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Dispelling The Myths About Snow Tires

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Last Major Update: October 31, 2002
Last Minor Update: November 15, 2005

NEW! What's New?

November 16, 2005

It's been a while since I updated this side of the site. Most of the content changes are now in the Forum. There are a couple of things that have been added. The first is information about the 2006 Real World Snow Tire Tests. That's right, we're doing it again! Along with that I have added a link to get the current test conditions. The link is courtesy AccuWeather.com.

January 31, 2005

I made another small change today. I added an RSS News Feed and a Front Page for The Snow Tire FAQ Forums. If you have any comments about them, please e-mail them to me.

December 19, 2004

Every once and a while I have someone ask how they can repay me for the information they found here. After some thought, I decided to add a "Donation" button in with the few banner ads I have. You can follow the support link at the right to get there. I have also added some new banner ads that are automatically generated by Google based on the content of the Snow Tire FAQ. Unlike the other banner adds, these are purely "Pay Per Click." I don't receive a commission on any of these, just a very, very small credit when they are clicked on. If you have any comments about them, please e-mail them to me.

November 28, 2004

Check out our Polls!

October 31, 2004

It's HERE!!
The 2004 Real World Tire Tests are now online. Check them out!

October 30, 2004

I’ve been very bad. I haven’t made a visible update to the site in 8 months. Well, that is changing now. The 2004 Real World Tire Tests should go live by November 1st.

A change in the web server this page is running on has allowed me to add a couple of new features, and improve some old ones. The old “User Reviews” is will be moving from an HTML file to a real SQL Database.

A new feature I am really excited about is our new Forums. Here is where you will find the a new, dynamic side to The Snow Tire FAQ. They are forums for Announcements, Questions and Answers, Tire Reviews, and more. The forums are still new, and there are probably things that will be “tweaked” as time goes on. Please visit them at http://www.snowtire.info/forum/, and let me know what you think.

February 23, 2004

As you can already see, we have added a new Logo to the site. I recently came across an online store that is sells merchandise with whatever you wish imprinted on it and thought it might be a great idea to make some Snow Tire FAQ Branded items to it. That provoked me into creating yet another logo, "Make Tracks in The Snow," which is shown above. This logo and the "Classic" Twin Mountain logo are available on window stickers, mugs, and even shirts. If you have come to appreciate The Snow Tire FAQ and want to support it, consider picking up one of these items.

The complete line of items can be viewed at The Snow Tire FAQ CafePress store (http://www.cafepress.com/snowtire_info). The procedes from the sales of these items go to support the costs of running this web site and The Real World Snow Tire Tests.


The best advice is said to come from experience. Little did I expect that I would have an experience that would confirm my own advice. A couple of years ago, my wife demonstrated what can happen to an AWD car with ABS and summer tires when a freak snow storm hits. The details can be found on The Accident page.

Dispelling The Myths

There are many myths about snow tires and proper winter tires. Please click on the myths below to find out the real answer.

  1. All-Season Tires are as good as snow tires.

  2. Cars with AWD, ABS, or Traction Control don't need snow tires.

  3. A tire that is really good in the snow can't be good on dry roads and shouldn't be run year around.

  4. A tire that performs well on snow will also perform well on ice, and vice-versa.

  5. I only need two snow tires.

  6. If I decide that I don't care what all the experts say and only buy two snow tires, I should always put them on the drive wheels, even if I drive a front wheel drive car.

  7. This page is yet another way for a tire seller to sell people tires.

  8. The author of the Snow Tire FAQ makes his money by selling snow tires.

Check out these links...

Revision History (of Sorts)

The Revision History has been moved to a separate page.

John's Personal Picks

90% to 95% of the e-mail questions I receive are for my recommendations.

Recommended by The Snow Tire FAQ

The Recommendations

I only personally recommend tires I am familiar and have experience driving on. I can provided information on other choices, but I can't recommend them. I have broken down the list by tire brand.

In the past, they have been here on the main webpage where editing them was a non-trivial task. With the introduction of the Snow Tire FAQ Forums, I have moved them to their own forum topic.

Real World Snow Tire Tests

For the past few years, the Snow Tire FAQ has conducted Real World Snow Tire Tests. The Tests are done on real world cars, driven in real world weather in Rochester, NY, USA.

