Do you really need studded snow tires in winter?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Dec 01, 2008

Dear Tom and Ray:

I have a car question, about which I am sure I'm correct, but I need one of you to point that out to my husband -- and if I am by chance wrong, then he never needs to know! We live in Colorado, and as such, take occasional trips to the mountains with our kids to ski or snowshoe -- we plan on taking only a few trips this year, so for winter tires, I don't think it's necessary to get studded tires. We get about 300 days of sunshine a year, and if it does snow, it usually melts in a day (two at the most), and we have dry roads again. I say we get the best winter snow tires without studs, and just be extra careful when going up to the mountains to ski -- the roads usually are snow-packed but not icy. My husband says it only takes losing control of the car and driving off the mountain once to prove I'm wrong, so he's sticking with the studded-tire option. Just agree with me and get it over with ... Thanks! -- Kristen

RAY: It's over with, Kristen. We agree with you.

TOM: The problem with studded tires is that while they're good on ice, they're lousy on everything else. And the vast majority of the time, you're driving on something else.

RAY: If your tires are lousy for 99 percent of the winter driving you do, you're taking a lot of risk to be safer that other 1 percent of the time.

TOM: Fortunately, there are other options for when you actually encounter ice. One is to stay home. I mean, skiing and snowshoeing are great, but so is joining NetFlix and renting "Downhill Racer."

RAY: Or, you can get a set of temporary tire chains. Keep those in the trunk, and if you ever encounter deep snow or ice, pull over, kick your husband out of the car and tell him to put the chains on.

TOM: You can get a set that goes on without having to jack up the car. He can do it by the side of the road. And while he freezes his knees off, breathes in the car's exhaust and gets splattered by passing Ford Expeditions, you and the kids can play animal, mineral or vegetable. And try to guess which one Dad ends up being.

RAY: Seriously, temporary chains or cable chains will give you as much, if not more, traction than studs will on icy roads, and they spend most of the winter off the car, where they belong.

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