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Are 4 Snow Tires Needed on a Front Wheel Drive Car

post #1 of 87
Thread Starter 
Planning to put good snow tires (Nokian or Bridgestone Blizzak) on our Corolla. I live in the midwest with city driving and occasional hwy, but no alpine.

Most of the tire websites warn that you should use a set of 4 and not just 2 for the front drive tires because the car will not handle safely. Have not used snow tires in 25 years but we only used two on the drive wheels and had no problems. Don't remember if they were radials.

Is there merit to this or is it sales propagand to sell 4 instead of 2 tires. Any advice appreciated.

Thanks,
Bluebear
post #2 of 87
use 4

particularly if you ever use the brake
post #3 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bluebear View Post
Planning to put good snow tires (Nokian or Bridgestone Blizzak) on our Corolla. I live in the midwest with city driving and occasional hwy, but no alpine.
Is there merit to this or is it sales propagand to sell 4 instead of 2 tires. Any advice appreciated.
nokian hak's are great (hakkapeliitta; used them in VT exclusively), and the siped version are great if you aren't allowed or don't want to use studs.

use 4 on a 2WD car, regardless of which wheels provide traction.
z0h
post #4 of 87
yes, they are needed unless you like going backwards a lot.

Check out Blizzak LM-22

you'll probably want an H-rated tire rather than a Q-rated since it sounds like you'll be driving on cleared roads at highway speeds much of the time.
post #5 of 87
Q speed rated tires are for speeds up to 99 mph, H speed rating good to 130 mph. These H rated tires give up some traction in deeper snow to have better handling feel on dry surfaces, just as the Q rated tires give up some dry road feel to provide better snow covered road traction. The difference is considerable, at least in the conditions my cars are used. So evatuate your needs and choose accordingly.

Four tires are needed under either setup.
post #6 of 87
4 snow tires if you like to go straight.

2 snow / 2 others if you like to go in circles.

That would be 4 of the SAME snow tires. No mixing and matching of tires. Most tires have a specific direction they must rotate these days too. I just had a garage install 3 of 4 going the right direction, so pay attention. Get yourself a second set of rims and just make a seasonal change-over twice yearly.

You can gets tons of good information and good deals here if you wish www.tirerack.com . (Be sure to enable cookies or that site won't work)
post #7 of 87
4. Like everyone else says. You might only have "2 wheel go" but you still to have "4 wheel stop"
post #8 of 87
You need four winter tires. Without the extra grip at the rear, it is too easy for the back end to come around, especially when you brake or take your foot off the gas and the engine brakes for you.
post #9 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ghost View Post
You need four winter tires. Without the extra grip at the rear, it is too easy for the back end to come around, especially when you brake or take your foot off the gas and the engine brakes for you.

Correct!
post #10 of 87
If you do just do 2 for whatever stupid reason, you want them on the rear.
post #11 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by karpiel View Post
If you do just do 2 for whatever stupid reason, you want them on the rear.
Yes stupid indeed, most front wheel drive cars understeer to begin with so two at the front only isn't very smart either.
post #12 of 87
I am comfortable with 2 Nokian hakkapeliitta in the front and 2 normal allseason tires on the rear on my 2003 Honda Accord. The tire sales folks always stress to me that it advised to put 4 snowtires on the car.

I have tested my car in a large parking lot a number of times under different snow conditions. During these test I intentionally put the car into a spin out / sideway slide and then correct for it to make the car go straight. It is good practice for me and gives me a good idea what the car can or can not do. I have done this every year for over 35 years on every car I have owned. Most of my cars and trucks over the years have been rear wheel drive with snow ties only on the rear BTW. I have had 4 Nokian snow tires on my honda accord the first couple of years.

Is 4 snow tires better than 2 snow times you may ask? Answer is yes. Is it worth the extra cost? I think that depends on your driving skills.

Does having a 4WD or AWD with extremely worn out all season tires make you safe? Absolutely not. Will you get stuck in the snow? probably not. Can you break an 4WD/AWD or negotiate a turn very well with 4 allseason tires that have very little tread left? Probably NOT. Then again when I walk through a parking lot I see 100s of 4WD/AWD cars with tires that are close to being illegal.

BTW I don't always wear a helmet when I ski.

I have also been in a situation where my TransAm would not makie it up a hill on a dark snowy night on a small county road with no other cars around. My TA would not only not make it up the hill but started sliding backwards down the hill and picking up speed fast. With no other recourse and and zero backward visibility I turned the front wheel and hit the breaks hard. The front end spun aound 180 degrees just like in the movies and now I was going forward down the hill with my headlights so I could see where the hell I was going. I eventually turned around and got a much better fast start, made it up the hill and got home.
post #13 of 87
It's good to know the limits of your car. Those limits will be much lower with two snow tires, than with 4. If you are prepared to live within those limits in order to save a few bucks, then go ahead. However you cannot always control every external factor. Just like skiing in gates is different from free skiing, driving on real roads in real traffic is different from parking lot fun and games.