NEW2006 Preview

We're doing it again in 2006. The plans are still in the early stage, but it looks like we will have at least 4 manufacturers and 5 sets of tires. Among the tires, there should be a couple of surprises, including some very new products.

As in the past, our test fleet will consist of RWD cars, specifically Volvo 900 series cars. We will also be doing another Shoot-Out.

The lastest on the preparations for the 2006 Real World Snow Tire Tests can be found in this forum topic.

2004 Review

After taking a year off, we did it again. We tested six tires from five manufacturers. All of them were are good, but none of the are the same. Read the review to find out more. The review can be found both in Adobe Acrobat (PDF) format, and as a Web Page (HTML).

The tires are (in alphabetical order):

Having been the first in the local rally crowd to try Bridgestone Blizzaks when they were first introduced to the US, I have been anxious to see how well they have evolved. I can't wait to try them out.

Since their US introduction, Green Diamond tires have been the one brand that I have most been asked about. The technology looks great, and I can't wait to see what they will do. I've been warned that they need up to a 500 mile break-in period to expose the “green diamonds,” so I need to get them on soon.

After putting a set of summer Kuhmo's on my daily driver, I have gained a new appreciation for this company. If their snow tire is like their other tires, it should do very well.

Once again, Nokian has decided to enter the fray and is providing two sets of tires. I first learned about Nokian snow tires back when they were still sold under the Nokia label. They have always done well.

For several years, I have seen adds for the Toyo Observe tires and wondered how well they will do. An acquaintance of mine loves the set on her car and now we will finally get a chance to test them.

2002 Results (summary)

As far as testing snow tires, 2002 was not the best of years. On the personal front, the purchase of a new home kept me busy through most of the fall. On the weather front, Rochester, NY, had one of the warmest winters in years, and snow was at a premium. Ironically, Buffalo, which is 75 miles west of Rochester had several record snow falls.

The weather also reeked havoc on our plans to run time trials with the snow tires on a local rally course. The track never got cold enough, long enough to freeze and so was rendered unusable.


In-depth Report

As always, an in-depth report is available online both in Adobe Acrobat Format and web page format.

2001 Results (summary)

2001 was the first year The Snow Tire FAQ did a Real World Tire Test. We took three tires designed to be non-studded snow tires and ran them on nearly identical cars. All three tires performed well enough to bear the “Recommended by The Snow Tire FAQ” brand.




In-depth Report

An in-depth review of the three tires is now available. This review was also published in the “Flying Bricks” column of Rolling, the magazine of the Volvo Club of America.

Future Plans

We are currently planning to continue the yearly Real World Snow Tire Tests and to add new features to the test.

A Note to Manufactures

If you don't see your snow tires listed here it is probably because I have not had a chance to try them. In the past, my experience has been with tires I have bought myself. 75% of the recommendations are based on what I have purchased with my own money. That's about one set of tires every other year, and usually only tires I am familiar with.

If you would like to be sure to get your snow tires evaluated, please considering providing a set for evaluation. That's what Dunlop, Nokian, and Vredestein did for 2001 Winter Tire Tests. For more information, please send a note to john.werner@snowtire.info.

We will be evaluating more tires in the Winter 2001-2002 season! For more information, please refer to this Press Release.

Snow Tire FAQ Branding

Since 90% of the people who access The Snow Tire FAQ are trying to determine what tires they should get, The Snow Tire FAQ has two levels of branding, Approved and Recommended, along with logos for each. When you see one of our branding marks in an add for a snow tire on a website, you know it is a good choice.

On The Snow Tire FAQ website, you will also find a list of all Approved and Recommended tires. If you should ever find a one of the logos shown on an add for a tire that is not on the list, please contact me (john.werner@snowtire.info) so that I may deal with the issue.

Issuing of branding marks is based on either tire feedback (Approved) or Snow Tire Test Results (Recommended). It is not something that can be bought.


Small Approved LogoThe Approved Logo signifies that a snow tire has been approved by The Snow Tire FAQ. A tire is approved based on the ratings submitted and, in some cases, experience. The rating implies that the tire achieves a basic level of performance in the snow.


The Recommended Logo is reserved for tires that I recommend. The recommendations are based on the results of the annual tire tests and personal experience.

A Little About the Author

Who is John Werner (the Author)?

Picture of JohnBy trade, I am a software engineer working for a small company in Upstate New York, which is now owned by a very big company from Germany.

