We live in the midwest and drive a 1996 Ford Windstar front wheel drive mini van. Would it be wise and beneficial to put snow tires on the front wheels, all four wheels, or not at all?
In view of the weather we have been seeing lately, I would put good WINTER TIRES on all 4 wheels. Winter tires are different for the old style snow tires with the heavy cleats. They have a new rubber compound that is very good on ice and packed snow and the treads are good for loose snow. Michelin X-ICE is a very good brand, as are others. I do not recommend putting only on the drive wheels, since you need 4 good tires for stoppping quickly.
If you have to drive in snow, winter tires are the way to go. Buy FOUR, not just two. You want equal traction at all four corners. Winter tires make a HUGE difference. They will not allow you to defy the laws of physics, but they will give you much better traction than standard “all season tires.”
You don’t need to spend a ton of money on expensive winter tires (although you can if you wish). Having winter tires, any brand, is better than not having them. Which brand or tread pattern is “best” is a never-ending argument.
I just installed some “Winterforce” tires on my daughter’s car and was very pleasantly surprised to discover how quiet they are, despite their aggressive tread pattern. When the noisy Nokians (great in snow but extremely noisy) on my Subaru wear out I’ll replace them with a set of Winterforce tires.
If you only purchase two winter tires, put them on the REAR, regardless of what wheels are driven. In an emergency manouever, the winter tires on the rear will prevent the vehicle from spinning around.
However, I think it’s important to consider how much you’ll actually need them. I live in Eastern Ontario, and while we’ve got lots of snow this year, I’ve wanted snow tires maybe 4 or 5 times over the past 4 or 5 months. Our roads are plowed quickly and well, and only a couple hours after a major snowstorm, the roads are pretty much clear. Therefore, given the infrequent need for winter tires, I can’t justify spending up to $700 for tires that make a difference a handful of times over the winter. When the weather’s crappy, I just drive slower. It’s a hell of a lot cheaper.
Best bet is all four. Modern "Winter" tyres (Snow tyres are old technology and not nearly as good) are a big improvement. If you only use two put them on the back. No additional pulling power but it will add stopping power and make the car more stable. Putting the best tyres only on the front can cause instability under emergency conditions and you end up looking out the windscreen at where you have been and not where you are going.
Four winter tires(optimal on snow/ice) or use regular all-seasons.
Using a pair on front is quite dangerous as your rear will be apt to kick out and spin your vehicle.
They are far superior than all-seasons in stopping and cornering even as little as a 1" of snow or ice. The benefit to me is not getting going but really the stopping/corning is many folds better.
“I just installed some “Winterforce” tires on my daughter’s car and was very pleasantly surprised to discover how quiet they are, despite their aggressive tread pattern. When the noisy Nokians (great in snow but extremely noisy) on my Subaru wear out I’ll replace them with a set of Winterforce tires.”
I’ll second that…the “Winterforce” we purchased have excellent ice traction W/o studs; nearly as good as the studded on another car. The lugs are close so they may not be as good in heavy wet snow but an excellent all round tire that are reasonably priced and seem to wear well. I recommend them highly.
Putting just two snows on is dangerous all the time even if the drive wheels are on the back…The snows then become the tires with LEAST traction in a rain storm or dry pavement where the summers or all season track better.
So…it’s all 4 of none at all and stay with quality all season with good tread…get a tread depth gauge.
Sorry, have to disagree with putting snows on rear only…regardless of drive wheels.
If you buy 4 winter tires you might consider buying them already mounted on 4 plain steel wheels. You can order such sets through websites like www.tirerack.com and they come quickly. It’s fairly easy to swap the current wheels for the winter set, and then put the regular set back on in the Spring. You don’t have to go to a tire shop to do the swaps - either you can do it at home by yourself or you can have pretty much anyone with a strong back do it for you.
"The snows then become the tires with LEAST traction in a rain storm or dry pavement "
I could be wrong, but I believe modern Winter tyres as opposed to the old Snow tyre designs are far less of a problem. However I would still suggest all four wheels. After all the most important advantage of winter tyres is stopping and not skidding on snow or ice, so why would you want only half you car to have that advantage?
Think about it…if snows had anywhere near the rain or dry pavement traction of summer or all terrain, why buy anything else. The lugs on snows decrease the contact area of winter tires making them substantially worse than summers in dry conditions. Likewise, the lack of straight channels compared to summers…it’s not rocket science. Are they less of a problem, sure; but still enough to make it unacceptable and dangerous. Even diffent tread designs can compromise handling characteristics in some cars.
Think about it…if snows had anywhere near the rain or dry pavement traction of summer or all terrain, why buy anything else. The lugs on snows
I buy all season tyres for the other three seasons because the snow tyres would wear out far faster in the other three seasons. Winter tyres don't have the "lugs" snow tyres had. I fear you are confusing the characteristics of Snow tyres with Winter tyres, they are not the same technology. Why you are suggesting was true of snow tyres.
I agree with Mr. Meehan (as I usually do), and I think that mconn has not had a chance to look closely at the new generation of winter tires. Unlike the heavily lugged snow tires of old, the new generation of winter tires all have fairly delicate siping (or as someone termed it last week, “sipping”) and they also have some straight channels on them for water drainage. And, the new generation of winter tires are very good on ice, as well as on snow.
While winter tires do wear faster than all-season tires, the best of them (particularly the Michelin X-Ice tire) do have decent tread life. That Michelin is also excellent at resisting hydroplaning, is very good in terms of handling on dry roads, and is only a bit noisier than an all-season tire.
If not for its tread wearing faster than the tread on the all-season tires that I use for the other 3 seasons of the year, I would actually consider using the Michelin X-Ice tires year 'round.