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Off Topic: Snow Tires

My latest trip to the mountains dealt with a lot of snow and ice, including just getting through the top of the pass via Hwy 88 south of Lake Tahoe before a road closure, in a snowstorm. A previous trip threw 3-inch-deep hail onto the road—slippery stuff.

My experience in bad winter-like conditions is that snow tires offer considerably more traction than standard tires*. When I hit seriously slippery snow and ice, I slow down, but it’s the snow tires that add a considerable margin of safety versus my regular all-terrain (A/T) tires that I run in warmer months. This is immediately obvious when I switch from A/T tires to snow tires in cold conditions with snow or ice. Several things contribute to the advantage of snow tires:

  • Special rubber compound maintains flexibility and grip as the temperature drops.
  • Siping (cuts) in the tread blocks that increase traction.
  • Deep and widely spaced tread blocks.

Snow tires are also excellent in rain and mud. In dry weather, they have excellent grip, but they become “squirmy” under hard cornering, and tread life is much shorter than regular tires, because the rubber is quite soft.

* Particularly with a SUV like mine with multiple differentials, low range, and electronically detachable anti-roll bars. In non-maintained side roads covered with snow and ice, these features are important. I ran in low range up in the White Mountains for better control. Regular cars would have been hopeless in some areas, even with snow tires—they don’t offer real 4 wheel drive (even many SUVs don’t).

Icy road approaching an ~8000 foot summit at ~10°F
f2.2 @ 1/1400 sec, ISO 25; 2015-11-26 11:22:28
iPhone 6s Plus + iPhone 6s Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2

[low-res image for bot]
Going farther not smart: deep drifts ahead
f2 @ 2.0 sec, ISO 100; 2015-11-27 17:08:53
Canon EOS 5DS R + Zeiss Milvus 2/35 ZE

[low-res image for bot]

The siping (cuts) in the tread blocks can be seen here on the Bridgestone Blizzak DM-V2.

Bridgestone Blizzak DM-V2 snow tires
f2.2 @ 1/120 sec, ISO 25; 2015-12-02 14:10:27
iPhone 6s Plus + iPhone 6s Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2

[low-res image for bot]
Bridgestone Blizzak DM-V2 snow tires: siping (cuts) in the tread blocks enhance traction
f2.2 @ 1/30 sec, ISO 32; 2015-12-02 14:12:06
iPhone 6s Plus + iPhone 6s Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2

[low-res image for bot]

The Bridgestone Blizzak DM-V2 looks like it should have some great traction and it does: observe the siping in tread blocks which also have good clearance for mud/snow/rain. Experience proves out the Blizzaks as superb where other vehicles fear to tread—even those with chains. A good 4WD system with this sort of tire works wonders in snow. But it doesn’t replace caution and slowing down. Some snow tires are studdable, but unless the conditions are extremely icy and the traction control system poor, studs should not be needed (and are a loud nuisance on pavement).

Bridgestone Blizzak DM-V2 snow tires: siping (cuts) in the tread blocks enhance traction
f2.2 @ 1/250 sec, ISO 25; 2015-12-02 14:14:14
iPhone 6s Plus + iPhone 6s Plus back camera 4.15mm f/2.2

[low-res image for bot]


I checked out prices, but the best deal was local at America’s Tire Company in Redwood City (le them know you heard about them from Lloyd Chambers—I’m just curious if they notice—no commission or such, just a happy customer). Fast, courteous and efficient service (in and out in 40 min) year over year. And with tire warranty on each tire that I actually use: last summer they replaced two tires for me (almost new) with two brand new ones—no hassles. The roads I drive on make the tire warranty a screaming deal, because I’m certain to kill at least one tire per year.

America’s Tire in Redwood City, CA

Jorge T write:

I live in the NW and have to cross a mountain pass regularly in the winter.

The Bridgestone are good but IF I recall, the drawback is that the siping on them only goes down about 25% thus their snow usefulness is limited to 25% of the tread life. I had Hankook's with over 40K miles on them and they still managed to get good traction.

DIGLLOYD: the Bridgestone Blizzaks are not 'good', they are terrific. I could be mistaken, but I doubt that the Hankooks compare, as the Blizzak DM-V2 design is quite advanced. I know my tires and I know about driving at the limits of adhesion: I used to 'track' cars for years BKWMA (Before Kids When Money Allowed).

For my last mountains trip, I hand-jacked the car and mounted a set of well-used Blizzaks . These were an older model (6 years of age, stored out of the sun, rubber looked good) that were down to a measured 4-5mm of tread depth (3mm is legal minimum limit; below that tire shops will refuse to repair), and there was still ample siping. And yet being that old and that worn, they still hooked up fantastically well in the snow and on icy patches. Way better than the brand-new General Grabber AT/2’s I run most of the year.

The Blizzak VM-2 tires shown above have 10mm tread depth. I stuck a knife blade into the siping and found that it extends 7mm down—which would be where 3mm of tread is left, that is, the tires would be down to the legal minimum tread depth—worn out. In other words, the Blizzaks have siping for their full useful service life. That said, the best “snow rubber” is in the first 55% of the wear life:

The Blizzak DM-V2 is Bridgestone's Light Truck/SUV Studless Ice & Snow winter tire developed for the drivers of pickup, crossover and sport utility vehicles looking for enhanced grip in slush, snow and on ice. Designed with a focus on ice traction and braking, as well as wet road handling and hydroplaning resistance, the Blizzak DM-V2 offers wintertime driving competence.

Blizzak DM-V2 tires use Bridgestone's adaptive NanoPro Tech Multicell compound that features a water-loving hydrophilic coating and microscopic bite particles. The Multicell compound remains flexible in below-freezing conditions, wicks water off packed snow and ice while the bite particles deliver more grip and improve braking on glare ice. This compound is molded into a directional tread design featuring 15% more block edges (than the Blizzak DM-V1 it replaces) where circumferential and lateral grooves help channel water, slush and snow away from the contact area for added traction while 3D zigzag sipes increase the number of snow biting edges.

The Blizzak DM-V2 radial meets the industry's severe snow service requirements and is branded with the mountain/snowflake symbol.

NOTE: The first 55% of the Blizzak DM-V2's tread depth features the NanoPro Tech Multicell Compound while the remaining 45% features a standard winter tire compound. When the Blizzak DM-V2 is approximately 50 percent worn, a depth indicator molded into the tread design lets the driver know that the remaining tread is reaching the end of its ability to provide beneficial snow traction.

Michael S writes:

Couldn’t agree more!!! Twenty years of Blizzak driving here in WI, would not want to be with out them. Most people think the reason to get snow ties is to get the vehicle moving, for me it is quite the opposite. It’s the stoping and cornering that keep mine on the Subaru every winter. When I buy a new car the second purchase is a set of Blizzaks!!

DIGLLOYD: stopping and cornering are indeed the key factors.

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