My automotive experience comes from my love of cars. Before I had children, I used to actively run road rallies. My favorites were the night rallies held on the snow covered back roads of the Finger Lakes Region of New York State. It was running these events that really convinced me of the need for good snow tires and started me down a trail of learning that continues today.

A few years ago, I expanded my automotive involvement by becoming the Competition Editor for Rolling, the official magazine of the Volvo Club of America.

If you want to find out more about me, my family, and our interests, visit our web page at http://www.frontiernet.net/~werner/.

What's in it for John?

For the most part, more e-mail and my wife's complaints about the amount of time spent replying to it. There is the joy of seeing my web site listed on the top of several search engines, but that may change. There's also the fun of being able to help someone else out.

Once in a great while, someone will actually click on one of the banner adds on this site and buy something from the merchants listed. When they do, depending on the items, I may get somewhere between 1.5% and 5%. I say may, because I have yet to see any revenue from them. (hint, hint)

What's NOT in it for John?

I don't receive money from tire manufactures, retailers, or marketing agencies. My career is Software Engineering (particularly Embedded Systems Architecture), and it is not auto related. Potentially, there is a a very small commission from the banner adds, but so far it has barely covered web hosting costs.

This past winter, with the large number of inquiries as to “Where can I buy xxxxx?” I toyed briefly with the idea of becoming a tire dealer, then I quickly rejected it. The Snow Tire FAQ is unique from the stand point that I have nothing to gain (or loose) from what I recommend or pan. Becoming a member of the industry would jeopardizes my impartiality and credibility. That's not something I am willing to do.

How can I support this Page?

That is definitely a loaded question....

As an Individual

Try visiting one of our sponsors and making a purchase from them.

As a Business of Corporation

I am willing to talk to companies interested in sponsoring this page, but I will continue to evaluate products on their performance. Put simply: If QWERTY Rubber Company donates snow tires and even large sums of cash, my evaluation of their product will be made on the basis of the performance of their product, not their investment in this web page. If the QWERTY AS-2 tire is the next greatest tire, I will say so. If it is better used as a rope swing, I will say that too.

If you wish to donate a set of snow tires to be evaluated, please look at this note to tire manufactures.

Show Your Support

Make Tracks LogoThe Snow Tire FAQ has a two new logos. If you have found The Real World Snow Tire Tests or The Snow Tire FAQ itself useful, please consider showing your support by putting one of these logos in the window of your car.

Snow Tire Logo for Window     StickerIf you have an ink jet printer, you can print your own copy of the "Twin Mountain" logo from this high resolution file. Clear, static cling “paper” for ink jet printers is available from most office supply stores. Be forewarned, this stuff is not cheap, but it does have some great uses. Alternatively, you may want to print it on magnetic sheets, which are even more expensive, but offer the ability to be put on any metal surface of your car. [Okay, I hear the snickers from you people with fiberglass and aluminum bodied cars.]

With the help of CafePress, we can can now offer both the "Twin Mountain Logo" and our new "Make Tracks in The Snow Logo" pre-printed on a variety of items including window stickers, mugs, and even shirts. The full line of items can be viewed at The Snow Tire FAQ CafePress store (http://www.cafepress.com/snowtire_info).

The History of The Snow Tire FAQ

The Snow Tire FAQ was originally written as a series of 4 mail messages back in October of 1993. The topic of snow tires came up on the Talon List; there was much misinformation flying; and I decided I could add to it. Thus, I wrote the first of a series of 4 e-mails. The topic was simple – Snow Tires. For the next couple of years, when winter approached, I would resend the messages to the few automobile lists I was on.

Somewhere during this time (around 1996) the World Wide Web started to blossom. One of the mailing lists I contributed to, the Talon-List, made a call for people to write Frequently Asked Question pages on automobile related topics. That was the push I needed to quickly throw the articles into one web page. This was in 1997, and the page resided on my personal web site, http://www.frontiernet.net/~werner.

For the next 4 years, the page remained pretty much the same. I toyed with updating it, but never got around to it. Finally, in January 2001 I looked at the pages and realized there have been enough changes (and traffic) that I felt it deserved a little more attention.

In the fall of 2001, I started reading about a new set of web address, the “.info” domain names. With this in mind, I decided to give The Snow Tire FAQ it's own web address that was a bit easier to type then “http://www.frontiernet.net/~werner/snowtire.htm. The choice was simple: http://www.snowtire.info.

