Snow Tires


I have a brand-new rear drive CTS: while i know I need snow tires, do I need four or two? Since the car is so new, (under 900 miles) the tires have lots of tread and I wouldn’t mind saving the$ and getting snows for the rears only. Any thoughts on brand?


Congratulations for buying the CTS. We just yesterday priced an 08 and it looks possible and very inviting. I like rear drive dry highway and also slippery condition handling better than front drive. I have owned rear drive cars in a serious way in upper midwestern winters from 1964 to 1984 when we were entirely converted to front drivers. My first good car, a Chevy II, had a limited slip differential which allowed me to get by without snows but tires then were bias ply design, not radials. For rear drive cars after that, we got snows for the rear only until radial tires became available. Ordinary radials with a decent amount of tread remaining were just about as good in snow as were bias ply snow tires. I never heard of anyone using snows on the front of a rear driver in bias ply tire days but I suppose that you could.

For snows, I ignored brands but went for price and did OK; didn’t get stuck unless I asked for it.

For now, with new radial tires, you might want to run what you have and if traction is a problem, then consider snows. A few bags of sand in the trunk will help too. If we get a CTS, you can be sure that it will not see salted roads; we’ll use something less for that. If you area has steep hills, then get snows.


You need additional grip in more than just the rear.

The actual contact patch a car has is negligible when you consider the size of the car to the amount of rubber actually in contact with the road at any given time.

The snow tires do more then just help you accelarate, but also help stop and navigate.

All told, if you intend to keep the car for longer than a few years the winter tires will pay for themselves, especially if you get winter rims. You will save the mileage on your summer tires making them last longer so that you can put off replacing them.

The interesting thing about winter tires is that it isn’t just that they have a different tread pattern. The rubber compound is very different. They remain pliable and rubbery at colder temperatures then summer tires do. They therefore stick to slippery surfaces better as well as to ashphalt and concrete on those extremely cold days.

I started using winter tires last winter and immediately noticed the difference. I lived on a hill at the time and we often had freezing rain and drizzle. I couldn’t get up the hill with the All Season tires. Going down hill. . . wasn’t fun. The winter tires changed that.


40 years of experience driving in winter weather, most of it in rear wheel drive vehicles, has left me a firm believer that as long as you have good, fairly new tread on the front tires and good snows on the rear you’ll have no problems. The rest is just technique, and techniques simply means doing everything slowly, leaving lots of room between you and everyone else, anticipating ahead, and when it’s really really bad…stay home or stop at a hotel.

Rubber booted winter wipers help too.


You need four winter tires. Getting two is bad as your handling will significantly be out of balance. You want to be able to stop the car, remain in direction you desire and steer it so 4 are mandatory. Two will get you moving, however I think its far more important to have lateral stability and steering.

I had the great experience of going to a winter driving course on a closed (rally) course and learned how to properly drive in the snow. They even demonstrated a RWD and FWD with winter tires on the driving axle only as someone asked. There is a significant difference when it counts.

One place to check for rims/wheel packages is and (running special of $100 instant rebate on tires till Oct 20).


Not only do you need four snow tires, I recommend you buy a set of four steel rims on which to have them mounted. That way, you won’t have to have tires mounted and balanced twice a year.

If you are driving a CTS, you can probably afford a set of steel rims and you can also probably afford to have the tires and rims that are not in use stored at your local tire retailer. If they want your repeat business, they might be willing to store them for free.


I’m with MB on this…You don’t NEED snows in the front…but it does help. There are very few places in this country that get the amount of snow that would REQUIRE you to need all 4 snows…If you live in a area that averages 100" of snow or less…snows in the front are NOT needed…Good set of snows in the rear and decent tires up front will do fine.


If the car has ABS or TRACTION CONTROL all 4 tires have to be the same size and tread patterns. So 4 snow tires will be needed if the car has these systems.


I have lived in snow country for 25 years. You should always buy 4 tires together and get the wheels to go with them. There are online sites such as tirerack that sell this set up, often cheaper than you can buy from your local dealer. They also provide reviews and guidance to match your type of driving. Good snow tires (without studs) make driving on ice almost like dry pavement. You owe it to yourself and family to give yourself every possible margin of safety. Tires are on place I would never cheap out


I have lived in snow country for 25 years.

What do you consider snow country??? People here in NH and Maine consider this snow country…but it doesn’t get anywhere near the amount of snow as places where I grew up at and lived for many years before moving to NH. The Great Lakes region is REAL snow country…And even there 4 snows are NOT NEEDED…they help…but I’ve NEVER seen where you NEED them.


I’ve driven in NH, Maine, Vt, Mass, Connecticut, Michigan (upper penninsula) and three years in North Dakota for over 40 years continuous. Most of it’s been rear wheel drive vehicles (cars, pickups, and 7-passenger vans), some of it’s been FWD cars. All of it’s been 2WD vehicles, no 4x4s. Some years of it was on bias ply tires, before radials became common. I’ve never had or found it necessary to have snows on all four tires. As a matter of fact, since all season radials came out the only vehicles I’ve had actual snows on were my pickups.

However, I always start the season with no less that about 60% tread depth. I never let the tread get near the wear bars.

If having four snows helps you sleep better, it’s worth the cost. Snows on the rear of a RWD vehicle are great idea, although I’ve run new all season radials without incident.

A seperate set of rims is an excellent idea. Not only do they save time and aggrevation, but dismounting and remounting tires repeatedly can be hard in the beads and result in slow leaks.

