(NUI) - Snow tires have become less popular in recent years as motorists switch to all-season tires. And many states have either banned studded snow tires or restricted their use.
But this trend is beginning to change thanks to a new generation of studless snow tires which offer dramatic performance improvements over all-season tires.
The Bridgestone Blizzak ice and snow tire, featuring a revolutionary "multicell" rubber compound, is a prime example of just how far studless snow tires have progressed.
In a recent test conducted by Bridgestone engineers at the Olympic Speed Ice Skating Rink in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, a car fitted with Blizzak ice and snow tires (traveling 30 mph) stopped 35 feet shorter than an identical car fitted with good all-season tires.
The secret to the Blizzak's traction is its patented multicell compound which contains millions of microscopic dents or pores. As the Blizzak wears, it constantly exposes new "microdents" that grip ice by removing the thin layer of surface water that can cause a car to slide.
In addition to the unique multicell compound, an interlocking tread pattern allows the Blizzak to bite the snow for optimal stop-and-go traction.
"All-season tires are a good compromise, but if you drive in the Snowbelt, we recommend that you use a snow tire like the Blizzak during the winter and drive on standard tires for the remainder of the year," said Mike Cerio, Bridgestone consumer products marketing manager. "Last year's major snow and ice storms probably made believers out of many drivers across America."
Introduced in Japan to respond to environmental concerns over metal-studded snow tires, Blizzak has captured a majority of Japan's snow tire market. Sales also were brisk in the United States and Canada last winter.
"More and more state and local governments in the United States are prohibiting the use of studded snow tires to protect against road damage, but consumers still want the grip provided by a studded tire," Cerio said. "The Blizzak delivers ice and snow traction comparable to that of studded tires."
Cerio said it is important to install snow tires on all four wheels, not just on the drive axles. "Installing snow tires on only the drive axle can affect steering and control whether a vehicle is front-wheel or rear-wheel drive," he said. "The traction with the snow tires is so much better on the one axle that the car is essentially thrown off-balance."