After all of these years, The Snow Tire FAQ remains one of the only sites for answers about snow tires that is not affiliated with a snow tire manufacturer or retailer.

And now the Questions...

What does FAQ stand for?

Frequently Asked Questions.

Why a FAQ on Snow Tires?

Because there are a lot of people with a lot of questions:-) Seriously, because it is something I feel strongly about, and I want to provide non-biased information. I have seen other snow tire information, but it is usually put together by a retailer or manufacturer. Working for neither, I feel I can be more unbiased about what I say. I don't have any agenda to sell people snow tires. I just want them to know why they should consider them.

The winters of 1999 and 2000 provided me with even more incentive to make the issue of snow tires known. Both winters brought back the snowy conditions Rochester, New York saw in decades past. With it came a dozen or so accidents that read similarly... Sport Utility Vehicle loses control in snow weather, flips, and causes serious injury to occupants. A couple of these actually happened on expressway fly-overs causing the vehicle to land 20 – 30 feet below the road. Looking at the photographs of the vehicles, two things became evident. 1) the drivers weren't being careful, and 2) none of the vehicles had snow tires. Simply having 4WD and ABS is not enough, as evidenced by this incident.

Do I need Snow Tires?

As a rallyist, I look at it this way: A set of very good snow tires runs me $400. My deductible on my insurance is $500. If I save the $400 and then get into an accident because I was trying to run with summer tires on a snow covered road, I am out at least $500. So, economically, I am better off getting $400 of snow tires than paying $500 on my deductible and having to put up with higher insurance rates.

A couple of years ago I discovered that the cost of a new lower control arm for my car was about the same as that for a set of very good snow tires. So much for saving money and running the All-Season tires that came on the car.

Do I have to spend $400 on snow tires?

NO, you can probably get away with $30 / tire. Even the low cost Snow tires (not All-Seasons) will be better than a summer tire. (BTW: A big question is what size tires you need. 215/50 R 16s are going to be expensive no matter what tire you buy. 165 R 13s are always cheaper.)

If you are willing to leave the car home when it snows, or only drive a couple of miles, you can probably get away without snow tires. If you plan to drive any distance, and you live someplace is snows, you really need to consider getting snow tires. Chains are NOT a substitute for snow tires.

"But I have an AWD car. I can get going in any weather!"

Yes, but can you stop? One snowy night, I was coming back along a main road and I saw an interesting sight: A brand new Jeep CJ stuck in the rear end of a bus. Yes, he got going faster, but it didn't help him when he went to stop.

"But I have ABS and traction Control"

ABS will help you keep from locking up the brakes, but you will not stop faster than if you had snow tires. It will also not help you turn.

Traction control is like AWD, it gets you going, but does not help with stopping or turning. Automobile Magazine had a very good article on why to use snow tires a few years ago. A year before that, they totaled an MR2 because they were driving it on a snowy road without snow tires. (At the time, they said the car handled poorly in the snow!)

A good example of what can happen to an AWD car with ABS and summer tires can be found on the accident page.

What about All-Season Tires?

All-Season Tires work fine in southern California's four seasons, none of which includes snow. All-Season tires tend to be more of a marketing hype then a real rating. There may be some All-Season Tires that are good in snow, but most are junk.

A friend of mine had All-Season Goodyear GT+4 tires on his 90 Talon TSI (AWD). At a control I was working in a rally, he came through on time, but then discovered that his All-Seasons tires and AWD did not help him stop before the ditch. We spent 2.5 hours trying to get him out before our sweep vehicle extracted him. The next year he got a good set of Winter Snow tires and has not had problems since.

On this same rally, I also worked the first control of the event. It was at the end of a “seasonal use” road. When I pulled up at the top end of the road, the snow-mobilers who were just loading up their rides asked me where I was going. I told them I was going to the other end of the road. “There ain't been no cars down this road in two months. Ya' ain't gonna make it.” My RWD Volvo Turbo with four Nokian Hakkapeliitta-10's made it without getting stuck. I did discover that snow-mobiles do not take the same lines through corners as cars and that their tracks are hard not to follow.

