Winter after winter, Maine drivers are faced with the choice of a studded winter tire or a non-studded snow tread. Aren’t studded tires just snow treads with studs? It’s not that simple.

Do you drive more on icy roads or snowy roads?

Generally, people believe studded tires are more effective on icy roads, but that is not necessarily true. A 2002 University of Washington study found that “Studded tires produce their best traction on snow or ice near the freezing mark and lose proportionately more of their tractive ability at lower temperatures than do studless or all-season tires.”

According to a 2007 Tire Rack study, the traction of studded tires can be slightly superior to studless tires on clear ice near the freezing mark; however, the study found that generally, studless tires gave better traction on ice than did studded tires.

Studless snow tires generally rely on a rubber compound that has microscopic pores for increased traction on icy or snowy roads. The softer rubber of studless compared to the coarser rubber of studded tires allows the studless tire to grip the road well and wick away a thin film of water that develops when a warm tire touches the ice. Studless snow tires are also better suited to changing weather conditions in the fall and spring.

It’s true that studded tires help break up ice on icy roads, but they handle very differently on conventional pavement compared to studless tires. In regards to noise levels of the tires, the studless tires are much quieter. The choice is yours.