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Tuesday, 26 December 2017


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Have you considered the possibility of something like an M113 APC? No need to worry about tyres then... ;)

If Michelin makes thier lTX to fit your car, give it a try, it may change your mind about winter/summer tires.

We are just west of you (north of Detroit) and have about a foot of snow and 4 below zero. Sunny thou. :-)

How is this even a dilemma? It's usually the first extra purchase on a new car. Everyone makes the switch to winter tyres (not just because it's a legal requirement) and thinks nothing of it beyond a nuissance of waiting their turn at the tyre garage when the due date arrives. OK, you pay 2x 40€ per year to make the switch, or buy a second set of rims for the DIY option, but how is all of this beyond the mental and financial capability of the average US car owner (I wonder the same about oil change)? If you have a car it's just something you do.

Also, don't buy some no name brand tyres (Cooper?!?) Just read/watch some tyre tests and you will see why saving money (like 80€ per set?) on rubber is pointless. Not saying you need to go for Continental/Michelin, but something middle of the pack at least.

Hi, Mike......hope you enjoyed your time off, although I'm always left with the feeling that you really deserve more of it!

As a driver who went fifteen years with THREE sets of wheels and tires for his car (Sunday autocross), I appreciate what you're saying. But I'll still make the argument that "no season" tires have their place. At 72, my body will no longer allow hoisting the set into & out of the car to take them for changeover. (Let alone get down on my knees in the driveway twice every event weekend!) I'm certain that my everyday summer driving no longer requires the level of performance I once sought.....and wisely so. We live in an urban area that is promptly plowed during the winter, and when it's really cold or snowy, these retired folks have the happy luxury of just not venturing out. So the first thing I did after we picked up our AWD wagon was to fit it with a set of Pilot all seasons and be done with it.

True, all seasons are a compromise (like every camera I've ever owned), and you can't have the slider simultaneously at both ends of the performance scale. But if you choose well, with a careful eye toward your particular set of circumstances, there really is a niche that they can fill. YMMV:-)

Curious: What summer and winter tires have you chosen?

So, all season tires on an all wheel drive car is the iPhone solution -- not great at anything but good enough (pretty good in fact) most of the time.

[AppleH8r alert. --Mike]

My car is now wearing its winter tires (Blizzak WS80) and its ugly winter steel wheels. Seasonal switching back and forth is free when you buy both tires and wheels, at most tire shops. The winter tires are also a narrower size than the summer tires, which tire experts often recommend:



Front drive and good studless winter tires gets through just about anything, unless you have insufficient ground clearance for conditions. If roads are plowed, then no problems.

Another big downside of winter tires in the summer: they'll wear out very fast.

Mike, the other option is to live in a climate where you never need winter tires. Only point I’d add to your nice tire primer is that better tires will only perform well if you maintain their rated tire pressure. It seems like no one today keeps a tire pressure gauge in their glove compartment and check their tires once a month. Running your tires at the right pressure not only gives you a better ride. It also ensures they won’t wear out prematurely. With the cost of high performance tires these days, keeping them inflated correctly doesn’t seem like much of a chore.

Where I live (central Indiana) I've considered having a set of winter tires. But we don't get enough snow here for them to be needed "enough." We get most of our snow in Jan. and Feb., and even then it's hit or miss. But when we do get that big snow event, I wish I were driving on something better than my all-season radials.

As my good friend Frank says, all wheel drive just helps you get stuck further off the road.

(And, while I now live in Georgia, I still have two sets of wheels and tires for my Mini - high performance summers and all-seasons for our "winter.")

Oops, I meant the winter tires are narrower than the all-season tires. I don't use summer tires.

Or you could live in Texas where everyone has 4WD and no idea that although they can get up to 60mph, they cant stop! Then the best winter tires are a pair of comfy slippers and just stay at home!

Hi Jim! Fellow Nebraskan here.

I figure if I could drive an unloaded RWD pickup with snow tires (it was the 70's and 80's and they were still called that) to school every day, back when Nebraska used to get enough snow every winter to make buying a snowmobile a no-brainer, then having an AWD car is LUXURY!

When I had a Subaru WRX, I'd put winter tires on it and there was nothing that it couldn't get through. I used to amuse myself with the occasional red-right drag race (DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME! IT IS ILLEGAL FOR VERY GOOD REASONS. I GOT LUCKY.) against all-season equipped Porsche Cayenne SUVs. My little '04 WRX would always leave the fancy Porsche in a blizzard.

Since your tires are the single point of contact with whatever surface you're driving across, they're the single most important part of the system. Everything else in the drivetrain serves the purpose of getting those tires moving and keeping them moving.