At the end of the road, a farmer saw us and was nice enough to get out his plow equipped tractor and make a place for us to stick our car out of the way of the rest of the rally. A year later, he was busted for supplementing his normal crops with a field of long leafed plants used for “medicinal” purposes... No wonder he was so friendly.

What is the difference between "All-Season" and "All-Weather"?

All-Season tires are not designed for severe snow conditions. They are designed to have acceptable snow capability while providing the best performance in summer conditions. Although most All-Season tires have an M+S (Mud and Snow) rating, they do not meet the Severe Winter Service Traction Standard.

Recently, Nokian introduced an All-Weather tire, the NRW. It meets the new Severe Winter Traction Standard, yet can still be run year round. It was originally designed for year-round use in Finland, the home of Nokian Tires. The NRW was one of the tires reviewed in 2001.

What is the new Severe Winter Traction Standard?

Back in 1998, many people expressed the concern that the M+S (Mud and Snow) marking on tires was becoming a bit of a joke. As long as the tire provided some degree of M+S traction, it got the rating. The exact amount of traction was a bit of a gray area based on geometric ratios. Some M+S snow tires worked well in snow, and some barely worked (particularly All-Season tires). To clarify the issue, the Rubber Manufactures Association and the Rubber Association of Canada set forth a new standard - the Severe Winter Traction Standard.

The standard was introduced in February 1999, and is now in full effect. Many states have already adopted it as the new standard, especially when it comes to crossing snow covered mountain passes.

TSevere Winter Service Icono identify tires that meet this standard, a graphic symbol was developed showing a picture of a snow flake superimposed over a mountain range. Although most tires that meet this standard now have it directly imprinted in the sidewall, not all of them are marked. For instance, all Nokian winter and "All-Weather" tires meet the standard, but the tires you order now may not yet have the marking on them. According to a spokesperson for Nokian, they are still in the process of updating their molds with the new symbol.

Transport Canada, an Canadian government agency, has this list of tires that meet the new standard. They try to keep it up to date, but there may be errors and / or omissions.

Okay, so I need snow tires. Should I get studded or unstudded?

The answer to that is complicated, but your state or province may have already forced the choice by passing a law against studded snow tires.

Studded snow tires are a trade off. If you are on hard packed (frozen) mud, or ice, they will grab better than anything except screws and (possibly) chains. On the dry, they will actually have less traction than the same snow tire without studs. This is because on the dry pavement, you will actually be running partly on the studs and you will not have as much rubber in contact with the road.

Other draw backs to studs include that they are much noisier, and some people claim they chew up roads.

So, What choices do I have?

Most tire manufacturers make a true Mud & Snow (M+S) tire. Many now make tires that meet the Severe Winter Traction Standard. Even among those with the same ratings (M&S, Severe Winter Traction), the differences between the tires often come down to trade offs made in design and purpose.

Snow Traction

Deep, heavy snow is much like mud. It requires a tire with large tread blocks and good size openings. The tire must be able to dig in yet not get clogged at low speeds. If the tire can not expel the snow, it will start making itself into a snow ball. This type of tire is the "classic" M+S design. Classically, the blocks are large and have large voids (empty spaces) between them. The tires sold for most trucks (designed to see mud, regardless if they ever do) are representative of this tread.

Lighter snow – often found when the weather turns really cold, and there are no salt trucks – allows a different tread design. The snow tires designed for high speed driving in the snow are often designed for lighter snow. The tread blocks are closer, smaller, often cut with sipes (little grooves). Because the tread design relies on centrifugal force to throw snow out of the tread, these tires often do not work well at low speeds.

Ice Traction

Ice is a special case. The best tires for ice have 1/2" sheet metal screws protruding from them. To make the tires, holes are drilled through the tread and then screws are literally screwed into the holes from the inside of the tire. Next, a layer of protective material is put in. Since the holes will let air out, an inner tube is used when the tires are mounted. The tires work on ice because the screws chew into the ice to provide traction. Needless to say, these tires are not welcomed on most public roads.

A more road-worthy solution for ice is studded snow tires. Metal studs are inserted in factory drilled holes in the tires. Since the holes are put in by the factory and are not all the way through the tire, the tires do not need an inner tube. The pattern and number of studs will make a difference on the performance of the tire. In general, the more studs, the better the ice performance of the tire and the worse the dry pavement performance. (With studded tires, you are actually always running partly on the studs.)

