The quality of your tires will determine how well your vehicle handles when driving. As the rubber begins to wear down, then you will receive less traction in wet, icy, or snowy conditions. When the roads are slick outside or you travel in the mountains where they can be snow-packed, one option to consider is to drive with studded tires instead of using cables or chains to traverse the challenging conditions.
There are places where drivers must face some downright scary conditions, like in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Northern California. Stretches of Highway 44 and Highway 89 can receive more than a foot of snow at times, with frequent requirements for drivers to use chains. If you have a 4×4 or prefer a more secure driving experience, then the best way to be prepared for the unpredictable driving conditions that winter brings is to install studded tires on your vehicle.
These tires, which are sometimes called “snow tires” or “winter tires,” provide you with several different options from which to choose. Studded tires have metal embedded with the tread to help your vehicle dig into the ice and packed snow to offer added traction. You may be able to continue driving in winter conditions without the requirement to chain up before continuing with your drive.
There are several pros and cons to consider when evaluating studded tires for your vehicle, so here is a look at the key points.
List of the Pros of Studded Tires
1. Studded tires create a stable driving experience in challenging conditions.
If you have ever driven in a vehicle with chains or cables on, then you have experienced the significant levels of vibration that can occur. It can be enough to cause your vehicle to slip out of control if you are unfamiliar with how the car, truck, or SUV responds in those conditions. When you drive with studded tires, then you will lose most of the added chatter that happens when you step on the accelerator pedal. Even if there is a thick snow pack or ice on the road, it will feel like you are driving as you normally are.
2. It allows you to continue driving during changing weather conditions.
If you drive through challenging conditions without studded tires, then you are often legally required to use chains or cables while traversing a trouble area. That means you need to stop your vehicle, go outside in the often wet and cold conditions, and then wrap the product around your vehicle. Even if you bring a tarp with you to use as you work, there is an excellent chance that you are going to get damp and dirty as you prepare your vehicle for the drive ahead.
When you have studded tires on your vehicle, then there is usually no need to stop. You can keep on driving because your car is already equipped to handle the changing circumstances. That means fewer stops as you work to reach your next destination.
3. You don’t have the threat of losing a cable or chain while driving.
Because cables or chains are often mandatory in regions where snow tires are common, you might try to save some cash by using standard tires paired with an authorized item for your wheels. The only problem with chains or cables is that they can break while driving, especially if you exceed the maximum recommended speed for the product, which is often under 30 miles per hour. You can even lose them at times if the locking mechanism malfunctions while you are on the road. If you have a front-wheel drive and lose a set of cables or chains, you might be stuck there until a tow arrives. With studded tires, this issue disappears.
4. Studded tires allow you to handle severe winter weather conditions.
Some communities are advocating a switch to studless tires for winter weather conditions because the design offers a deeper treat which allows for dependable driving in common winter conditions. Many products are even suitable for driving on ice, as the design works to help with acceleration, breaking, or slowing. Studded tires can offer the same benefit while also helping drivers navigate severe driving conditions. This design can work to reduce the risk of becoming stranded while on the highway.
5. You can navigate inclines safely while limiting speeds during descent.
Studded tires are a massive advantage when you must drive up a mountain slope during the winter months. When the conditions at high elevations are challenging for plows to manage, your only two options are studs or chains/cables to ensure you have the traction necessary to drive safely. You will keep your momentum during the uphill climb with these tires while limiting the threat of a slip while you descend after summiting as well. It is a way to give you the power needed to traverse the worst driving conditions that occur in the winter without ever needing to leave your vehicle.
6. Studded tires won’t damage your vehicle.
If you were to lose a cable or chain while driving, then there is the possibility that you could damage the exterior of your vehicle or some of the components that support your forward movement. Most chains and cables provide a specific warning about where to place the locks for them to ensure that damage doesn’t occur as well. Since you typically need to keep driving if your vehicle throws a single cable or part of your chains, you could find yourself facing an extensive repair bill at the end of the day. With studded tires, this issue virtually disappears. You’ll still face the challenges of roadway debris and other puncture issues, but the threat of damage to the vehicle is significantly reduced.
7. The studs are made from tungsten carbide.
The strength of the studs that are in studded tires is virtually unmatched in the world today. Most manufacturers use tungsten carbide to give you the traction that is necessary for driving in the most challenging of conditions. Tungsten is a raw element that is comparable to titanium with regards to its strength. When carbon is added to it, then the only thing known to be stronger is diamonds. Since having a diamond studded tire is an impractical cost, you won’t find a better or more affordable option when you must traverse the mountains in the winter than a product like this one.
