If you’re unfamiliar with studded tires, you’ve not needed the word ‘studless’ until now.
Studless tires are pretty much your regular winter tires.
People whose tires have studs often wonder if studless tires are effective at all. Let’s find out.
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Here’s the answer to whether studless tires really make a difference:
Contrary to what many think, studless tires are more reliable in certain conditions. They are more flexible and even have better traction in the snow. Even more, they’re best for driving in slush. You’re also guaranteed a smoother ride with them.
What Are the Benefits of Using Studless Tires?
They provide better overall performance on snow and slush, including stability and traction. Their performance in such conditions is their most dominant benefit.
They owe this performance to their tread depths and style, which allow snow to pass through the grooves as they move.
The treads also maintain their grip without damaging the road. Other than the tire treads, they have sipes which are tiny slits everywhere on the tread blocks. These slits help in acceleration, and they improve traction.
Studless tires also remain flexible in the cold because of the composition of their rubber compounds. This composition allows for them to stay soft even during freezing temperatures.
In addition to all these advantages, studless tires are still generally cheaper.
When Are Studless Tires Recommended?
They work best on snow and slushy roads. They’re also recommended for wet roads, an aftereffect of melted snow or rain. Usually, driving on ice is a job for studded tires.
However, studless tires are becoming more equipped to handle icy roads these days. One contributing factor is that their sipes give them better stability on ice. That’s because the sipes do almost the same job as studs.
Sipes also serve as channels to convey water away from the tire path. This is one reason studless tires have more stability on wet roads. So you’re better off with studless tires in the rain.
Still, while studless tires may perform averagely on ice, tires with studs beat them in that segment. Or at least for now.
We’ll rate studless tires as the more versatile type since they are used over more types of road surfaces.
Are Studless Tires Good for Highway Driving?
Studless tires are great for highway driving in the winter. A significant advantage is that they don’t have metal studs that damage roads. Hence, you worry less about fluctuating weather.
Whether or not it snows on the highway, you can drive comfortably with studless tires in the winter.
In fact, when the highway is quite dry but cold nonetheless, studless tires provide the best grip. This doesn’t change when the roads are wet, either.
Another effect of its versatility means you can go on long road trips during the winter with studless tires. Road trips usually involve highways and interstate travels. An important consideration is that several states may have different weather conditions.
Let’s quickly paint a scenario.
You’re about to take a road trip, and the snow is 2 inches thick at your starting location. So you begin to drive with your studless tires and get the expected outstanding performance you want. As the snow gets thinner on the highway, it doesn’t matter because your studless tires can handle the bare road.
If you were driving with tire studs, you’d have to consider an alternative as the snow gets thin. This could be an extra set of tires for your road trip. The excess weight will not only affect your gas mileage; it’ll eat up cargo space meant for other essential items.
If you continue driving with studs, their traction reduces, and they create more noise and then contribute to damaging the highway. There’s also the possibility that they may be illegal in the state you’re driving to.
So if studded tires are illegal in a state you’re passing through, you’d have to switch them. You might be lucky enough that they’d have exceptions for non-residents just passing through.
Do Studless Tires Really Make a Difference?
Factoring all the benefits they bring to the table, they sure do whether you consider ease, performance, or even costs.
We’ve already established that studless tires are more multi-purpose, so they have more applications. Think of them as all-winter tires.
Their versatility can reduce costs since you don’t have to buy two sets of tires for the winter. You can typically save hundreds of dollars by opting for studless tires.
Still, although they are more versatile, they can’t perform optimistically in every situation.
Extreme weather may occasionally require drivers to use snow chains on certain roads. While driving, drivers usually have to stop and fix chains on each wheel before they continue driving. Depending on the scenario, they may be able to do it at home before the start of their journey.
Admittedly, stud tires may fare better under such extreme conditions even without snow chains.
Still, snow chains are a cheaper option and may even provide better traction than studded tires. So even though you can’t drive with them at high speeds, they do the job.
Hence, all winter tires have downsides, but studless tires provide more ease. Many would prefer to attach snow chains on their studless tires when needed instead of replacing the entire set of studded ones when they approach a smooth highway.
Besides, studded tires may even need snow chains too.
Do Studless Tires Get Worse Gas Mileage?
Studless winter tires get good gas mileage. They’re more prepared for handling the winter’s ‘mood swings’ than any other tire type.
We can’t say much about their gas mileage relative to tires with studs. However, all winter tires have good gas mileage in the winter.
When they’re used in the summer, however, you can expect the worst mileage and performance from them. However, car owners should only use them for winter driving.
Their gas mileage depends on many factors, including traction and terrain. So studless tires may or may not have better gas mileage than studded ones depending on the road surface.
They’re also made of softer material, usually hydrophilic rubber, which helps them stay in shape during the winter. Therefore, they use less energy. Instead, studded tires use more power as they dig into the ice.
The concept behind the excellent gas mileage is that studless tires allow the engine to do less work. This is made possible since their grooves, along with their sipes, allow for easy water movement. So, less work on the engine translates to less fuel consumed.
Our educated guess would be that you’d get a better economy with studless tires. Negligible, maybe, but albeit better.
Do Studless Tires Wear Faster?
You shouldn’t expect your studless winter tires to wear faster. Also, at the time of writing, there’s no substantial evidence that shows they wear faster than studded ones.
However, just like gas mileage, they don’t fare well in the summer as long as tread wear is concerned. Instead, their soft rubber, designed for cold temperatures, will quickly degrade on hot asphalt.
The heat generated would cause rapid and uneven wear. They can’t dissipate heat as well as summer tires and would also lose efficient traction and handling.
Besides damage and tread wear, driving with studless winter tires in warm weather decreases their overall performance, including handling.
They owe the decreased performance to their soft treads, which can’t provide adequate maneuverability in the summer. Navigating sharp bends would be difficult if it’s not in the winter.
Do Mechanics and Car Dealers Recommend Studless Tires?
Experts recommend studless tires most of the time. Who wouldn’t? They’re multi-purpose, more affordable and might save your life under the proper applications.
However, determining the right way to use them is the tricky part.
Most people know that they’re the go-to option for snow and slush. However, technology improves daily, and studless tires are becoming more capable of providing sufficient traction and handling on ice.
We’ve already established that they’re equipped with sipes that can provide an extra grip on compact snow or ice. These sipes function similarly to rubber studs on studded tires.
Before asking for dealer recommendations, please consider how often you drive in the winter. You ought to also gauge how severe rain or snow can get in your location.
Do you typically encounter situations where the snow gets dangerously thick, or snowfall is minimum and rainfall is prevalent?
Dealers may often recommend studless tires.
They’d be a better option on wet or dry and cold roads. Plus, you can always use snow chains if there is a case of extreme weather.
When tire shopping, ensure the dealer isn’t just trying to sell you a more expensive option that you don’t need.
Although summer and all-season tires are usually studless, the term studless here refers to studless winter tires.
If you decide to go for studless tires during the winter, remember that irregular pressure hurts their performance. They lose most of their tractive capabilities if their pressures are too low. The decrease in temperature during the winter months causes your tires to lose their air pressure.
Typically, a 10-degree temperature drop causes a one psi tire pressure loss. That’s why you must monitor your tire pressure more closely in the winter.
Ultimately, the correct pressure is necessary to enjoy studless winter tires’ many benefits.
That being said, check your owner’s manual; it’ll usually provide the recommended tire pressure to maintain during winter.