For a long time I had always dreamed of a certain type of sports car. While I love some of the offerings from Europe like Ferrari and Lamborghini, my heart is with American-made muscle. I considered many of the classics – a Shelby Mustang, a Road Runner and even an AC Cobra. But along with the expense of acquiring one of these classics, the upkeep of these outdated cars can eat away at your savings. So when it came time to finally spring for my ‘baby’, it was a newer model I sprung for. A Dodge Viper!
I was looking to not only take it to car shows, but to actually get out and race it. So to me, reliability was an issue along with availability of replacement parts should the need arise. The Viper is unique in this respect as it shares many of its parts with other Chrysler vehicles. This helps keep maintenance and repair costs to a minimum, leaving extra dollars to replace items that are expected to wear out, especially under the stress of performance driving.
Standard with every Viper of this generation is a set of specially-designed tires from Michelin. Dodge chose Michelin as the preferred tire for the Viper thanks to the performance and handling of their Pilot Sport line. Michelin makes these tires specifically for our cars, as they are a unique size. The rears are 13 inches across! But the proof is in the pudding, they stick like glue, wear evenly and even provide a satisfactory everyday ride (as smooth as a ride can be when your butt is 8″ off the ground). Don’t believe me? Ride along!
This was me in 2010 running an autocross course at the Rockford Speedway in Rockford, IL. The video is shaky thanks to my janky camera setup, but the ride is smooth as silk. We compete against ourselves (and each other) for fastest time around the course. You can hear the squeal of the tires around corners, a sound we listen for to tell us that we’re pushing the car just hard enough, but not too hard to break loose.
But as you can imagine, this is not a winter-friendly car. The wide tires and enormous torque of the 475hp engine would make the Viper nothing more than an expensive sled on the ice and snow. Fortunately there are winter tire options for almost every other year-round vehicle to keep you moving in the right direction no matter the road conditions. But many people still prefer their all-season radials rather than taking the time to switch out their tires for the season. Let’s look at some of the myths surrounding winter tires and winter driving.
Myth #1: Snow is the biggest driving menace.
Did you know that in the winter season, 95% of road accidents are not on snowy roads? There’s more: in one study from VUFO, 57% occurred when the road wasn’t even wet.
What does matter is the temperature. Cold weather causes rubber to harden, reducing grip. Cold weather tires are specifically designed to reduce the impact of this hardening, maintaining good grip. That’s why it’s important to check that you’re using the right rubber, whatever the weather forecast is.
Myth #2: City driving is safer than country driving.
Not many Moms look forward to the twisting, turning roads in rural areas. But in fact, fewer accidents happen in the countryside – over two-thirds (68%) of reportable incidents in winter happen in the city!
Those well-lit, well-salted urban streets can be riskier than a mountain track. Why? Because all of that stop-start driving increases the chance of skids and shunts. More braking and more cornering means more opportunities for something to happen! Fortunately, preparing your car for winter makes a big difference. Even if your driving is limited to around town, don’t lose focus. Switching to winter tires will help your family arrive safely.
Myth #3: Winter tires mean snow tires.
A surprising number of drivers think winter tires only work when the white stuff is on the ground. In fact, winter conditions include cold weather freezing fog, heavy rain, black ice – the list goes on.
In winter and cold weather conditions, getting where you’re going means being able to stop. And winter-grade tires perform better under braking in all cold conditions. At under 6°C on a dry surface, a properly equipped car will take thirteen feet less distance to stop from 49 mph. Almost a whole car’s length!
Myth #4: It’s not worth changing tires for a short trip.
When you’ve planned a weekend away – a ski chalet? A mountain cottage? – it’s tempting to put off changing to winter rubber. After all, it takes time to change your tires, and it’s only a couple of hours’ drive to your holiday home!
But ski slopes are by definition, slopey. And a proper winter tire increases traction on hills by a staggering percentage In cold conditions, the right tires will get you up a 13% gradient and keep you safe going down again! So don’t get stuck on the hills, even if it’s a short trip.
If you’re intrigued by the difference winter tires make, check out Michelin’s Road Usage Lab. The company from Clermont-Ferrand has been gathering knowledge about how we drive for 125 years plus. They’re uncovering fresh insights about how we really use our cars today, including the surprises above. How? By watching thousands of drivers each year, in hundreds of varied driving conditions. All with one purpose: to make your driving experience as safe as it can be.