control you still have less ways to respond. 

 

My AWD is ok and even in dry I keep it in AWD as if I go to take off too hard the FWD will just jerk you around. 

Driver17
Intermediate Driver

That's why you have a handbrake! Watch World Rally Championship drivers.
hyperv6
Racer

If you have a hand brake. 

today many have electrics park brakes. 

Tsaxman
Advanced Driver

Here in Michigan, I survived the winter of 2013 (most snowfall on record) with an AWD BMW 3 series.

Those of us learned to drive in vehicles that were rear-wheel drive, with large V8 engines and bias-ply tires, have no problem with AWD cars with all-weather tires.

Tillsonburger
New Driver

Used Michelin X ice on 2 Chrysler 300's & 2 Challenger R/T's, no problems on ice or snow here in southern Ontario. Now have a Grand Cherokee equipped with Michelin Cross Climates, all weather as opposed to all season, carry a winter rating so more more swapping rims twice a year. Originally developed for the European market I belive. Have worked great so far. lots of tests on them on Youtube.
denali94
Intermediate Driver

We lived in Alaska for many years and never used "snow/winter" tires. During our years up north, the majority of the roads were just plowed (a good snow packed road can rival some asphalt), in some small towns they sanded the intersections (made for better stopping) and in Anchorage they used that God-awful salt/sand combination which not only created the 'slush' condition, spinning tires would kick up small rocks in the sand leading to broken windshields. Never once did we, or any of our friends, have any issues getting around. Granted my wife always had one of those late 70's/80's Subaru's that would go anywhere and I had several 4wd pickups which as the author points out do nothing to help you stop faster on ice/snow. The trick was to think about what you were doing, pay attention to the conditions and traffic and leave some extra space. Skills many people today have either forgotten, never learned or simply ignore.
RG440
Instructor

I completely agree with your last two sentences. One of my pet peeve’s today is; When using turn signals to lane change (yes I still use them!) on the expressway, 10 out of 10 drivers speed up closing the six/eight car gap to beat you from merging! As the wife reminds me you would probably get shot nowadays getting upset. Just Very Frustrating as it completely negates the Turn Signal Function ( LAW ).
Gene_M
Detailer

Gonna get a lot of flames for this but...
Ever since 2019 I can't stand ANY saying that ends in "... matter". It evokes a sense of someone trying to overpower someone else and I find it abhorrent. It goes alongside "whatever" and similar phrases and I typically won't read or pay attention to the subject it has in front of it. I only opened this to respond to the title.
Go ahead, I'll read about the comments later, good or bad. (I hate being this way, it was a quick process that brought it about though)
Tim
Technician

Your reaction confused me, because the title doesn't end in "matter." So, I'm guessing you don't like the word "matter" no "matter" where it appears in a sentence. 😄
pcchuck
Intermediate Driver

I drive in Northern Michigan and Ohio all year. In 2010 I bought a new Ford Taurus Limited AWD which came with Goodyear tires. It was incredible, like riding on the back of a cat... so I looked the tires up on Tirerack and saw the snow and ice ratings were in the high green. In 2015 I traded it in for a new 15 Taurus limited AWD also with Goodyear tires. The first snowy day it skidded on a curve.. so checked Tirerack and found these tires ice and snow ratings were in the orange. Later, I checked Tirerack and put a set of Vredestein Quatrac Pro's on it... UNBELIEVABLE tires... It is now as good as the older car.

Just like a race car, tires are 50% of the car.

