My wife’s 2011 FWD Equinox performed poorly this past winter in Buffalo. We love the car, but were wondering if snow tires would help and prevent us from trading in for an all-wheel-drive model
Winter tires (the term snow tires is now considered to be outdated) make a world of difference, and not just in terms of traction to get a vehicle moving. Even more important, winter tires significantly shorten your stopping distance on a snowy or icy surface, and they help keep you from sliding on a curve. Of course, they don’t make you invincible, and you still have to drive in a cautious manner on wintery road surfaces.
The top-rated winter tires are the Michelin X-Ice tires, of which there are a few different models. In addition to unmatched winter traction, they also have longer tread life than any of their competitors. Just be sure that, no matter what brand of winter tires you buy, you de-mount them once any threat of snow & ice is over for the season.
Are these your original tires? If so, it seems to me that your tread depth probably wasn’t very good this past winter. The minimum for snow is 6/32 in my opinion; even that depth is noticeably worse than new tires.
What tires do you have now? If you have the Michelin Latitude Tour, those are only middle-of-the-pack for deep snow, according to Tire Rack’s survey results. There are better all-season tires for your situation. The Goodyear Assurance CS TripleTred looks like a good choice.
However, winter tires are always more capable than all-season tires. If you use all-season tires, you need to adjust your driving accordingly.
Most parts of the country…snow/winter tires are really not necessary. But Buffalo is probably one place I’d have them. Too much snow…and unpredictably lake-effect snow.
+1 for VDCdriver .
+1 also for @VDCdriver. Add one more tidbit, buy 4 (FOUR) winter tires, not just the front pair!
…and…I want to add that those 4 winter tires should be mounted on their own dedicated set of steel wheels.
When you consider the cost of changing from one set of tires to the other set of tires on the same set of wheels, plus the necessity of using a mechanic for that task, it is just so much easier to have your 4 winter tires mounted on their own set of steel wheels, thus allowing the car owner to install them himself when the first winter storm approaches.
Both Tire Rack and Discount Tire offer very good deals on winter tires that are pre-mounted (and balanced) on their own set of steel wheels. Once you receive them via UPS, it is a snap to install them yourself.
I agree with the general conclusion that winter tires are much better in snow and on ice in general. I agree with @MikeInNh general assessment that it really depends upon how much you actually face these conditions. The reason is, you generally give away some on road dry road performance and handling which could cause emergency handling loss during normal road conditions. Our manual on one car says you shouldn’t drive the car over 75 mph with any snow tire. Though we often do and others as well, it does indicate that at least one source, the car maker, knows that winter tires come with compromises.
No all season tire can perform in snow and on ice as well as even the average winter tire. But the reverse is often true for dry road driving. We use winter tires but we always keep that in mind and drive more conservatively on them on dry roads. Keep that in mind. The mentality that AWD is a replacement for winter tires is a fallacy. They are a valuable adjunct and together they make cars nearly unstoppable and handle without equal on snow and on ice. That may be overkill on maintained paved roads, even in Buffalo.
Unless you live on a hilly gravel road that is ice covered all winter, I don’t feel studs or AWD are absolutely necessary. Winter tires have good enough traction even without them. Go for it. At some point though, I would try out an AWD car with snow tires in snow and on ice just to get a reference between the two before you buy your next car.
I have lived in Rochester and Buffalo for 22 years. Nothing beats a set of 4 winter tires mounted on a set of steel wheels for snow traction. Winter tires have turned some of my worst winter cars into mild mannered winter drivers. I haven’t gone a winter without them for many years and I would not think of trying to weather a Western NY winter without them.
VDC posted excellent advice as usual. The only thing I’ll add is a suggestion to get a spare set of rims, steel is fine as long as it meets the specs for your car, for the snow tires. That’s much better than dismounting and remounting the snows every season change. It’s much easier, saves money every seasonal change, and doesn’t stress the beads, which can lead to slow leaks.
