Author Topic: Snow Tires For Black Ice  (Read 1660 times)

LD_TAndK

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Snow Tires For Black Ice
« on: February 13, 2019, 05:33:58 AM »
I'm driving a manual civic through the mild winters of Maryland. We do get a few snow events which I can easily avoid driving in. Twice this winter though I've lost control of my vehicle on bridges (and thankfully safely recovered) due to black ice with no snow on the ground. A terrifying experience that left me shaking. Other drivers don't seem to have any issues.

The car currently has all season tires with 27k miles and 4 years old. I'm wondering if the poor performance can be attributed to the tires, or possibly the car itself, and if spending $700 on a dedicated set of winter tires & rims would help specifically with ice?

terran

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Re: Snow Tires For Black Ice
« Reply #1 on: February 13, 2019, 05:39:56 AM »
Someone will correct me if I'm wrong, but I THINK snow tires work by having deeper/wider spaces in the treads into which the snow can go so some of the tread can get down through the snow to get some grip, which wouldn't help with ice. What you would need would be studded snow tires which have little bits of metal embedded and would get some grip on ice.

Also, 27k might be getting up there in age depending on your tire, so it might just be time to replace your all season tires.

Of course, black ice is also just one of those dangers of winter driving that you need to be aware of. I'm not sure any tire will 100% be able to grip if you hit ice.

Ecky

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Re: Snow Tires For Black Ice
« Reply #2 on: February 13, 2019, 05:42:23 AM »
Snow tires will help. I run Nokians, and I’ve had instances where I’ve parked my car on a hill, gotten out and had my feet slip out from under me - the road was too slick to stand up on, and I hadn’t realized it. The compounds are different and help with traction even when there’s no snow on the ground.

Studded snow tires will help more but they’re a lot more noisy and damage the roads.

Freedomin5

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Re: Snow Tires For Black Ice
« Reply #3 on: February 13, 2019, 06:07:42 AM »
When I learned to drive in Canadian weather, I was taught the following if I hit a patch of black ice:

- take your foot off the accelerator and just try to skid gently over the ice until your car regains traction
- Keep your steering wheel straight and just skid over the ice until your wheels regain traction. Do not freak out and overcorrect
- if you start to fishtail turn your steering wheel gently in the direction of the fishtail so that your wheels are straight.

If you need to stop over the ice:
- if your car does not have ABS system, pump the brakes to help the tires grip the road
- if car has an ABS system, then press firmly on the brakes and do not pump the brakes, until the ABS system engages. Practice driving on large patches of ice in parking lots so you know how it feels like when the ABS system engages. The instructor made me skid and fishtail on purpose in a safe and empty parking lot so I wouldn’t freak out if it happened while driving.

Absolutely, good tires will help, but driving technique is just as important.

nereo

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Re: Snow Tires For Black Ice
« Reply #4 on: February 13, 2019, 06:58:50 AM »
I drive a 2006 manual civic in Maine and Quebec.  Snow tires will absolutely help, but only if you already practice good winter-driving techniques.  At 4 years/27k you are also running tires that are probably 60-80% worn.

The reason snow tires help even on ice is because they are made rubber compound that is softer at very cold temperatures.  Below ~45ºF the rubber on all-season and summer tires gets very stiff, and by the time you hit the freezing mark they are so stiff that they've lost most of their grip.

See this video showcasing how much better snow tires are on ice with accelerating, braking and cornering.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GlYEMH10Z4s

Is it worth $700?  Up to you and your driving needs.  The safest path is always not to go out in bad weather, but that's not an option for many (including us).  One thing to keep in mind is that while running winter tires your summer ones last longer, so you recoup much of your upfront investment.

Studded tires do the best on ice, but are very likely illegal in your municipality.  I have studded winters on my civic and I live near the top of a long winding dirt road that is frequently covered in boilerplate ice during the winter (particularly this one).

mountain mustache

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Re: Snow Tires For Black Ice
« Reply #5 on: February 13, 2019, 07:07:23 AM »
I drive Honda Element AWD usually with a good AT tire (Cooper AT3), but this year finally gave into the winter tires after some sketchy experiences last winter. Holy crap! I didn't even get anything expensive, I think it was about $450 for a set of Sumotomo studdable tires, but they have made a huge difference. I drive over a few sketchy mountain passes frequently, and they have made a remarkable difference on packed ice, black ice, slushy snow, and that icy snow/ice combo that tends to stick around on our roads for weeks in the winter.