RG440
Instructor

Also from Northern Michigan
On Ice….Tires Are 100% of The Car !!! One trick I use on ice when braking is putting the vehicle in neutral then brake. It keeps the RPM away from the tires breaking away on the ice. Once at a complete stop re-engage in gear. Another trick is ask the State Police what tire they are running in the winter. A couple of years back I had a set (forgot make but believe they were Goodyear) that was super-ciped along with sand in the compound that were an incredible tire on ice. For the past forty years I always put brand new snows, the best in my mind at the beginning of snow and always rooster tailed snow for the season below my big block Mopar of choice for that season. Those super-ciped snows I earlier mentioned made a minivan sound like a big bad race car when taking off on dry pavement. ICE WILL WIN is a lesson worth LEARNING.
NightRanger
Intermediate Driver

Yes! The shift to neutral trick is one I also learned many years ago before ABS when I lived in Edmonton 🥶. When coming to a stop on slippery city roads with an automatic transmission, even at idle there is some power going to the drive wheels. Therefore when braking, typically the non-powered wheels will lock up before the powered wheels, so it’s difficult to modulate your braking. By temporarily shifting into neutral, braking effort is equalized to all 4 wheels.
ed
Advanced Driver

I'm in New England, going into my 21st winter. Some have been pretty brutal. I have never swapped out tires for the season. But I am a southern transplant, and I don't enjoy the winter sports, etc, so I don't go into mountain country when weather is a problem. We've had as much as 4 feet on the ground, but the streets are either plowed, or I stay home. They are prepared for this stuff here, and nobody even notices a snowfall of 6 inches or less, compared to my home of Atlanta, where simply the talk of an inch shuts down the city for a week.

Most of my cars are stored during the winter. I would never drive one of those in the liberally-applied road salt. My new Jeep has all-terrain tires, but they haven't been put to a good test as yet.

gpsuya
Advanced Driver

Well, here in southern Ontario, when I see white stuff on the highway, it's salt. They dump so much of it needlessly, it has the effect of turning out a whole generation of people that wouldn't have a clue on how to handle a vehicle on slippery roads
JAG
Detailer

True snow specific "Blizzak" tires are best where snow is a permanent part of winter. For the rest of us in the center of the US, say south of say Fort Wayne IN and Columbus Ohio, having full time snow tires can be a problem. They wear out fast when driven on dry warm roads and take about 1-2 mpg. So if you put them on in late November, have a mild winter by March the tires are now worn down so in the late March 6" snow fall you are better off not having them on. For most of us just make sure your all season, not high/summer performance, tires have 70% tread and are not over inflated.
golfnut53083
Intermediate Driver

When we were learning to drive, my Mom took us each to the empty high school parking lot after a snowfall. There we proceeded to learn how to handle skids and emergency braking and turning in poor conditions. It was invaluable training and has helped me immensely through the years. Love you Mom!
ofenn
New Driver

The snow you have in USA and Canada is the same we have in Norway. I use winter tires with spikes at my 2014 Toyota Land Cruiser. It is a 4 wheel drive. I change to summer tire when the snow is gone in April.
I will recommend Nokian Hakkapelitta 10 as the best winter tire with spikes. Without spikes there are many different brands. Tires used all the years is dangerous in the wintertime there it's snow and ice. 4wd means nothing when you have to brake. 4wd is best in snowy and icy roads with winter tires.
1933ford
Intermediate Driver

I am surprized studded tires have not been banned in most jurisdictions for obvious reasons. What the heck all bureaucrats want to get in your face so why not here!!!
autowriter
Detailer

They should be banned. MN banned them years ago because of the damage they did to roads.
DougL
Detailer

Studded tires were banned in Michigan many years ago. I think they were legal for less than 5 years. The pavement was wearing quickly.
AG1962
Instructor

How right and how wrong the same article can be! I spent twenty years trying to persuade my Ontarian wife that Edmonton winters required snow tires. I finally prevailed on that one, at least. Then we moved to the coast. The 875,000 people who live on Vancouver Island just don’t need snow tires (unless they are avid skiers), ditto most Vancouverites/Greater Vancouverites— and there are 3 million of them. That’s a solid ten percent of the Canadian population right there. What west coasters do need is newer tires that have enough tread and flexibility to deal with rain — that’s the real issue out here. But I agree with you as regards the entire continent east of the Cascades/Sierra Nevada and north of, say, 40 degrees latitude or so: snow tires are the bomb — way cheaper than just one fender-bender and they extend the life of your other tires — even allowing the use of high-performance summer tires in the warm season!
Hodag
Pit Crew