Hubby and I have winter tires on both of our cars, one an Abarth 500 and the other a BMW 335i, and we get around Lincoln and to Omaha and back with no problems.

The Abarth has Bridgstone Potenza summer tires and Pirelli Snow Control winter tires.

The BMW has Pirelli P Zero Nero summer tires and Pirelli Sottozero run-flats. (I hate run-flat tires. They're bad at everything a tire is supposed to do and good at the one thing that tires really don't do. They're compromised- both ride and performance are lacking. That said, in the winter, I don't want to have to change my tires [or pump air into them] on the side of the road.)

If memory serves, in Scandanavia, you don't get a choice. Cars have to have snow/ice tires by law over the "winter" months.

One word: "California"

This is absolutely correct. Years ago my wife's FWD with snows easily outperformed my SUV with all seasons. Now we both have FWD cars with snows and summer tires but with the advent of the stupid tire sensor doohickies buying an extra set of rims is prohibitive.

I live in Arizona, so rarely have any need for snow tires (although, as you note, summer tires -- especially the high-performance ones that I typically use -- can be downright scary whenever it rains or the temperature drops into the 40-degree range and below.)

Yet, I somehow have managed to accumulate in my garage 11 sets of wheels for my cars. Most of them are track wheels, which used to get a lot of usage during our colder winter months, but not so much these days, now that I'm budget challenged. 8^(

Like most people in Duluth I live on the big hill sloping down to the lake. Snow tires were just barely enough the first winter to make it up the hill in our Prius. Now snow tires plus a Subaru (quirky and slightly aggravating) move us around easily. And we did leave them on last summer. Michelin x-Ice wear less rapidly than some others, at the expense of ultimate snow grip. Reading the comments here makes me realize we could probably replace our irritating low profile 19 inch rims with something sane.

With newer cars, it is sort of a PITA to change tires. The helpful-yet-pesky tire pressure monitors must always be reset. You can't just throw another set of wheels on the car and have the system work properly.

As far as front wheel drive goes, I'd almost rather have rear wheel drive. Any time you stop on an (uphill) incline, it's not easy to get going with a front wheel drive auto.

My new set of real winter tires help, but these new V-6s aren't easy to get moving. That's what I get for buying a car with a V-6 and 305 horsepower. (There's only one horsepower rating for the V-6; take it or leave it.) First world problems, certainly.

The features that make sports/performance cars so much fun on dry pavement (wide tire contact patches, low center of gravity, great brakes, torque and horsepower, sharp steering) are exactly why they are such a menace in snow and ice. Winter driving instead rewards ground clearance, smooth control inputs, gentle braking and acceleration and serious respect for the laws of physics and momentum. Kind of like billiards with 3,000 lb. balls.
Probably the most enjoyable car I ever owned was a 1993 Ford Probe. It was very light (which unfortunately meant the interior self-destructed, particularly the inner door panels) and had huge tires, so despite being front drive it tracked like it was on rails. I was never able to exceed its cornering limits on dry pavement.
Winter driving was another matter entirely. It was so low to the ground that driving into snow more than 8" deep caused it to submarine; you'd get a wave of snow over the windshield and roof that reduced visibility to zero, forcing you to stop...only to find that the winter tires were no longer in contact with the ground, but instead were polishing the snow. So I always had a shovel in the trunk, needed to dig out under the tires and permit a return to forward movement. I once buried it so deep I had to open the hood and shovel snow out from around the engine to get it started again.

I left Milwaukee prior to Starbucks arrival. Here in the PNW I heard the best Winter driving advise i’d Heard in thirty years of winter driving:”drive like rou’re holding a hot Venti coffee between your legs”. Good tires are helpful too.

As I look out at the mikd, sUnny 65 deg day here in Santa Monica, Irealize how "challenging" weather can be in the Northern latitudes. When we lived in Boston (30 years!) we generally had several cars. Mid-late 90s it was a Miata for nice weather commuting, a Jeep Grand Cherokee for bad weather, winter and towing the two ALFA racecars in the garage.My challenge was to drive the Miata once every month with the top down, which I did almost every year.
Yes, 4WD has its limits. of course, blame it on Newton's 1st law - objects in motion tend to stay in motion....
BTW, the most fun I ever had in a street car was taking one of my sons to a winter driving school in NH, sliding all over an iced track...

Well Richard Man, not all "California" is sunny and warm. Mammoth Mountain, Owens Valley and much of the Sierra Nevada and foothills and Northern part of the state sees plenty of snow and ice.