I’m not convinced that snows on all fours is necessary on the subject car. ABS and traction control would only be affected if there were a dramatic difference in traction. The Caddy has a big, heavy motor up front, probably a 60:40 or 55:45 weight distribution, putting 50% or 22% more weight on the front wheels and giving the front tires a substantial traction advantage to begin with. Snows on the rear would likely just serve to help compensate for the difference and balance the front to rear traction.

I’m open to convincing arguments. But I’m not convinced.


I am just happy that this wrong wheel drive fad seems to be peaking out and more right wheel drive cars are becoming available again.


Winter tires are needed for certain driveways and tertiary roads.

My home growing up in NH you either needed AWD/4WD with all-seasons or winter tires to get home. Due to a switchback where gaining momentum was impossible to get up a hill and the shared uphill untreated except for plow and sun to remove snow pack/ice.

You also need them at my family estate not on the town plowed section of road (3 miles uphill) but the 1/4 mile driveway across a field that drifts in usually up to your bumper or past it.

No one needs AC either but nearly all cars have it.

A Caddy CTS is performance oriented so tires are performance biased compromising winter traction coupled to poorer winter traction. Winter tires are a prudent choice.


With modern winter tires that are studless or studded winter tires the traction difference is a many factors more over all-seasons in slippery winter/ice/slush conditions. Manufacturers of studless winter tires and when tires are studded recommend always in sets of four.

I agree with logic though on the old school design winter tires (typically cheaper current ones). They offer more traction than the best all-season but no where near as good as their studded version of themselves or studless design.

The biggest problem as mentioned before is this Caddy is performance oriented so tires are performance tires and in the 17" or 18" size with low profile tires. Performance tires (all-season) as rule have limited winter traction to offer excellent dry/wet performance especially OEM ones. This performance tire will be seriously compromised in traction vs a winter tire causing an imbalance.

This whole new trend of specing low profile tires of performance nature onto essentially everyday cars mainly for looks over function is surprising many owners in the winter slop and at tire replacement time.


What is “wrong wheel drive?” If you mean front wheel drive, I think that the efficiency of front wheel drive is, by itself, a good reason for its existance. Rear wheel drive is inefficient because the wheels don’t turn in the same direction as the engine.

If all cars were rear wheel drive, demand for fuel would be higher and gasoline prices would be even higher than they are now.


Your point about performance tires is a good one. Section widths now are getting to commonly be 215mm to 235mm and more, and with aspect ratios of 45 and lower the tread is almost as wide as the section width, and those will climb up over the snow or slush.

I’m still not totally convinced, but you make an excellent point.


Rear wheel drive is inefficient because the wheels don’t turn in the same direction as the engine.

Eh? FWD has two advantages over RWD: lower weight (no long driveshaft, no heavy solid rear axle), and engine weight over the drive wheels. I’ve never heard anything about “wheels turning in the same direction as the engine”.


Could the OP clue us in on where they live, how much snow per year, few big storms versus lots of little ones, how much ice/packed snow on the roads, how hilly, etc.?

From what I’ve read so far, my personal thoughts would be: if you can afford a new CTS, you can afford another pair of tires. If you were talking about a $1500 used heap, it might be a legitimate question. Don’t skimp on safety just to save a few bucks. If you need snows on the drive (rear) wheels, rather than good all-weathers, then you would do well to put them on the front too. Changing all 4 tires at once makes figuring when to rotate them easier, too, and gives them the same lifetime.


It’s true. In a FWD car the axis of rotation of the crank is lateral to the axis of the car as is the axis of rotation of the wheels, in a RWD the axis of rotation of the crank is longitudianal to the axis of the car and the wheels’ axis of rotation lateral. What that has to do with efficiency I haven’t a clue.

And yes, RWD vehicles generally use more fuel. Vipers, 'Vettes, Excursions, they all use more fuel than, say, Corollas. On the other hand, my neighbor’s vintage Olds 442 probably doesn’t get as good a mileage as my buddies old 327 Camaro, which could get 25 mpg driven conservatively. And my RWD Toyota pickup got as good a mileage as my tC does.

Yeah, I’m foolin’ with you guys. While RWD does need a heavier rear axle and a drive shaft, there’s a whole bunch of more important variables, especially with the advent of aluminum driveshafts. The perception that FWD gets better mileage is simply because RWD has been used for performance cars and for trucks while FWD has been used in econoboxes. But that’s more due to the bias toward handling vs. the bias toward economical manufacturing.


The short answer is that it depends on where you intend to drive it. Additionally, the new CTS is available in RWD and AWD versions; that also makes a difference. If I remember correctly, they also offer a “Performance Tire Option”, one they recommend if you DON’T intend to drive in the snow. For now we’ll assume that your car is RWD with the “all season” tires. I used to live in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where we routinely got about 300 inches of snow in a season. So I’ve done plenty of winter driving. If the car is new and has the all seasons on it I think you should be able to run it this season quite easily with the tires it came with. Winter driving is actually more about technique than what you’re driving. I’ve run vehicles with tires that were almost bald and made it OK. Next year I think you should get another set of wheels and put a pair of snows on the back only. As long as you have decent tread left on the fronts they should be fine. You don’t need to run 4 snows on a 2 wheel drive vehicle. As a matter of fact, an all season tread will give you much better traction on glare ice than a snow tire will. And regular tires provide better wet and dry traction than snows do, too. Snows are made of softer compounds than regular tires are, so they stay somewhat flexible in extreme cold. So in warmer temperatures they’ll wear out faster. If you ordered that car with 2 wheel drive, a locking rear axle, install a pair of snows on the rear only, and if you know how to drive it, you should be able to easily stay with someone driving the AWD version of the same car. You’ll both get stuck once you hang the body up on snow deep enough to lift the wheels off the ground.