When Old Man Winter belches hoarfrost over the land, it’s only natural to seek solace in a nice set of studded snow tires. The grinding metallic paws provide a sense of security. They just feel like they’re slicing through the ice, delivering life-saving stability and grip. Au contraire mon frère! Studded tires are terrible. They provide less grip in frosty conditions than their specialized studless counterparts and they pulverize pavement, turning roads in to rutted moonscapes. Stop buying studded tires. They suck.
Full disclosure: I have an ax to grind. I live in Central Oregon. Many vehicles here are shod with studded tires from November till March. They have worn parallel trenches in every major road. This is infuriating, especially if your car is equipped with high-performance, low-profile tires and sport suspension like mine.
Here are the facts: Modern studless tires work better than studded tires. Period. Don’t believe me? See for yourself.
Yes, Tire Rack has a vested interest in selling expensive studless tires. But the results of their test couldn’t be more clear. Here are two cars driving on a friggin’ ice rink. It don’t get more frozen than that, folks.
Studless tires work well. Why? Science! Yes, I know it’s a tough concept to grasp for many of us (especially my fellow Oregonians), but bear with me. Materials scientists created a breed of rubber that stays sticky well below freezing. They also filled it with silica, giving the rubber a sandpaper-like quality. Finally, they gave the tires deep grooves and lots of tiny cuts called “sipes” to maximize gripping area. The result is tires that stick like gecko feet.
Tire Rack aren’t the only ones to test studless tires. My very own state, Oregon, and its neighbor to the north, Washington, dumped tons of taxpayer money into testing studless tires in an effort to convince dense legislators and voters to outlaw studded tires. Their results can be found here, here and here. In almost every case, studless tires outperformed studded tires.
Why did the states go through all this trouble? Because studded tires do tens of millions of dollars of damage to state roads every year. And unfortunately, there’s no money to fix them.
So do us all a favor and ditch your studded tires for the latest and greatest science has to offer. They’ll save the roads and they could save your life.
Addendum: I know that studded tires are preferred in places like Finland, where Winter is Always Coming. And I honestly cannot fathom the deepest, darkest cold that swallows that country nearly year round. To all our brave Scandinavian readers: I commend you. I would never dream of telling you to stop using studded tires. Plus, Scandinavian Flick.