Nokian hakkapeliita is the best snow tire made. Michelin, Blizzak and the others keep trying to beat them and have not succeeded. Bare or studded, depending on your location, laws and vehicle they do the job. Better starting, cornering and stopping. Two vehicles with the non-studded Nokians and one with studded - the pickup. Extra set of rims for each vehicle so we can swap out winter and summer.

While you are at it be sure to treat all the glass with RAIN-X so the snow, ice, road spray and water comes off a lot easier. Just as the winter tires, it is a safety measure you will appreciate in driving.

I once spent a few winters in the Colorado high country. My rear 2WD sedan went from a kitten to a tiger with 4 studded snow tires. Braking and stopping were the best improvement and caused a lot less anxiety. A bag of cat litter inside the trunk helped RWD traction. The car was better in snow than my 4WD Toyota pickup (without chains).

Just a week ago in Colorado for a visit I saw a few vehicles with 4 studded snow tires. The do make a big difference on any type of vehicle. And 4 extra wheels are worth the cost.

Ever since I've been using winter tires, I've gone with Nokian. Their dealer network is smaller in the North America, but they are available online. Nokians are consistently rated at the top of the heap, although some other manufacturers have caught up. For some reason the Finns know about driving in winter.

The other financial consideration is insurance deductible. As you stated, winter tires are about control and stopping. If you save even one accident, you've saved the cost of your deductible and perhaps a premium increase.

How low does temperature need to drop for how long to justify winter tires?

It is +10C right now (yes plus, not minus) and this year I've seen a whopping two days of snow.

[Maybe that's what all-season tires are really for--areas that do get coldish but not very often and don't have much snow. --Mike]

Cooper? Get serious. Those are winter tires in name only, And even that's being generous. As already mentioned, nokian is the top of the heap. If you're too lazy to seek those out, at least get blizzaks.

I live in Austin, Texas. What are snow tires again?

Gavin above said it best about the SUV/crossover thing and the magic AWD that defeats physics, gravity, and the need for caution: the drivers cloak themselves in a ring of invulnerability. By far the most reckless and stupid drivers I see in rain, fog, or slush are crossover drivers. They have fallen for the advertisers' nonsense about adventure and venturing our in bad conditions, so why worry about friction or those other technical matters. Sigh.....

Great post! I just ordered a set of winter tires.

This spring I bought an Audi Quattro, and this will be my first winter with it. In the summer I replaced the tires with Pirellis and was impressed with them, so I ordered a winter set - we shall see how they work out. (I think I will now have spent as much on tires as I did to buy the car!)

I reckon that I must have been gone from the States for too long, for when I left, it was still common practice in places where there was snow to change over to snow tires in the winter. Everyone then knew all-seasons were not good enough for a real winter.

Now it was a bit different in the warmer climes I had lived in at one time or another. There was Washington DC, where it would snow a few times a year, but never enough for anyone to figure out what to do when it did. The whole city would go into crisis mode with a few inches of snow, and folks would be skidding all over the place. Had as much to do with a lack of snow driving skills as tire type.

Then there was Texas. It seems that Texans are similar to Tokyoites when it comes to cold weather (below 55!), except for being a bit less hardy for it. When I lived in Wichita Falls, it would snow maybe once a year during the annual two week somewhat cold period, which appeared to be about the length of what anyone who has experienced four seasons would call winter (sorta).

There isn't much I can say about what I observed on those Wichita Falls, Texas roads during two-inch blizzards, except to say that you did not want to be on a Wichita Falls, Texas road during a two-inch blizzard even if you were in a tank. Slow down? Why? The speed limit sign didn't change. Car slipping and sliding? Go faster! Winter tires? "I have a 3/4 ton pickup," one fine gal explained to me when discussing why she was driving too fast on snow and ice in a truck with summer tires. She thought 3/4 ton was the weight of the pick up which somehow made it magic on snow.)

A Quick translation note may be needed for British readers. Over here 'pavement' refers to what you call the sidewalk, so shouldn't be driven on in any sort of tyres. Sadly, a few years ago, in our small town, a 4x4 (SUV) mounted the pavement (sidewalk) and killed an elderly pedestrian. The driver, who was presumably not used the vehicle, had lost control in non-hazardous condtions.

Here in England it's uncommon to have a set of winter tyres. I don't have them, but there's only been two days so far this winter when traction was a problem.

However, I don't buy budget tyres. Car tyres from the big names don't seem expensive when I'm used to buying branded motorcycle tyres for £90-100 a time; for the rear wheel they last no more than 10,000 miles.

