We recently got 2 feet of snow dumped on us in New England so naturally, it was time to go have some fun. While I was at it, I decided to pay attention to the road handling characteristics of my 31″ Goodyear mud terrains in the snow Here are the non-technical results.
It is fairly common knowledge that mud tires are as good or better than rock crawlers or all-terrains in most offroad situations. They are still very good on rocks, good on sand, excellent in mud, and not too shabby on the road either if you don’t mind the noise.
But most snow tires have a radically different design than then knobby mud tires. Snow tires have many small slits and grooves called siping designed to improve traction by providing extra biting edges. They are also made of a very soft compound which stays soft and pliable, aiding grip in cold temperatures
Mud tires, on the other hand, have big chunky tread blocks designed to well…fling mud and clear the tire while it spins. They are made of a harder compound and can be used year-round on the road whereas snow tires would shred to pieces if used in the summer.
So how well can a mud tire still perform well in the snow given that it’s so different from the tire that is specifically designed to tackle snow.
The answer is: phenomenally well.
It may not be that surprising that it can grip. Your mud tire is basically mad out of little tiny snow shovels that fling the snow out of your way in a hurry.
The surprising part was the handling.
The loss of grip is so predictable and progressive, it gives you complete confidence in what you are doing.
Traction is on demand, modulated by your right foot. Want to cautious: just drive as you normally would. Want to play? just give it some gas. Even when going 50 mph on a snow covered road, flooring it would only break traction for as long as you wanted it to. Of course you can get in trouble if you really want to, but for the most part every slide, every drift and every fishtail is completely recoverable.
I have a 98 XJ. No traction control. No ABS, and I hardly ever feel the need to put it in four wheel drive in the snow. Usually I just keep it in rear wheel drive and it still stays solidly planted when there is thick chunky snow on the ground.
Try playing in the snow in a rear wheel drive sedan and even with snow tires you will be snap oversteering, looking in shock at the concrete center divider while your car makes the split second decision that it now wants to go sideways in the left lane of the highway, all without your knowledge or consent.
Yes, mud tires rock in the snow. With mud tires on your Jeep, you don’t just survive winter, cautiously trotting from A to B at a reasonable pace.
You play in it. You get comfortable with it. You live in it. You own it.
But are they the undisputed champion of grip?
More on this to come….