Author Topic: Snow tires  (Read 4274 times)

Prepube

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Snow tires
« on: September 28, 2014, 06:38:02 PM »
Dammit.  Nearly winter again.  It's already snowed here once (an inch).  I live in the foothills above Denver, and commute three  or four times per week 30 miles to work downhill, and 30 miles home, uphill. Denver is at 5280 feet, I am about 8250, so it's a good climb and the road can be a tad treacherous in. The winter.  My new(ish) prius and I have never gone through a winter together, and this year is supposed to be a bad one... I have never had anything except an SUV.  How do I shop for snow tires?  The prius is front wheel drive, so only need two, right?  I put new regular tires on it when I bought it. What should I be looking for?  My fuel efficiency is going to plummet, but is there such a thing as a fuel efficient snow tire?  In my preliminary searches and research, I have noticed that many if not most snow tires are not assigned a mileage (e.g., 65000 miles). Why not?  Do they wear out that fast?  Should I buy rims, too?  Or are those unnecessary?   Do I need studs?  And when am I supposed to put them on?  Take them off?

lark

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Re: Snow tires
« Reply #1 on: September 28, 2014, 06:51:20 PM »
I have a Honda Fit and bought snow tires for the first time last winter. I ended up buying snow tires and wheels from Tirerack.com. The website made it super easy to figure out what size I needed and the price was significantly better than any of the local car stores. I didn't buy new rims, but the extra set of wheels makes changing between the snow tires and regular tires simple.
I noticed a slight decrease in fuel efficiency ~2-3 mpg, but driving in winter conditions was so much better. (I was even able to pass all the subarus on I-70!)

Prepube

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Re: Snow tires
« Reply #2 on: September 28, 2014, 08:52:12 PM »
What kind did you buy?  When do you put them on?  Most of the Subarus on I-70 are going slower than me in my Prius now.  In January I'm gonna be stuck in Denver if go to work when there's even the slightest snow... I saw Blizzak tires on sale at Firestone.  I should probably go talk to them.

randomstring

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Re: Snow tires
« Reply #3 on: September 28, 2014, 09:09:30 PM »
i have snow tires. they are permanently mounted on a very inexpensive set of steel rims. put them on mid-november, remove them mid-april (we do it ourselves, takes about half hour). the brand we have is no longer manufactured; i originally researched the tires and bought steel rims with tires on tirerack. if i were to do it today, i would research on tirerack and buy in costco. costco offers all sorts of tire-related perks (free balancing, i think, and also a very good warranty).

imho tires make a huge difference in winter driving. mine lasted a very long time (6+ years), since my winter driving is not as frequent. you do need to be diligent about switching to regular tires when the weather gets warm or they will wear out (their rubber is very soft).

ps: our tires do not have studs. if we were to live in the mountains i would consult locals about use of chains and put on/remove chains as appropriate. we have an awd car, so all tires are identical. when we had a rwd car we still put on all winter tires. for rwd car we chose the smallest allowed rim size for steel wheels, since small wheel means cheaper tires. tirerack will help you figure out what works for your car.

Prepube

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Re: Snow tires
« Reply #4 on: September 28, 2014, 09:35:26 PM »
Thank you.  Good info from all of you and I appreciate it.  I laughed when I saw the suggestion that I ask a local... I AM a local.  Nobody is stupid enough to drive this type of car in the winter, where only a few years ago we had a six foot snowstorm.  I'd know what to do if we were talking about SUV type vehicles.  Has anyone tried those strap thingies that go around the tire and are supposed to be like chains?  None of my chain sets fit the prius, of course, but I'm wondering if that's even a possibility (assuming correct sizing) because the vehicle sits so close to the ground.  Nearly kills me to get in and out of the damned thing.  I miss my Jeep! 

Greg

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Re: Snow tires
« Reply #5 on: September 28, 2014, 09:54:57 PM »
For maximum traction and safety get 4 snow tires.  New snow tires are so good, studs are almost always unneeded.  If it does get super bad you can always get chains.  I also recommend a set of snow wheels.  This way both set of tires will last longer because you aren't beating up the beads mounting and dismounting them.

The Prius is super heavy and may not be great for snow, but I have no experience with it.  I have read horror stories of them getting stuck (probably with crappy non-snow tires) because of the way the drive system works the wheels; once one spins you're done, according to what I read.  Which may have been b.s.

Prepube

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Re: Snow tires
« Reply #6 on: September 28, 2014, 10:11:11 PM »
Getting the extra rims sounds smart.  Expensive?

Yes, the prius traction control system takes some of your control away, and I have heard lots of complaints about the fact that there is no toggle for turning it off.  I will have an answer re: the ease of driving in the snow pretty soon.  I'm a good driver in the snow and ice in all the other cars I've ever had, I don't know why I am so scared of this one (other than the fact that it's not all wheel drive, the tires are little dinky donut sized things, and the engines are little dinky things with no power.

Simple Abundant Living

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Re: Snow tires
« Reply #7 on: September 28, 2014, 10:18:43 PM »
We just got a Prius last year to drive in UT, so I understand your road conditions. We got snow tires (4) and had zero problems in snow or ice (of course on plowed roads). We bought them at Costco and they gave us our all seasons in black garbage bags to store for the winter. As soon as the avg temp was in the 60's, Costco switched them back for us.  It should help the tires to last longer too, since i am horrible at remembering to rotate them.

