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Studs are for Duds

Posted in Car Care, Rants & Raves, Roads by Dustin Driver | February 16th, 2012 | 4 Responses |

Studs. Much studs.

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.

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4 Responses

  1. djrosa says:

    now while i agree that in large cities and on hightrafficed roads where the ice buildup is neglectable and the tarmac wear and tear is high studless is the way to go. BUT that thing about studless being more grippy is bullhonkey it all depends on the tires, from own experience ive gone from my 18yo FWD audi 80 with high end studded tires into my dads brand new 4wd BMW 3 series with studless tires and while the bmw had more traction and grip in snow and light ice on the pure ice stuff you sometimes get around here the studdless tires where less than useless and with the studdless ones i didnt notice the difference ive also had my dad (who is a better driver) follow me on a icy road and when he tried to keep up in one really icy corner he almost went into a ditch.

    now the result in the video is due to the fact that they are driving on a hockey rink, there is a huge difference between ice and ice and it all has to do with temperature and humidity.

    to parafrase mr heston “you’ll get my gislaveds when you pry them from my cold dead hands”

    tl:dr studdless are better untill the going gets arctic

    • You are absolutely right. Studs are necessary when things get arctic. Heck, in some places tracks would be necessary.

      If only they made tires with retractable studs! The perfect solution!

  2. ryanstoy says:

    So the take away from that video is if makers of studded tires used modern compound technology in their tires instead of ’60s technology, studded tires would be unbeatable…

  3. T says:

    This seems fishy. My personal experience in the snowy mountains is at odds with the findings of tire rack. Either they are outright lying, or, more likely, this isn’t a definitive test. Is consumer reports more trustworthy?

    “To see whether studded tires really perform better on ice and snow than unstudded tires, we tested two winter-tire models, the Cooper Weather-Master S/T 2 and Nokian Hakkapeliitta 2, with and without studs.

    The studs hardly made a difference in traction on moderately packed snow, but they stopped better on ice. In our tests, the Coopers without studs needed the longest distance among the winter tires to stop, 36 feet from 10 mph. The Coopers with studs stopped in the shortest distance, 20 feet from 10 mph. Studs proved less effective with the Nokian 2s. Stops ranged from 29 feet without studs to 25 feet with them.”

    http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/cars/tires-auto-parts/tires/tire-sorter-winter/winter-tires-1105/index.htm