Many people do their best to avoid wintertime driving as best as they can, but the fact is that those who commute, travel for work, or just need to get from Point A to Point B are likely going to be hitting snow-covered or icy roads if they live in certain parts of the country this winter at some point. This begs the question – just what can you do to maintain better traction during these more challenging conditions?
One of the more obvious solutions is to ditch your all-season tires when the season changes and equip your vehicle with a set of winter tires. Winter tires, generally speaking, are available in two different types – studless or studded. According to Bridgestone, today studless tires are the preferred choice of most consumers, partially due to advances in rubber compounding and tread design. But this wasn’t always the case, as studded tires used to be more popular and can still be purchased today.
Fitting to the name, studded tires have anywhere from 60-120 metal (or rubber) studs embedded within the tread, which are designed to dig into the ice and snow and thereby provide enhanced traction while driving. But while studded tires can make your driving experience better during winter weather, they do have some notable drawbacks – notably, that they’re not allowed in all 50 states. In fact, according to AAA, 10 states ban the use of studded tires due to the fact that the studs have proven to lead to premature road damage when there’s no snow or ice for them to dig into. Furthermore, 33 states have seasonal restrictions on studded tires, while only seven states allow for unrestricted use on such tires.
Bottom line – if you’re in the market for a set of snow tires and elect to go the studded route, make sure your state allows them before you make your purchase.
Here’s a look at some of the performance characteristics of studded tires
Good performance: According to a study on Consumer Reports, the studded tire outperforms the Michelin X-ice Xi3 studless winter tire in terms of snow traction and stopping distance on ice, so there are performance advantages to going the studded route versus the studless route when shopping winter tires.
Noisy: Studded tires make for a considerably louder driving experience than studless or all-season tires, thanks to the many studs coming in contact with the pavement, ice, snow, etc. If you don’t mind turning up the radio or can easily tune out this external distraction, they’re right for you.
Decreased gas mileage: In general, you’re unlikely to get as good of gas mileage as you get during the summer driving months thanks to the cold, and studded tires are also going to play a role in decreased fuel economy.
So if you don’t mind the noise and your state allows studded tires, there are performance advantages in equipping your vehicle with a set in the snowy and icy winter months. It’s generally not necessary for most commuters, but some outdoorsmen in winter climates may still prefer these.