Snow tire question

I need advice buying snow tires for my 2012 Mazda5. I only drive about 5 miles one-way to work on city streets, but I do also do some highway driving on the weekends. I live in the upper mid-west (Iowa) where we tend to have pretty bad winters. Missing work because of snow is not an option, and the city plows roads sporadically when it is snowing so I could be trying to get through up to 2 feet of snow and/or drifts on the roads… I had Blizzaks on my last car which were recommended by the tire dealer, but am not sure whether I should go with Blizzaks again or is there a better brand? Any advice would be appreciated. Thank you all!

Blizzacks are typically top tier winter tires. The alternatives are Michelin’s, Continental WinterContacts, Nokian and a few others.

My suggestion is calling and asking for recommendation. You can actually get winter tires mounted on rims for a decent price. Many times they can downsize your wheels and even use steel ones that are cheaper for new rim/winter tire vs buying the tire only that fits your existing rims. The good part is your nice rims don’t get beat up in the winter and you get better traction. Lastly changeover is simply a $15-$30 charge to swap entire wheels during an oil change instead of a full unmount/balance/remount charge.

To Andrew’s good advice, I want to add that, no matter how good your winter tires (the term “snow tires” represents old technology) might be–if there is 2 feet of snow on the roadways, you will not get through. Call it “the snow plow effect” if you wish. When the depth of the snow is equal to, or higher, than your vehicle’s ground clearance, you will not be going anywhere.

My experience with winter tires is that, while Blizzaks have essentially the same traction as my choice–the Michelin X-Ice winter tire–the Michelins will give you FAR better tread life than the Blizzaks or any other winter tire.

The best tire to cut through deep snow is a narrow one. The worst is a wide one.

Wow, you guys responded quickly! Thank you for your suggestions. I am not at all knowledgeable about cars (apart from being able to check oil and put gas in), so it hadn’t occurred to me to buy “cheap” rims with my tires to save money in the long run, but I like that idea!
The Blizzaks were the first set of snow tires I ever bought. They were for my last car, a Sentra, that was horrible in the snow, but before that I had had a Subaru for 13 years that was wonderful in the snow even without snow tires. So I am really a snow, excuse me, “winter” tire newbie :slight_smile:
Would you recommend that I buy tires and rims online from Or should I buy locally so that I have a resource if something goes wrong?
I will look into the Michelin X-ice winter tires. Do you know why they give a better tread life? Just curious?

Mechaniker, that is what the salesman at the tire dealer told me, but it seems counter-intuitive, because it would seem that a wider tire would be more stable and better able to grip/move snow… Do I need to specifically request a narrower tire or will a salesman automatically direct me to the best (narrower) tire?

I am at and it is asking me whether I want “original” equipment tires of 225/55/16 or “custom” size of 225/45/17. Given your suggestions re smaller/narrower tire on rims, which of these would I choose?

Mechaniker, that is what the salesman at the tire dealer told me, but it seems counter-intuitive, because it would seem that a wider tire would be more stable and better able to grip/move snow…

Mechaniker is 100% CORRECT…The wider the tire the less weight per square inch on the footprint of the tire. In snow you want the tires to reach pavement or the hard pack snow on top of the pavement. A wider tire means you’re NOT achieving that…and you will be riding on the lighter snow on top - which won’t give you any traction. One reason the older VW bugs were phenomenal in snow was because of those tall skinny tires.

Buy the tire that is designed for the car. You don’t need to get a different size tire. If you can get a narrower winter then they are better for snow…HOWEVER…Iowa really doesn’t get that much snow…About the same or less then New England and far far less then the Great Lakes region. So you may occasionally get 1 or 2 2’ snow storms a year…it’s NOT the norm. Cars here in NE don’t have any problems with good all-season tires. Wife has only missed 1 day of work in the past 30 years here in NH due to snow…and she’s only driven fwd cars (Honda, and Lexus). I really don’t see a need for snow tires where you live or here in NH (unless you live in the mountains). Des Moines Iowa only averages 33" a year…That’s not much snow fall…Isn’t even in the top 100 snow fall cities in the US. Most of your winter driving will be on dry paved roads…only those very few days (maybe 10) will you have to drive on any snow more then 2".

