Winter Tires

Well, I finally broke down and bought myself a Christmas present - new true winter tires for my Focus ZX5. Actually, they are on order and will take a
couple of days to get here. Last year, I made do with the stock all season P6 but I noticed the traction control coming on all the time, especially when trying to get moving from an intersection. The traction control actually moderates the speed with the ABS brakes so it really wasn't any faster, just easier to get moving. And on ice or light snow the Pirellis were just plain tricky to handle with the occasional fishtailing. We only had one heavy snowfall last year (300mm +) and a number of 50-75mm snowfalls but getting stuck just once during that heavy snowfall was once too many for my pride!
The tires I settled on were Michelin X-Ice studless in an oddball size 195/55-16. I could get the 205/50-16 size (same loading) but I figure the slimmer tire will track through snow a tad bit easier and better still they are about $13 CDN cheaper than the wider tire! The Michelin's are supposedly better than the Blizzak's for snow and better in handling but not quite as good on the ice. The Michelin's also are supposed to wear easier and longer.
The oddball size is about 1.6% larger in circumference than the stock tires but then again the stock tires are undersized/overspeed for the car. (Driving 112 kph on the speedo = driving 110 in the real world according to a radar.) So the new size will be just about perfect. The handling shouldn't change all that much - but then again I won't be "throwing the car" into corners like I do in the summer on dry pavement. A handy website for determining size equivalent is: http://www.miata.net/garage/tirecalc.html
The X-Ice is Q speed rated vs. the H rating of the existing Pirellis but then again where I am (-30*C Canadian prairies) the tire won't be generating enough heat to worry about even on long trips! More of my winter driving is around town than highway. I considered going to a premium All-Season tire like the BFG Traction T/A or Yokohama AVID V4S for the same price but then what do I do with my existing Pirellis which still have a decent amount of tread left (27000 km)? The BFG's would be better but not significantly better in the snow like a true winter tire would be.
I also considered buying a set of 15" steel rims and downsizing with 195/60 series tires (slightly higher loading - 88 vs the 87) - still with the Michelin X-Ice. That size of tire would be cheaper but then I have to buy another set of rims so the cost would be offsetting and there would be a greater difference in handling but still within the range of the Focus. The third option would be to use even cheaper generic winter tires and add studs to them but I figured that would be even noisier and some jurisdictions don't permit them. They aren't designed for prolonged use at highway speeds either.
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Offsetting the cost of a second set of rims is the fact that you don't have to have the tires remounted each spring and fall, plus the fact that you don't expose alloy wheels to winter conditions. But your choice is an interesting one. Let us know how it works out for you.
A friend of mine just bought his first Focus, a 2005 SES with 205/16s. On my recommendation he bought 195/60 15s on steel rims for winter. He thinks the handling on the 195s is wonderful, but then his previous car was a Corolla...
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On Wed, 14 Dec 2005 08:17:41 -0500, "Dave Gower"

I really don't have much issue with alloy wheels in the winter. We don't use much salt out here because it generally is too cold for it to be effective, salt works best when it's only a few degrees below freezing. I've got a much bigger problem in the summer just trying to keep the dust off them - I would have preferred chrome wheels.

Yeah, I've been thinking about that part. Maybe next winter when I change them back on again. But right now when I am in a 3rd floor apartment and have to lug the spare tires up to the storage room I'd rather it be just the tires and not the extra weight of the rims. Next spring, I'm buying a house with a stinkin' garage. :-)

Yeehaa! We just got 150mm of snow today - when I get the new tires tomorrow I'll be able to do a direct comparison on our snowy streets (over freezing rain). Today, the traction control was kicking in like crazy....

I don't know what the reviewers were smoking when they proclaimed the Corolla as a great handling car. I rented one once and drove in the rain with it - there was ABSOLUTELY no feel to the road, no transmission of feel through the suspension or steering. I felt like I could float away and had to seriously reduce speed whereas the Focus I could push all the way. The only person who could think that it was a good handling car is a soccer mom who like to soak up all the bumps. Me - I want contact with the road and instant feedback, this is also why I drive a standard instead of a wimpy automatic.
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