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This is a discussion on Which winter tires? within the Suspension & Wheels forums, part of the Tech & Modifying & General Repairs category; Hello everyone! I bought a new WRX this year and as winter approaches I have been agonizing over which tires ...

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    Question Which winter tires?

    Hello everyone!

    I bought a new WRX this year and as winter approaches I have been agonizing over which tires to choose. I live in Michigan, so I definitely need tires that can handle snow. I am debating between ordering winter tires and all season tires, here is what I am looking at:

    Winter: Dunlop SP Winter Sport 3d

    DunlopSP Winter Sport 3D

    All season: Continental ExtremeContact DWS

    ContinentalExtremeContact DWS

    Both of these tires seem to have great reviews. I was hoping to receive some personal insights, pros and cons and/or recommendations in order to get this straightened out. I want tires that will handle potentially rough winter conditions well, especially light/packed snow and slush. I had some scary moments in my old car the last couple of winters and I am hoping for something rock solid.

    That said, I am trying to figure out what I will be giving up either way. If I go with the winter tires, they are more expensive and it seems I will give up dry performance and responsiveness. If I go with the all seasons, I will save some money but I will lose performance in bad weather. I'm going to drive a lot of miles and I am hoping that I can depend on my car to perform well both when it is clear out and when every third car is spun out into a ditch.

    Thanks everyone!

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    Lando Calrissian DemonWRX's Avatar
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    Go with snow tires. And I don't mean winter performance tires either....snow tires.

    Being that you are in Michigan, you have the potential for heavy and/or frequint ****ty weather.....

    All season tires are the 'good-nuf' solution....they are not great at any thing, but good enough in most conditions with responsible driving. They do not grip as well in hot as summers, in cold as winters, or in snow as snow tires. These are more for people who do not want 2 sets of tires....they want to just have tires and keep them till new ones are needed.

    Winter Performance tires are more for someone living in an area that is mostly dry or rainy, but cold in the winter with little to no snow. For example, Texas. These give great dry and wet performance below 40 degrees, and can handle occational limited snow.

    Snow tires are just that...winter tires made for snow. Now, granted, they are not really performance oriented, but most will handle short jogs upto 100-120mph. Be careful though, they are not grippy like summers are in summer. These are more to make sure you stay on the road and can stop when there is snow on the ground. New car, lets keep it in one piece. And lets be honest, you are not likely going to drive hard in the winter regularly, especially if there is bad weather.

    Quick side note.....if you are likely to deal with ice regularly, you might want to look into studded snow tires. nothing better for ice.

    Both of the tires you list above are winter performance tires....not snow tires. Below are my personal recomendations for snow tires.....one is cheap and very very good, the other is rather pricey, but the zenith of snow tires.

    General tire Altimax Arctic - great winter and snow tire on a budget. They are studless, but can have studs added, about $140 a tire

    Nokian Hekkapalitta - (Hekkapalitta 7 for studded, Hekkapalitta R non studded) Just about the best snow tire on the market. They are pricey though, about $250 each.
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    Lando Calrissian DemonWRX's Avatar
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    Oh....1 more tip....

    Get a smaller set of 16"x7"wheels for winter. For example, get an old used set of Legacy GT wheels circa 2000-2003. You can also look for 16x7 steel wheels. Both these will fit your car without issue, can normally be gotten cheap, and the tires will cost less in the smaller wheel size.....not to mention you will not beat up your nice OE wheels with salt and winter hazards.

    Here is a thread showing what the Legacy GT wheels look like, and how to paint them if you wanted to...

    LGT Snowflakes
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    I put on Nokian Hakkapeliitta R (215-55-R16) on black steel rims. Dropped down on the rim size!

    They were pretty expensive but worth every penny! Today we got somewhere between 15 and 20 cm's of snow in Calgary and they performed very well in the snow in the morning, and great on the ice / slush in the evening!

    Good luck with your decision!


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    Lando Calrissian DemonWRX's Avatar
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    I just checked out the General Altimax Arctics I suggested above.....if you go with the normal winter size for our cars, 215/55R16, they are only $102 a pop....that is like $200 less per set than I remember!
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    Lando Calrissian DemonWRX's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by michael_raz View Post
    I put on Nokian Hakkapeliitta R (215-55-R16) on black steel rims. Dropped down on the rim size!

    They were pretty expensive but worth every penny! Today we got somewhere between 15 and 20 cm's of snow in Calgary and they performed very well in the snow in the morning, and great on the ice / slush in the evening!

    Good luck with your decision!
    I'm running those too on LGT snowflakes.....great tire in cold with bad conditions!
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    Quote Originally Posted by DemonWRX View Post
    Go with snow tires. And I don't mean winter performance tires either....snow tires.

