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PostPosted: 04 Jan 2011, 22:30 
Grand Poobah
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Joined: 18 Sep 2007, 11:26
Posts: 5793
Location: Buffalo, NY ... n-Michigan

o yourself, your loved ones and your insurance carrier a favor: Buy a set of snow tires.

A snowstorm paralyzed much of the Midwest on Sunday. The roof of the Minnesota Metrodome collapsed under the weight of snow. O’Hare Airport in Chicago is a no-fly zone. The only things whiter than the snow and ice on metro Detroit roads are the knuckles of drivers clinging to their steering wheels.

Me, I ran a few errands in a 556-horsepower, rear-wheel-drive Cadillac CTS-V station wagon with a six-speed manual transmission and supercharged V8 engine.

Conventional wisdom says the fast and powerful rear-drive car should have been an unguided missile on the slick roads. The CTS-V was a pussy cat, thanks to an outstanding set of Pirelli Sottozero snow tires and electronic stability control.

Tires are the most underappreciated contributors to the safety and performance of modern cars. Snow tires should be mandatory, but most people don’t give them a thought.

All vehicles have one thing in common: their only contact with the road comes through the tires. No matter how good your vehicle’s electronic traction assistance systems are, regardless if it’s front- rear- or all-wheel-drive, the tires are your first line of defense on slippery, dangerous days.

The four-wheel-drive pickup doing loops in front of me on I-696 needed snow tires. The front-wheel-drive sedan at the bottom of a Bloomfield ditch did, too. The Jeep Wrangler that sped past me on Woodward Ave. had them, in the form of knobby off-road rubber.

From rubber to tread design, everything on a snow tire is engineered for maximum grip on slippery surfaces in cold weather. All-season tires are a compromise. They work year-round, but they’re not ideal for either winter or summer driving.

Every major tire maker – Bridgestone, Cooper, Firestone, Goodyear, Hankook Michelin and Pirelli, to name a few – makes snow tires. The tires use special rubber formulae that get good grip and remain flexible at low temperatures. Their tread pattern is designed to compact and grip snow.

Snow tires are ideal in the winter months – in Michigan, let’s say from Thanksgiving through St. Patrick’s Day. After that you should switch to summer or all-season tires, because snow tires wear out quickly when driven on warm, dry roads.

I’d suggest putting your snow tires on cheap steel wheels rather than dressy chrome or alloy rims. Road salt isn’t great for shiny surfaces, and keeping your tires mounted all year is easier and less expensive than swapping them every few months. Your tire retailer may even store the spare set for you.

Buying a set of snow tires is an extra expense, but mothballing your other tires four months a year should lengthen their lives.

A good set of snow tires could also lengthen your vehicle’s life. Maybe your own, too.

Contact MARK PHELAN at or 33-222-6731.

Chloride and Sodium: Two terribly dangerous substances that taste great together!

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