Monday, December 7, 2015

Is it time for snow tires?

I received a press release from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) a week or so ago about the "All-new Mopar Winter Wheel Assemblies." Boy did that take me back. The gist of the release is that FCA will be offering winter wheel assemblies (wheels, tires with tire pressure monitoring sensors) for some vehicles. Imagine that snow tires mounted on steel wheels. That used to be the norm.

Back before all-season tires (that aren't really) most drivers in the snow-belt regions had at least two snow tires for winter. The smart (or those with more money) had four snow tires and those that could had their snow tires already mounted and balanced. It just made it so much easier, so easy in fact that dad could put the snow tires on the family station wagon all by himself.

Snow tires more or less replaced tire chains except in extreme conditions. Chains were a real pain to install and many people my age have heard tales of a broken link resulting in some serious body damage. Snow tires worked relatively well except maybe in icy conditions (Goodyear produced "The Ice Radial" for a bit but it didn't find a market).

Now it seems very few people mount snow tires putting their faith in all-season tires and front-wheel-drive. I consider myself a decent winter driver but I don't live where it snows. I have though and I would want a complete set of snow tires.

When I lived in Toronto, just before moving to California, I had an '89 5.0 Mustang. We'd had a couple of so-so snow storms and I was able to get back and forth to work without a problem. Then we had a real storm. I lived about ten miles from work - it took me over two hours to get to work. Those big old Goodyears just wouldn't bite. In fact at one point going up a very slight hill the only traction I got was from the sidewalls on the curb!

So I went out and bought four Michelin snow tires. The 5.0 was a little squirrely when the roads were bare (the tread tended to squirm) but when it snowed I could actually go.

My advice to anyone who lives where it snows is to buy snow tires - all four if you can - and have them mounted and balanced on extra rims. And for those of you with a FCA product head on over to your dealer and see if they have a set ready for you.

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