If you live in a part of the country where any amount of snow is a possibility, then as a driver you understand the importance of winter traction. At some point during your time behind the wheel, you’ve likely experienced the white-knuckle panic that comes with the sensation of your vehicle moving in a direction that you don’t intend. It can happen to the best of drivers, and it can happen whether your car or truck has FWD (front wheel drive) or AWD (all wheel drive). This is the reason why most automotive experts, including the team here at CARiD, recommend winter tires for anyone who needs to deal with the white stuff on the road. Winter tires, due to their size, tread pattern, and material makeup, are best installed as a set of four.
The tire industry previously called them “snow tires” and the name change is not just a matter of semantics. The latest rubber compounds are designed to work better at lower temperatures, so that combined with a more aggressive tread pattern, modern winter tires offer improved grip on any road surface whenever the thermometer is below 40 degrees. We have covered this topic in some detail in our related article, “Are Winter Tires Really Necessary?” and we invite you to read that at this link here.
Yet there are those who need even more traction. Plenty of people enjoy winter sports activities, whether that’s skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, and the like. Arriving at and departing from locations that offer these cold-weather thrills means driving in rather snowy conditions. Then there are those who have opted to live where deep snow is a way of life, and so is vehicular travel in that snow. When a set of four winter tires and AWD still doesn’t cut it, tire chains become an option. They are a popular accessory and are inexpensive enough, and we’ve written about them previously in our piece “Tire Chains Provide Traction In The Worst Winter Weather”. However, if you end up on clear paved roads, the ride can become jarringly noisy. There also is the extra effort involved in their installation and removal as conditions warrant.
Another solution that’s not as extreme as chains and still provides a better grip on the really slippery stuff is the installation of tire studs. Studs are pins which are semi-permanently installed into pre-molded holes in the tire tread. The pins provide a more mechanical bite into the surface, especially on ice. We refer to these as a semi-permanent installation because the pins will eventually wear down, along with the tire, and it is possible for the pins to be replaced should they wear past the point of effectiveness. Probably the biggest caveat with studs is that they can only be installed on studdable tires.
Because of the improvements in tread compounds along with drivetrain upgrades (not just AWD, but ABS and traction control), few manufacturers of winter tires offer studdable versions. Should you be in the market, first be certain that the tires can accept studs. For example, General Tire offers their Grabber Artic LT line of winter tires, all of which are studdable. Look for language similar to this under Features:
You will also note that a close look at the photos shows the pre-molded openings for the studs, as illustrated here:
Another manufacturer still selling studdable winter tires is Firestone. Their Winterforce LT tires can accept studs, and in this case, the language is shown like this under Features:
The phrase “pinned for #15 studs” refers to the size studs appropriate for this tire. Like the General tire above, this image shows the pre-formed stud openings:
If you’re considering studs, we offer this final bit of advice: many states in the U.S. have passed restrictions on the use of studs while driving, specifically limiting the time of year that they can be driven on. The intent is to minimize potential damage to asphalt and concrete roadway surfaces, as studs driven on dry roads will begin in inflict some harm to them. However, the restrictions as we have observed are reasonable. For example, here in CARiD’s home state of New Jersey, driving with studded tires is permitted from November 15 until April 1, which adequately encompasses our winter season. To be on the safe side, check your own state’s requirements.
It’s great to have choices, and CARiD not only provides you with the widest variety of choices, we gladly provide the suggestions and recommendations for you to make the best choice for your car and driving situation. For winter driving, the first step can only be the mounting of four dedicated winter tires. Moving up from there, the use of chains will work for some, and studs, while not as popular as they may have been in the past, are still an option worth considering. Stay safe out there in the snow!