• What Are Studded Tires & When Should You Use Them

    If you’ve ever driven through a winter storm, you know it can get a little tense. Especially when roads are covered in snow and ice. You might not be able to avoid winter, but you can be ready for it with a set of winter or snow tires, including studded options. We have some tips to help you make the right choice about studded winter tires, how studs keep you in control, and when they can be used in your state.

    What Are Studded Tires?

    Studs are lightweight, small metal spikes (studs) that are staggered and inserted across the tread of a winter tire. These studs protrude slightly from the rubber tread surface, helping break through packed snow and ice-covered roads to give you better traction. Note: Extra tread depth is needed to accommodate studs, so studded tire size options are often limited.

    How & Where Do Studded Tires Work?

    A good set of tires is essential for winter driving, whatever the weather. If you’re heading into snow and ice, studded tires can have a big impact on your safety. A vehicle equipped with winter traction tires can stop faster on ice than a car without those tires — even if you’re driving just 15 miles per hour.

    Studded tires work best on snow and ice-covered roads that have yet to be fully plowed. As the studs pierce the ice and snow, they provide extra traction to keep you safe and in control.

    Why Are Studded Tires Used For Winter Driving?

    Snow tires, and especially studded winter tires, are specifically designed to help you stay on the road in snow zones or mountain regions where the temperature regularly drops below 40 degrees. Snow tires are distinguished by a mountain snowflake symbol on the sidewall of the tire. This indicator means the tires have been tested and proven for snow, ice, and slush.

    3PMSF symbol on tire sidewall

    The benefits of snow tires include improved traction, vehicle handling, and skid control thanks to deeper, wider, and more jagged tread than regular tires. This tread allows the tire to pick up snow and maintain traction. The studs on some of those tires give them added grip on snow and ice.

    Are Studded Tires Always the Best Option for Winter?

    Studded tires are not always the best option for safe winter driving. Studded tires provide optimal traction on ice or packed snow. But studless winter tires work well on slush and packed snow thanks to wide, deep grooves in the tread and lots of irregular surfaces with sharp edges. These allow the rubber to cut through the snow and grip the road.

    As temperatures steadily rise, it’s time to replace your winter tires with all-season or performance tires. We recommend swapping back when you do not plan to drive on snow or ice-covered roads, or when nighttime temperatures are consistently 50º F. As temperatures rise, the special rubber compound found in winter tires can wear out much faster.

    Les Schwab Tip: If your winter tires have studs, your state has specific dates those tires must be removed from your vehicle. Find your state’s information here.

    Les Schwab can help you choose the right winter tires for where you drive, including a good knowledge of local state laws.

    What’s the Difference Between Studded and Studless Tires?

    Winter tires are designed to provide extra traction and control on snow and ice. The differences between studded and studless winter tires go beyond tiny metal studs.

    Studless snow tires offer great traction for most winter conditions without the metal spikes. Wide, deep grooves in the tread help keep you in control.

    Studded tires have spikes or studs that break through packed snow and ice for added traction.

    Studded vs Studless Winter Tires

    When Can I Use Studded Tires & When Do I Have to Remove Them?

    If you do choose a set of studded winter tires for your vehicle, remember there are state-by-state laws regulating when and where you can use them. U.S. states that do allow studded snow tires permit their use from mid-winter to early spring. Driving outside specified dates can carry a steep fine along with plenty of disapproving looks from your fellow drivers.

    Stud Laws by State

    Studded tire use is regulated by each state. Driving with studded tires on clear roads not only wears down your studs, it can also decrease stopping distance. That’s because your tread is not making optimal contact with the road — your studs are.

    For legal stud dates in your region, check out this state-by-state list of studded tire regulations as reported by the U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association.

    How Much Do Studded Tires Cost?

    The price for a set of studded winter tires depends on the size of tire you need for your vehicle, the features of those tires, the warranty, as well as other options. The experts at Les Schwab can help you choose the right winter tires for your car or truck.

    Are Studded Winter Tires Right for You?

    Depending on where you drive and the winter conditions you face, studded winter tires could add safety to outings in tough winter conditions. Studded or regular winter tires could be a good choice if you’re a winter sport enthusiast, often navigate unmaintained winter roads, or if you plan to drive in the snow and ice every week. The pros at Les Schwab can help you face winter with the right tires.

    Let Les Schwab Help You With Your Studded Tire Needs

    The right set of winter tires can be found at your local Les Schwab. Stop by today or schedule an appointment and we’ll help you decide on the best winter traction to keep you in control and safely on the road.

  • Winter Driving Tips: How to Drive in Snow

    According to the Federal Highway Administration, about a quarter of weather-related vehicle crashes occur on snowy, slushy or icy pavement and 15 percent happen during snowfall or sleet.

    Now for the good news. With the right preparation, you can travel safely even when the weather turns on you. Hint: properly inflated tires in good condition are near the top of the list. This is a must so you have the traction you need.

    When you find yourself driving on snow or you’re caught in a storm, remember the following advice on vehicle handling.

    How to Drive on Snow and When It’s Snowing

    • Here’s a winter driving checklist to prepare and stay safe.
    • Clear off snow from windows, mirrors and roof before you leave. When you brake, snow on top can slide forward and cover your windshield.
    • Brush off snow from your lights, so you have the best light on the road and other drivers can see you.
    • Reduce your speed and leave more space between you and the vehicle ahead. A good following distance is about eight to 10 seconds from the other vehicle, depending on your tire tread, weight of your vehicle, road slope, amount of snow on the road, and visibility. You may want even more.

