Growing up in New England, driving in the snow wasn’t something that could really be avoided. My driving instructor even took us out and made us experience going into a skid so we would know what it felt like and how how to deal with it. When I bought my first car (a Honda Civic), I also purchased a set of snow tires since my job included commuting through two states. I managed to navigate safely through a number of winter storms.
When I got my first Honda CR-V, I was excited to have an all wheel vehicle and didn’t give tires another thought. I had heard about how well SUVs handled snow and figured I was all set for whatever Mother Nature could throw my way. Imagine my surprise the first time I went sliding down my street!
I figured my small-ish SUV just must not handle as well as those larger SUVs.
Last month, I was invited to a Winter Driving event thrown by Tire Rack and Bridgestone in Denver that sure explained a lot about my winter driving experiences. I was given the opportunity to learn all about Bridgestone’s Blizzak winter tires and even got to try them on ice and compare them to all weather tires.
First, I learned about how the folks at Bridgestone came up with the technology they use in the tires by looking at nature – it’s called biomimicry. It makes sense when you think about it, there are animals who spend their entire lives walking around on snow and ice and they don’t fall down, right? Why not look at a polar bear’s paws and figure out why they work so well. Looking at a geckos feet can provide insight into how to create tires that grip wet roads.
Well, that’s exactly what went into the development of Bridgestone’s Blizzak tires!
What about those winters where there isn’t a lot of snow?
We’ve had those in the past, but based on how November has been playing out, I don’t think this year is going to be one of them! Do you still need winter tires if there isn’t snow to drive through? Before my trip, I would have said no. And I would have been wrong. It turns out that different types of tires are made of different materials. You know how rubber and plastic can get hard when they get really cold? If you are driving on summer tires, that can happen when the temperature dips below 40 degrees. Suddenly your tires are not as grippy as they should be. When you think that your incredibly heavy car is travelling along with basically four palm-sized areas being your only connection to the road, you want those areas to be as grippy as possible. (Grippy may not be the technical term that the experts use, but I think it conveys the right sentiment here!)
Now, I kind of flinched at the idea of spending the money to get another whole set of tires for my car. I mean, tires aren’t cheap, right? But then I started thinking about it and realized that I was basically extending the life of both sets of tires since they would each be on my car for half of the year and would be running for half the miles as well. Plus, we have a fairly high deductible on our auto insurance and just one fender-bender avoided would probably pay for the tires. (And I’m not even going to mention our ER visit deductible!!)
But I have to admit, nothing was quite as convincing as actually experiencing driving on the Bridgestone Blizzak tires side by side with normal all weather ones on ice.
We all went to the Pepsi Center and drove identical BMWs (the only difference was the tires) on the ice. We were tasked with getting the cars as fast as we could and then hitting the breaks mid-ice. The difference in both traction and braking was obvious immediately. We even had the chance to try tricycles with both kinds of tires as we raced around the ice!
As you can see here, the Blizzak tires made a big difference.
Not only did they help me stop better, but they gripped the ice better in order for me to get going. The objective was to get to 12 mph – I almost made it with the Blizzaks but not even close with the all weathers.
One of the most telling tests was when the two cars attempted to navigate through cones on the ice. The car with the winter tires made every turn while the car with all weathers completely missed the first turn. Fun when you are driving on the ice at the Pepsi Center but not at all fun when you are on your local roads!!
So I have to admit – I went from thinking winter tires were totally unnecessary with an SUV to thinking they could make a huge difference in my driving experience this winter. I always say that if the weather is bad, I’ll just stay home (an advantage of working from home!) but that never seems to be the case. Often times I’m already out and about when the weather hits or there is a place we absolutely have to be.