Last month I saw many front wheel drive cars spun out as well as a multi-vehicle accident because there was a couple of inches of slush on top of the sheet of ice that covered the highway. You cannot always control what other drivers do, and may find yourself wishing for that extra traction when someone slides in front of you and blocks your way and instead of being able to swerve you have to "steer into the skid". I was glad I had a nice heavy car and four snow tires.

Common sense and conservative driving and leaving space can certainly better your odds; so can having 4 snows.

Front wheel drive cars have very little weight on the rear wheels and have engine braking on the front wheels that makes trailing throtle oversteer a bigger problem. It is much worse to have two snow tires on the front and summer tires on the rear with a front wheel drive car than two snows on the rear of a rear wheel drive car.
post #14 of 87
In the old days, RWD cars could get away with two snow tires at the rear (four would be advisable with modern winter tires), but with FWD you absolutely need four. If you only had two on the front, the rear end would come around whenever you braked the car in snow/ice, and hard braking on dry pavement would be unpredictable.
post #15 of 87
Way back in the day {late 1960's}, our family ski wagons were a series of Ford Country Squire's with the 7 litre V8. My dad was always careful about having quality snows on the rear, and tires with decent tread on the front. These were normal summer tires, before the days of "all season" tires. One fall, for kicks, I remember him deciding to try four snow tires. I was with him at the tire store when they tried to talk him out of it. He did it anyways, and was blown away with the difference in braking, as well as steering in real lousy weather. Typical engineer who had thought it through, I guess. My point is that most people back then ran snows on the rears of RWD cars because nobody suggested otherwise.

RWD, FWD, AWD, I'd recommend four matching tires, for all of the reasons already posted. Two on the front of a FWD car can be downright scary. I recall driving a friend's VW GTI with that set up in about 6" of snow, and being terrified when I first hit the brakes. Thought I had a frozen caliper, or worse. Got out of the car, and the problem was real obvious. Go with four.
post #16 of 87
An example of what a FWD car does when it has very little traction in the rear. Fun in a parking lot, better control than RWD with no traction, but I'm not sure I'd want to deal with it on a snowy road.
post #17 of 87
I always had 4 snows on my rear wheel drive cars.
People who only put them on the back only put them on because that was the minimum they could get away with without getting stuck, not for any safety reasons.
post #18 of 87
Thread Starter 
Wow! I get the message that 4 tires are much safer than 2. I didn't realize that breaking would be that compromised, but now it make perfect sense.

Thanks forum for the good advice.
Bluebear
post #19 of 87
Probably not the advice you want to hear but that said you could save alot of money by not buying any snow tires. Just leave earlier and drive a little less crazy and you can go almost anywhere in a FWD pending there's not more than around a foot and a half of fresh or boilerplate on the road your driving. If there's that much snow and/or ice on the road you most likely wouldn't be heading anywhere anyways.

Of course I have no idea what i'm talking about though. I've only worked and commuted (with a 2 door FWD Cavalier) in the mountains for the last few months and spent the other 25 years of my life in Florida. Even the day Loveland reported 14" and it was more like 2 feet I didn't have any problems over the pass or anything.
post #20 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by TheGnar View Post
Probably not the advice you want to hear but that said you could save alot of money by not buying any snow tires. Just leave earlier and drive a little less crazy and you can go almost anywhere in a FWD pending there's not more than around a foot and a half of fresh or boilerplate on the road your driving. If there's that much snow and/or ice on the road you most likely wouldn't be heading anywhere anyways.
There is something else to consider here though.

It may not be the depth of the snow that is the critical factor for the orig. poster. He lives in the mid-west where the common road conditions are much like black ice is in Colorado. There is a good bet that he is on ice more than snow. IF this is the case, at the very least he needs to have 4 of the same tires on the car be it all season or actual snows. To add two new snows to whatever would be on his vehicle now would probably be an accident waiting to happen.
post #21 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by Uncle Louie View Post
There is something else to consider here though.

