Fri Dec 10, 2010 6:56 pm by jwernerny
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As editor of the Snow Tire FAQ, I have received many questions about snow tires. 95% of the questions ask the same thing, "What snow tires should I buy for my car?" In December of 2000, I realized that variety of tires was growing, but my experience wasn't. With this in mind, I enlisted the help of some of my friends and contacted several tire manufactures with the idea of doing real world tests snow tire tests. Three manufactures responded: Nokian, Dunlop, and Vredestein.
I have read many tire tests in the past, with the vast majority of them focusing on quantitative measurements done under well controlled conditions. These test leave only a modicum of room for qualitative evaluations. There is a place for quantitative tests, but I wanted to do something more representative of the experiences the people who were asking me questions would encounter. Consider this, how many times do you really drive on bare, perfectly flat "hockey rink" ice? How about 3 inches of virgin snow in a parking lot? This test would focus on real drivers driving on real roads under real conditions.
From this desire, grew two guiding principles for the test:
- Make the test a real world test. The conditions the tires should be tested in should be the same conditions people can expect to find in their real lives. Since the real world doesn't end after one weekend, the tires should be tested with some real mileage. To that end, the tests are only really done when the tire is disposed of, but for the sake of readers, the results would be published in a timely manner. This also implies that we will continue to evaluate the tires and have periodic updates as the tires wear.
- Make the tests fair by making sure everything is as equal as possible. Testing should be done with nearly identical cars which were driven in nearly identical conditions, with nearly identical driving styles. Tires choices should also match. If one tire is studded, they should all be. Likewise, the same size tire should be used on all vehicles.
Rochester, New York has formed the center of The Real World Snow Tire Tests since their inception 10 years ago. Rochester is located on Lake Ontario, half-way between Buffalo and Syracuse. Every year it gets at least one major snow fall that drops up to 10 inches before it is over, and one or two days where the temperature is just right to give everything a slight coating of freezing rain. From November through April (and sometimes May), it gets a varied climate that can bring almost every type of winter precipitation you can think of. With all of this weather, the tires we have tested have been exposed to everything from heavy snow to ice to dry roads to slush to rain, sometimes all in the same trip!
The vehicles we have used in the test are daily drivers, making the test a true real world picture of what people are likely to see in their driving.
Over the years, the tests have added various other aspects. One of the biggest highlights was the year we were able to do a Shoot Out were the tires were tested against each other on a closed parking lot course (2004 Tests
). For 2006, the results of the tests along with the testers notes were moved into the Snow Tire FAQ Forum, allowing more people quicker access to the reviews.