A narrower tire will allow the tire to sink deeper into the snow, instead of tending to ride on top of the snow, as would be the case with a wider tire. However, that “custom” size is not a narrower tire, but instead it is a lower-profile tire that will not help you with traction. I suggest that you call Tire Rack’s toll-free phone number and speak with one of their reps. These folks are very knowledgeable, and can guide you to a narrower winter tire that still meets the load-bearing capacity that you need.

Incidentally, I got my last three sets of winter tires from Tire Rack (pre-mounted on steel wheels), and I had no problems whatsoever. I would buy from them again in a heartbeat.

I am at and it is asking me whether I want “original” equipment tires of 225/55/16 or “custom” size of 225/45/17.

The first number “225” tells you how wide the tire is. So both of those choices the tires are exactly the same with. The second number is the aspect ratio…That’s the ratio of the with of the tire to the side-wall height. Take the 225 and multiply it by .55 will yield a result of 123.75…So that would be the sidewall height of the tire. The last number is the size of the rim.

MikelnNH, you are correct that we don’t get a lot of snow like the Great Lakes regions, but our city does a wonderfully horrible job of plowing. The last big storm we had here I got stuck 3 times going home one night (I grew up in upstate NY, so I know how to drive in snow…). I appreciate your point that I probably don’t need winter tires, but I am very nervous about 1) other drivers who barely know how to drive on bare pavement much less snow, 2) being able to get home in a reasonable amount of time so that my dogs haven’t coated the house with bodily fluids, 3) being reasonably certain of my safety.
I would be very happy if good all-season tires were a viable option, but I didn’t think they would give good enough traction? What brands would you suggest? Any other thoughts on the viability of all-seasons vs. winter tires?

If you have any local independent tire dealers in your area, their prices often are equal to or better than I’m not talking about local tire chains, but rather independently owned single-store shops. Then if something goes wrong, you have personal local service to help you. is a great source of valuable information, but don’t make your final decision until you check locally.

That is one thing you have to get use to when you move out of Upstate NY…They really know how to plow in that area…When you have cities that annually see 100+ inches a year…some times 200"…and some small towns have been known to get over 500"…you better have a good snow removal system in place.

Thank you for all the great advice. I will call and also check around locally. I will absolutely look into keeping all seasons on car, whether I really need winter tires… You guys really came through for me, great conversation! Off to work, will check back later tonight.

<font face=“Times” color=Blue">3doghouse 8:25AM

I am at and it is asking me whether I want “original” equipment tires of 225/55/16 or “custom” size of 225/45/17. Given your suggestions re smaller/narrower tire on rims, which of these would I choose?

Neither. Going from 225/55-16 to 225/45-17 is known as plus 1 sizing; the wheel diameter is increased by one inch and the sidewall is decreased so as to give approximately the same over-all wheel+tire diameter. This yields better handling on dry roads.

For winter tires, assuming you want to go with new steel rims, you want to decrease wheel diameter and increase sidewall depth (as well as decrease tread width). This is known as minus sizing or minus 1 sizing. Both higher sidewalls and a narrower tread are desirable for snow tires.

My suggestion for snowtires:
  • O.E.M. ........... 225/55-16 (tire + 16" wheel diameter = 25.7 in)
  • Snow tires ...... 215/65-15 (tire + 15" wheel diameter = 26.0 in)
If you order winter tires by phone from Tire Rack, mention the words "minus sizing" or "minus 1 sizing." They will know what you mean.
I live in ChiTown and drive to Tire Rack in South Bend IN for new tires and balancing. They have about a dozen bays and I have never seen them crowded. The place is so clean one could eat off the floor.

I’ve been there so often that the last time they gave me a free “Tire Rack” baseball cap.