It’s a constant conflict during the winter. The decision on what type of tire to use.
Many people say studded tires are the best option during the winter and others think they’re not so effective. So, don’t worry; let us show you when and how to use them.
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Here’s what studded tires are used for:
Studded tires are used during the winter when the roads are covered with solidified water like ice or hard snow. They’re preferred because they provide the best traction and grip on such roads. They’re for you if drive regularly on icy roads.
How Are Studded Tires Different?
The significant difference lies in their name; they’ve got studs. That’s their most defining physical attribute, and these studs are made from different materials like metal, rubber or plastic.
The studs usually amount to 100 or even 120 and are spread evenly. These studs are embedded within the tread, so studded tires have built-in holes to fit the studs.
Of all the different materials, metal studs are the most widely used in the tire industry.
However, there’s no standard size or shape for tire studs, as manufacturers use different studs with defining characteristics. So, other studded tires would perform differently when subjected to varying conditions.
They may be studded by the tire manufacturer or as an aftermarket option by the dealer. Factory studded tires have much more quality and durability, as you’d expect from the manufacturer. With them, you get optimum performance and a better ride experience.
However, the factory studded tires are more expensive.
On the other hand, dealer studded tires are cheaper, but you wouldn’t enjoy a top-notch performance with them.
What Are Studded Tires Good For?
Studded tires are great for enhancing steering grip and ice traction. Keep reading if that answer doesn’t sum it up for you.
Their impressive ice traction makes them great for long and intense winters. You know, freezing temperatures that cause ice and snow to appear everywhere.
Unlike non-studded tires, they only work well in places with the harshest winters. As you’d soon discover, they may even perform poorly in mild winters. So, states like Alaska, Michigan or Minnesota would be perfect for studded tires all winter.
The reason is that these states can accumulate several inches of snow on their highways. There’s also hardly a time in the winter when the roads in these states would be wet or dry.
Besides poor performance, your studded tires would hurt the roads in mild winters. Negative effect? How so? We’d explain in a short while.
Pros of Using Studded Tires
While several advantages are associated with studded tires, these stand out:
First, the extra grip on ice means more stability, so you’re unlikely to slide or lose control of the vehicle. This stability leads to faster braking time and more effortless acceleration on ice.
It also means you get better handling in otherwise dangerous corners. So, studded tires are safer on ice and have saved countless lives.
Besides their stability, studded tires save you the trouble of having to find and fix snow chains in severe weather. Most times, unless the weather becomes unbearable, you can keep driving with your studded tires.
Drivers with regular winter tires would have to use snow chains under the same conditions.
You should also know that snow chains risk getting damaged at high speeds. So with studded tires, you don’t always have to limit your speed when the weather gets tough.
Studded tires provide the best performance on slopes, ascending or descending. While ascending, their studs help cars climb faster and effortlessly.
They transfer the vehicle’s weight to the ground and use it to dig into the ice.
The process is similar when driving down a slope. They use the vehicle’s weight to penetrate the ice and avoid the uncontrollable speed that usually comes with going downhill.
As we’ve discussed, some winter tires can be dealer-studded.
Their advantage is that they have the broadest range of applications for winter driving. This is because you can fix or remove the studs depending on the roads you’d be driving on.
So, when you drive on ice or packed snow, you can use the studs. When winter weather presents dry or wet roads, you can flaunt your studdable tires as non-studded tires.
So if you can handle the inconvenience of fixing and removing studs, they’re perfect for you.
Cons of Using Studded Tires
Despite the good, studded tires do come with their problems. However, we’d focus more on the disadvantages they present to the public.
Although they work well on ice, studded tires are hazardous on roads. Their metal studs cause too much friction on roads which leads to ruts.
Ruts are indentations on the road surface, usually on the wheel paths of cars.
These ruts usually occur steadily, and every car that passes contributes to making them appear.
Studded tires, however, quicken this process, and that’s why ruts occur more rapidly when they’re present. These ruts can get filled with water, creating more risk for drivers.
Water in channels can cause the dreaded hydroplaning experience that reduces traction, steering, and stability and ultimately leads to accidents.
A lesser-known disadvantage of studded tires is the air pollution they cause. So they’re not only hazardous to roads but also to human health.