    Being that you are in Michigan, you have the potential for heavy and/or frequint ****ty weather.....

    All season tires are the 'good-nuf' solution....they are not great at any thing, but good enough in most conditions with responsible driving. They do not grip as well in hot as summers, in cold as winters, or in snow as snow tires. These are more for people who do not want 2 sets of tires....they want to just have tires and keep them till new ones are needed.

    Winter Performance tires are more for someone living in an area that is mostly dry or rainy, but cold in the winter with little to no snow. For example, Texas. These give great dry and wet performance below 40 degrees, and can handle occational limited snow.

    Snow tires are just that...winter tires made for snow. Now, granted, they are not really performance oriented, but most will handle short jogs upto 100-120mph. Be careful though, they are not grippy like summers are in summer. These are more to make sure you stay on the road and can stop when there is snow on the ground. New car, lets keep it in one piece. And lets be honest, you are not likely going to drive hard in the winter regularly, especially if there is bad weather.

    Quick side note.....if you are likely to deal with ice regularly, you might want to look into studded snow tires. nothing better for ice.

    Both of the tires you list above are winter performance tires....not snow tires. Below are my personal recomendations for snow tires.....one is cheap and very very good, the other is rather pricey, but the zenith of snow tires.

    General tire Altimax Arctic - great winter and snow tire on a budget. They are studless, but can have studs added, about $140 a tire

    Nokian Hekkapalitta - (Hekkapalitta 7 for studded, Hekkapalitta R non studded) Just about the best snow tire on the market. They are pricey though, about $250 each.
    First of all, I'd like to say Yeah Beastie! I haven't tried any of the newer releases but FreeBSD was my favorite *nix when I was using them on a daily basis.

    Second, thank you for all of that great information. The Altimax Arctics sound really promising... If I choose this tire, am I sacrificing some dry performance that I would get with the winter sports for better snow/ice performance? That could be a good trade, as long as the traction is still sufficient to take off hard from a stop without lots of wheelspin when it is dry. I can live with giving up a bit of cornering performance, since there are depressingly few opportunities to use this in Michigan during the warm seasons, let alone the winter.

    Even better is that the tire is a lot cheaper while being the same size. It sounds like I can get superior winter performance for less money with the Altimax Arctics and all I am really giving up is dry performance. Does that sound about right? Any other tires that I should consider?

    I think the Nokian tires are out of my budget right now, but they sound awesome! I think what the winter sports are going for is about the most I could spend on tires right now. I've also heard about dropping down in rim size as both of you mention, but I was concerned about altering the suspension geometry and affecting handling when it is dry out, is that a concern? Also, putting together 16" tires with wheels is about $100 more expensive than just 17" wheels on tirerack... And then there are hassles with TPMS to deal with. Unless I am misunderstanding an advantage of smaller tires (significantly better snow performance?) it doesn't seem worthwhile to me vs just buying 17" wheels.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DemonWRX View Post


    I just checked out the General Altimax Arctics I suggested above.....if you go with the normal winter size for our cars, 215/55R16, they are only $102 a pop....that is like $200 less per set than I remember!
    Yeah I was shocked too! You may have just saved me a lot of money with that suggestion, thanks!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ikana View Post
    I think the Nokian tires are out of my budget right now, but they sound awesome! I think what the winter sports are going for is about the most I could spend on tires right now. I've also heard about dropping down in rim size as both of you mention, but I was concerned about altering the suspension geometry and affecting handling when it is dry out, is that a concern? Also, putting together 16" tires with wheels is about $100 more expensive than just 17" wheels on tirerack... And then there are hassles with TPMS to deal with. Unless I am misunderstanding an advantage of smaller tires (significantly better snow performance?) it doesn't seem worthwhile to me vs just buying 17" wheels.
    If you go 215-55-16, the diameter is almost identical (there's a great calculator / comparison tool on mazda's website I think), I'm not sure you would have any suspension issues whatsoever .. But I'm a newb, take it with a grain of salt!

    More sidewall is apparently better for the winter driving conditions. Also a narrower tire so you're not plowing snow so much as you are "cutting" through it. I'm not sure how much better 20mm's smaller will be, but still!

    I didn't go with TPMS sensors on the winters. My plan is to check the pressure (and adjust where necessary) as the temperature drops. Also, my winters have been on for 2 weeks now and I havent seen the TPMS warning light come on once.

    Good luck!


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    Quote Originally Posted by Ikana View Post
    First of all, I'd like to say Yeah Beastie! I haven't tried any of the newer releases but FreeBSD was my favorite *nix when I was using them on a daily basis.
    Yeah, I love FreeBSD....I work on Unix and Linux servers and far prefer BSD. I also have a FreeBSD build at home for PC use.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ikana View Post
    Second, thank you for all of that great information. The Altimax Arctics sound really promising... If I choose this tire, am I sacrificing some dry performance that I would get with the winter sports for better snow/ice performance? That could be a good trade, as long as the traction is still sufficient to take off hard from a stop without lots of wheelspin when it is dry. I can live with giving up a bit of cornering performance, since there are depressingly few opportunities to use this in Michigan during the warm seasons, let alone the winter.

