Watch as studded and studless tires are put to the test

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studded vs studless tire winter test Youtube / Engineering Explained

Winter driving can be a white-knuckle experience to those in colder climates. Traction is limited when snow and ice cover the road, and when a driver wants to go or stop the car might not be able to accomplish the desired task—but could simply changing to an even more aggressive winter tire help?

That is what YouTube channel Engineering Explained set out to uncover. Given access to a frozen lake, two identically prepared Subaru Impreza STIs, and a couple of sets of tires, I am impressed he got any testing done at all. I would have spent the whole day sliding around like a madman until the gas gauge zeroed.

I guess that is why Jason Fenske is the man behind Engineering Explained and not me. He set up three tests for the two cars, each identical save the tire change. Challenge one was acceleration, followed by braking, and finally a short “road course” of sorts.

The results shouldn’t really shock anyone. Studded tires have more traction on glare ice, especially the set used in this test, which has a larger stud and higher stud count than most tires designed for road use. Studded tires are illegal for road use on the vast majority of roadways, and most tempted to switch to studs would likely find the benefits negligible since roadways are rarely smooth ice for 100 percent of a trip. Leaving ice to drive on snow or pavement brings the studless tire right back to the top.

Are there situations in which studded tires would be a great benefit? Absolutely. The decrease in stopping distance is nothing to be ignored, and the same goes for the ability to accelerate more rapidly. However, for the vast majority of road users, a switch to a proper studless winter tire coupled with an increase in follow distance will keep them safe until the fun and sun of summer return.

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