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The Time I Drove A Car On A Hockey Rink With Michelin And Tire Rack

Eric Trytko October 5, 2016 All Things Hoon, Featured 7 Comments

winterdrivingexperiencepresentation

If you are reading this post, chances are, you already know the benefits of winter tires in cold and or snowy areas of the country.  After all, the readers of Hooniverse are a sharp bunch.  However, while everyone might know about the benefits, how many people, living in those climates where they could benefit for winter tires, actually put their money where their mouth is?

South Bend, Indiana, is home to yes, the University of Notre Dame but it’s home to Tire Rack.  I attended an event put on by Michelin and Tire Rack to show off just how much of a difference the correct tires can make, or, just how bad all-season tires are on the cold or icy pavement.

Living in the Metro Detroit area, I’ve experienced first hand the difference the correct, and incorrect tires can make in the cold and winter.  A Cadillac CTS-V Wagon, on winter tires, was a joy to drive, while a Hyundai Equus, Kia K900 and Dodge Charger on all-seasons were near useless in cold and snow.  The Equus and K900 in “Snow Mode” could barely get across an intersection, and were downright un-driveable in icy conditions.  The Charger couldn’t get up a hill, and only turning off the traction control to maximize wheel speed allowed us to get moving and not completely block traffic.  With the Caddy on winter tires, you’d almost think it was equipped with all-wheel drive.

For testing purposes, two different vehicles were used and both happened to be from the same manufacturer. These were Toyota vehicles, as they are the best selling cars in their class; the Camry and the RAV4 in AWD. 

To keep things “fair” all vehicles wore Michelin tires. These were Michelin X-Ice Xi3 or Primacy MXV4s for the Camry and the Latitude X-Ice Xi2 or Latitude Tour HPs for the RAV4.

winter-tire

A vast majority of the public at large believe that having all-wheel-drive is a panacea for when the weather turns bad.  More times than naught it just gives them a false sense of security which, in turn, makes things all that much worse when things go pear shaped.

My first experience at the event was a “drag race” of sixty feet across an ice rink.  Sixty feet represents the average distance required to get across a four lane intersection. 

During acceleration, the winter tires clearly allow you to get up to speed more quickly. I saw four more miles per hour in just sixty feet on a sheet of ice.  The vehicle was much more controlled in its acceleration. The braking distance, while longer because of more speed, was also much more controlled.  My two runs stacked up thusly:

Run 1

  • X-Ice Xi2
    • Speed 16.4 MPH
    • Braking Distance 46.4 feet
  • Latitude Tour HP
    • Speed 12.6 MPH
    • Braking Distance 38.5 feet

Run 2

  • X-Ice Xi2
    • Speed 15.1 MPH
    • Braking Distance 39.3 feet
  • Latitude Tour HP
    • Speed 11.1 MPH
    • Braking Distance 30.6 feet

While I didn’t get to drive in the second demonstration, I did ride as a passenger and it was an even more illuminating illustration.  While driving at 15 miles an hour in both vehicles, the driver attempted to make a turn on the ice rink. This went about as well as you’d expect.  It is also why they had the professional drivers doing this exercise.  Attempting to turn the RAV4 on all seasons saw the car go almost straight. The car on the winter tires? It made the turn with no drama.

Next, I went over to a second ice rink and tried the same acceleration and braking tests, again sixty feet in distance, in a front wheel drive Camry.  Rather than measuring the braking distance in feet, it was done in time, here are the runs:

Run 1

  • X-Ice Xi-3
    • Speed 9.6 MPH
    • Time to stop 9.52 seconds
  • Primacy MXV4
    • Speed 8.2 MPH
    • Time to stop 10.2 seconds

Run 2

  • X-Ice Xi-3
    • Speed 8.8 MPH
    • Time to stop 9.4 seconds
  • Primacy MXV4
    • Speed 8.6 MPH
    • Time to stop 9.76 seconds

While run two was much closer overall, it still makes the point that even in these short distances, it’s a quarter to half a second difference in time between the two different tires.

