Studded tires are often presented as the ultimate in winter traction for your car or truck. On the surface it seems to make sense, but in reality, not every driving situation is ideal for using studs — and in some cases, they can actually have a negative impact on your vehicle’s performance in cold weather.
Are studded tires the right choice for you? Read on to find out.
What Are Studs?
In the simplest terms, studs are small and strong bolt-like pieces of metal that are actually embedded in the tire itself, protruding through the tread like tiny teeth or claws. Almost any winter tire can have studs added — as long as it is new, not used — and there are many patterns and designs that call for varying numbers of studs per tire.
The reason for adding studs to a winter tire is simple: The metal pierces through hard-packed snow and ice, providing additional grip on top of what the rubber itself has to offer. The weight of the vehicle pushes the stud through winter’s worst and offers the kind of traction that’s difficult to achieve with just a tire alone. That makes this type of tire very useful in areas where plowing is limited and snow and ice cover the roads all winter long, or in regions where hills and mountains present a significant challenge to winter traction.
Not For Everyone
You’ll notice that the situation above is a very specific one and, in fact, it’s really the only driving scenario where a studded tire will outperform a standard winter tire. In regular winter driving, which mostly occurs on occasionally snowed-over roads or clean, cold pavement, studs can actually hurt your vehicle’s performance, as studs don’t offer the same level of grip as a winter rubber compound in the absence of packed snow or thick ice. They are also quite loud when clicking over clean asphalt, which can make them a nuisance on longer trips.
Finally, many communities ban their use during certain times of the year, such as in the spring or the fall because the studs can seriously chew up pavement. This is especially true during the melting period just after the winter when the ground is softened up from the changing temperatures and asphalt becomes more vulnerable to being damaged.
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Photo courtesy of Morguefile.
Having been bitten by the car bug at a young age, I spent my formative years surrounded by Studebakers at car shows across Quebec and the northeastern United States. Over ten years of racing, restoring, and obsessing over automobiles lead me to balance science writing and automotive journalism full time. I currently contribute as an editor to several online and print automotive publications, and I also write and consult for the pharmaceutical and medical device industry.