Do I need snow tires?

I have a Lexus RX 400h. The standard tires are Goodyear Eagle RS-A’s. On Feb 25 my 23 year-old daughter and I will be driving from Atlanta to Denver, then into ski country for a week. I fly home, but my daughter will stay out west and do some road-tripping for 2 more weeks, traveling over the mountains to Park City and Jackson Hole, then back to Atlanta.

This trip obviously includes lots of mixed conditions: southern and prairie freeways, icy mountain passes and snowy surface roads in the ski towns. My daughter’s safety is more important to me than the cost of snow tires. Should I purchase them for the mountain roads or would they be a liability on the freeways? Also, would we have to keep speed down on the freeway if we install them?

Thanks for any help.

Even the winter tires (the correct term nowadays, rather than “snow tires”) with the lowest speed rating are rated for speeds up to 99 mph. That being said, I swear by the effectiveness of winter tires for STOPPING the car as well as being able to gain forward traction in bad winter conditions. Have them mounted on their own set of steel wheels for easy changing and you will be good to go.

The only problem with most winter tires is twofold: excessive noise on dry pavement and short tread life. However, the Michelin X-Ice tire is the best of the lot on these two points and I strongly recommend that particular winter tire as they also handle better on dry roads than other winter tires.

There are some good compromise winter tires that as mentioned, travel safely at highway speeds. Forget studs though. Your car will quiet the excess noise to a tolerable level. I’ve been happy with Winterforce tires which are reasonable priced and perform well at highway speeds on a car I use for winter travel.

A second consideration is just go to an all season that is rated well for snow. Your car has enough traction aids, that a deep tread all season should do you fine. Ski areas are serviced as well if not better than town roads. They’re ready for snow.

I use Bridgestone Blizzacks on both my cars. WS-15 on my wife’s '98 Accord and WS-60 on my '92 Accord. Maybe a little noisier on dry roads than all seasons, but I don’t consider it a problem. I have both sets (of 4 each) mounted on their own steel rims. I can’t compare with other brands, having owned only the Blizzacks. Don’t hesitate to install 4 snow tires on your car. Don’t forget, while you have them installed, you are lengthening the life span of your summer tires. It’s not like you’re spending additional money for them. You’re just spending money now that you won’t have to spend later.

For a trip like the one you are planning, I would recommend the following item:

No I am not affiliated with the company in any way. It just looks like a good product. I was thinking of buying them for my December trip to Buffalo, NY (I live in Fla.), but I cancelled the trip. If you get these, let me know how it turns out.

the spike spiders look interesting. The web site recommends you put them only on the drive wheels, but I suspect you would be better off with them on all 4. I can’t find any pricing info. From the video, they are made in Germany.

Would they be better than 4 winter tires? don’t know.
Does CA accept these as snow chains, ie, can you use them when the state requires you use snow chains?

Another source for improved traction is

Real winter(snow) tires require you drive with a bit more prudence as they give up some dry/wet handling to gain winter traction. If you drive normally there is no issue.

If your current tires are more than half worn down I would not consider them at all for usage on snow. Anything below 6/32" in tread depth becomes questionable for snow/ice usage. Winter tires are the best for safety however its best simply to avoid the roads during large snow events. My biggest fear during a storm event in not me slipping but the other cars on the road. Snow covered but plowed roads are not an issue for all-seasons if not too worn.

“Real winter(snow) tires require you drive with a bit more prudence as they give up some dry/wet handling to gain winter traction. If you drive normally there is no issue.”

Actually, this is not true of the Michelin X-Ice. Their dry road handling is exceptionally good and I have not found any problems with their wet road performance either.

In both Colorado and Utah, you’ll be going up mountain Interstate highways and State highways. Very frequently, lighted signs flash at you “Chains or adequate snow tires required”. No chains or adequate snow tires = BIG TIME FINES if you get past the State Troopers. You can safely travel at 65-70 mph on snow tires. Warning: don’t speed in Colorado. Our Troopers and local County Sheriif’s Deputies just LOVE seeing an out-of-stater speeding! Easy money for the various treasuries. Chances are, your ticket will give you a Court date in a month or two. The other option is to sign the ticket agreeing that you plead guilty and that you’ll mail the fine in within 30 days. A lot of States have this “deal” available for you and the Western and mid-Western States all have interstate pacts to where if you don’t pay your fine on time, or show up in Court (typically 2 times!), then they let your State of record know that a bench warrant has been issued for your arrest. This results in your license getting suspended because you’re a scofflaw regardless of the State in which you committed the offense. Be safe and be cool. Get snow tires and don’t speed.

Don’t equate today’s winter tyres with the snow tyres of old. It is a new technology and they are better in all ways. You don’t need to slow down on the freeway and the will help keep you on the road and stop faster than non-winter tyres.

