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Wednesday, November 2. 2011
We all must adapt! With Global Cooling hastening our certain death and doom by freezing to death, we offer this info in our annual Winter in New England series. God willing and if we survive Climate Change, we will extend this series next fall with some new additions.
Let's face it: 4 WD is is for petite blond yuppie wives who do not know how to drive in snow and mud while chatting on their cell - and for hunters who like to take vehicles to gnarly places. There's a cheap solution.
Snow and mud tires are called "Winter tires" nowadays. They are made of a softer rubber (so as to provide better suppleness in cold temperatures), which is why they don't last as long as regular tires. That's the reason to put them on in November and to take them off in March or April (around here, anyway). At that rate, they will last 3-4 seasons at the minimum.
Important safety considerations with winter tires: Always put them on all 4 wheels and never replace just one: replace all 4 at the same time.
Decent snow tires will turn your old Chevette into the rough equivalent of a 4 WD. But how do you know whether you need them? In my opinion, if you need them, you will know it - but here's a piece on the subject.
With global cooling picking up its pace, everybody may need them soon. 4 WD is good but, where you need them, winter tires are as good or better.
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When I was a student in Canada my old 4wd Subaru car "wore out" and I replaced it with the same model but FWD. I'd been happy with "all season" tires on the 4wd, but after the experience of winter tires with only FWD, my preference is for the winter tires -- they make much more difference in snow and ice than does 4wd.
Even in Amish Appalachia the winter weather is not to be taken lightly, especially for those who drive long distances in the mountains and valleys. It's best to prepare for the worst conditions, the need to drive more gently when the roads are dry is a small price to pay for the ability to actually get home when the conditions turn ugly.
There are performance winter tires for daytime main-roads travelers. But the newer generation of Ice & Snow tires are the real thing, for those who often find themselves in lonely locales as the snow or sleet piles up on the last roads to be plowed.
Michelin has its X-Ice, Bridgestone its Blizzak WS-60, but the Nokian Hakkapeliitta RSI rules among studless tires. If you need studs, Hakkapeliitta 5 are amazing tires.
Be careful out there when it gets wintry.
We always did the Lincoln head test with pennies to determine if we needed new tires. Put it in the tread head first, if the penny is in the tread and his head is not covered, you need new tires.
I've seen far too many SUVs with 'All Season Radials' end up in ditches or sliding uncontrollably one way or another once the snow got more than a couple of inches deep. I've never had problems with my FWD cars during winter weather because I've always used actual snow tires (the Nokian Hakkapelitta being my favorite, with the Michelins coming in second). They make all the difference. 'All Seasons' are a compromise at best, and a bad compromise at that.
As a lifelong Commonwealth guy (PA then MA) I've never bothered with winter tires. Tire chains for rear wheel drive cars, but that's about it.
And those SUV's stuck in a ditch? Fools seem to think that 4WD helps with braking and turning - at speed no less!
"All-season" tires ARE a compromise, but Nokian makes the best ones out there. Their WMR tires that we put on my wife's Escort turned a tinny econo-box into a winter-weather-warrior. It literally drove like a new (and different, and much better) car.
With a rear wheel drive, I've never had a problem putting snows on just the rear for the winter. Where do you get the advice that they must be on all four? That's for AWD cars.
Also, what's the reason to replace all four tires if you have a problem with one? Let's say you slice a six month old tire. Surely, you're not going to trash the other three?
Finally, since salt is hell on alloy rims, the best idea is to keep your snows mounted on steel rims and just swap them in for the winter. Less trouble (could be done at home), and saves the expensive rims.
I've run winter tires on only the front with FWD.
The reason you want them on all four wheels is because the back wheels become jealous --
At some point when you are trying to slow down on an icy bend, they will take advantage of the opportunity to overtake the front wheels.
They think that if the car is proceeding backwards, they are now at the "front" of the car, and you will be nice to them and purchase them nice snow tires as well.
And they are correct.
Those of us on tight budgets may want to consider Cooper tires. A set of four was about $450 at Bennie's a year ago. Their compound (according to a tire guy several years ago) contains carbide dust which acts likes thousands of tiny studs. I've driven FWD and 4x4s on glare ice without slipping a wheel on these tires.
I've run winter tires year-round for the last 20+ years on RWD, FWD, and 4x4s. Nothing beats 4x4 for getting through drifts and snowplow excreta, and I'm a pot-bellied old geezer who uses Bluetooth.
Coopers are excellent tires...tight budget or not. Saves some $'s for something else.
Suppleness? I used to think that was a word used to describe breasts.
Now tires? I'll never look at them the same again!
