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Winter Tire Thread

Sonny@TireRack.com

sonny@tirerack.com
Hello all!

As another winter approaches, it is a good time to go over the facts about winter tires.

How do winter tires work?

Here are a few pictures to illustrate the mechanics involved in winter traction.

If you look closely at a road surface you can tell that it is really not as smooth as represented by the model in this picture


With the high grip rubber compound used in your summer performance tires the contact area conforms to the irregular surface of the road.


That amount of contact can generate a tremendous amount of traction in the summer time but, what if the road in snow covered?


That brings us to the question, what makes a tire a good winter tire? The answer is a three part puzzle and without all three parts traction will be compromised.


Let's look at the first part of the puzzle; tread design

This picture shows a winter tire tread design which, as you can clearly see, utilizes a large number of sipes



When the road gets snow covered the tire is no longer able to conform to the surface.



The siping allows the tread elements to flex under stress create aggressive "biting edges" when braking, cornering or accelerating




Part two of our three piece traction puzzle is tread depth

While deep snow and ice-covered roads are two of the most challenging conditions North American drivers will face, tire developments during the last decade have noticeably advanced wintertime mobility. The technological revolution of dedicated winter tires for drivers in the snowbelt, and the continuing evolution of all-season tires for drivers living on its periphery characteristically offer more grip in snow and on ice than ever before.

However the basics of delivering traction and handling in snow and on ice remain unchanged. Tires must combine three fundamental features to deliver good wintertime performance, including an appropriate tread design, pliable tread compound and sufficient tread depth. If any one of these fundamental features is absent, the other two, regardless of their ability, cannot deliver the desired results! Since engineers can develop cutting-edge tread designs and chemists can develop advanced rubber compounds, it is often the remaining tread depth that is the variable in determining wintertime performance.

In most parts of the world, tires are considered to be legally worn out when they reach 2/32" (approximately 1.6mm) of remaining tread depth. U.S. law requires tires to have easy-to-see Tread Wear Indicator bars running from one side of their tread design to the other when the tire's tread has worn down to the minimum legal limit of 2/32 inch.

However in spite of the legal minimums, Tire Rack recommends that drivers expecting to experience wet conditions consider replacing their tires when they reach 4/32" of remaining tread depth. Tire Rack's tests have shown how shallow treads reduce wet braking traction and increase stopping distances

Tire Rack also recommends that drivers expecting to encounter snow-covered roads consider replacing their tires when they reach approximately 6/32" of remaining tread depth to maintain good mobility. Tires need more tread depth in wintry conditions to compress snow in their grooves and release it as they roll. If there isn't sufficient tread depth, the "bites" of snow that can be processed on each tire revolution will be reduced to "nibbles," and the vehicle's traction and mobility in snow will be reduced.



The third and final part of the puzzle is the rubber compound used. Rubber compounds vary widely from manufacturer to manufacturer but, the task is the same so, you will see similarities between the products. They all typically use compounds which utilize materials designed to remain flexible at cold temps in addition to traction enhancements from silica and other materials which add more bite on ice.

Now, for the next step ... types of winter tires

There are basically three different types of winter tires

#1.) Performance Winter

You want enhanced dry road handling from your winter tires and are willing to trade some snow and ice traction to get it.

Meeting severe snow service requirements and branded with the "Snowflake-on-the-Mountain" symbol, these low profile, H- or V-speed rated tires are designed to suit winter driving on European highways. They are available in many of the low profile sizes used as Original Equipment on sporty imported and domestic cars. Due to their unique designs these tires must be installed in sets of four.

#2.) Studless Ice and Snow

You want to maximize snow and ice traction from your winter tires without the inconvenience of using winter tire studs.

Meeting severe snow service requirements and branded with the "Snowflake-on-the-Mountain" symbol, these Q-speed rated tires feature the latest in tread compound technology to provide winter traction without the inconvenience of tire studs. They trade a little handling for excellent ice and snow traction. Due to their unique tread compounds these tires must be installed in sets of four.

