It’s That Time of Year Again

4 Dec

About 5 years ago, I discovered that you don’t need all wheel drive or an SUV to safely drive on the snow. You don’t necessarily even need traction control. I grew up somewhere where anything over 3″ of snow accumulation meant widespread panic, while here people don’t get fazed by a foot at a time.

Snow tires. All you need is a good set of four snow tires. I first became a convert when I put a set of Hakkapeliitta 2s on a Jetta Wagon that had no traction control. Those tires enabled that car to stick to the road like glue. A set of Dunlop Graspic DS-2 weren’t as good, nor were the Hakka RSi. Blizzaks are quite good – Revo1 not as much as the WS-50.

This year, I found a set of four studded Nokian Hakkapeliitta 4s on eBay, and paid just over $375 to buy and ship them here from Oregon. (That’s a bargain – those tires probably retail for about $150/ea). They are 17″, so they fit on the existing GTI rims, and were installed about two weeks ago. The studded tires make some noise, but we finally got to try them out in earnest a couple of nights ago when a wet, slushy, heavy snow fell across the region. Those tires were like Krazy Glue keeping that car stuck to the road. It was as if we were driving through a gentle rain rather than the kind of slush that starts to pack down and become almost ice when left untreated, but trodden-on.

The other GTI is rolling on 16″ steel wheels, and I had 2 Revo1 Blizzaks that still had enough tread on them to go on the back, but had to get 2 new tires for the front – I went with what they had, which was the WS-50. Yes, it’s supposed to be bad to not run a complete set of identical 4 tires, but they’re all winter service approved, and the new, better tires are on the front, where it matters. The last couple of days have seen some accumulating snowfall downtown, and the car worked like a champ while others were slipping and sliding around.

We live in a wintry environment, and no matter how great of a driver you are, all-seasons don’t cut it when the snow and ice start blowing. Really prudent, serious drivers will add snows to AWD vehicles around here, and it does matter. Especially for lateral control – all-seasons or just straight AWD may enable you to go from a complete stop on a slippery mess, but when turning, you need that deeply, frequently siped tire to keep from sliding in a turn.

I find that Finland’s Nokian makes superior snow tires, and it makes sense, given that their climate is not unlike ours.

8 Responses to “It’s That Time of Year Again”

  1. Terry December 4, 2008 at 7:10 am #

    Last time I bought snow tires was back in the 70’s for my Cobra II. Never been a point after that when I said “Man, I wish I had snow tires….”

  2. Ward December 4, 2008 at 7:24 am #

    1) Mind you get them off by May 1, as studs are illegal in NY after that date.
    2) Your weekly trip to IKEA will have to be in the other car, as studs are illegal in Southern Ontario.
    You’re welcome.
    (BTW–What is the color of the sky on the planet where Terry lives?)

  3. Eric P. December 4, 2008 at 8:03 am #

    Many of the tire manufacturers websites advise that the new tires should go on the back (front wheel drive, rear whel drive, or 4×4 – it doesn’t matter). The stated reason for this is to prevent slipping due to oversteer.

  4. Derek J. Punaro December 4, 2008 at 8:54 am #

    I’ll continue to disagree with you on the need for studded tires in Buffalo. Studs are good on ice and hard pack, but for the frequently changing conditions in Buffalo and generally very well treated roads, they’re unnecessary and will give you worse traction when the roads don’t match the above. For this reason, a performance winter tire may be a better choice in this area where roads are frequently only wet from heavy salting.

    Financially speaking, if you’re keeping the same vehicle for several years, it’s a good idea to mount your winter tires on a separate set of rims. This is especially true if your vehicle has low profile tires, as you can often get an inch smaller wheel which can drastically reduce the cost of the tires. At a typical cost of $15-25 to mount a tire on a rim, a $50 steel wheel will pay for itself after one round of swapping. And if you can work a jack, you can swap the wheels yourself in your garage at no cost. Mounting tires, notsomuch.

  5. Terry December 4, 2008 at 11:09 am #

    Well I don’t get you guys….none of my buddies use snow tires, I don’t use them and after years of driving for travel hockey seasons, it’s not like I haven’t encountered crappy conditions. Front wheel drive always seemed to get me there without difficulty and now that I have 4WD it’s even better….The Cobra II needed them because the 302 in the light body had a tendency to send me down the street sideways….now that I am an old fart, I don’t need a 302 and travel more judiciously perhaps.

  6. peter scott December 4, 2008 at 12:45 pm #

    bp turned me on to the hakka’s 4 my 98 civic…this is our second winter with them…and they’re great…

    i have a ton of people ask me why I would bother with them…I’d love for them to feel the difference…

  7. farmer December 7, 2008 at 1:50 pm #

    Anyone who says snow tires are not needed or better has never put a set on and seen the differance. Going to the auto auction tues to get a car for the daughter for school. It will get real studded snow tirs on all fours.!!!

  8. J December 8, 2008 at 9:03 pm #

    Hi Pundit,

    Bridgestone updated the WS-50 to the WS-60. There are some test vids on youtube that will blow you away. Maybe not(???) as good as a Hakkapeliitta or the Green Diamond tire, but excellent nonetheless.

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