So, does anyone make "Southern USA tires"? You know, the kind that works for you when it's mid-January and the temperature is 85 degrees one day, freezing rain the next and a sunny 70 the next. The kind of weather that's "all seasons" every week. Two sets of tires? Man, we would be changing sets twice a day on occasions!

Never know where the conversation is going on TOP! I've lived in New Hampshire more than 40 years, and for many of those years, I had to do a lot of driving through the winter. Front wheel drive and snow tires on all four wheels will get you through almost anything. I used to run Michelins, then switched to General Altimax Arctic, because the Michelins got so expensive. This year I was intrigued by Nokian Hakkapeliitta R2. My local tire guy, an independent dealer, suggested I try Hercules Avalanche RG2. Made in Russia under license from Nokia. They look like the same tread, and are a lot cheaper. Now that I'm not driving so many miles, I just leave the snows on all year.

Two posters slammed Cooper tires. In the Consumer Reports rating, Mike's Coopers came in fourth out of 22.

I'm in SE Michigan too, and THIS year, unlike most years, I was so smrt that I had the Blizzaks mounted on my GTI the day BEFORE we got 6 inches of snow. Usually I do that the day after.
What a hoot. I got to help a lady whose SUV was hopelessly sideways in a ditch.
And +2 on the WRX with snows. I drove my 2002 for 8 years; serious summer tires in the summer, serious winter tires in the winter. Maybe the best car I ever had.

Wrt using winter tires year-round, don't they wear a lot faster than all-season or summer tires? My understanding is that they are much softer rubber, that is why they grip better in colder conditions, even beyond the different tread patterns.

When I lived in Switzerland and Austria, you had to change to snow tires in the winter by law. I remember zipping to Davos in my rear-wheel-drive Alfa Romeo in the middle of winter. Then again, they didn’t clean the roads all that well. Where I live now, just north of NYC, the streets get cleaned so fast, there’s hardly ever any need for snow tires.

In the U.K. ‘snow tires’ (which I take to be studded tires) are probably unlawful. They’d very likely be regarded as falling foul of Section 27(1) (a) of the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986. That section reads “the tyre is unsuitable having regard to the use to which the motor vehicle or trailer is being put or to the types of tyres fitted to its other wheels”. You might think that if it’s being used in snow then it would be suitable, but it hardly ever snows here; and even if it does, it might not be 10 or 20 miles away. Where I live, about 5 miles out of the city of Sheffield, is about 300 feet higher in altitude than the city centre, and on the few occasions when we get snow, the city centre will just have rain. So tires that make sense in one place might well be ‘unsuitable’ just a few miles away.

In recent years there has been a push towards the use of ‘winter tires’, which are basically non-studded tires with deeper grooving for better water handling, and also using a rubber compound that retains greater flexibility in temperatures below 7°C; this apparently improves winter braking distances as compared with 3 season tires, especially on cold wet days. My wife, who has to drive at set times, has a set of these tires. I don’t; if the weather looks bad I’ll either stay at home or use the bus.

Basically, over much of the U.K. - and certainly where 98% of the population live - it just doesn’t snow. I’ve never seen snow anything like as bad as you’ve got at the moment. The worst I can remember is a 15” fall about 5 or 6 years ago, and the roads were cleared within a day or so. Most winters we don’t really get any.

Slightly relevant: right now it is dangerous to walk in the UK. Slick icey patches are everywhere. My granddad die slipping on ice, I never met him, so I’m a bit more aware of it.

I’m so happy that I now have spike thingies to put on my shoes. Wow, they help. Just search (Amazon for example) for shoes ice spikes traction or such.

Late to the party as usual. I know this wasn't a photography post (horrors!), but I couldn't help taking a closer look at the photograph that illustrated it. Very nice and a fine example of the Mike Johnston "style". From what I can tell that must have been a very nice snowfall. Not so much here in the land to 10,000 Lakes. Nothing but dribs and drabs. I will take your recommendation to heart and take a trip to my local tire store next week. In the meantime, Happy New Year!

Not a good idea to use winter tires in summer. You can wear them down very quickly and once most snow tires get down to half tread depth, you have lost a lot of the advantage of using them. And if they are made with a very soft compound, they will not be safe in hot temperatures.

I used to use Nokia tires (later Nokian), but the competitors have caught up, I think.

Old adage when buying winter tires is go down a width and go up an aspect ratio. This is more true than ever as many daily drivers are running too much tire these days, imo. I won't mention the silliness of 40 series rubber on "SUV"s.

Here in Ontario, you can only use studded tires north of a certain latitude and I forget what that is. And it is date limited, Dec to Feb, maybe? In Quebec winter tires are required by law between Nov and March, I think.

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