There are also newer designs that work well on ice but do not use studs. The non-studded snow tires do not work as well as studs, but they do a very good job.

"Can I stud the snow tires I am already using?"

The answer is NO. Once you have run on the tires, the holes for the studs become clogged. Even if you could force a stud back in the hole, it is not likely to stay. You can always remove studs from a snow tire, but you can not put them in once it has been used.

“How do I remove studs from a tire?”

The procedure is really simple. Pull out the studs. Most people who embark on this use a pair of pliers and a great deal of patience. I have also heard that squirting soapy waters in and around the holes helps. If you use the soapy water, be sure to wash it off before you try to drive on the tires. Never use oil. It can harm the rubber and does not come off nearly as well as soap.

“What About Studless (Friction) Ice Tires?”

Up until recently, there was a big gap between studded snow tires and non-studded snow tires when it came to performance on ice. Bridgestone, Nokian and Dunlop are just a few of the manufactures that have closed that gap. Although these tires work very well on bare ice, they do not perform as well on snow covered ice, but if your state has outlawed studs or you object to the noise of studs, they are worth considering.

Now I know about tires, what is out there?

Tires are almost a religion to some people. I tend to have my personal favorites based on my experience in running aggressive night rallies in winter in the "outback" of New York State. Cost is much less of a concern for me than is being able to run through 2 inches of snow without losing much in terms of handling and performance.

Bridgestone Blizzak

For the last few years, Bridgestone has made a very interesting tire – the Blizzak. The tire is a true snow tire, but it is not designed to be studded. The tire uses both a unique tread design and compound to achieve its performance in snow and ice. For several years after its introduction, the Blizzak was the choice of winter rallyists who did not run studded tires.

The tread is unique in a couple of ways. First, the tread has many sipes to help remove the water and to form edges to help cut into the ice. Second, the tread is made out of two different rubber compounds. The tread compounds are not side-by-side as was done on the Pirelli P-77, but rather stacked on top of each other. The outer, soft compound is specifically designed for traction on ice. Underneath that is an All-Season tread compound. The tread depth has been increased so that you can get long service out of both compounds. The people I have talked to tend to anticipate 2 years as a real snow tire and a year as an All-Season tire. The Blizzak has 2 sets of wear bars, so you can see where you are on both tread compounds.


My personal favorite for winter tires are Nokian Hakkapeliitta. Nokian is a Finnish company and the Hakkapeliita is the name of their line of snow tires. The word refers to legendary snow warriors.

Studded Nokians

There are several Hakka's designed to be studded. Nokian studded snow tires typically have 2 times the number of stud holes then other snow tires. This excess of studs really helps their ice traction.

The legendary NR-09 was the tire that first introduced me to Nokian. [Back then it was still called Nokia.] It is presently only offered in a few narrow tire sizes.

Next came the NR-10. The NR-10 has better traction then the 'legendary' NR-09 and features a uni-directional tread design. The compound on the NR-10 is softer then the NR-09, so tread wear is higher. The sidewalls are also less stiff, giving the tire better grip on irregular snow, but less precision when turning.

The Hakkapeliita-1 is the successor the the NR-10. It is another great snow tire. The Hakka-1 has a firmer sidewall then the NR-10, and therefore has better response to driver input. Like the NR-10, it also features a uni-directional tread.

Non-Studded Nokians

In Nokian's non-studded tires, the NRW is the only one I have experience with. It is a great tire. It was reviewed in 2001.

The Hakkapeliitta-Q is a non-studded tire designed for ice traction, but I have yet to drive it.


Another tire that was reviewed in 2001 was the Dunlop Graspic DS-1. It has the best ice traction, but is a bit disappointing when you try to corner fast.


Vredestein is a private, Dutch company. In 2001, the SnowTrac was reviewed. It is a very capable snow tire that is worth a look.

What Size Tire Should I Run?

This is always a compromise. The best tire to cut through deep snow is a narrow one. The worst is a wide one. Unfortunately, the best tire for lateral traction is a wide tire. So, what is your choice?

Another piece of the puzzle is dictated by the rim sizes you have or can get. If you only have a 16x8" set of rims, then you will end up running a wide snow tire.