#3.)Studdable Winter

You want the traditional security of studded winter tires for enhanced traction on ice.

Meeting severe snow service requirements and branded with the "Snowflake-on-the-Mountain" symbol, these non-, Q-, S-, or T-speed rated tires feature traditional snow tire tread compounds and studdable tread designs for good snow and ice traction. Due to their unique designs these tires must be used in sets of four. Use of studded tires is often prohibited or restricted. Check with local authorities to confirm legality.

But Do I Really Need Winter Tires?

The primary concern that our customers express is that they don't want to get "stuck" in the snow (or in the ditch) during the winter.

While in cities like Atlantic City, Memphis and Seattle located at the extreme edges of the snow belt, relatively new All-Season tires will probably work just fine. But the odds change as you move further into the snow belt or the All-Season tires have a few years of wear on them. And who wants to gamble...especially when their collision deductible and future insurance premiums are on the table.

We all know that tires are a compromise. One tire can't be the fastest on the track, most controllable in the snow, and longest wearing. The Ultra High Performance tire that grips the track with tread temperatures of 200° is incompetent as its tread compound becomes like "hard plastic" at below 32°. Today's 80,000-mile tires require tread designs and compounds that maximize long, even wear... not winter traction. And while many of today's all-season tires (Original Equipment, touring and performance) address some of these issues, they still emphasize longer wear, a quieter ride or greater performance...not winter traction.

Only winter tires are designed to excel in the colder temperatures, slush, snow and ice that many parts of the country experience for three or more months a year.

It's also important to note that the recent advancements in electronic driver aids, such as ABS and traction control don't provide more traction. They only help prevent drivers from over braking or overpowering the available traction of their tires. The only thing the driver can do to increase traction...to actually get more grip and control... is install better tires.

NEW*

Our latest testing videos for your enjoyment

Tire Rack - Why Gamble in Winter When Four of a Kind Beats Two Pair? - YouTube


Tire Rack - Front-Wheel Drive and All-Season Tires Enough for Winter Driving? - YouTube



As in the past, there are 'general use' recommended packages for each model car to be found at TIRERACK.com but, if you would like to discuss other options for your specific needs please don't hesitate to give me a call at 800-428-8355 ext. 4789 or drop me an e-mail



You can also post in this thread but please supply the following information ....

year:
make:
model:
location:
tires only or winter package:

and I will respond directly to your post

I will also be adding to this thread periodically so, check back often
 

ITGUY

Drag Race Newbie
Location
PA
Wow awesome explanation!
 

Daner

Passed Driver's Ed
Location
Stockholm
Sonny, can you add a discussion regarding appropriate wheel diameter for winter applications, including minimum sizes for the different standard Golf 7 brake rotor sizes as delivered on different models? I'm under the impression that the 288mm front rotors that come on base TSI models can work with 15" rims, but I'm not sure about the 312mm rotors that come on at least some of the diesels, cars with DCC, the GTD, and non-PP GTI.
 
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ITGUY

Drag Race Newbie
Location
PA
year: 2016
make: VW
model: GTI
location: PA
tires only or winter package: pricing on both.
 

ITGUY

Drag Race Newbie
Location
PA
I am happy to help. Are you looking for the most aggressive winter traction you can get or are you looking to maintain dry road handling with a little less of an increase in winter traction?
Well we might get 3 to 5 good snow storms a year.
Most of my travel occurs on a highway

I will have a separate set for winter set and a set for wet/dry

I'm debating on just getting another set of Austin 18's and running 215/45/18's a bit narrower to get more "dig"
or 215/55/16 and get steel wheels?

I either want the oem 18's or steel 16's

Thanks
 
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Sonny@TireRack.com

sonny@tirerack.com
Well we might get 3 to 5 good snow storms a year.
Most of my travel occurs on a highway

I will have a separate set for winter set and a set for wet/dry

I'm debating on just getting another set of Austin 18's and running 215/45/18's a bit narrower to get more "dig"
or 215/55/16 and get steel wheels?

