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Let's Talk Long-Haul Tires

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

Inspired by Philpug's thread, but not wanting to hijack it...

I drive 225 miles to ski in Tahoe.  Of those, 50 might be in snow.  I drive a front-wheel-drive mini-van.  I'm really not sure if snow tires make sense for me.  I live in the San Francisco Bay area, where temperatures rarely ever get cold.  My route is basically I-80, where it's usually not very winter-like until the mountains.  At that point, if there's snow, there will be plows and chain control.

So far, I've been pretty happy with my all-season tires (Yokohama AVID TRZ) and Spikes Spiders.  I'm just wondering if I've just been lucky and I should do something better.  We make about a dozen trips each season.

I fear that if I use winter tires (such as Michelin X-Ice), I'll be less safe around town and on the first 175 miles of my trip.  For instance, I've been very impressed with the hydroplane resistance of the AVIDs.  Also, I think snows would wear down really fast, too.

I assume that once I've got the Spikes Spiders on, it doesn't matter too much what tires I've got underneath.  I really like the positive feeling of metal on the drive/steering/braking wheels when needed.

So, the question is:  Do I need to fill in the gap between three-season conditions and chains?  When I lived in NY, this was not so tricky, but in CA...

Finally, if I did get some snow tires, should I minus-size them?  I've got a 2004 Honda Odyssey, which normally runs 225/60R16 tires.  I could go for 205/65R16 and keep the diameter close.  As I understand it, the narrower tires would be better in snow.  The sidewalls would be almost the same height.  Still, I'd have to expect dry/wet performance at highway speeds to be less safe.

I know there are many knowledgeable folks here.  Please post whatever advice/experience you can.  Thanks in advance.

post #2 of 10

The Spikes Spiders / chains are sort of a different topic, IMO. You're going to be required to put them on at the chain check even if you have snow tires. I've had a similar, but AWD version of that car since 2001. I live in the Bay and drive to Tahoe almost every weekend. Before '01, I had a Nissan Quest minivan with summer tires and Blizzaks for the winter. I've also driven the route with AWD and all-seasons. For my Pilot, I have two sets of wheels - one with summer tires, one with winter.

 

First off, you won't lose anything by having winter tires in the Bay from December-April. If anything, you'll appreciate the added wet traction on rainy days. Plus, your drive until you hit Auburn is a joke. It is straight and flat. The important part comes when the road tilts up (and even more important, back down at Donner Pass) and gets snowy. The difference between all seasons and snows is astounding. Especially as you get further along in the life of your all seasons. Based on my experience with the Nissan and snows, you'll be able to safely remove the spike spiders as soon as you pass chain check, if you're so inclined. But more important, you won't have to take the spiders on and off as you drive around Truckee/TC and then up the hill to whichever resort. Just stick to the snows. I recall very clearly one night along 89 in my Nissan when I watched 4 SUVs crash into one another while I came to a comfortable, controlled stop on the snow/ice. Same story descending Northwoods in Tahoe Donner watching 4WDs skid into the ditch while I tracked straight and slowed easily.

 

Another consideration. Based on my experience with an Acura MDX and now a Honda Pilot over the past 10 years and 250K+ miles - mostly driven between here and Tahoe - having two sets of wheels/tires actually lets me extend the life of both sets of tires. Since it literally never rains here all summer, when a set of tires gets toward the end of their life, I just use them all summer to finish them off. I've done this with winter tires that were finished as snows and I just left them on all summer to wear them out. And my all-seasons (summer tires) can be used well past when I'd have to replace them if I were going to try to safely drive with them in snow. In those 10 years, I've been through just over 6 sets of tires total. That's over 40K on each set of tires. I'd never be able to do that if I were trying to milk a winter out of a set of all seasons.

 

I know I'm an exception in the bay area. I drive a lot of miles and a lot of them are in Tahoe or on the way to/from there. The initial investment in a 2nd set of wheels and snows for my car(s) was significant. But the safety and peace of mind that I get from them is invaluable. Plus, in the long run I get added mileage from all my tires so I probably come out even.

 

Don't get me started on how stupid it is to require chains on a vehicle that has good snows, but that's not your question. I was just the other day thinking that a FWD car with snows would be perfectly fine for Tahoe. Just get a set of spike spiders that have worn off most of the arms. Caltrans would see the spike spider arms, not realize they're completely worn out, and let you through the chain check. Off you go with the benefits of snow tires and no downside of the stupid slow bumpy ride of spike spiders / chains.

 

Oh, and you can order a set of tires/wheels from TireRack. But you could also check Craigslist for a set of wheels to fit your van (I bet that Pilot/MDX wheels from certain years would fit) and order winter tires at Costco. I'm off to Costco next week to order my Michelins.

post #3 of 10

Perhaps you should consider winter performance tires. They handle more like regular tires on dry pavement but give good snow traction for that final 50 miles in the mountains.

post #4 of 10

I run two sets of tires on my '07 Nissan Quest - the Avid TRZ's in summer (about four months) and winter tires for the rest of the season as it snows consistently from early Oct to end of May where I live.  The TRZ's use a four season silica compound so they shouldn't be freezing up on you (this is a better compound than the much maligned "all season", which I think as typically used here is really slang for a 'HT' designation), but the tread design is pretty weak for anything but light/occasional snow.  As pointed out above, the larger lug void and siping of a winter tire will outperform your typical minivan tire in rain.

