The average driver knows about summer and winter tires. When it comes to winter tires, many people believe studded tires are the ideal choice for winter driving.
If that’s the case, where do studless winter tires belong, and what are they used for?
We’ve explained how they work, why they work when preferred, and whether they’re worth it in this article.
Here’s the answer to what studless tires are used for:
Studless tires are used in the winter primarily to get optimum traction, especially on wet or dry roads and snow. They’re also a safer option on slushy roads. Generally, studless tires thrive on almost any type of winter road.
How Are Studless Tires Different?
With studless tires, the surface touching the ground is smooth, save for sipes, the most noticeable difference with studless tires.
Their tread blocks are also wider apart than regular tires, and the tread patterns run deeper.
Other than their distinct width and tread depth, their tread patterns are unique to allow snow maneuver. That, added with their rubber compound, is why they’re so great in the snow.
So studless or non-studded snow tires rely only on their tread blocks, sipes and rubber composition to perform in winter. This is opposed to studded tires that depend mainly on their studs.
What Are Studless Tires Good For?
Let’s start with snow. There’s a reason they’re also called studless snow tires. That’s because they provide the best performance in the snow.
They also provide the best performance on wet roads. Remember their unique tread patterns? Well, they work not only on snow. Instead, they serve as passageways for water when you drive on wet roads.
Since all treads are interconnected, it’s easier for water to flow along the tire tread then out. So it helps to clear water out of the tire path. It also reduces hydroplaning effects, making cars less likely to slide with studless tires.
That’s not all; they’re great on wet pavement because their sipes can also convey water away from the path. They also help grip the road, and you’d soon realize that tire sipes have multiple uses.
The sipes provide stability and faster braking on dry roads by ‘biting’ the road surface.
Studless tires are also an excellent choice for slushy roads. They perform on slush as they do on snow. This performance is still due to their deep treads, which easily cut through slush.
This quality will help you in the mud if you drive off-road during the winter.
Pros of Using Studless Tires
One thing we’re pretty sure about is that their advantages outweigh their disadvantages. So that’s why we rate them highly.
We’ve explained some of their pros below:
Can Work on Multiple Terrains
Their tread pattern, material and noticeable shoulder blocks help them thrive in almost any winter condition. This is one of their most significant advantage against studded tires.
So in the winter, whether on snow, slush, wet or dry roads, you’ll get the best performance from them.
We can’t say the same for studded tires, which only work best on ice or compressed snow.
Other than being effective in multiple road conditions, studless tires are usable everywhere, which brings us to our next point.
They Are Legal in Every State
You can use them all winter anywhere in the country. However, you’re also legally required to use snow chains with them if snow eventually gets too deep.
On the other hand, studded tires are not allowed in some states like Hawaii and Illinois. In states where they are allowed, they’d usually impose seasonal restrictions.
Hence, with studless tires, you don’t have to worry about regulations while traveling through neighboring states. That’s a way they reduce costs since there’s no need to maintain two sets of winter tires for road trips.
Besides their long-term cost reduction, you’ll probably pay a lower price to buy them. However, don’t always expect lower costs, especially if you go for high-grade tires.
No Damage to Highways
Without studs, tires are smoother on roads. Studs provide grip by digging into ice, and when there’s no ice, they do the same to roads. So you can skip the inconvenience altogether with studless wheels.
There’s also no pollution in the form of dust from all the ‘digging.’
Absent studs make drives more bearable because it means less noise. Rides are also generally more comfortable with studless tires.
However, it’s noteworthy that modern-day studded tires make much less noise.
Cons of Using Studless Tires
There aren’t a lot of downsides associated with studless tires, and most people who use them don’t complain. Still, there are a few aspects where they don’t do great.
Reduced Traction on Ice
Studless tires have decent traction on ice, but it’s nothing compared to studded ones.
You’d mostly feel the negative effect while driving on steep ice. That’s where studded tires excel the most.
So, they don’t perform as well as their studded counterparts, but that doesn’t mean they have terrible handling on ice.
May Require Snow Chains in Extreme Snow
On thick snow, you may have to attach chains to your wheels. It’s a cheaper option, but not as safe.
Chains are more liable to get damaged, especially at higher-than-prescribed speeds. This could be detrimental to you and your car. So you would have to drive at low speeds.
There may also be a danger of getting out of your car in a snowstorm to attach them.
Related: What Are Touring Tires Used For? (+ How They Differ)
What Vehicle Should Use Studless Tires?
Studless tires aren’t meant for a specific vehicle, so any car can be equipped with them. Without studded or studdable winter tires, they’d be the norm.
So as long as you experience any of the winter road conditions we’ve discussed, you can use them. Make sure you’ve got snow chains to complement them when the weather gets tricky.
While all cars can use studless tires, some vehicles will do great with them.
For example, luxury cars would most definitely be better without studs. Imagine having studs on your tires while you’re in a limo. Sounds crude, doesn’t it?
Since limos are meant to provide a seamless ride, you’d get the best out of them with studless winter tires. However, they’d have to be of prime grade to ensure you don’t miss out on performance either.
You can choose whichever tire you deem appropriate with any other vehicle type.
Related: What Are Studded Tires Used For? (+ How They Differ)
Is It Recommended to Use Studless Tires?
These days, they’re recommended for almost any type of winter driving. In fact, many people now regard studded tires as an obsolete technology. Some even claim that studless tires perform better functions for less baggage.
Drivers no longer restrict their use of studless tires to snowy, slushy or regular pavement. Instead, they now comfortably drive with studless tires on ice and packed snow.
Car and Driver recommended the best tires for “ice, snow and slush in the winter.” It’d interest you to discover that all the tires on their list were studless winter tires. This does more to strengthen the claim on studless tires’ versatility.
It further takes away the disadvantage of reduced traction on ice. As innovations are constantly made, it’s just a matter of time before they lose all their downsides.
Related: Winter Tires & Gas Mileage: Basic Facts to Know
What Are the Most-popular Studless Tire Brands?
These brands are well known for their high-grade tires. Although you’d hardly find any tire brand that manufactures studless tires alone, they produce some of the best.
We’ve included a few examples of their best tires, including some recommendations from Car and Driver.
Ask for recommendations from any mechanic, and you’d probably hear the name Michelin pop up. Their studless tires have a very high performance and longevity.
The Michelin X-Ice Snow tire boasts of reduced rolling resistance and better resistance to sliding on wet roads.
They’re also an innovative brand in the industry and regularly at the front in developing new tech.
For example, the famous Nokian Hakkapeliitta R3 is another model that promises lower rolling resistance than your average winter tire.
The Dunlop Winter Maxx models compete with other models from top brands.
The Winter Maxx is a great fit if you’re on a budget but don’t want to compromise winter performance.
Their products speak for themselves. The Viking Contact 7 is instantly recognizable because of its unique tread patterns, which look like a hundred rhombuses.
While they’re not as affordable as the Winter Maxx models, they deliver excellent traction.
The Pirelli Ice Zero FR performs well in harsh weather and is even better on wet winter roads.
Their unique channels and sipes are more capable of removing water from tire paths than models from other brands. They’d be great for sedans.
It isn’t challenging to choose between studless or studded tires. Studless tire advantages speak for themselves. Usually, no matter your location, modern studless tires are hardly a wrong bet.
In fact, most car owners are better off with studless tires.
That’s not to say studded tires are useless. It only means you would get more benefits without studs today.
The Best Winter Tires for Safer Snow Driving | Car and Driver
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