I know this is an obvious tip, but one thing that has really kept me safe winter driving is driving the speed that the conditions dictate. You can't go too slow in the winter...I mean, if you are going up a steep, icy hill, I guess you can but other than that...I always go slower than I think I should, especially if I'm uncertain of exactly what kind of condition the road surface is (is it ice? is it just sparkly? Is it packed snow?? haha)

HipGnosis

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Re: Snow Tires For Black Ice
« Reply #6 on: February 13, 2019, 08:43:37 AM »
I think your main problem is the age of your tires.  (not your car, at all)  I assume you bought them 4 yrs ago, which means they are AT LEAST over 4 yrs old.  Tires get harder as they age.  Esp. if you always park outside, in the sun.  Hard tires have less traction, esp. on ice.  I have multiple vehicles, so don't drive any one of them a lot.  I replace my tires at least every 5 yrs.


... I was taught the following if I hit a patch of black ice:

- take your foot off the accelerator and just try to skid gently over the ice until your car regains traction
I must take exception with "try to skid..."  That could easily be taken the wrong way.  I think you mean 'try to coast'
Also, " Keep your steering wheel straight".   Keep the steering wheels pointed in the direction of the road so that when they do regain traction they don't take the car out of your lane.

There are very few 'snow' tires sold any more.  They were (essentially) replaced with winter tires about 10 yrs ago.
And now there are 'studless ice & snow tires'.  But I wouldn't pay extra for them for "a few times a year".

I recommend you replace the tires on the front of your car with new all season tires.  And, as said, drive in accordance to the conditions.

GuitarStv

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Re: Snow Tires For Black Ice
« Reply #7 on: February 13, 2019, 08:57:32 AM »
Winter tires have stickier tread compound, which will help you stop faster and steer better on any surface.  That said, they're better . . . not miraculous.  If conditions are slippery/dangerous, you need to drive properly for the weather.


Snow tires really don't cost much extra when you realize that they reduce wear on your regular tires for 1/4 of the time you use your car.  At least here in Ontario Canada, you get a car insurance break for having them too.

Prairie Stash

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Re: Snow Tires For Black Ice
« Reply #8 on: February 13, 2019, 10:07:46 AM »
http://info.kaltire.com/nokian-all-weather-tires-a-winter-tire-you-can-use-all-year-long/

All season are NOT for ice, Kal-Tire provides a nice info-graphic for convenient reference. All season is for everything outside of ice, they work great in Canada for about 8-9 months of the year. For winter driving on Ice, I use winter tires. Because I put very few kilometers on, I leave them on year round. They will age out long before they wear out; tires should be replaced at 7-10 years, check with the manufacturer. Old tires are prone to side wall blowouts, it only applies to people like me who drive 5000 km a year, regular people wear out tires. Do not buy used tires if they're old, its like buying milk close to the expiration date; usually fine but occasionally chunky.

Every tire manufacturer will tell you the same, all-season is not meant for ice, they only mean the warmer seasons. Some people call them 3-season, just to avoid confusion, but that confuses people from the warmer states.

I think a set of cheap rims (look for them at wrecker yards) and Ice/snow tires is cheaper than an accident. On the plus side, if you have two sets of tires, your all season tires last longer, so although there is a large upfront cost your cost of owning tires isn't that much more than running a single set. The biggest hassle is swapping.

Hadilly

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Re: Snow Tires For Black Ice
« Reply #9 on: February 13, 2019, 10:56:15 AM »
New tires sound in order!

Note to self, don’t move out of California.

jeninco

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Re: Snow Tires For Black Ice
« Reply #10 on: February 13, 2019, 11:10:40 AM »
Definitely get winter tires: non-studdables are made of a compound that is stickier at low temperatures. It'll wear faster in the summer, so we've gotten cheap steel rims for each of our cars and mounted them up with winter tires. We keep the other set in the crawlspace, so when winter rolls around we need only jack up the car, bolt off the summer wheels and bolt on the winter wheels. The place we bought the tires will also do this for us, for free.