    Stopping Distance on Packed Snow

    • How much stopping distance will you need? For the reasons above, safe stopping distance varies by vehicle. For a cars traveling 35 mph on dry pavement, it can take anywhere from 60 to 97 feet for thinking and braking distance. Double that for driving on wet pavement. Triple it for packed snow. Ten times for icy roads. (See this stopping distances chart for calculations at multiple speeds.)

    Stopping Distance in Different Weather infographic

    Avoid Skids

    • Avoid sudden stops, abrupt downward gear shifts and quick direction changes. Brake gently to avoid skidding or sliding. If the wheels lock up, ease off the brakes.
    • Know what to do before you go into a skid. Skid car classes on how to drive on slick roads are a great idea for young drivers and anyone else traveling by road a lot in winter.
    • The rules for getting out of a skid depend on a lot of factors: whether you have anti-lock brakes (ABS), if you have front- or rear-wheel drive, if the road is icy, if you’re going downhill, if you have extra weight in your vehicle. Read more about skid correction.
    • The way to drive downhill on packed snow depends on whether you have ABS. If so, start at the top of the hill as slowly as possible. Leave your auto in normal drive gear and use light, steady pressure on the brake pedal to stay at a safe speed. This allows your antilock braking system to maintain traction by making sure all four tires slow at the same rate when you apply the brakes. (Learn more here.) If you don’t have ABS, proceed slowly and lightly pump your brakes on the way down.

    Car traveling downhill on mountain road

    • Don’t be overconfident just because you have all-wheel drive (AWD). Here’s why. You'll get the best traction for driving in winter conditions with snow tires mounted on all four wheels.

    Use Extra Caution

    • Stay in your lane, especially when visibility’s bad from driving snow. Think twice about passing. More hours of darkness and foul weather mean we just don’t see as well on the road in winter.
    • Give trucks and snowplows plenty of room. Stay well into your lane and don’t follow closely. Big vehicles blow a lot of snow around which lowers visibility.
    • NEVER pass big vehicles on the right. Debris, rocks and ice that can crack your windshield get sprayed in all directions from snowplows.

    Convoy of snow plows

    • Don’t drive through snowdrifts. They may cause your vehicle to spin out of control.
    • When it’s snowing, don’t use your brights. They will reduce, not improve, road visibility.
    • If you’re noticing snow turn to sleet or ice, kick your defroster into high. If ice builds up on your windshield pull over when you’re in a safe place and use an ice scraper. Don’t try to squint through a small section of your windshield.
    • Use extreme caution when approaching off-ramps, bridges and shady spots where snow or ice on the road may be worse.
    • Never use cruise control in snow or when there’s a chance of ice. It can cause your tires to spin faster when you hit a slick spot then fishtail your vehicle when the tires regain traction.

    About Using Snow Chains

    • Carry chains and know how to use them, including which wheels you need to put them on.
    • Near chain-up and removal areas, slow down even more and watch for people in the road.

    Man putting on tire chains

    • If you have to pull over because conditions are too bad to go on, get as far off on the shoulder as safely possible, turn off your headlights and turn on your hazard lights.

    Remember that your best bet for driving this season is to make sure your tires can handle the winter conditions. Last but not least, be flexible. Sometimes it makes the most sense to stop somewhere for a while or the night to wait out the weather.

    Read our winter driving series to learn how to avoid hydroplaning, to drive when it’s icy or foggy, and get real-time road conditions by state.

  • Winter Driving Tips: The Dangers of Using Just Two Snow Tires

    When driving in winter conditions, including ice and snow, staying in control and on the road is the top priority that starts with equal traction on all four tires. Installing snow tires on just the front or back of your vehicle won’t do the job, and could put you and your family in danger. Here’s why it’s important to install snow tires on all four wheels before facing winter’s fury.


    Is it Okay to Put Snow Tires on the Front Only?

    The short answer is no. Your vehicle might have front-wheel drive, but installing snow tires on the front and not all four wheels could end with you oversteering or fishtailing around corners or when applying the brakes in certain weather conditions — even at low speeds. Essentially, your back end will spin around, facing the front of your vehicle in the wrong direction. This can be especially bad if you’re out of control around a mountain corner and sliding into oncoming traffic.

    Why does this happen? Even if there is no power to the back wheels, they still play a vital role in cornering and braking. All-season tires aren’t designed for cold weather and harden up when temperatures near freezing. Because they’re harder and have less traction, they easily slide on the snow and ice. Winter tires are designed for the cold and stay softer in low temperatures, helping provide grip.

    Is it Okay to Put Snow Tires on the Back Only?

    Again, the answer is no. Mostly. While it’s not recommended, the only time this could work is on rear-wheel-drive only vehicles. Even in these cases, we still recommend four matching snow tires for optimal performance. Anything else, including 4x4s, front-wheel drive, and all-wheel drive vehicles should have a full set of snow tires for best traction. Installing a set of snow tires on just the back wheels can easily cause your vehicle to understeer.

    Why does this happen? When the front wheels have no traction it can become difficult to steer and stop. At that point, your front wheels are only helping guide your vehicle. Where you end up on the road is anyone’s guess. Additionally, installing snow tires on the rear only can cause anti-lock brakes and electronic traction control systems to malfunction.

    Results of Using Only 2 Snow Tires Graphics

    Get Your Tire Chains and Snow Tires at Les Schwab

    The weather can shift and worsen quickly in the West. That’s why it’s a good idea to have a full set of snow tires and carry traction devices for your vehicle. Stop by your local Les Schwab for expert advice on the right tires and chains for your car or truck. Check out our article How to: Choose Snow Tires for advice on finding the right snow tires for your needs.

    Winter Tires Warning Sign