The age-old question: To stud or not to stud?
Basically the short answer is studded (of course). Even mediocre studded tires outperform the best studless tires year after year. Sure, studless tires are considerably better than all-seasons, however, think about it this way: The most dangerous time of the year to be driving is when roads are covered in hard packed warm snow or sheets of ice. Do you only want mediocre tire grip (studless) when it feels like you’re about to lose the back end of your vehicle around a corner or when you’re trying to stop before sliding into the car ahead? Or do you want the best possible grip? (studded). Those tiny little metal studs are great for digging into the ice and keeping your car under control in the worst possible conditions. It’s something that’s difficult to convey to people. But I can guarantee that once you join the studded tire club, you’ll never go back!
What about road noise?
Yes, studded tires are somewhat louder than studless, but not to the point where noise is bothersome to most people. Look into tire test results for noise comparisons and choose a quieter tire that has a good overall score if that is a strong concern.
Most tire noise problems after purchase are due to misalignment or worn steering/suspension components. If the tire wasn’t noisy when new, then it probably isn’t the tire’s fault.
I drive mostly on dry pavement in winter. Won’t the studs wear out too quickly?
Not necessarily. Excessive wheel spin is what really wears the studs down. Proper break-in and rotation, along with a controlled driving style, will extend the stud life and ensure there is plenty of stud traction left as the tire tread wears down.
How many seasons can I expect out of a set of studded tires?
Typical lifespan is 5 winters of tread and stud life assuming approximately 10,000 km of driving per winter and conservative driving (e.g., not drag racing every other car out there and spinning your tires at every light! Or not trying to pull a semi-trailer out of a snow packed ramp with your Dodge 2500!). After that, you can often remove the stud bases and get a few summer seasons out of the tires.