I should add that even winter tires need good tread on them, so if the tread gets worn past 50% you should consider leaving them on for the spring/summer/fall and putting new rubber on for the winter. You can leave the summer wheels in the garage and cycle them back in the following spring.
Been to Buffalo. Been stuck in a Buffalo storm. You need good tread. That lake-effect snow is amazing.
As a follow-up to the importance of having good tires–even with an AWD vehicle–here is a video of a Jeep Grand Cherokee that almost didn’t make it through snow that was no more than 6 inches deep. While you can’t actually see the condition of the tire treads in the video, the person who shot the video stated that the tires were essentially bald.
(Warning: Profane language!)
I am totally with you. The deference is, where you live and to what extremes you feel you have to go to get the security you need. When I lived in town, we did fine with a truck with snow tires and a car with all seasons. We just didn’t drive the car on snowy days.
Having snow tires on separate steel rims is an absolute no brainer in dealing with snow tires to begin with. The only thing that beats that, is a friend who has a winter car and truck. equipped with snow tires and summer cars without. No change overs, just rotations. But, he’s a different breed of animal with more garages then most people have cars (5) and his free time is dedicated to their care and up keep.
I absolute agree. Tires are shoes for your car. You would not venture out in deep snow or on glare ice in summer leather sole shoes no more then you would go to the beach in heavy boots regardless of how capable you as a person thought you were.Why people think there is a one size fit’s all for tires in both winter and summer weather in snow country means you have to err on the side of traction tires like AT. The same is true for AWD or 2 wd cars. Also fel wad and 2 wd are in greater need of winter traction tires because of their capabilities. How much good does it do for a Formula one sports car to wear all season tires. You match the tires to the expectation you have for the car, regardless of the drive train.
VDCdriver I don’t have to watch the Jeep video. Last Winter it actually snowed here. The first day it was only 2 to 3 inches of powder. Someone had sent a video to the local news station. It was a Jeep Grand Cherokee at an intersection I am very familiar with. They had stopped for the red light on a slight incline. When the light turned green the Jeep was spinning it’s tires and making no progress. The car stopped behind it backed up and cut through a parking lot. The Jeep then backed into the parking lot and parked. The newscaster actually stated that a 4WD with bald tires is just as worthless on snow and ice as any other vehicle with bald tires.
Worse ! It’s still an unreliable Jeep.
dagosa I’m thinking Jeep reliability may be luck of the draw. I had very good luck with my 1991 Cherokee Laredo with the exception of totaling it in 2001. Very few, very minor, very inexpensive repairs over 10 years. A relative had a 1999 Grand Cherokee that suffered 13 years of somewhere between minimal to zero maintenance and was finally put out of it’s misery by an accident. I have read the horror stories about Jeep unreliability. I just haven’t experienced it.
I think if you got a 4.0L, you got a good one
@VDCdriver we have no idea of tire condition nor poster in that video.
The reality is technique comes into play. Winter tires less technique is required. My wife is an amazing winter driver as her first 20years of driving involved $1000 Japanese econboxes with cruddy all-seasons in New England.
I have lived in western NY since before WWll, never had other than 2WD, never needed it. Had snow tires when I drove rear wheel drive. Just use all season tires now but I was a professional driver for 55 years.
We all think we are great drivers. Until one day you are going just a smidgen too fast for that idiot that pulls out of his driveway in the snow, or you are rounding a curve that is slicker than it looked. If you have snow tires on all four wheels you have a greater margin of error in these and many other situations that you cannot anticipate. Why people who live in snowy areas accept the higher level of risk associated with all season tires mystifies me. The difference in cost over time is so minimal and, unlike many other safety features, is pretty much fail-proof.
When the snow flies I drive slowly, carefully, and with four snow tires. I can’t say that I feel “safe” but I sure feel “safer” then I would without snow tires. FWIW I have not had a single winter accident in Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse, NY since switching to snow tires in the winter almost twenty years ago. I average over 3,000 miles per month year round.