Tire tests are usually tedious affairs involving lots of swapping tires and running controlled tests over and over again. For most people this would be considered a boring and unimportant event, but the reality is that having the right tires for the conditions could literally save your life. I grew up in Western Michigan where shitty weather reigns, and I have been a winter tire evangelist since the day I got my first set at 17.
Of course, studded tires are illegal in Michigan, so I didn’t discover the glory of studs until several years later when I moved to Ohio. But once I did, oh mama, I found love in a hopeless place.
I think the only thing worse than driving in snow and ice is driving in traffic. Combine the two and you’ve got the makings of a disaster. If you’re scooting down the interstate at a tepid 30 miles per hour, you might think you have plenty of room to stop without hitting the car in front of you, but the difference in stopping distance is astonishing between an all-season and a proper winter tire. Now how big is that difference in braking distance between the winter tire and the same tire fitted with a few hundred little metal studs?
Thankfully for us, Jason Fenske of Engineering Explained did a proper science test of the two scenarios on the sheet ice of a frozen lake. The result of that test? The non-studded winter tire averaged, across three stops from 30 mph, to come to a halt in 182 feet. The studded tire managed the same feat in an average of 92 feet. That is the difference between burying your bumper in the back seat of the Mazda2 in front of you and stopping well short of any damage at all.
I won’t give away the full test, as Jason also recorded acceleration testing and an ice “road course” test between the studded and non-studded tires. All driving was done by Subaru’s pro rallyist, Patrik Sandell. It’s well worth watching if you have a spare 13 minutes.