You don't want to use studs in MD, but I have to say: I've driven on terrible, ice and snow-covered roads in the winter in Colorado, and as long as there is pavement someplace underneath, our Front-Wheel-Drive Euro-van handles really, really well with studded snow tires. I've driven half a soccer team back from a tournament the day after a snow and ice storm, and we had 40 miles of several cars/mile off the sides of the road. I noticed no slipping, not even when I moved into the basically unplowed passing lane. (The only issue was that the kids were watching the "Fast and Furious" series in the back, and after 4+ hours of listening to skidding and crashes via their speakers I had to ask them to switch to something else. It would've been a more relaxing drive without the sound effects.)

Jon Bon

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Re: Snow Tires For Black Ice
« Reply #11 on: February 13, 2019, 11:16:29 AM »
I mean its Maryland. I would think you would probably be nearly the only person in the entire state to have winter tires on their car.

Maybe you just need more practice driving in the snow? Your car is FWD and should have no trouble on all season tires in the snow. Most of us make do with just that.  If you were driving something that was RWD you might have a case. Go spend the $500 and get your self some new all season rubber.

Good luck.

Laura33

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Re: Snow Tires For Black Ice
« Reply #12 on: February 13, 2019, 12:05:26 PM »
I am in MD, and I have snow tires.  Absolute lifesaver.  Not for the snow -- for all the $%!#!%#@#^$#$&%^ freezing rain/ice/slush.  100% worth it.

Also, since you have a manual:  stay in first (or the lowest possible gear for the road you are on and conditions) so you can take advantage of engine braking.  And whatever you do, brake/accelerate/turn gently and smoothly, and try not to do more than one of those things at the same time.  If you are on perfect, frictionless ice, inertia will carry you at your current speed and in your current direction forever.  You skid only when you try to change speed or direction; when your tires cannot provide enough friction to hang on, your inertia forces you to continue in your original direction.  Therefore, the more slowly you can transition to a lower speed or a different trajectory, the more likely your tire will be able to maintain grip, because you need less friction to make little changes than big ones.  And if you have to choose (and have antilocks), choose to brake, hard -- braking pushes the weight of the car forward onto the front wheels, which increases the area of the tire in contact with the ground, which increases the likelihood you will find some purchase.  Plus, you know, any speed you can drop before impact is a good thing.

nereo

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Re: Snow Tires For Black Ice
« Reply #13 on: February 13, 2019, 12:11:32 PM »
I mean its Maryland. I would think you would probably be nearly the only person in the entire state to have winter tires on their car.
Not sure where in MD the poster is from, but western Maryland (e.g. the aptly named 'Frostburg') gets a ton of icy weather given their location in the appilachian mountains - way more than, say, southern New England. 

LD_TAndK

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Re: Snow Tires For Black Ice
« Reply #14 on: February 13, 2019, 12:27:53 PM »
Thanks for the replies everyone.

To clarify, I'm not having any issues with snow, the tires and car perform fine in snow. The issue is specifically icy bridges where I immediately lose traction after riding over the bump from the asphalt onto the bridge platform, without accelerating, braking, or turning.

To those saying the 27k/4 year old tires may need replacement: The manufacturer has a 60k/6 year warranty for this set so I'd be surprised if this were the case. Though I'm definitely not ruling it out. The car is not garaged.

@nereo The first time I lost traction was actually out on I-68 near frostburg! That video from tirerack is very convincing though they are trying to sell tires here haha


MrSal

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Re: Snow Tires For Black Ice
« Reply #15 on: February 13, 2019, 12:43:38 PM »
I'm driving a manual civic through the mild winters of Maryland. We do get a few snow events which I can easily avoid driving in. Twice this winter though I've lost control of my vehicle on bridges (and thankfully safely recovered) due to black ice with no snow on the ground. A terrifying experience that left me shaking. Other drivers don't seem to have any issues.

The car currently has all season tires with 27k miles and 4 years old. I'm wondering if the poor performance can be attributed to the tires, or possibly the car itself, and if spending $700 on a dedicated set of winter tires & rims would help specifically with ice?

700$??