    Even better is that the tire is a lot cheaper while being the same size. It sounds like I can get superior winter performance for less money with the Altimax Arctics and all I am really giving up is dry performance. Does that sound about right? Any other tires that I should consider?
    You have the basic idea, yes. The snow tires will have slightly less traction in accelerating, braking, and cornering on dry than winter performance, but far greater snow handling. You can still accelerate hard with them with two caveats... (this goes for winter performance tires as well, though they might get you a few more degrees, like say 54 rather than 50)

    *In temps above 50 degrees expect traction to drop off, so slower starts, and longer distances to stop.
    *Under hard accel through 1st and 2nd, you might notice the rears loose traction when you shift. This would depend on your mods likely, I noticed this, but I am stage 2 currently.


    Quote Originally Posted by Ikana View Post
    I think the Nokian tires are out of my budget right now, but they sound awesome! I think what the winter sports are going for is about the most I could spend on tires right now. I've also heard about dropping down in rim size as both of you mention, but I was concerned about altering the suspension geometry and affecting handling when it is dry out, is that a concern? Also, putting together 16" tires with wheels is about $100 more expensive than just 17" wheels on tirerack... And then there are hassles with TPMS to deal with. Unless I am misunderstanding an advantage of smaller tires (significantly better snow performance?) it doesn't seem worthwhile to me vs just buying 17" wheels.
    Quote Originally Posted by michael_raz View Post
    If you go 215-55-16, the diameter is almost identical (there's a great calculator / comparison tool on mazda's website I think), I'm not sure you would have any suspension issues whatsoever .. But I'm a newb, take it with a grain of salt!

    More sidewall is apparently better for the winter driving conditions. Also a narrower tire so you're not plowing snow so much as you are "cutting" through it. I'm not sure how much better 20mm's smaller will be, but still!
    Correct. 235/45R17 is the same outside circumference as 215/55R16. This means that the tires are exactly the same hieght, and there is no suspension or alignment issues. The 20mm thinner tire will help a good deal with cutting through the snow and slush, aprticularly at speeds over 25mph. The taller side wall will have a few effects... First, more comfortable as it will absorb more of the road bumps ( this includes pot-holes and hard-pack snow piles in the road). Second, they will be quieter than low profile tires of the same compound and tread would be.

    And that tire size calc is here: Tire size calculator

    If you want to go to smaller wheels for winter, search the forums and craigslist for 16x6.5 - 16x7 wheels with 5x100 bolt pattern. If I remember correctly, every old Subaru Legacy or Impreza wheel from about 98 through like 06 will be that size, as will many VW Jetta and Bug steelies. You can likely find something in your area for $50-$75 a wheel...or you can get the cheapest wheels from a place like tirerack for about $90 each, and they will come with the tires mounted (when placing the order, act like you have a 2002 WRX, that is the only wayt o get the 16" wheel selection)


    Quote Originally Posted by michael_raz View Post
    I didn't go with TPMS sensors on the winters. My plan is to check the pressure (and adjust where necessary) as the temperature drops. Also, my winters have been on for 2 weeks now and I havent seen the TPMS warning light come on once.
    If you switched wheels, and your TPMS light is not on, then you got new TPMS sensors in the new wheels or the tire guy removed the sensors from the stockers and moved them. As far as I know, there is no way to disable the TPMS light without sensors in the wheels. Just the way it is.

    Some people choose to not get sensors and just deal with the idiot light all winter. Many shops in the US will balk at the idea of not having sensors in the winter wheels as the US DOT requires all new cars to have them now, and disabling them is 'breaking the law' as it is removing safety equipment from the car.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ikana
    If I choose this tire, am I sacrificing some dry performance that I would get with the winter sports for better snow/ice performance? That could be a good trade, as long as the traction is still sufficient to take off hard from a stop without lots of wheelspin when it is dry. I can live with giving up a bit of cornering performance, since there are depressingly few opportunities to use this in Michigan during the warm seasons, let alone the winter.
    Driven in proper winter temps and tread depth, you shouldn't have wheelspin from a stop using any snow tires.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ikana
    Even better is that the tire is a lot cheaper while being the same size. It sounds like I can get superior winter performance for less money with the Altimax Arctics and all I am really giving up is dry performance. Does that sound about right? Any other tires that I should consider?
    When it comes to tires, I typically break things down into categories. Winter tires are no different...
    Budget: General Altimax Arctic
    Mid-range: Continental ExtremeWinterContact / Michelin X-Ice
    Performance: Dunlop WinterSport 3D
    Baller: Nokian Hakkapeliitta