I either want the oem 18's or steel 16's

Thanks
It is tough to say, but I always err on the side of caution. A little disappointment in dry handling is better than a totaled car and a trip to the hospital. Take a looks at the Michelin Xice XI3. Still has the $70 rebate at the moment.
 

Sonny@TireRack.com

sonny@tirerack.com
Just a heads up. As we get closer to fall/winter, we get crazy busy. Please do not hesitate to call me direct with questions 888-428-8355 ext# 4789. I am always very happy to help...especially with forum customers.
 

ZERO_FOX

Passed Driver's Ed
Location
Ontario, Canada
Hey sonny I'm looking for a winter package price shipped to Canada
17' Golf R
Wanting 18" 7.5 or 8 wrapped in Michelin xice as stated above.
Wheel design black wide spoke
I sent an email a week back but no reply. It was addressed to your attention. Anyway msg me for email because I'm ready to buy before it gets stupid crazy. Let me know how the rebates work for the Canucks.
 

Sonny@TireRack.com

sonny@tirerack.com
Hey sonny I'm looking for a winter package price shipped to Canada
17' Golf R
Wanting 18" 7.5 or 8 wrapped in Michelin xice as stated above.
Wheel design black wide spoke
I sent an email a week back but no reply. It was addressed to your attention. Anyway msg me for email because I'm ready to buy before it gets stupid crazy. Let me know how the rebates work for the Canucks.
You have a pm. Not sure what happened there, but I apologize for the delayed response.
 

fredygump

Passed Driver's Ed
Location
55992
Can you give a general comparison of the relative performance of snow tires in the common sizes for a GTI? I think the most common sizes, excluding 19" and 20" (because they are ridiculous), are:


235/40/r18
235/45/r17

225/40/r18
225/45/r17

205/50/r17 (VW's optional winter wheels)
195/60/r16 (steel wheels)



I expect wider tires will perform worse in snow, and lower profile tires will also perform worse in snow? So a 235/40/r18 should be worst, and a 195/60/R16 would perform the best? Is this correct?

Right now I have the option of saving the 17"x8" (or 7.5"?) wheels off my 2012 TDI , but would the 1" smaller wheel make an appreciable difference by itself?

Or would I just be "spinning my wheels" and wasting my time and money if I don't also switch to a narrower wheel and tire?


(Yesterday I thought found 16" steel wheels for my GTI on your website for $52 each, but I can't find them today. I found them through for "steel wheel" filter at the bottom of the sidebar, but now I don't see that filter. The "material" field only lists versions of aluminum...it doesn't include steel, so that doesn't help. Steel is a 16" wheel, but the website doesn't let me look for 16" wheels, only 17" and 18"? But I found it yesterday?)
 
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fishtizzy

Ready to race!
Location
Colorado Springs
year: 2015
make: VW
model: GTI
location: OH
17in wheel/tire package - I prefer to run Blizzaks as we dont get constant snow but I have to commute to work on the highway downtown - looking for cheap wheel option, black steelies or grey/black big spoke alloys. What do you recommend? Thanks!
 

arres

Ready to race!
Location
New Haven, CT
year: 2016
make: VW
model: Golf R
location: CT
tires only or winter package: Looking at 17x8 +45 with 225/45 tires.

Torn between a Performance Winter and Non-studded Snow. Commute about 80 miles a day, mostly highway. Assuming most of the time roads will be cleared but want to also account for the occasional dusting/heavy snow to drive through. It's hit or miss with CT winters.
 

Sonny@TireRack.com

sonny@tirerack.com
year: 2015
make: VW
model: GTI
location: OH
17in wheel/tire package - I prefer to run Blizzaks as we dont get constant snow but I have to commute to work on the highway downtown - looking for cheap wheel option, black steelies or grey/black big spoke alloys. What do you recommend? Thanks!
Unfortunately we do not have any 17" steelies, but there is a closeout right now on the Andros N2. Matching the Andros with the Blizzak WS80 would do very well.
 
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