I bought a set of 4 steel rims and bought the Blizzaks which are probably in the Top 2 best tires (the other one being the Nokian)... I think between installation, rims, tires, after rebates, I spent total 350. It was also for a Honda.

So you should be able to do them for half the cost.... and believe me they are totally worth it. I live in Central PA, and just yesterday the roads were a mess... everyone was driving 15 mph because it was so icy and slippery. I was passing everyone easily....

Also, I went to an empty parking lot to try it out and see what the limits are etc.... even when I was trying, it was very hard to lose control of the car. Even when doing doughnuts which is pretty extreme, the car would oversteer slightly but would quikcly regain control.

Its my first winter with snow tires and it is so much fun not to mention waaaaaaaaaaaaay safer

MrSal

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Re: Snow Tires For Black Ice
« Reply #16 on: February 13, 2019, 12:45:20 PM »
Someone will correct me if I'm wrong, but I THINK snow tires work by having deeper/wider spaces in the treads into which the snow can go so some of the tread can get down through the snow to get some grip, which wouldn't help with ice. What you would need would be studded snow tires which have little bits of metal embedded and would get some grip on ice.

Also, 27k might be getting up there in age depending on your tire, so it might just be time to replace your all season tires.

Of course, black ice is also just one of those dangers of winter driving that you need to be aware of. I'm not sure any tire will 100% be able to grip if you hit ice.

It is not just the thread. It's also the rubber compound. Normal tires get stiff as a rock in colder weather, while winter tires are soft. Reason why winter tires above 45-50F should not be driven on, otherwise bye bye tire.

nereo

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Re: Snow Tires For Black Ice
« Reply #17 on: February 13, 2019, 12:50:38 PM »

@nereo The first time I lost traction was actually out on I-68 near frostburg! That video from tirerack is very convincing though they are trying to sell tires here haha
Ah - had a lot of good times driving to/from Frostburg :-) . We used to have championship swim meets there each winter, and more than once we were absolutely stuck on the side of the road or in a hotel with bad winter weather.

Yeah, Tirerack sells tires, but you can search for comparisons of winter tires vs. all-season; there are literally dozens, including ones done by Consumer Reports and Car & Driver.   I chose the Tirerack one simply because it deals specifically with ice, but there are dozens of good comparisons out there, all with similar conclusions.  And fwiw the difference each year when I switch to my winter tires is instantly noticeable.

Syonyk

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Re: Snow Tires For Black Ice
« Reply #18 on: February 13, 2019, 02:39:55 PM »
All seasons should probably be called "Three Season Tires" for most of the country.  They work below freezing, but poorly, and only on dry pavement.  Once you ask them to handle snow/ice, their grip drops to somewhat hazardous levels.  You're fine with them in warm areas that don't get storms, but on ice... eh.

There are two (general) types of winter tires: Studded, and studless.

Typically (not always) a studded snow tire will have big open tread patterns and carbide studs for traction on ice.  They clear snow very well, and are great in loose snow or slush - they clear it out and get you a lot of grip.  The studs grip deep ice and hard packed snow very well, but the traction on dry pavement is somewhat poor (the open tread pattern means less contact area, and the rubber is hard and being held up by the studs), and they're hard on roads.  Studded tires are basically worthless on black ice or glaze ice (a very thin layer of ice), because the studs can't grip the ice (they just rip through it), and the rubber can't grab the ice either.

Studless tires tend to rely on a soft, sponge-like rubber that wicks water away from the surface and generally grips ice very well.  They don't have as open of a tread pattern as the snow tires, so they're not as good in deep snow or slush, but they're still far better than all seasons.  They do grip black ice and glaze ice well, because they sponge to it and are able to get good traction against it.  On the flip side, they're only good for 3-4 years before the rubber starts getting hard (even if you don't use them much), and the ones I've used have dry pavement handling that's sketchy, at best.

For most people, if you live in a city or suburban area, studless tires are the right answer.  Studded snow tires are nice if you're regularly up in the mountains, or in a rural area with poor snow clearing, but for city use, go studless.

BDWW

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Re: Snow Tires For Black Ice
« Reply #19 on: February 13, 2019, 03:06:15 PM »
To reiterate multiple points above, yes winter tires will help immensely. All-season tires are colloquially referred to here as "no-season" tires.

