Studded tires are specially designed for winter driving conditions and provide superior traction on icy or snowy roads. They can be used on passenger cars and light trucks, but the installation should be entrusted to professionals, as the process can be lengthy and often complicated. This article will tell you all you need to know about studded tires, their advantages and drawbacks, and how they work.
What Are Studded Tires?
It’s clear to most that the difference between all-season and winter tires lies in the type of usage they see. We use all-season tires for any particular weather and winter tires for colder conditions. Winter tires can be studless or studded, but in this article, we’ll be taking a look at the latter.
Studded tires are like cleats for cars, providing extra traction on slick surfaces like ice and snow. These tires have small protrusions, or studs, that dig into the ground to help the tire grip. Some tires feature studs made from more rigid materials than the tire itself, such as hard plastic or metal.
Recently, manufacturers have created studs from tungsten carbide, a strong and durable material. These permanent studs protrude from the tire’s tread and provide additional traction as the wheel rotates under the car’s weight.
Depending on the tire size and model, the number of studs in a single tire can range from 60 to 120. You’ll find this addition helpful if you’re driving across roads covered with crust or passing through hills. You can also benefit from them in climates where roads often get frozen or covered with snow, ice pellets, grains, graupel, or crystals.
How Do Studded Tires Work?
If you’re driving on an icy or snowy road, the studs in your studded tires will grip the snowpack and break the ice layers as you move. This operation is aided by your car’s weight and tire rotation.
When it comes to the studs, they typically have a hard pick that goes out of the tire and holds on to the snow and ice, and usually feature a cylindrical root that goes into the tire tread.
Although very useful for very cold weather conditions, studded tires should be used only in some situations. Therefore, if the weather is not extreme, look for a regular pair of quality winter tires for the next snowy season. Make sure to check when exactly to switch to winter tires, as there are strict guidelines.
Studded vs. Studdable Tires
The main difference between studded and studdable tires is that the first type already has studs, while the latter type comes with predrilled holes intended for studding the tires. Essentially, they’re a form of a hybrid between studded and non-studded winter tires, as the studs added to studdable tires can also be removed.
You can do this on your own or have someone else install them for you. If you’ve opted for studdable tires, you must buy a matching set of studs because not all studdable tires have the same tread depths.
So, let’s see how to install the studs on your studdable tires. When you get your studdable winter tires, you’ll see the marks where the studs need to be inserted. A “stud gun” is typically used to insert the studs into the holes. When it comes to the stud sizes, they vary depending on the model.
If the top pin goes 1/32” beyond the tire surface, your tires are properly set up. It’s advised to have someone professionally set up your studdable tires, as many things can go wrong if you take up this task on your own.
Studded Tires – The Advantages
To improve icy traction, studded tires are a better option than studless winter tires, as they provide enhanced grip in winter conditions on hard-packed snow and ice.
While modern studless tires offer improved performance on icy surfaces, they cannot match the superior gripping power of studded tires, which utilize specialized tread compounds and enhanced road-surface interaction to create greater traction on slippery surfaces.
Thus, while all-season tires may technically be able to compete with studless winter tires in terms of traction on ice, they are still inferior to the grip offered by dedicated winter tread designs. For drivers who live in regions where icy roads are a regular occurrence during the winter months, it is best to invest in a set of quality studded winter tires for optimal safety and performance.
Moreover, an extra advantage lies in the driving process itself. Once the driver turns, brakes, or accelerates on an icy road, they get the combined benefit from the studs that hold the ground and the winter tire’s overall design, which was made to respond efficiently in icy and snowy conditions.
Studded Tires – The Disadvantages
While studs in your tires are a great way to deal with icy or hard-packed roads, they are not that great elsewhere. If you have to drive on a wet or dry road, the traction potential will be significantly reduced compared to studless tires.
In fact, one of the most concerning disadvantages of studded tires is the impact they have on the roads. These types of tires cause ruts in both regular roads and highways and, in the long run, can lead to safety issues that can affect your own vehicle. These issues include hydroplaning, tire spray, or pooling water.
In addition to that, studs often produce road noise which can distract the driver. If they’re driving in slushy or mixed conditions, the performance of the studs is minimal.
Although not the most critical flaw of the studded tires, studs may affect the stopping distances by interrupting the interaction between the road surface and the tire tread.
In essence, for most conditions, studded tires are not necessary – winter tires are durable, tested, and proven to provide you with an easy ride during most winters. Therefore, the general rule is that you should only use studded tires for weather conditions requiring such measures.
Are Studded Tires Legal in Canada?
For the already mentioned reasons that include damaging the roads, reduced traction, and potential harm to vehicles, studded tires are forbidden in many European countries such as Germany, Serbia, and Slovakia.
But how does the law treat this type of tire in countries such as Canada, where the weather conditions can get pretty rough, and the ice and snow often cover the roads? Let’s take a look.
Although it’s illegal to damage the roads by using studs, no specific regulations ban studded tires in these provinces and territories. You can use them throughout the year, but the general advice is to do so only when necessary, i.e. when the roads are icy or covered with snow.
Rules for British Columbia are probably the most specific anywhere in Canada. You’re permitted to use studded snow tires on highways between October 1st and April 30th. Should you decide to have studded front tires, you’ll also have to get matched back tires.
When it comes to Ontario, you’re free to use studded tires anytime between September 1 and May 31, but this applies only to those vehicles registered in Northern Ontario. Specifically, these areas include Rainy River, Algoma, Manitoulin, Thunder Bay, Cochrane, Parry Sound, Kenora, Sudbury, Temiskaming, and Nipissing.
If you’re in Southern Ontario, you’ll only be able to use this kind of tire if you’re visiting from another province where this gear is allowed.
Regarding other provinces, rules vary. In areas such as Quebec, there are specific regulations for commercial vehicles equipped with studs, while other provinces like Manitoba offer loan programs to help you buy winter tires at lower prices.
Check each province’s regulations before upgrading your tires with studs, and be careful with which type of tire you use depending on the time of the year.
Spiked tires can offer better traction and safety on icy or snowy roads.
However, they come with several disadvantages that should be considered before you decide to buy them. These include damaging the roads, reducing the traction on dry roads, or increasing road noise. In some states and countries, these types of tires are even illegal.
Check the regulations of each province before you decide to upgrade your tires with studs, and be careful with how and when you use them.
Should I use studded tires or snow chains?
While both options have their advantages, the main difference lies in safety. Snow chains can sometimes break and fly off, which might end up damaging your vehicle or causing a car accident on the road.
On the other hand, you’ll pay less if you opt for snow chains, and adding and removing them is less time-consuming.
Are studded tires safer than winter tires?
If there’s heavy snow or ice, it’s safer to use studded tires because they grip firmly to the surface. However, during moderate winter weather, your winter tires will do just fine.
How fast can I drive with studded tires?
Although the official speed limit is much higher, It’s not advisable to go over 40 miles per hour while on a road covered with heavy snow or ice, which is where you’ll most likely want to use such tires.