Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Winter Tires

As someone who grew up in California and lived a large part of their life in Virginia, driving in snow is not something I am comfortable with.  In two weeks, I'll be moving to central New York right on the edge of the Lake Effect snow-belt.  As with all things in life, the love of new gear will get me through this.

There has been a revolution in tire technology over the last decade.  Rubber compounds combined with tread designs have spawned dedicated tires designed for both cold weather and snow/slush/ice.  I am determined not to let my tires limit me getting to the ski resorts.  Once reason for my franticness, is that my current tires, Yokohama Avid ENVigors are downright scary on snow, slush and ice.  My tires spin at the slightest movement and the anti-locks kick in every stop.  Having a Scooby Legacy GT wagon, there is an expectation that it will excel in poor weather.  It was disconcerting that my old Legacy wagon was so much more sure footed in the snow.  Part of its prowess comes from its sway bars and its cheap all seasons, which out perform theses ENVs in poor weather.
 
One of the interesting by products of the internet age is the abundance reviews. Tire Rack is one of the leaders in this space and there are many European reviews.  Snow tires are a popular for discussion.  The keys to new snow tires are the rubber compounds and tread design.  When the temperature drops below 40s, it is beneficial to use a tire designed for this. 
 
In the continuum of tires there are All Season tires that most everyone gets. The tires that is supposed to do well in summer, fall, rain and snow.  A lot of people have two full sets of rims and opt for dedicated tires for summer and winter. With regards to winter tires, there are studded tires, - used for only the worst conditions and often illegal on most roads, studless and studdable winter tires, and performance winter tires.
 
The performance winter tires are for those that want to maintain their sports car nature and still do well in the snow. They are also expensive.  These would be nice to have, but were a little expensive. I would go for a Dunlop Winter Sport 4d if I could.
 
I decided to focus on the studdless(meaning you could get studs if you want) winter tires to prepare me for snow country for the next few months.  I'd change to other wheels with summer/spring tires in late April.
 
 
Bridgestone Blizzaks have the most history as the best snow tires.  Michelin X-ice 3 hold the best ranking at Tire rack.  And the General Altimax Arctic is known as one of the bestbang for the bucks.  It is an exact replica of a famous Euro tire.  The problem right now is the time of year.
 
I talked with several local shops and no one could get winter tires. It seems that only a limited supply are made and by mid February we are beyond the season.  So the General's were sold out almost across the country.  Many suggest to size to a narrower tire for a snow tire. This allows the tire to cut through the snow.  Online, I was able to find some X-ice 3 in my stock size.  But they were very expensive. 
 
I then looked for 205/50R17 and found some Altima Arctic and some Continental Extreme Winter contacts.  The outfit selling the Arctic was a little suspect , so just went with the leader in the field, Tire Rack. I'm getting them delivered to a local tire installer and will have them on in a few days. 
 
I'm also getting my sway bars installed in next week.  That will help a lot to smooth out the body roll that is so heavy in these wagons.  More discussion to follow.

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At 2:31 PM, Blogger Matthew Johnson said...

Hey man, nice Legacy GT! :) I've got a 2007 Legacy 2.5i Limited, and I don't do much driving in the snow since moving out of Pennsylvania three years ago but I've had pretty good luck with the Continental Extreme Contact DWS tires. Probably about the best you can do for snow traction on an all season.

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At 3:42 PM, Blogger Amit said...

I like the post. Many people aren't aware of the benefits of switching to a full set of summer and winter tires. I have an 08 GT with 215/45 17" Pirelli Winter Sottozero with 17" steel rims all from Tire Rack. They might be an 8.4/10 star tire on tire rack but the grip is great. The steel rims are an added bonus - though they weigh more than alloy, they can withstand the harshness of Chicago pot hole roads.

 
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