4 studded Nokian Hakkas get my wife's Civic where she needs to be as she makes her rounds as a visiting nurse. These are more expensive than others but they wear much better. My son and I follow (or sometimes lead) the Jeeps around until ground clearance is an issue and have a laugh.
My petite blond yuppie wife got a AWD BMW last year. Better than anything short of a HUMVEE I have driven in snow. Way better than my parents' old Mercury with 4 snow tires.
It does suck gas faster than the normal rear-drive model.
On my 3rd season of Bridgestone Winter Duellers (now Blizzak DM-Z3?). 2wd Dodge Ram. On at 1st snow, off in early spring. Like glue. Stopped putting so much weight in the bed, maybe 150# over each wheel. Will order another pair in the spring if I can't get 5 seasons out of them. Best tire buy I ever made ...
Let's face it: 4 WD is is for...People who live in the sierras. It's your lack of real mountains that allows you to get around without it. Around here you cannot get on the highway without 4wd or tire chains(when it's snowing hard). Tire chains are for the gapers, as they're known in ski country.
Last year my fleet consisted of a Subaru with the factory tires and a front wheel drive civic with 4 studded tires. The Sub can beat the front wheel drive/stud combination off the line every time. But the Honda will pass the Sub in the first corner. And then the subaru gets on the highway and the race is over since the Honda isn't allowed.
"Where do you get the advice that they must be on all four? That's for AWD cars." actually it's for anyone who wants to either steer or stop. Also, many modern drive trains utilize viscous drive clutches which I am told are very sensitive to unevenly worn or mismatching tires.
Agreed, modern viscous drivetrains. The tires need to be approximately the same diameter, or you'll wear out the transfer clutch in the center diff early. Very expensive to replace, because the mechanics often want to replace the transfer case housing since it wears a tiny groove which can cause a redo (at least on Subarus).
I'm from MN, left in the 60's. I don't recall anyone putting snows on the front of a RWD in those days. But that was then....
The good thing is, if Global Cooling is wrong and Global Warming is right, you can always use the snow tires in the desert.
I do agree with [most of] your points.
"4 WD [and all-wheel drive?] is is for petite blond yuppie wives who do not know how to drive in snow and mud while chatting on their cell - and for hunters who like to take vehicles to gnarly places."
As a male of 6'1" and 235lbs with black hair, and not one to go off-road, I trust this is hyperbole.
I have an old nissan pickup truck that is a 4x4. When roads are icy, I have to use four wheel drive to get anywhere, because there is considerably less weight on the rear tires. Putting sand bags in the bed helps a little.
A year ago I recommended Coopers (above) but this year Benny's wants $220 EACH for my tire size. Ouch! For half the money I can buy Goodyear's winter tire at Sears. The tread looks just like the F-32s I used to run many years ago in eastern OR/WA's snow and freezing rain.
I agree about those Nokian Hakkapeliitta tires, they are a great value. Expensive, but they last a long time, ride quietly, and are amazing in the snow and ice. I put more than 25,000 miles on my last set, almost three full winter seasons.
Once the daytime temperatures stay above 50 degrees F it is time to take winter tires off, their soft winter compound doesn't like warmer temperatures. Nokian has some great all-season tires that are still ice and snow rated, but behave just like any other tire in summer heat. I guess the Finns really understand winter driving.
Israelis drive - and park! - like (drunk) Italians.
So God in His mercy gave us a snow-free land.
I still remember driving up to my in-laws in Syracuse NY in winter - without snow tires. Foolish youth.
My snow tires were delivered yesterday and are stacked up in the garage. I'll put them on this weekend.
I moved to Brattleboro, VT from Nashua NH 3 years ago. I hadn't had snow tires on my vehicle sinci I could remember; Nashua is fairly flat, well plowed, and they believe in using salt to clear roads. Here in Vermont, not so much. I got through my first winter here with all seasons, but after that, I bought a set of snows. Best decision I ever made. The 'ole 2000 Pontiac Grand Prix goes through anything with those tires, including the inevitable mud season after the white stuff is gone.
I have Hankook I*Pike W409's (not studded) on my minivan, it is now a snow beast . They are reasonably priced and very effective....as are other makes.
Basically, any 4 winter tires are better than any 4 regular all season tires. In combination with slowing down, one can handle most situations.
Having dedicated winter tires on all 4 corners is necessary as other commenters have stated. With just 2 on the front of a FWD you get unpredictable rear spin-outs for sure.
Better no snows than just 2 IMHO.
Also, it is my bet that 4WD without winter tires does not provide the braking efficiency that you would get with winter tires, physics being what it is.
I was talking to a police officer who said that in all the winter calls he had attended where a vehicle went off the highway into a ditch in winter , he had never been at one where winter tires were on the vehicle.
I wouldn't be without them in winter.
Families are worth it.