MountainBeard

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Re: Snow tires
« Reply #8 on: September 29, 2014, 01:25:16 AM »
I'm also in the foothills outside Denver at 7700'.  As others have said an extra set of rims is a nice way to go, it saves the bead and allows you to switch them at home more easily.  For the frequent black ice conditions that we get, I would suggest studded tires though, these blow away the studless tires on the ice.  The winter before last I drove down the hill in a snowstorm to pick up a friend and carpool to a meeting.  He'd just had surgery and wanted me to drive his Land Rover for more room to stretch out.  Even with his truck having fulltime 4wd and nearly double the curb weight it was amazing how slick the roads felt with his.

Tires are a super important purchase and one area that I have no issue spending extra on a second set.

rugorak

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Re: Snow tires
« Reply #9 on: September 29, 2014, 09:34:03 AM »
I am in Upstate NY. So we don't have the elevation you guys do but we do get the snow. I personally have been fine with just good all seasons. And I have never had anything but a vehicle with front wheel drive. But I typically live near main roads so the plows hit those first. But I do know a lot of people who do get snows.

As previous posters have said you should get snows for all 4 tires. You don't want your rear end sliding all over the place. You obviously want the best tires on the front in front wheel drive though.

I suggest after a snowfall take your car out to an empty parking lot or the like and "play around". As in see what happens when you slam your breaks, turn quickly etc. By no means be unsafe. But try and figure out what your car will do in likely scenarios. This way you are prepared if they do happen. For example when you slam on your brakes in snow you are not going to stop like you would on clean pavement. And usually cars pull slightly more to one side or the other. Knowing that can help you compensate so you can stay on the road, etc.

GuitarStv

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Re: Snow tires
« Reply #10 on: September 29, 2014, 09:38:50 AM »
i have snow tires. they are permanently mounted on a very inexpensive set of steel rims.

+1

We swap all four when the average daily high drops below about 5 degrees C (41 deg F for those of you still living in the temperature system dark ages).  When they're already mounted on the rims it only takes about 20 minutes to swap them, and the winter tires last quite a while.  It makes a tremendous difference to your stopping distance and traction in snowy conditions.

m8547

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Re: Snow tires
« Reply #11 on: September 29, 2014, 09:26:50 PM »
You need similar tires on all four wheels. If you put snow tires just on the front, the rear will try to pass you if you try to stop in a turn. The VSC can correct somewhat, but it can't give you any more traction. If you put them just on the rear, you won't have as much traction for starting, stopping, or turning, which are done mainly by the front tires.  Chains are OK on just two wheels according to most owner's manuals, but you can't drive over 25mph with them, and they are a pain to put on. You might carry some just in case, but don't plan on using them often. There are low profile chains/cables/devices that will fit any vehicle. I don't think the prius is that tight of a fit. Check out http://www.scc-chain.com/ or Thule.

Studless snow tires are as good or better than studded tires for everything (packed snow, slush, wet, dry) except slick ice. I'd go with studless snow tires for a quieter ride and to save the roads. Studs are legal in Colorado (year round, apparently?), but they destroy the roads. We have to pay for that in taxes, fees, surcharges, tolls, etc, so might as well save the roads and keep costs down.

A prius will be fine in the snow with god tires. Last year there was a huge storm that caused chaos on I70. There were all sorts of cars abandoned on the road up to the eisenhower tunnel, and only a few cars were able to make it past all the accidents. But as we were driving a tiny hatchback with chains on the front wheels passed everyone! Personally I saw no need to pass anyone or go faster, but they didn't seem to have any trouble.

You probably don't want to turn VSC off. It will keep you from accelerating quickly sometimes, but it does that to keep you from spinning the wheels, which is usually counter-productive. It is good because it can apply the brakes to individual wheels to keep you going in the direction you are pointing the steering wheel (up to a limit. It will beep if it can't correct enough). There's no way you can do that with one brake pedal, and there's no way you can react as quickly as it can.

If you think you want to get a second set of rims, figure out what you will do about TPMS sensors. My vehicle will only recognize one set of sensors, so if I had another set of rims with another set of sensors I would have to have it reprogramed at the dealer for $$$. Sensors are not cheap either. You could run with no sensors in the winter, but some tire shops refuse to defeat the system if your car originally came with it. Plus it's nice to have the system to alert you if you get a flat, or if you are too lazy to check the pressure yourself. Or you can just have the tires swapped over to your rims, which should cost around $50 each time.

Prepube

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Re: Snow tires
« Reply #12 on: September 29, 2014, 09:45:37 PM »
Thanks to all of you for all your input.  I really appreciate it. Mountainbeard, sounds like you're not too far from me.  I've driven I-70 in all kinds of conditions over the last 25 years or so.  Dead man's curve (the one right after the emergency truck pullout) is horrible with black ice on it... I've dreamed that my life ended there.  Going up the hill, it's the stretch just outside of golden after c470 and the Morrison exit that idiots going with momentum-killing slowness cause me a lot of frustration.  They spread across all the lanes and floor their accelerators, making the ice worse and messing up everyone else. And why is there always more fog by the genesee exit?