List of the Cons of Studded Tires
1. Studded tires might not be legal in your geographic location.
Because the metal in the tread of the tire is tough enough to break into ice and packed snow, the strength of the product is enough to damage roadways that are not facing these conditions. That is why most areas that permit driving on studded tires will only allow them to be on the vehicle during the winter months, which is typical in the western US states. As you move further east where there are no real mountain passes to cross, it is not unusual to have states outlaw their use altogether to ensure the roadway pavement can remain in good condition.
2. Studded tires create extra noise when you are driving.
Since there is metal impacting the roadway while you drive, the amount of exterior noise that you will encounter with studded tires on your vehicle is significantly higher. Although the sounds are significantly less than if you were to use cables or chains, the only way to remove this disadvantage is to replace the tires with a studless option. Local laws may not allow this option, so you are often stuck with a louder drive during the winter months if you use these tires in all conditions.
3. You are forced into a situation where you must maintain two sets of tires.
Because studded tires will dig into the pavement when there isn’t tough precipitation on the road, you are required to take them off of the vehicle by a specific date each year in many geographic locations. If you are found to be driving on them outside of the permitted window, then you can be pulled over by law enforcement and fined for your actions. The only way to avoid this issue is to maintain two sets of tires, one for each season, and that comes at a higher initial cost.
In Washington State, studded tires are only legal between November 1 and March 31 each year. If you are caught with them on outside of this window, then your fine could be $136. It may be even higher if you are driving in a state which does not permit them at all.
4. Studded tires cost more per unit than regular tires.
Although smaller cars can sometimes have a set of four snow tires installed for under $300, it is usually closer to $600 to have a complete set. If you need to support a truck or SUV with these tires, then they can cost up to $400 each, or more than $1,200 if you purchase a complete set. The initial cost of this product is about twice that of a standard tire, and it is significantly higher than the cost of cables or chains for the average passenger vehicle. When you consider the costs of wheel balancing, labor, and rims as well if you want the tires to be separate, this expense may not be worthwhile for some families.
5. Not all studded tires are created at the factory.
When you start shopping for studded tires, you will discover that some products are made at the factory, while others are created at the retail location where you will pick up the product. Although you can save some money if you pick up tires that are studded by the retailer, this option creates significantly more noise while producing more impact on the ground. Try to get tires that are studded by the manufacturer to minimize all of the potential disadvantages of this product.
6. You must change all four of your tires to studded tires.
In the areas which permit studded tires during winter weather, you are obligated to change all four of your tires if you opt for this choice. If you only drive with two that have studs, then you can lose control of your vehicle easier and faster than if you were driving on something with a standard tread. If you decide to carry cables or chains with you in winter, then most passenger vehicles only need to have the two wheels (front or back) that help to create the initial momentum while you drive.
7. Studded tires do not improve traction in other winter conditions.
If you expect to drive through snow-packed roads or icy situations on a regular basis, then studded tires are an investment that makes sense. When you expect to drive through slush or treated roads that are wet during the winter, then there is no significant improvement to how your vehicle will handle when driving down the road. Add in the fact that roadway damage from the metal studs can lead to hydroplaning since it encourages more standing water, it is usually better for the average driver to avoid this product unless there is an absolute need to use it.
8. You might be forced to carry two sets of tires with you on a road trip.
There are no provisions in place for the states which outlaw the use of studded tires that allow you to drive with them if you are coming from a location which allows them. States like Florida, Texas, Illinois, and Minnesota all completely ban this product from their roadways. If you were driving from Portland to Chicago in the winter months for the holidays, then you would need to change your tires before reaching your destination to stay in compliance with the law. That means carrying two full sets of tires with you while driving. In this situation, it would be significantly easier to use studless tires or to carry chains or cables to avoid the extra headache.
The pros and cons of studded tires often depend on the expected driving conditions that you will face during the year. If you must regularly navigate roads that are icy, snowy, or poorly maintained during the winter months, then it is worth looking at the benefits that this product offers for your vehicle. When your driving habits keep you in the city or have you driving on highways that don’t involve mountain passes, then alternative options may be adequate without a significant expense.
Brandon Miller has a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a seasoned writer who has written over one hundred articles, which have been read by over 500,000 people. If you have any comments or concerns about this blog post, then please contact the Green Garage team here.