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Get ready for (next) winter!

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Get ready for (next) winter!

If only Punxsutawney Phil could predict how many winter tires you need to order for the 2015-2016 winter season. The famous Pennsylvania groundhog saw his shadow on Feb. 2, foreshadowing six more weeks of winter, according to the legend. And, just like last year, he was spot on.

Whether or not you put your faith in sources such as Groundhog Day or the Farmers’ Almanac, it is time to prepare for next winter. So as the snow in your area begins to melt (or not), Modern Tire Dealer wants to help you with inventory management.

We have compiled a comprehensive list of the winter tires available to you in the U.S. and/or Canada (see page 28). They are divided into four categories: Premium, Value, Performance Winter and Dedicated LT-metric.

At the recent launch of two winter tires in Big Sky, Mont., Joe Maher, product manager for passenger and winter tires for Continental Tire the Americas LLC, said the new Continental WinterContactSI belongs in the Premium category.

“It’s studless. That’s the common attribute of a Premium winter tire, and it’s really focused on snow and ice traction, especially extremely cold temperatures, so the compound stays pliable.”

He listed the Michelin X-Ice Xi3, Bridgestone Blizzak WS80 and Nokian Hakkapeliitta R2 as additional examples of Premium category tires.

The other new tire, the General Grabber Arctic LT, fits in the Dedicated LT-metric category. Maher said these tires have extra load-carrying capacity in addition to the requisite winter capabilities, “while maintaining handling in wet and dry conditions.”

The Dedicated LT-metric winter tires category is very narrow. However, some of the manufacturers place tires in that category even if they offer both LT and P-metric sizes.

Barry Terzaken, Continental’s light truck product manager, said the Grabber Arctic LT competes against the Firestone Winterforce LT, Goodyear Ultra Grip Ice WRT LT, Cooper Discoverer M+S, Toyo Open Country WLT1, Hankook I*Pike RW11 and BFGoodrich Commercial T/A Traction.

Value and performance

“Studdable tires are most commonly value tires in the U.S.,” said Maher. “They are studdable, so they usually have an aggressive pattern for snow, and the studs make them an excellent ice tire.”

When asked to classify their tire offerings into the four categories, many manufacturers had trouble with overlapping. For example, Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. places its Weather-Master WSC in the studdable category. However, because of its ice and wet traction properties and “exceptional snow traction,” the company classifies it as a “premium studdable winter tire.” Cooper classifies the Cooper Weather-Master S/T2 as its value, studdable winter tire.

Some manufacturers place the same tire in both the Performance Winter and Premium categories.

“Typically, Performance Winter tires have some OE affiliation,” said Maher. “When Mercedes and BMW (come OE) with summer tires on their cars, which is very common in Europe, they will approve a winter tire for that vehicle. It’s a more balanced performance of dry, wet and snow.”

Maher added that Performance Winter tires are better than all-season tires in the winter, “but not as good in ice and snow as a studless tire.”

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More than four?

For ease of use, we separated the winter tire offerings into four categories, the first three of which have been around for a long time. However, not all the winter tire manufacturers had an easy time of it.

In addition to overlapping, some felt there should be additional segments or, at the very least, sub-segments. Nokian Tyres North America, a subsidiary of Nokian Tyres plc, has a series of van and cargo winter tires. Cooper classifies two of its tires as all-terrain winter tires (see sidebar).

Tire manufacturers such as Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. have run-flat versions of some of their winter tires; the Eagle Ultra Grip GW-3 RunOnFlat and Eagle Ultra Grip Performance 2 RunOnFlat are two examples.

Regardless where they are placed, the winter tires in our chart are available for order from the tire manufacturers listed. And they are anxious to plan their plant production for the 2015-2016 winter season. Punxsutawney Phil can only tell them so much.   ■

All-terrain snowflaked

Cooper defines a winter tire segment

Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. places its Discoverer M+S tire in the Dedicated LT-metric category. However, tires like the Cooper Discoverer A/TW and Discoverer X/T4 fit better under a sub-segment that combines attributes of winter and all-terrain tires, according to the company. Cooper refers to it as “All-Terrain Snowflaked.”

“Truck owners are keen to avoid changing tires if possible,” says Scott Jamieson, director of product management. Until recently, residents in northern climates had to choose among the following:

  • trying to use their all-terrain tires through winter
  • trying to make their dedicated winter tires perform like an all-terrain
  • having two sets of tires for their trucks.

“The first two choices forced a compromise when trying to get through 12-months with only one set of tires,” he said. “The third choice is much more costly. With technology gains, all-terrain tires are finding a niche with the inclusion of the 3PMS (three-peak mountain snowflake) test and performance. A few all-terrain tires, like the Cooper Discoverer A/TW and Cooper Discoverer X/T4, exceed testing requirements to achieve the 3PMS stamp while being excellent all-terrain tires.

“Unlike dedicated winter tires, these new All-Terrain Snowflaked tires are carrying mileage warranties equal to that of standard, dedicated all-terrain tires.”

See more winter tires in our digital version by clicking here.

To see the "Winter tires for the 2015-2016 season in North America" chart, click here.

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