If it were me, I might try all season tyres, but since you and your daughter likely lack much experience driving in snow and ice conditions, I think they would be a good investment.

According to the testamonials on the web site they are accepted where tire chains are required. I think you can call or e-mail them with the rest of your questions, including pricing.

I agree that it would be wise to put them on all four wheels, but as a truck driver, I never used tire chains on all of the wheels. For some reason they are only placed strategically on particular wheels. If I was driving a front wheel drive car I would only put them on the front but if I had rear wheel drive or all wheel drive I would be inclined to put them on all four tires. My reasoning is that it only takes two good traction points to maintain traction. Additional traction for the rear wheels will help you steer out of a skid, but tire chains are not designed to help you steer out of a skid. They are really designed to help you maintain traction before it is lost. and have good consumer feedback and ratings sections. A visit to thse websites should help you select something with good winter traction.

Let me suggest that you also drain the windshield wash bottle and refill it with “winter mix”. The stuff you probably use in GA will freeze in the lines.

Also, you may want to get rubber-booted winter wiper blades. Ice will form on regular blades in a snow storm and make it impossible to see out the windshield.

Agree! I put Michelin X-Ice on my wife’s car and she absolutely adores them. The car just walks throught the snow we ahave been having lately and at highway speed there is no sacrife of control. They are not even noisy. This tire by far has the best combination of handling characteristics.

Stay away from the Michelin Alpin. This tire handles great at high speed , but is rather useless as an all round winter tire.

Those Goodyears aren’t very good in snow. I agree with the others. Get a set of 4 winter tires. sells packages that include steel wheels so you don’t have to risk damage to the factory wheels and both sets of tires from switching them back and forth.

Would they be better than 4 winter tires?

I believe snow tires might actually be better, but I think that tire chains or spike spiders would be sufficient and more practical than snow tires for a single trip and trips made in future years. Snow tires or winter tires are really made for people who drive in winter weather for whole seasons and they will have a relatively short life span, depending on whether or not you drive on them on dry roads and how they age in storage.

Put Michelin X-Ice on a performance oriented car on a dry/wet day in the winter (I drove friends WRX) and you have to slow down around the twisty’s. They don’t even hold a candle to a decent ultra performance tire all-season(mine RE960 on WRX) in the same conditions. When I say slow down I mean going speed limit or less around the curves in New England, the X-Ice feel mushy/disconnected to me. I gave up on winter tires on my WRX as I found them to take away from the driving experience on the conditions 90%+ (wet/dry) of the time.

Like I said before if you drive normally X-Ice they are fine. I rarely drive above 10MPH above speed limit, however many corners are suggested at 25MPH where speed limit is 35-40MPH and I enjoy taking them at 45-50MPH in dry/wet conditions.

You don’t have to drive in or into a storm; stay put until the locals get the roads cleared with plows, salters and sand. You might want to take your trip in a front drive car with antilock brakes and radial tires (all are now) with good tread remaining. I believe that your Lexus has rear drive, correct? Not as good in the winter as front drive and by a considerable margin in my view. I recall when almost everything had rear drive and our first front drive car in the winter; way better than rear drive and old fashioned bias ply tires. Studded tires are illegal in some areas as they wear out urban freeway road surfaces not to mention that dry and wet road panic stopping distances are longer with studs. I live in the upper midwest snow belt and have, as almost everyone here, never bothered with snow tires since radial tires and front drive came on the scene.

This Lexus is either FWD or AWD.

I very much concur on not driving during a storm. Its never worth the time/aggravation. She’s on vacation anyway, why waste time driving in hard conditions when you can enjoy skiing nice powder or sitting back in a comfy lodge watching the pretty snow fall.

My last trip out west I had no issue going up snow covered but plowed roads in a rented FWD Hyundai Elantra with what looked to be OEM Michelin all-seasons. However I also have over 20 years driving experience in New England. They do an excellent job taking care of roads in CO trying to get skiers to the slopes.

Spike spiders are widely available at tire outlets and are highly expensive $250 or so, I believe. You have to install a sort of flange or cam that stays on your wheel permanently.

They are easy to put on, but their traction doesn’t approach that of even “ladder cable chains,” which are fairly simple to put on also, and are $20-$30.

Nokian makes the WR, which is a great winter tire, but can also be used year round. It might be your best compromise, if you are in the market for new tires. Every review I have read have praised it in snow, as well as the durability and handling for summer driving.

I think they are in the midst of replacing the WR with another comparable model, so you may be able to get the WR fairly cheap, or maybe the newer tire is a better deal all around. Don’t Know, but I would discount spike spiders, would recommend cable chains, or, if you really want a new tire, GOOGLE the NOkian WR…