It may not be the depth of the snow that is the critical factor for the orig. poster. He lives in the mid-west where the common road conditions are much like black ice is in Colorado. There is a good bet that he is on ice more than snow. IF this is the case, at the very least he needs to have 4 of the same tires on the car be it all season or actual snows. To add two new snows to whatever would be on his vehicle now would probably be an accident waiting to happen.
For frequent icy conditions (black ice) 4 Studded tires for sure. It may not matter what brand tire. Studs are studs. Although the Nokian hakkapeliitta are awesome tires when they have studs.
post #22 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by catskills View Post
For frequent icy conditions (black ice) 4 Studded tires for sure. It may not matter what brand tire. Studs are studs. Although the Nokian hakkapeliitta are awesome tires when they have studs.
Agreed, but I believe there are states that do not allow studs.
post #23 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by Uncle Louie View Post
There is something else to consider here though.

It may not be the depth of the snow that is the critical factor for the orig. poster. He lives in the mid-west where the common road conditions are much like black ice is in Colorado. There is a good bet that he is on ice more than snow. IF this is the case, at the very least he needs to have 4 of the same tires on the car be it all season or actual snows. To add two new snows to whatever would be on his vehicle now would probably be an accident waiting to happen.

Even if the roads are bone dry, the rubber in all-seasons will feel like glass in low temps.



Anyone here drive on Green Diamonds?
post #24 of 87
Mandatory by law here to have all 4 tyres of the same dimension and specs (unless the car has been specifically built and certified to operate with different tyres dimensions).
So, yes, even on a 2wd mount 4 snow tyres.
Also, if you've got a 4x4, you should mount chains on all four wheels...
Studs are allowed only form Nov 15th till Feb 15th and the car must be provided with the appropriate rubber mudflaps
post #25 of 87
We used to ahve a Honda Prelude which sucked in the snow until I put a couple of snow tires on the front. We had no issues with handling. The car was actually quite a good in the snow with the change in tires.

Yes it should handle better or more predictable with 4 of the same tire, but if you are a careful driver it shouldn't make a radical difference.
post #26 of 87
Are 4 Snow Tires Needed on a Front Wheel Drive Car?

Yes. Don't mix tires - you're asking for trouble.

This has been another in a series of simple answers to simple questions.
post #27 of 87
Karpiel is right:

If you must only have 2, put them on the rear. Your Corolla is engineered such that when it breaks traction it will understeer safely, rather than exhibiting the tendency to rotate uncontrollably.

It seems contrary to logic to put the grippiest tires on non-drive wheels, but having the grippy tires on the front will not result in a beautiful, gradual, correctable drift when you lose traction - instead, it will result in snap oversteer. As in, slide... slide... snap... and suddenly, you've done a 180 into oncoming traffic.

As a general rule, in a FWD car, if you start to oversteer, the instinct is to get off the gas... don't. Keep your foot in the throttle while using steering correction - in a FWD car, it'll help pull you out of the slide.

Catskills: you may have practiced in a parking lot, but knowing when you're going to slide is entirely different than losing traction unexpectedly - particularly when you touch a bit of ice. The front wheels may have some grip, but I can promise you, if ice is in play, you will not be able to save the slide. And you yourself said you used to put snows on the rear tires of your other cars - even though they were RWD, that was the correct thing to do.

I grew up in NH, I used to race formula SAE cars, and have many track days under my belt. If won't have 4 snows, put em on the rear. Also, it might not seem plausible, but the latest generation of snow tires(bridgestone blizzaks are just about the best) exhibit better acceleration and braking numbers than do studded snow tires - the tire technology is that good, so don't think you need studs.

Drive safe.
post #28 of 87
My wife's cousin is still talking about the time she had only two snow tires on the front of her Acura. She was in an icy intersection and her car started looping in circles.

After she changed her shorts she got two more winter tires installed.
Quote:
you could save alot of money by not buying any snow tires. Just leave earlier and drive a little less crazy and you can go almost anywhere in a FWD pending there's not more than around a foot and a half of fresh or boilerplate on the road your driving.
I've been in Summit County with a rental Pontiac G6 and so-called all-season Continental tires with about half their tread depth remaining. That car was scary-slippery on any ice or snow on the road. Mediocre car and terrible tires.
post #29 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by TheGnar View Post
you could save alot of money by not buying any snow tires.
If you keep your car long enough to go through a set of tires it's no more expensive in the long run to switch out to snow tires in the winter. You're giving your summer tires a four month break every year so they'll last longer before they need to be replaced.

That, plus "all season" tires are just plain useless in the snow. Useless like snowblades-in-deep-powder useless.
post #30 of 87
its really depends I have run 2 before and since the front wheels on FWD do almost everything. even braking.

its will be alittel bit oversteery but that could be a good thing sometimes as long as you know to stay on the gas in the middle of a turn.

lastly in thresdhold braking on any surface 100 percent of the braking force is on the front wheels. the rear wheel dont do anythings.
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