Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Gail's winter driving... snow tires?

I was surprised that they didn’t mention snow tires. From what I have seen, they aren’t overly common in the US, but in the more alpine parts of Europe, it is normal to have a second set of rims with snow tires and change to them during the colder months.

To each his own. I live in the Pocono mountains of Pa. I have winter tires mounted on their own rims for 2 cars. I also have an SUV with 4WD, I use all season tires on it.

I like the winter tires on the cars as much for their stopping power and more confidence in taking corners. The all season tires on the SUV are selected to have an open tread design that handles snow well.

I think the biggest key to safe winter driving is to keep your speed down when the roads are snow covered. Frequently I get passed by 4WD or AWD SUV’s that a few miles later I see in the ditch. Some folks just go the speed limit or above regardless of the condition of the road surface. Overconfidence driving in snowy conditions is what sends many drivers off the road and into the median or ditch.

In snow it is more important how fast you can stop, not how fast you can go.

…and that is perhaps the biggest advantage of a set of 4 WINTER tires.
At 25 mph, a car with winter tires can stop on a snowy surface in about 30 feet less distance than a car with so-called all-season tires. That can be the difference between hitting something (another car, a person, a mailbox, a utility pole…) and not hitting something.

To the OP–the term “snow tires” is archaic. The modern-technology winter tires look nothing like the heavily-lugged snow tires that you are familiar with, and yet they are FAR more effective than those old snow tires. And, despite what you may believe, there are many of us in the US who switch to our winter tires for a few months each year.

“All season tires” are just that–in FLORIDA. If it snows in your area then “all season” equals “3 season”–spring, summer, and fall. Winter tires and rims should be a necessity.

Oh, I believe that they are used in the US, even if, for example, my relatives don’t bother. My comment was more out of surprise that they weren’t mentioned. Stopping is of course far more important that starting, and 4WD/AWD doesn’t exactly improve this. Such vehicles are more likely to come with aggressively treaded tires, but there are cheaper ways to get tires that do well in the snow.

Not only should Gail get 4 snow tires, she should get, (if legal in her state) STUDDED snow tires. A car that can STOP or skid GENTLY is much more important than 4WD or AWD. / czar55

Snow Tires, problem solved. Studded snow tires help traction on back two wheels, help steering on front wheels, and most importantly helps stop the car!!

Think of all the mountain passes that require cars and trucks to put on tire chains before proceeding. The reason is because of the increased winter handling. Chains are better than snow tires but snow tires are leaps and bounds better than other tires.

Almost all rocky mountain or ski town residents use snow tires to take regular two wheel drive cars and turn them into winter machines.

You could buy 4 snow tires and have the tires changed onto your current rims every year at a tire shop, or buy 4 extra plain rims and have the tires mounted and balanced. Then you can put them on by yourself every season.

Snow tires!

Studded snow tires have a number of disadvantages when there isn’t a real base of snow to drive on. Noise, legality, and so forth. But there are non-studded snow/winter tires, and they avoid these downsides. There are countries in Europe (Germany and Switzerland I know for sure) where essentially everybody has a second set of rims.

In my experience, the newer “non studded” snow tires have improved to the point where they are nearly as good as those that require studs. I wouldn’t have said that 5 years ago.

In addition, I feel it is more important for 4wd/awd cars and trucks to have tires that match the conditions (snow/ice/mud) than 2wd vehicles. Would you go off roading with all seasons in a SUV when you “could” go miles from home and not get back ? Neither should you ever take advantage of awd/4wd in the winter w/o winter tires. The increased acceleration traction of 4wd/awd even with all seasons, put you at a greater risk at the higher speeds you can travel, and the conditions you will be tempted to go out in w/o the appropriate tires.

IMO, never buy a 4wd as a replacement for winter tires.

I think she should forget the SUV and 4wd and get a good set of snows. But if her van is old and doesn’t have stability control, then it should be replaced with something newer with stability control. Lots of 15 passenger vans wind up rubber side up.

Put my vote in for snow tires as well. The rubber compounds and extra siping on the modern ones make an incredible difference on snow and ice. I also agree they should go on all four corners regardless if the vehicle is RWD, FWD, 4WD or AWD.

I also prefer to install them on a separate set of wheels for ease of swapping twice/year. One downside on newer vehicles is the need for TPM sensors. On my '06 Toyota Tacoma the sensors go for over $100 each from Toyota. Luckily I found a set of four takeoffs for about $100 that could keep the TPM system working. I still need to get the TPM computer reprogrammed twice a year but the dealer I bought the snow tires and wheels from does that at no additional charge.

Result is that a 2WD Tacoma with snow tires is awesome in the snow.

How about studded tires that add no noise?

My Chicago advisors recommended carrying kitty litter in the trunk: adds weight to the back in rear wheel drive cars, and add traction when spread in the snow when we inevitably get stuck. So, when I heard a recommendation for greendiamondtire dot com, I was intrigued. I was not disappointed, in 3" of snow during a snowstorm around Telluride, CO, even 4x4 vehicles were spinning out on curves and uphill. My VW Golf handled perfectly: stayed on the road in curves, went 10-20 mph faster than 4x4, stopped faster than any car without studs.

You are putting “sand” under your tires wherever you go. Ingenious! As the rubber wears, more industrial diamonds are exposed. I’m not sure I like the newer rubber composition that improved the wear mileage from 25K to 45K, but they can be used year round.

The best time to buy them is way before Winter. They are almost all back-ordered this time of year. They don’t carry enough sizes to fit all vehicles. They are made from recycled tires, but they stand behind their warranty for failures, though not wear related failures.

I know I’m nobody, but they’re worth the the extra cost over new, all-weather tires.