It’s not just the difference in tread patterns that makes the the winter tires superior, it’s also the compounds used that really have a dramatic effect.  There was a very cool illustration to demonstrate just this point. Michelin had three regulation hockey pucks made, with three different compounds. One compound was the same as summer performance tires, another all-season tire compound, and the third was the winter tire compound.  Again, regulation pucks, so they are smooth on the top and bottom.  While having all three sit on the ice, moving each one back and forth with our hand, the summer compound puck felt as if there was no friction between it and the ice. The all-season felt as if there was some friction, and the winter compound felt very different immediately, almost as if there were sand paper on the bottom. We then lined the three pucks up against a squeegee and pushed them off.  The summer compound puck when about a third of the way down the ice and at some speed, the all-season compound went about a quarter of the way down the ice.Finally, the winter compound puck went about twenty feet.

The two arguments you are most likely to hear against buying winter tires are; number one, cost, and number two, storage.  Let’s look at number one first.  A quick look at Tire Rack for a wheel and tire combination with tire pressure sensors for the RAV4 with the X-Ice Xi-2’s ran $1,300.  A set of winter tires should last you 5-7 years, those are miles that you will not be putting on your standard tires, so those will last you longer as well, therefore, it’s not a total sunk cost.  In addition, looking at the differences in distance to stop, as well as allowing more maneuverability, if the winter tires save you from one accident, what does that save you in the cost of down time, insurance deductibles, rental vehicles and more?  Likely more than the $1,300.

As for storage, if you buy your tires from a car dealer, more and more are offering off-season storage.  In Canada, this has become the norm, and it’s gaining momentum in the U.S. as well.  Tires can be kept in the garage on a hanging rack, and those run about $150. You can always stack them in the basement if you have the room.

How do you know if you need winter tires?  We’ve included a map Michelin provided to give you some direction, but as a note, you should always remember 44ºF.  It’s at that temperature where the crossover point occurs.  It’s where winter tires, even in the dry, begin to outperform All-Season tires and completely outperform Summer tires.  If you have the opportunity you really should try summer performance tires on dry pavement below 44ºF, it’s VERY telling.

winter-map

The difference in performance of tires in cold and snowy conditions has been noticed by governments.  In Quebec you are required by law to have winter tires on your car from November through March. In Colorado, Washington, Oregon and British Columbia, 3PMSF (3 Peak Mountain Snow Flake) marked tires are required to drive through mountain passes in specific months.

3pmsm

The first time you drive on winter tires in inclement conditions is an eye-opening experience.  It’s much like the first time you drove a four-wheel drive vehicle in snow, you didn’t know that this much traction was possible.  Even if you decide against winter tires living in a climate that could benefit from them, you owe it to yourself to experience the difference. 

Do yourself a favor and find someone who has winter tires on their vehicle and see if they will let you take it for a drive.  Words can only tell you so much, the experience though, that is the game changer.

  • spotarama

    speaking as someone who lives in Australia…what is this snow you speak of?

    • Rover 1

      Pop over the Tasman Sea. We’ve got plenty here and more fell on the hills last night.

      • Vairship

        You have less grip as your cars are hanging from the bottom of the earth, as opposed to sitting on it.

    • Thredbo, Perisher Ski Resort, Charlotte Pass and Selwyn Snowfields in New South Wales; Mount Buller, Falls Creek, Mount Hotham, Mount Baw Baw and Mount Buffalo in Victoria

  • Rudy™

    Cost and storage really are the big issue with winter tires, especially when you have two or three cars in the driveway. But even so, I’m in southeast Michigan myself and despite a large storm or two, we don’t get the snow we used to get years ago. There are recent years that I haven’t even had to run the snowblower. For the few days of snow driving or crossing icy patches, I just take it easy. Granted if I drove a lot for a living I would probably get the winter tires, but otherwise I would think hard about it before spending the cash.

    Now if they could make a winter tire to counteract the other idiot drivers out there, that would be a feat…

  • Ross Ballot

    Just ordered winter tires for the WRX. Excited to try them out…hopefully we actually get some snow in NY/CT this winter. This will be my third different type of layout/tire for winter driving: an Avalanche that had a slew of different all-terrain and mud-terrain tires; the Challenger, on dedicated winter tires; and now, the WRX on dedicated winters. Should make for an interesting comparison.

  • SlowJoeCrow

    Oregon weather will teach you fast, both sides of the Cascades get lots of black ice and either winter tires or chains are required in the mountains and the sno-park areas.