Driving in a snow-covered landscape is an exhilarating experience. The winter wonderland vistas are both serene and exciting. Every new view that emerges around a curve can be more stunning than the last one.
Unfortunately, these roads can be as treacherous as they are beautiful. Your vehicle takes longer to brake, becomes prone to slipping, and you can lose control.
When venturing onto snowy roads, it’s necessary to prepare well. One of the ways to make your vehicle winter-ready is to install studded winter tires.
In this post, we discuss what studded tires are and how they can promote safer and less stressful driving in the cold season. Read on to discover the advantages and disadvantages of studded tires to help you make an informed decision when choosing the most suitable winter tires for your vehicle.
What Are Studded Tires?
Studded tires first appeared as a mass-produced consumer product in Scandinavian countries during the late 1950s. They entered the U.S. market in the 1960s and became widely used in the 1970s. While their popularity diminished due to better roads and improvements in studless winter tires, studded tires remain unparalleled in addressing specific winter conditions.
Similar to studless snow tires, studded winter tires feature deep grooves, biting edges, and a soft, flexible rubber compound designed for optimal performance and endurance in cold temperatures. Studded tires distinguish themselves from studless tires by having studs inserted into the tread.
Each passenger tire contains approximately 80 to 120 studs. Stud sizes vary depending on the tire. The overall length of studs for passenger vehicles and light trucks is about 0.4 and 0.63 inches, respectively. The tips of these studs extend about 0.03 inches to about 0.06 inches beyond the tread surface.
The stud tips or pins can be made of metal, carbide (a compound composed of carbon and a metal), plastic, or hard rubber. These tips are very light, typically weighing approximately 0.06–0.07 oz.
Studdable winter tires don’t come with the studs already embedded. Instead, they have molded holes in the tread. The studs for studdable winter tires are typically sold separately and can be installed into the holes when needed. That task should be entrusted to a professional mechanic.
Some winter tire manufacturers, most notably Nokian, focus on retractable studded tires. These winter tires have embedded studs that can be retracted and extended with the push of a button. The driver can make the switch when the conditions change.
How Studded Tires Work
The studs on studded winter tires penetrate ice and hard-packed snow, providing additional grip and ensuring forward motion and performance without slipping and skidding. You get enhanced traction, improved control, and better handling when accelerating, braking, or navigating turns.
Tire studs maintain traction on ice surfaces, enabling you to stop sooner, accelerate quicker, and maintain control at all times.
Studded tires must have extra tread depth to accommodate the studs. This means that studded tire size options are often limited.
As the protruding tips of the studs wear down, studded tires become less effective, especially in deep snow. When this happens, it’s time to replace the tires. It’s not advisable to insert a new set of studs on a tire with factory-embedded studs. Studded tires don’t have a set life expectancy, but if used only on ice and packed snow-covered road surfaces, they’ll last for about 5 to 6 seasons.
For optimal performance and handling, install studded snow tires on all wheels of your vehicle.
Properly-installed tire studs are unlikely to come out during driving, because the rubber compresses the base of the stud.
When to Use Studded Tires
If you have to drive on roads covered with ice, hard snow, or frozen gravel, studded winter tires are an excellent choice. Ice patches often form in mountain passes, foggy areas, intersections, and bridges. Winter driving on hard-packed snow is just as challenging as negotiating ice-covered roads.
Studded tires perform better than studless snow tires in extreme winter weather. Tires with studs increase grip on ice and snow and prevent slippage, making it easier to accelerate, control, and stop the vehicle—even on inclines and downslopes. So, if you’re a winter sports enthusiast or you often drive in the snow and ice, studded snow tires may be the right choice for you.
New studded tires need a break-in period. Manufacturers typically recommend restricting your speed and avoiding fast accelerations and hard braking during the first 300 miles. For safety reasons, it’s best not to exceed 40 mph when driving on ice and snow.
Studded tires are not ideal for driving in urban areas and on clear roads. When there’s no ice or snow, the studs prevent the tire tread from adhering to the road surface. This results in decreased traction and increased braking distance. Driving studded tires on plowed roads also causes additional wear on both the studs and the asphalt. In such conditions, it’s better to use studless winter tires.
Proper ice and snow traction devices are mandatory in several U.S. states. However, the use of studded tires is restricted or even banned in many areas, due to the damage they can cause to the roads. The states that do allow studded tires usually limit their use to winter months, from October or November to March or April. Before you install studded tires, check your state’s stud laws and regulations.
Pros of Using Studded Tires
Most winter tires generate a strong grip, thanks to their special rubber compounds and tread patterns. However, studded tires offer several distinct advantages that maximize your safety:
Enhanced traction on ice and hard-packed snow: The primary advantage of studded winter tires is their superior grip on ice and snow surfaces. The metal studs bite into the ice, providing stability and reducing the risk of slipping and sliding.
Improved braking performance: Studded tires excel in braking performance on icy roads. The added traction helps reduce stopping distances, a crucial factor in preventing accidents and ensuring driver safety.
Enhanced confidence in extreme conditions: Studded tires give you confidence when facing severe winter weather.
Perfect for off-road driving: The added traction of studded tires provides more control over the vehicle, even when you have to do a bit of rough driving in harsh winter conditions.
Cons of Using Studded Tires
While they have proven advantages, studded winter tires also present several drawbacks when used on clear roads:
Damage to roads: Studded tires cause damage to both flexible and rigid pavements. These damages may cause safety issues and are costly to repair. Studs also contribute to pollution by distributing microscopic asphalt and concrete particles into the air.
Subject to regulations and restrictions: Studded tire usage is prohibited in some states, while most others allow them only during specific periods. Before installing studded tires, check your local stud laws.
Decreased performance on dry roads: Studded tires are optimized for icy conditions. They can become unsafe when used on a clean road surface, because studs prevent the rubber from fully making contact and gripping the pavement.
Increased noise levels: Studded tires can produce more road noise than studless tires.
Tire wear: Typically, studded tires wear faster than studless tires.
Get Your Ideal Winter Tires at Burt Brothers
Driving in winter conditions with snow and ice is always risky, but a good set of snow tires makes a big difference. Studded winter tires provide superior traction on ice and snow, enabling you to drive safely and confidently.
They can be a game-changer for drivers facing extreme winter conditions. Their ability to provide superior traction on icy surfaces makes them a valuable investment in safety. With studded winter tires, you can confidently navigate winter’s challenges and keep your journey safe and secure.
It is, however, important to weigh the benefits against the drawbacks. Local regulations restrict the use of studded tires in many states. On top of that, they offer poor performance on plowed roads and are often noisy.
Studded tires are not your best option if you live in an urban area and rarely venture onto unplowed roads. On roads clear of ice or snow, studs generate a lot of noise, damage the pavement, and decrease the tire’s traction.
In such conditions, studless tires are a better option. Modern studless winter tires with deeper tread depths, tread patterns, and flexible rubber compounds are perfect for driving in freezing temperatures on cleaned roads.
Whatever your circumstances, you’ll find the best winter or snow tires at Burt Brothers. We have a vast selection of winter tires from reputable brands. Our team of experts is ready to help you select the winter tires that suit your unique circumstances and budget.
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