    Quote Originally Posted by Ikana
    I think the Nokian tires are out of my budget right now, but they sound awesome! I think what the winter sports are going for is about the most I could spend on tires right now. I've also heard about dropping down in rim size as both of you mention, but I was concerned about altering the suspension geometry and affecting handling when it is dry out, is that a concern? Also, putting together 16" tires with wheels is about $100 more expensive than just 17" wheels on tirerack... And then there are hassles with TPMS to deal with. Unless I am misunderstanding an advantage of smaller tires (significantly better snow performance?) it doesn't seem worthwhile to me vs just buying 17" wheels.
    You won't really affect suspension geometry by altering tire size, but it will affect the speedometer (as said, a tire size calculator will help you choose a proper size to keep this minimal). Cornering speed may be affected both by the compound used and if you go with a narrower tire (less contact patch). For me, this isn't a concern, because once it gets crappy out, I'm not concerned with tire-squeal cornering (plus, I run studded tires, which hurts dry traction).
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    I will add this to DemonWRX's post. Someone I know used Blizzak WS70's with CC at 103 for about an hour and a half in under 45* temps and they are toast after the return trip averaging 85-90. Granted the already had about a good amount of miles on them so they were no good for another season anyway.

    The main point is, even though the tires are rated for 115 or 130 winter tires will wear FAST at high speeds. Always drive at speeds at or under the posted limit and reasonable for conditions, i.e. you can stop before hitting whats in front of you. The person I know who did this was driving recklessly and I do not condone this sort of driving or endangering yourself/others on public roads by any means nor does this forum.

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    I had the dunlops on 2 different cars, volvo s40 t5 - infiniti g35x and loved them, worked fairly well on dry and very good in the snow. I live in CT and probably dont get as much snow during a regular winter as you do there although, 2 years ago we got pounded weekly and the dunlops were awesome. Unfortunately we had an early Oct snow storm last year and the dunlops were sold out before I could get a set for my wrx, landed up buying blizzak lm60

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    Quote Originally Posted by DemonWRX View Post
    If you switched wheels, and your TPMS light is not on, then you got new TPMS sensors in the new wheels or the tire guy removed the sensors from the stockers and moved them. As far as I know, there is no way to disable the TPMS light without sensors in the wheels. Just the way it is.

    Some people choose to not get sensors and just deal with the idiot light all winter. Many shops in the US will balk at the idea of not having sensors in the winter wheels as the US DOT requires all new cars to have them now, and disabling them is 'breaking the law' as it is removing safety equipment from the car.
    This is borderline a thread hijack I think.. Apologies.

    The only place that sells Nokian in Calgary that I can find is Kal Tire. But they claimed to have a rule about not letting any vehicle that comes in to their shop leave "less" safe. So I brought a different vehicle, and had them only mount and balance my tires on the steels, and left in the vehicle I came with no less safe . I mounted them on the WRX myself in my garage.

    The only options for why I see no sensor warning light would seem to be:
    1. The TPMS in the car is not working.
    2. KT gave me sensors for free and somehow they're just working. (seems far fetched)
    3. My original sensors are stored 5 feet from my car, so when I start it, they are detected and the car is fine with that for the rest of the day .. (also seems far fetched)

    Thoughts?


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    Quote Originally Posted by michael_raz View Post
    The only options for why I see no sensor warning light would seem to be:
    1. The TPMS in the car is not working.
    2. KT gave me sensors for free and somehow they're just working. (seems far fetched)
    3. My original sensors are stored 5 feet from my car, so when I start it, they are detected and the car is fine with that for the rest of the day .. (also seems far fetched)
    1. Could be. I am not sure if they are required in Canada like they are in the US. Though I would expect them to fail to the light, not fail with no light.
    2. Unless the 12 has different TPMS than 08-11 this is not possible.
    3. Not likely....many people tried this last winter and it was not a fix.

    TPMS sensors have access codes that identify each individual one, almost like a MAC address, similar to how most wireless comunications work, though less complex. The Subaru TPMS system can store 4 codes in it, one for each wheel, and has to be manually calibrated for the sensors being used. Some other makes can store 8 codes, allowing for two sets of wheels with no lights, and some have a reset process that will make the car sent a signal out to look for new sensors when you change wheels. Those of us with 2 sets of wheels have to have the system manually configured when we change wheels. Subarus do not 'auto detect' for some retarded reason. Normally the light comes on within a few miles of changing the wheels. To turn the light off, you either have to manuallly reset it with a device that plugs into the OBDII, or you need the wheels that have the correct sensors installed put back on, and have to travel a few miles at over 20mph.
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