I live in North Dakota, and my 2014 Ford Focus is way to powerful in snow. The regular summer tires I would just spin them. It would take for ever to get going in snow. Last year I went with studded snow tires on front and non studded snow tires in back. I feel like an AWD or 4x4 in most winter situations. Works so well I bought a second set of Ford Rims for the snow tires and switch them with the summer rims. Works great.
MustangJim
Technician

Your point is correct for those that have performance tires. Summer tires ,weather on a fwd or awd won't work well on snow,ice, packed snow, etc...and if that car equipped with those tires in the summer is your year round car, then winter tires aare a necessity. If you have good all season tires and know how to drive you'll be fine. If you have good all seasons on an awd or four wheel drive you have nothing to worry about unless the weather is extreme, then....best to stay home. If you can't, get winters. The thing I find annoying is these people with high performance suv,s that think because they have awd they are fine but with the summer tires they slide all over the road. They are the ones causing accidents. Just lack of knowledge..people don't learn to drive anymore.
MuirWoods
Pit Crew

Snow tires are why we love driving in the winter! When the weatherman says, "Travel Advisory" he is advising us to drive up the ski areas, and frozen lakes, and hikes in the high country. If you can't drive to where the fun is, why ever drive at all?

And believe me the difference between a top-grade Snow tire and an All Weather tire is as big as the difference between All Season and All Weather. Like taking off your daily drivers at the track and putting on a set of Track Day specials.

Forget those folks who say they have AWD and don't need Snow Tires. It's not about the traction, it's about the cornering, and more importantly, braking and the integration of all three.

Traffic permitting, you can drive right at the edge of 10/10ths and feel stuff going on between the tire and the road that you should really not do away from a race track. On really slippery days you can do this at half the speed limit, while in the summer, you have to be doing Go Straight to Jail multiples of the limit just to feel it.

I did get a ticket once for going "too fast for conditions" well below the speed limit. Got off when I had the cop describe the tires his cruiser was running, and what I was. The cop that chased me down was absolutely going too fast for his equipment and the conditions. I wasn't, and the Judge got it.
DaveA
Instructor


@MuirWoods wrote:
 If you can't drive to where the fun is, why ever drive at all?

What a strange question to ask on a website dedicated to people who enjoy driving!
For many of us, a destination is not required. The drive is the fun. 😎

 

MuirWoods
Pit Crew

Busted!  I'm often guilty of going out in a big snowstorm just to drive in it, don't tell my wife.

DAdams
Intermediate Driver

All these arguments about snow tires, may be true, but they are preaching to the choir. The common driver who most needs to use snow tires does not read this newsletter. But then in most snowbelt areas the mantra of the highway department is "keep it wet and black", making snow tires unnecessary for but a few hours during or after a major storm. A mantra that also keeps the auto manufacturers busy as we replace rusted out hulks long before the engines begin to wear. Being retired I indulge in the best option - stay at home. Of note, most (all in the snowbelt of the lower 48?) areas allowing studded tires limit use to November thru April. Hakkapeliitta's may be good, but they have 2 problems - cost, they are very expensive; and availability, dealers that carry them are few, far between, and do not include the major national tire dealers. When they first came out, I had good performance with Bridgestone's Blizzak. Performance that did not carry over to their Winter Dueler. However, latter renditions of the Blizzak tire have not my expectations from the original.
JGeske
Instructor