If you're cheap and/or lazy a decent option for most people is All-weather* tires. They grip much better than all-season, but are not as good as snow/winter tires. They will wear faster than all-seasons though.

*Some areas just refer to them as snow-rated all-seasons. Look for a little mountain silhouette with a snowflake in it, on the tire.

HipGnosis

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Re: Snow Tires For Black Ice
« Reply #20 on: February 13, 2019, 04:34:05 PM »
Your tires have a date code that can tell you when they were manufactured; https://www.tirerack.com/tires/tiretech/techpage.jsp?techid=11

MilesTeg

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Re: Snow Tires For Black Ice
« Reply #21 on: February 13, 2019, 06:50:19 PM »
Thanks for the replies everyone.

To clarify, I'm not having any issues with snow, the tires and car perform fine in snow. The issue is specifically icy bridges where I immediately lose traction after riding over the bump from the asphalt onto the bridge platform, without accelerating, braking, or turning.

To those saying the 27k/4 year old tires may need replacement: The manufacturer has a 60k/6 year warranty for this set so I'd be surprised if this were the case. Though I'm definitely not ruling it out. The car is not garaged.

@nereo The first time I lost traction was actually out on I-68 near frostburg! That video from tirerack is very convincing though they are trying to sell tires here haha

Snow (aka winter) tires will absolutely help, though as others have said you still have to practice safe driving.


The primary difference between summer, snow/winter and no-season tires is the rubber used. Winter tires use a rubber compound that stays soft and pliable even at low temperatures. This allows them to grip better on all cold surfaces, including ice. Rubber grips by conforming to the contours of the surface it is pressed against. Summer and all season tires become hard in cold temperatures and can no longer conform as well.

IMHO, winter tires are essential equipment if you regularly drive in snow and ice, and you probably shouldn't be running summer or A/S tires if you regularly drive in cold (e.g. regularly below freezing) conditions regardless of whether there is snow/ice.

Car Jack

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Re: Snow Tires For Black Ice
« Reply #22 on: February 13, 2019, 07:15:13 PM »
Either I missed a post or color me surprised.

You don't want all seasons (they mean all seasons in Houston) and you don't want snow tires (huh?) and you don't want studs (because metal skidding on pavement ain't gonna stop your car.  You want ice tires.  Yes, there are ice tires.  They are winter tires with lots of "sipes" cut into the tread.  These will hold ice better than snow tires without sipes will.  If you look at Tire Rack, they call them "studless ice and snow".  For your Maryland ice season (which RTP can be king of sometimes), yes, these tires will help you a lot on black ice.  Will you be able to drive like it's warm, dry pavement?  Don't be stupid.

FIRE 20/20

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Re: Snow Tires For Black Ice
« Reply #23 on: February 13, 2019, 10:06:27 PM »

Snow (aka winter) tires will absolutely help, though as others have said you still have to practice safe driving.


Snow and winter tires are not the same thing.  Snow tires are no longer made; they were just the same tire compound as all-seasons with more void area to dig into snow better.  Modern winter tires have a different compound entirely that grips on snow, ice, and dry pavement in cold temperatures.  I used to drive to ski resorts (Colorado) in my Miata on Blizzak WS-50s, and I did some ice racing as well.  The difference in winter and all-season tires is enormous.

worms

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Re: Snow Tires For Black Ice
« Reply #24 on: February 13, 2019, 11:42:45 PM »
Just to add that you shouldn’t rely on loose terminology like “all season”.  A truly all-season tyre (or tire! ;) ) should bear the mountain/snowflake symbol and might be the best in the OP’s situation.  I run on Vredestein Quatrac 5s, which I have found excellent in summer and winter, including snow and frost. 

But driving style is important, too.  Bridges are a risk, but they are fairly predictable, so you shouldn’t come across one by accident!

LD_TAndK

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Re: Snow Tires For Black Ice
« Reply #25 on: February 21, 2019, 05:05:07 AM »
I took the vehicle in for a suspension inspection and wheel alignment due to suspicions fueled by googling. No issues with the suspension however they did say my wheels were out of alignment. From what I gather this could have been the cause of the traction issues.

I still plan on getting dedicated winter tires for next season though...