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Studded vs Unstudded Winter Tires

Here in Alberta we are no stranger to driving in the snow and ice. Did you know more than 65% of the country receives snowfall for more than 6 months of the year, studded 20 tires according to Environment Canada? With winter conditions lasting that long, it's no wonder winter tires are so important.

But then there are different options, like studded and unstudded tires. What exactly is the difference, and should you be getting the studded option.

Studded Tires

Studded tires are winter tires that are designed to have up to 100 metal studs embedded into each tire. They don't protrude very far out of the tire's surface, only about 1/32 of an inch, but under the weight of your vehicle, each stud acts like a tiny pickaxe on an icy surface. Because of this, studded tires can provide the superior grip and braking capabilities in certain situations.

When to get Studded Tires

There are three weather conditions that are best suited for studded tires. They are:

  • Ice - Icy roads in particular are where studded tires really shine. They can break through layers of ice on the road to deliver superior grip and traction that far exceeds anything a set of winter tires can provide.
  • Heavy, hard-packed snow - In light snow or wet conditions, the benefits of studded tires are more marginal and can sometimes even result in reduced traction. Studded tires are designed for the deep and packed stuff, if you are driving on cleared roads they won't make much of a difference from a regular winter tire.
  • Long, consistently harsh winters -- This doesn't just mean cold. If you live in a place with an unpredictable autumn and spring season, regular winter tires may be the right route. Regular winter and snow tires can be mounted earlier in fall and stay on longer in spring to account for the unpredictable weather. A winter tire will perform best in all road conditions when the temps are below 7 degrees Celsius whereas studded tires should be only driven on in winter road conditions.

This sounds a lot like the Alberta we know. Icy roads? Check! Heavy, hard packed snow? Check! Harsh winters? Double check!

But there is a bit more.

Where do You Drive?

Do you live outside of a major city or larger town? Do you regularly find yourself driving on less-travelled roads, ones that aren't always fully paved, plowed, or salted? Then studded tires may be something you want to consider. If most of your driving is on major highways or roads that are regularly cleared, studded tires might not be worth it, as you won't get the extra traction you are looking for.

Are Studded Tires Legal in Alberta?

In Alberta, studded winter tires are permitted in the winter, without restrictions or set dates for use. However, each province has their own rules for winter and studded tires. In British Columbia, for example, winter tires are required by law, and studded tires can only be used on BC highways Oct. 1 -- April 30. It is important to do a bit of research before you travel with studded winter tires.

Regardless of whether you choose studded or studless tires, our experts at the Quick Lane Tire and Auto Center can help you find the perfect tire to fit your needs and budget.

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