Having driven several Volvo's over the years, I have 5 sets of rims of varying sizes that I use. This gives me a choice of tire sizes for different conditions. The stock tire size on my Volvos have been very similar in overall diameter. They were 165 15, 195/60 R 15, and 195/65 R 15. My “normal” snow tire size is a 185/65 R 15 on 15x6” rims. For running winter rallies in Canada, I have a set of 165/80R15s mounted on narrow, 15x4.5” rims. The third set I have is 185/70 R 14 mounted on 14x5.5” rims.

On my Mitsubishi Galant VR-4 I use 185/65 R 15s tires (yes, carefully planned to be the same as my Volvo). These are mounted on 15x5.5” steel rims I had modified to fit the car. [Mitsubishi did not offer 15” steel rims for the '91 and '92 Galant VR-4's, and the oversized stock brakes do not allow for 14” rims.] The original tire size was 190/60 R 15.

How many snow tires should I buy?

As many as you have wheels on your car. For most people, this is four. If you put only two snow tire on your car, one end of the car will have better traction than the other. This applies both on dry and snow covered roads. In the snow, the snow tires will have better traction. In the dry, the regular tires will have better traction.

The difference in traction means that when you brake, turn, or accelerate, the two ends of the car will want to behave differently. If the back end has worse traction, you will spin. If the front end has worse traction, you will keep going straight, even while trying to brake. Neither is really a nice thing to have happen in a panic situation.

But, I used to put two snow tires on the back of my....

Okay. It really is your choice. You will find that if you invest in high performance snow and pavement tires, the miss-match is a lot worse then you ever got with the $20 special bias-plies. Many tire manufacturers and retailers are now unwilling to sell just two snow tires because they do not want to be liable for the consequences.

If you do decide to only go with two snow tires, put them on the back of the car, regardless if it is FWD, RWD, 4WD or AWD. It is a lot easier to deal with the car understeering (wanting to go straight) than it is with the car wanting to oversteer (spin).

Another thing to watch out for is mixing different brands of snow tires. I know of one person who ran two different brands of snow tires on his car, and depending on which end of the car he put which brand made the car either very easy to drive or completely undrivable.

If you do nothing else, always match tires on the same axle. They should be the same brand, type, pressure, and have the same wear. (I am talking no gross differences in wear, and ignoring tire pressure changes for racing, etc.) A tire with little tread will not do as well in the snow as one with most of its tread.

For those of you who missed it before, I will state it again: The cost of four snow tires is probably less then the deductible on your insurance!

Who makes snow tires?

There are many brands of snow tires available. Here is a short list





Green Diamond








Where can I get snow tires?

It would be almost impossible to list every tire outlet in every place people access this web page from. [I have gotten hits from places as from from the Unites States as Jamacia, Europe, Africa, Austrailia, and Asia.] Luckily, I don't have to. Most manufactures provide dealer information on their web sites. Please look check out the links in this list of snow tire makers.

What about hard to find sizes?

I have received a few questions about hard to find sizes.

165 R 15

Here are some suggestions. (I have not driven all of these, but this is what my research has yielded.)



Large Sport Utility Vehicle Sizes

This list is a bit shorter. Many of the companies I have talked to have them in the works, but they will not be available until next year.


20 Inch Tires

I'm still working on this, and will be posting something when I find out more.

The Snow Tire Survey

The table of snow tire review information has been removed because it was very, very out of date.

Tire technology has changed greatly in the past few years. I still have a very old quick list of "Tires Rated Excellent in Snow," but you may find these hard to find. You can also check here to see my personal recommendations.

You may want to take a look at the new Snow Tire Review page, a place where you can post your own review and comments on snow tires.

Tires Rated Excellent in Snow

Tire Survey Participants Wanted!

What's your experience?

If you would to share your experience, please fill out this form. Your information will automatically be added to the results on the Snow Tire Review page.

Technical Issues & Information

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Originally, it was done in a text editor (emacs) by simply placing the required HTML headers around the original e-mail messages. I have played on and off with various HTML editors, but I usually end up back at the text editor, making changes to the HTML code by hand.

This revision marks a change in that format. For the last revision, I chose to do most of the editing with StarOffice. For this revision, I am using the Open Source version of StarOffice, OpenOffice. It is a very nice integrated office application that is available for free. It can easily read and write HTML files.

I still sometimes make quick edits to the live version of this page (i.e. the one you are reading now) using emacs, but it only seems to make my life harder when it comes to do major updates.

End Notes

Comments & Questions: Mail To john.werner@snowtire.info

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