Their studs dig into roads as they dig into the ice. This digging process causes particles to float around in the air. Studded tires create many times more pollution than their non-studded rivals.
There’s also noise pollution to consider. While these tires pollute the air, they also disturb your ears. They generate the noise as their studs clash with asphalt.
Besides the noise, the whole “digging into the ice” process presents an uncomfortable ride.
So, although they perform well under certain conditions, they aren’t as versatile as non-studded tires. On top of all that, they’re also more expensive.
What Vehicle Should Use Studded Tires?
There’s a studded tire for any vehicle, and you can use any conventional car in the winter.
However, if you drive to work every day, you’re more likely to encounter situations where studded tires are inconvenient. These include parking space difficulty and days you drive on dry or wet roads.
You might consider using high-performance non-studded winter tires if the ice isn’t always severe in your location.
If you regularly drive off-road, your studded tires work best in such situations. While studded tires are great for ice and snow-packed highways, they’re also quite effective on unpaved roads.
Recall that studded tires are great for icy slopes. Hence, off-road trucks and SUVs (especially mountain climbers) should have studded tires.
Is It Recommended to Use Studded Tires?
The disadvantages we’ve discussed imply that studded tires aren’t suitable for all-winter driving.
Again, we only recommend them if you’re frequently driving on ice. Even winter roads aren’t always covered in snow and ice.
This means there could be plenty of times when roads would be dry or wet with water. However, damp or dry roads aren’t ideal for studded tires. In such conditions, studded tires become a disadvantage both to you and the highway.
First, you get reduced traction on wet roads because the studs don’t do well there. So, you’re at risk of having an accident because of the reduced traction and overall stability.
The performance also plunges on dry roads; the studs would only create tiny holes. When it rains, water fills up these holes. The water then freezes and causes the holes to expand, and the process is repeated.
As you’ve guessed, that’s not good for the road.
We recommend non-studded tires on wet or dry roads. The weather irregularities are why you may need two sets of winter tires. In fact, on a regular day in an average winter, studded tires aren’t necessary and may be inconvenient.
Only use studded tires when you’re sure they’re worth your time and money.
Also, they may not be legal in your location. For example, several states have designated periods when you can drive with studded tires, varying with the seasons. Please ensure you check the laws in your state before using studded tires.
Some parking garages also prohibit cars with studded tires. No one wants to struggle with finding a parking space during cold winters. So before you buy them, these are factors you should consider.
What Are the Most Popular Studded Tire Brands?
While there are many studded tire brands, these always pop up:
- Nokian: When it comes to studded tires, Nokian tires take the cake. They’ve made quite a name for themselves with their Hakkapeliitta models. Many say they’re the best-studded tire brand in the market.
- Pirelli: They’ve been in business for over a century and are a leading brand. So it is no surprise they’ve earned a spot on the list. Their Ice Zero studded tires are popular in the industry.
- Firestone: They pride themselves on making studded tires with ultimate traction yet delivering smooth rides, producing many studdable winter tires.
- Continental: Their studded tires are also well known and have an excellent reputation for high performance. The IceContact 3 is an excellent example of their unique engineering.
- Goodyear: This list would be incomplete without the Goodyear brand; their studded tires speak two words; superior performance.
- Michelin: There’s not much to be said about Michelin, as their brand speaks for itself. It is arguably the most popular tire brand globally, and its studded tires follow suit.
Many more brands manufacture studded tires, so this list is limited. However, you may get good-quality tires from some of these other brands at budget-friendly prices.
Ultimately, no tire can be so versatile to suit every peculiarity in the winter. So whether or not you choose studded tires, you’d face situations where you’d get less performance.
However, the good news is that you can pick the most suitable winter tire based on your frequent driving routes. For you, that might be studded tires.
The disadvantages can also be reduced depending on the stud material. For example, rubber or plastic studs will make less road noise and pose less of a threat to asphalt.
However, they may not be as durable or effective as metal ones. Rubber studs are also more likely to deform. The rigidity of metal studs is probably why it’s the most widely used stud material.
Not to worry, even metal studs don’t make as much noise today as they used to. Tire makers are innovative too.
The same applies to damage as studs do minor damage to roads today compared to two decades ago.