Remember last winter? Will this winter be just as bad? Predictions will be made but nobody really knows. The best course of action is to hope for the best but prepare for the worst.
There is no simple rule of thumb on whether or not to run winter / snow tires. If you're in a region that normally averages over a foot of snow, you should strongly consider installing winter tires. Dedicated snow tires will enhance an all-wheel drive vehicle's winter capability, make an intrinsically "bad-in-snow" car better and improve safety in that family sedan, SUV or minivan.
All-wheel drive, ABS (Anti-Lock Brakes) and traction control help, but no car maker can manufacture traction. All-wheel drive will help get you going, however you'll need proper snow grip to stop and turn. Since innate snow prowess and overall performance will vary by vehicle, select a tire from the performance category that works best for your vehicle, your driving temperament and local weather. The three major performance categories are: Studless Ice & Snow, Studdable Winter / Snow and Performance Winter / Snow.
Studless Ice & Snow tires give you optimum ice and packed snow grip, but are less responsive on dry roads. Theses tires trade a little clear road handling precision for their high level of snow and ice traction.
Studless Ice & Snow tires tend to be available in higher profile sizes and include the following:
- Bridgestone Blizzak WS70
- Bridgestone Blizzak WS80
- Michelin X-Ice Xi3
- Continental ExtremeWinterContact
- Continental WinterContact SI
- Goodyear Ultra Grip Ice WRT
- Dunlop Winter Maxx
- Yokohama iceGUARD iG20
- Yokohama iceGUARD iG52c
If you go with a Studless Ice & Snow tire, you should consider going with a narrower tire as it cuts through deeper snow better. This is especially true for a lighter car like the MINI Cooper, but there exceptions to the rule as discussed in detail here.
Studdable Winter / Snow tires can run studded or unstudded. When studded, they provide good ice and packed snow grip but are less responsive on dry roads. When unstudded, these tires perform well in moderate and deep snow, yet do not match the ice traction of tires in the Studless Ice & Snow category. It's important to note that the use of studded tires may be prohibited or restricted in your area, so be sure to check with local authorities to confirm legality.
Looking for the traditional security of winter tire studs for enhanced traction on ice? Consider the following Studdable Winter / Snow options:
Performance Winter / Snow tires exhibit dry-road deficiencies to a much lesser degree. If your vehicle came with summer performance tires, the Performance Winter / Snow tires will be more comparable in steering response, acceleration, grip, braking and cornering grip. They give up some ice and packed snow grip to acheive it. Tires in this category wear slightly better compared to Studless Ice & Snow tires, especially during the early and late winter days when temperatures are a little warmer. All winter / snow tires have more tread noise and vary from tire to tire. Performance Winter / Snow tires do tend to be quieter than the other performance categories.
Available in lower profile sizes, the following Performance Winter / Snow tires are worth a look:
- Dunlop SP Winter Sport 3D
- Dunlop SP Winter Sport 4D
- Pirelli Winter Snowcontrol
- Pirelli Winter Sottozero 3
- Michelin Pilot Alpin PA4
- Bridgestone Blizzak LM-60
- Bridgestone Blizzak LM-32
Is a Studless Ice & Snow, Studdable Winter / Snow or a Performance Winter / Snow tire right for your vehicle? It depends on your car, where you live, how you drive on dry roads and how you want to balance the above compromises.
Create a Winter / Snow Tire & Wheel Package and handle everything Mother Nature will throw your way this winter.