How Studded Tires Compare to Standard Winter Tires

If you commute to work on a frozen lake, you'll definitely want to opt for a studded tire.

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Engineering Explained on YouTube

Road & Track has consistently advocated for wider proliferation of snow tires. More than all-wheel drive, snow tires provide a safer cold-weather driving experience than all-season or summer rubber. But for the true diehards, even snow tires aren't enough.

People who live in insanely hostile climates or drive on sheet ice often turn to studded tires. They use similar cold-weather rubber compounds as winter tires, but also include protruding metal spikes to literally dig into icy ground and increase traction. In a new video on his channel Engineering Explained, Jason Fenske does some testing to determine how much of a benefit studded tires provide.

He does a series of tests on a frozen lake, including a 30-0 stop test, a 0-30 acceleration test, and a small handling course that quantify the differences. He first runs each test three times in a Subaru WRX STI with studded racing tires. Each tire contains 414 metal studs that protrude 4mm from the rubber service. Then, he runs the same battery of tests another three times using an identical car on street-legal, studless Bridgestone Blizzak WS90s.

Unsurprisingly, the studded tires clobber the Blizzaks. Stopping from 30 on sheet ice takes an average of 182 feet with the Blizzaks, compared to only 92 feet on the ice-racing tires. A performance car on dry pavement, Fenske points out, can stop from 30 mph in about 30 feet. Acceleration to 30 shows a similar delta between the two types of winter tires: 6.8 seconds for the car on studdless tires, 4.0 seconds on studded rubber. The lap times, though, are closer together. The car on Blizzaks takes an average of 60.2 seconds to complete the short course, while the car on studded tires takes 52.4 seconds.

That smaller difference is due to the snow on the track. Studded tires are seriously helpful on straight ice, but their clawing approach is less advantageous on snow. And since these are purpose-built tires for ice racing, regular street studded tires would have slimmer leads in every test. Because of that—and the fact that some states do not allow metal studded tire—winter tires are still the best solution for more people. But if you're driving on a frozen lake, spring for the studs.

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