 

My snow tires (currently Hankook iPike due to direct size fit) outperform the TRZ's on dry pavement at 80 mph, so I wouldn't worry about a perceived loss of safety, either.  Many winter tires have some version of an 'arrowhead' tread design, which is a performance directional tread pattern.

 

Having said this, if you know that you will only see snow when you ski and you are forced to chain up in the mountains anyway, then your TRZ's + Spiders may be just the ticket, i.e. a second set of winter tires is filling an awfully narrow gap for quite a bit of coin.

 

 

 

 

 

post #5 of 10

Spikes Spiders cost over $600! For that you could get snow tires and chains, and with any luck you might never have to chain up.  

If you are frequently driving to the mountains, especially if you are with your family, winter tires are well worth the expense.  For me, chances are I'll keep my car long enough that I'll need to buy tires anyway, so one pair might as well be snows.  They work fine on dry pavement, and if you get narrow ones and run higher pressure, they hydroplane less than summer tires.  

Last year I helped a guy who slid his car off the road on Appalachian Gap.  It was really nothing, but he was with his wife and kids.  He didn't get laid that night, and I bet he spent more in the jewelry store than I ever did in the tire store.

 

BK 

 

 

post #6 of 10
Thread Starter 

Thanks for all the opinions so far.

 

Any feedback on the minus-sizing question?  Prices are similar.  It probably depends on performance in non-winter conditions.  The narrower ones would lower the max load a bit, but I'm not sure if it matters.  What happens to braking/handling at 70 degrees with a 10mm narrower winter tire?

 

I looked at perfomance tires, but the pickings in my sizes looked slim.  The reviews on the X-Ice Xi2 suggest they're already pretty close to all-season mini-van tires at sane speeds.

 

As for the Spikes Spiders, you can get them for $480 at Amazon.  Anyway, I bought them after a number of harrowing experiences with chains.  I would not go back willingly.  In the long run, the SS may be cheaper.  In my experience, chains don't last much longer than 100 miles.  At $50 per set, that can add up.  I've probaly got 500 miles on the SS and they still look good.  Any extra expense is easily justified for safety.

 

Anyway, in California, with a front-wheel-drive, one needs to have chains or the equivalent mounted on the drive wheels to get past the chain checkpoints.  To then immediately take them off would be legally risky and possibly unsafe.  Given that I have to buy something, I'm hesitant to buy any more chains if I can avoid it.

post #7 of 10

Spikes Spiders kick butt! I found a pair last year on CL for my son's Volvo just in case he has to take it to Tahoe. The speed/cleanliness benefits in mounting them outweigh everything IMO. My point though was that once you get to Truckee and take them off, you won't have to bother with putting them back on just to get up the access road to Alpine Meadows or up the hill in Tahoe Donner or over the Brockway pass. The only time you're going to want to put them back on is the next time you have to go through chain check.

 

The skinnier tires won't noticeably affect your stopping on dry, and in the wet, the extra sipes in a snow tires should actually improve stopping distance, regardless of temperature.

post #8 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by Xela View Post

Any feedback on the minus-sizing question?  Prices are similar.  It probably depends on performance in non-winter conditions.  The narrower ones would lower the max load a bit, but I'm not sure if it matters.  What happens to braking/handling at 70 degrees with a 10mm narrower winter tire?


The idea of a narrower tire is that you have more pressure on the tread contact patch, so more bite and so more grip.  On a compact car with a serious weight bias over the front axle, this may be worth evaluating, but on a 2.5 ton minivan that has a lot of weight well behind the front axle...and it only gets worse when you load up all the passengers and gear...10mm of tread width isn't going to matter.  You will still have a relatively large tire with a high load range.

 

I would not minus size for any perceived traction advantage on an Odyssey - I would get exactly the same size as came on your van unless that size isn't available in the tire you want (I minus sized a Hakka Q simply because the tire was available in 215 rather than 225 I needed.  There is no reason to perfume the pig - I would guess that you drive a van for a reason rather than a SUV and you have done the right thing with the Spiders.  

 

All tires have a pretty big problem of being smooth and round once it gets icy, and your traction device already solves that problem...

 

 

 

 

 

 

post #9 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bode Klammer View Post

Last year I helped a guy who slid his car off the road on Appalachian Gap.  It was really nothing, but he was with his wife and kids.  He didn't get laid that night, and I bet he spent more in the jewelry store than I ever did in the tire store.

 

BK 

 

 

I keep laughing when I hear this story, because of the assumption that it was the tires that drove him off the road rather than his wife and/or kids (something to do with that lack of getting laid)  devil.gif
 

 

post #10 of 10
Thread Starter 

Update:  I just pulled the trigger on a set of Altimax Arctics from Tire Rack.  I got them on some cheap steel wheels.  Total price shipped is probably less than the cost of repainting a bumper.  Should arrive in early December if all goes well.

 

I decided against the X-Ice because of low ratings for slush/wet performance and hydroplaning.

 

I'm sticking with the 225/60R16 size that's OEM for my Odyssey.  For the 175 miles that don't get snow, and for around town, I think that's safest.

 

Now, in terms of getting laid, when my wife sees the credit card bill, it may all be a wash.

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