Test shows snow tires outperform all-weather tires
A generation of drivers has grown up believing snow tires are relics, but they're wrong.
The cleverly named all-season tires that have replaced snow tires don't provide nearly the security, safety and control of a good set of snow — or winter — tires when the snow flies and temperatures fall.
If you live more than a few miles north of the Mason-Dixon Line, in the mountains or just about anywhere winter temperatures regularly stay below freezing, you should at least think about snow tires.
I got a double-barreled reminder about a week ago at Michigan Tech's Keweenaw Research Center in the Upper Peninsula. First, sliding between walls of snow with a professional driver testing Michelin winter tires, then as I wished for more traction for braking and steering during the 540-mile drive back to Detroit the next day.
Michelin's test drivers were evaluating snow and all-season tires, measuring stopping time, acceleration and how much trouble they had staying on the road.
The difference is dramatic. On the fresh, slippery snow cover we compared the results of various maneuvers in a set of snow tires versus a high-quality set of all-season tires. The snow tires were one second faster accelerating from 5 to 20 mph They were a half-second quicker slowing down to 5 mph, and an amazing 13 seconds faster around a 1.2-mile stretch of private road.
A scoreboard in the research center's garage tallied how many times each driver — and one FedEx truck making a delivery — slid off the road and got stuck.
In the real world of public roads, oncoming traffic and the mistakes we all make, the numbers from Michelin's tests add up to a bigger margin for error. Snow tires provide confidence that you won't slip off the road, brakes that keep you from sliding into the next car's bumper at the stop sign and grip to pull into traffic or cross a busy intersection.
Snow tire prices range from as low as $80 to more than $200 apiece, said Chris Lynch, owner of Wetmore's, a Ferndale, Mich., service shop that has specialized in tires since 1928. To minimize winter damage to fancy aluminum wheels and avoid charges for remounting and balancing their tires twice a year, most owners buy basic steel wheels for another $200 to $300 a set.
He figures a set of snow tires will last three or four years. They also extend the life of the customer's other tires by reducing mileage on them.
“It costs money, but what's the value of avoiding an accident?” asked Ron Margadona, Michelin senior technical marketing manager. “People need to know that tires improve their mobility and safety.”
Carefully designed tread features grabby nooks and crannies to dig into snow and loose ice. Winter tires stay flexible and cling to the surface at temperatures that cause other tires to lose their grip.
All-season tires have been common for about 35 years. They've got some grip at all temperatures, but they can't match the road-hugging ability of a tire designed specifically either for warm temperatures or winter conditions.
“Winter tires are designed to keep you mobile and safe in the cold months,” Margadona said.
Mark Phelan is a Detroit Free Press columnist.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Halliburton to close Indiana County office
- Supreme Court justices ream EPA for ignoring costs to meet air standards
- W.Pa. economy gains momentum as employers increase hiring
- Consol again reworks offering for coal spinoff
- Snappers treat revitalizes Lawrenceville’s Edward Marc Brands chocolatier
- Pending home sales in U.S. climb to 9-year high
- Drillers to submit electronic records on fracking chemicals to Pa. DEP
- Heinz executives to dominate post-merger management of Kraft Heinz Co.
- Bank of New York Mellon seeks to intervene in N.J. casino saga as power plant taps collateral
- Teen retailer American Eagle Outfitters goes mobile, revamps site
- Energy Spotlight: Erin Magee