As a current resident of Northern Wisconsin, and formerly of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (say Ya to da UP der, eh!), I have long loved the benefits of snow tires in winter. Heck, living and driving in Houghton, MI in the winter pretty much required it (for those unaware, Houghton and the surrounding area typically gets between 150-250 inches of annual snowfall). Most recently, I was pleased with the development of the All-Weather category of tires, and now both of my family's vehicles wear this year-round rubber that performs about halfway between an All-Season and Winter tire in measured tests. Hers are Firestone WeatherGrip and mine are Falken Wildpeak A/T3W. Not having to switch tires annually and still getting better winter performance is a pretty fair deal in my book when the only thing given up is a little road noise. To be frank, the WeatherGrips in particular are absolutely astounding at how they handle the snow, and I have previously used Firestone's WinterForce winter tires on my vehicles, and the WeatherGrip is not giving up much in winter performance compared to that dedicated winter tire. The Falkens are not quite as impressive, but I wanted the off-road performance and moderately better winter performance on the truck, so options are limited.
GoldSS
Pit Crew

I have to agree with you about using Firestone's WinterForce winter tires. My other half has been driving with these the past 3 winters here in N.IL and use the "one inch" rule on a 04' Monte Carlo SS SC. on all 4 corners.The stability in snow is tremendous she says.Her summer tires are Firestone Indy 500 tires.I have learned to refrain from watching the boost gauge in the winter.Whether winter or summer they still hook nicely..
Rick2
Instructor

We equipped my wife's PT Cruiser with good winter tires and that thing was a tank! She would bust through drifts on the way to work because there was nowhere to turn around when the snow got deep. Then she would pass a lot of four wheel drive pickups that had passed her earlier-most of then Dodge or Ram.
DaveA
Instructor

Many years ago, while living in New England, I equipped my Outback with dedicated snow tires. The difference in performance was amazing. Turning, braking, stopping, and going were all improved. 
I think what most people fail to understand is that no matter how advanced a AWD/4WD system you have, no matter how many “gadgets” you’ve got to help you stop or steer or control wheel spin, all of those systems work through the tires. Your tires are the only part of your car that actually touches the road. That’s why good tires are a must, no matter what the weather conditions are.

JGeske
Instructor

Spot on! I always like to point out to people that AWD and 4WD don't improve stopping power, just starting power. They often get you going in a manner that gives you confidence, when in fact you are on ice, making them more dangerous. The tires are the most important part, as you state, and a FWD or RWD with 4 winter tires is going to perform better than any AWD or 4WD with non-winter tires.

Furthermore, I like to point out that, in the AWD vs 4WD debate (tires being equal), when it comes to winter driving, 4WD will help you out of the ditch, but AWD is more likely to keep you out of it in the first place since it can be active on pavement.
goldwolfnhn
Intermediate Driver

I've lived in Wisconsin for over 30 years, majority of that was living in the country and I never ended up in a ditch primarily driving rear wheel drive or 4x4's on either all terrain tires or regular all season tires how ever with my current daily driver, a 1994 Buick Roadmaster Estate wagon, which is factory equipped with an iron head LT1 I am going o be running winter tires on it once I get the extra set of rims reconditioned, as that is the only vehicle I have ever driven that has issues getting going in the snow, even with an additional 300 lbs of sand in the back.

but I also have to agree with the other people that have commented about all the new "safety" features that are supposed to help with traction as too many people rely on those systems so they never learn how to properly drive, in the time I lived out in the country, every year from the first snow till the last snow I always saw vehicles in the ditch, majority of the time they where either big 4x4's or other newer fancier cars with front wheel drive or all wheel drive, yet I was driving trucks, SUV's, or cars from 1986 GMC 1 ton Crew Cab dually, to my 94 Buick Roadmaster estate wagon, I doubt any of those drivers where happy when they saw my big rear wheel drive dually calmly pass them in the ditch going the speed limit (55mph) or just under.
JGeske
Instructor

Fellow northern WI resident and former Yooper, and I agree on the electronic nannies making people complacent or low-skilled for winter. My current vehicle has a "stuck mode" that turns off the traction and stability controls entirely to allow you to spin the tires and rock the car if stuck, and I sometimes at the start of winter I will turn that mode on intentionally for normal drives just to make sure I practice my driving skills without the nannies, just like how I learned to drive back in the day.