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What Are Tire Studs and Why Are They Illegal?

What Are Tire Studs and Why Are They Illegal?

You only have to find yourself in a dicey situation with snow and ice once before you realize the value of tire studs. Keeping you, your family, and your vehicle safe while driving is always important, especially during less-than-ideal driving conditions. However, in many places tire studs are illegal!

So what are they, when do you need them, and why are they sometimes illegal? Let’s dive in!

Winter Tires VS Studded Tires ❄ What's better on ICE?

What Are Tire Studs?

Tire studs are small cleat-like protrusions on a tire. These can be made of various materials, typically metal or hard plastic. Many manufacturers have begun using tungsten carbide for their studs. The studs stick out from the tire approximately 1/32 of an inch and help provide extra grip and traction when driving on snow and ice.

You can find tire studs on studded and studdable tires. The only difference between the two is that studdable tires can have the studs added or removed as necessary by the driver. However, it can be time-consuming, as there can be up to 120 individual studs on each tire.

Studded tires are nothing new to the market. They’ve been around since the late 1950s and began appearing in the U.S. in the 1960s. However, by the 1970s, drivers saw the benefits, and studs became used by many drivers in areas with harsh winters. 

However, their popularity has diminished in recent years as tire technologies, road construction, and snow plowing technologies and availability have improved. They’re no longer as essential as they once were in many places. 

Tires with tire studs installed
Turn your tires into cleat-like snow machines by installing tire studs.

Why Are Tire Studs Ilegal?

In some places, tire studs are completely Ileagle to use on roadways. Many other locations have specific restrictions in certain areas or roads. If you are considering using studs be sure to look up your local regulations and don’t plan a cross-country trip.

The reason tire studs are illegal is that they can do severe damage to dry roadways. Much like tire chains the hard metal studs can chip and dig into hard road surfaces and cause ruts. Most places have banned them because of the economic damage the tires have caused to their infrastructure in the past.

Unlike tire chains, studs cannot be put on and taken off as needed, and many will operate them on dry roads. Luckily however many winter tires offer significant performance increases without the damage to our roads.

However, there are a few US states like Colorado that have no restrictions on studded winter tires.

How Do Tire Studs Work?

Tire studs work like the cleats professional athletes wear on baseball fields, soccer fields, and running tracks. They dig into the surface and provide additional traction and grip to propel them forward. Tire studs function in the same way, but on snow and icy road surfaces.

The car’s weight pushes the studs into the hard ice or snow surface to increase the tires’ traction. They’re very effective at increasing that traction and helping drivers maintain control of their vehicles. However, to limit road damage, most states and areas restrict their use to specific times of the year or during certain conditions.

Installing tire studs on your vehicle can be a project. If you have studded tires, this will require you to replace all the tires on your vehicle for the season. This means having a specific set of tires for the winter season, which can be very expensive.

Another option is to use studdable tires, which are tires where the studs can be installed and removed from the tires as needed. However, this requires installing and removing hundreds of studs.

When Should You Use Tire Studs?

If you live in an area that experiences icy and hard-packed snow conditions during the winter, you’ll likely benefit from them. However, they can have the opposite effect if the roads are dry or wet. Drivers will likely experience less traction when using them in these conditions. This is because the tire studs can slip on hard surfaces they don’t dig into and also raise the weight off of the grippy rubber tread.

Pro Tip: Bust out the shaving cream and razor and find out What Is Tire Truing? The Dying Art of Shaving Tires.

Two tires with tire studs propped up on wall
Increase traction and grip for driving on snowy or icy roads in the winter.

Tire Studs vs. Tire Chains

Tire studs and tire chains can increase a vehicle’s ability to have road traction. They both have advantages and disadvantages, so it can be tricky to choose which is right for your situation.

Tire chains are typically cheaper and easier to remove or install. This means you can add or remove them as necessary. On the other hand, because they are easier to install and remove, there’s a chance that one could come flying off while you’re driving.

Tire studs help take the standard snow tire to a whole new level. The studs dig into the road surface and drastically increase traction. However, they create a lot of noise and damage asphalt. Due to this, you’ll likely need an extra set of tires when there’s no snow and ice on the roads. Many states and areas restrict the use of tire studs to certain times of the year or during certain conditions.

How Fast Can You Drive With Studded Tires?

Most studded tires have speed ratings that exceed 100 miles per hour. However, since these tires are for snowy and icy conditions, excessive speeds will not be a good idea. You’ll generally want to keep your speed under 40 mph for optimal safety when driving with studded tires.

Tires with tire studs driving in snow
Tire studs are great for driving on snow or ice, but shouldn’t be used outside of the winter season.

How Much Does It Cost to Put Studs in a Tire?

The costs associated with putting studs in a tire will depend on the tire, the studs you select, and the shop’s installation rate. Because we don’t recommend trying to stud used tires, you’ll need to purchase a new set. The cost of the tire will depend on your vehicle and which tire you choose. But if you have to buy all new tires, it could range from $300 to $2,200, depending on your vehicle.

In addition, you’re going to need to purchase the studs and pay for a professional to install them. They can cost anywhere from $10 to $50 for a pack of 100. You’re likely going to need at least three or four packs. The shop will typically charge a flat rate to stud the tires purchased from them.

Can Tire Studs Be Replaced?

From time to time, tire studs will fall out of the tire. One or two missing might not make a major difference, but having several missing from a tire can be problematic. It’s possible to replace the ones that have fallen out or have broken. However, for liability reasons, you’re not likely going to find many shops willing to do this for you.

You’ll need the knowledge, tools, and experience to tackle this project on your own. Because this can cause serious damage and put you in a dangerous situation, we won’t recommend you do that.

Pro Tip: Before you buy, make sure you know what are The Best Trailer Tires for Your RV.

Close up of tires with tire studs installed
Getting a spare set of tires with studs installed to use in the winter, while pricey, can be a great option to keep you safe.

Do Tire Studs Ruin Tires?

Tire studs don’t ruin tires because their purpose is to increase traction during winter driving conditions. Drivers will most likely need another set of tires they will use for the non-winter seasons. Drivers can expect three or four seasons of use out of a set of studded tires.

Putting studs in tires will make them very effective for winter driving. However, they’re not going to be usable outside of these conditions. So if you plan to use your tires regularly outside of these conditions, it would ruin those plans.

Are Studded Tires Safer Than Winter Tires?

Studded tires are the safest and best for icy and hard-packed snow road conditions. If you put them side by side a studded tire will climb an icy hill better than any other traction aid. However, winter tires are best for winter conditions when the road is dry or wet. You need to evaluate which surface you’ll spend most of your time driving on when selecting your tires. You may not need studded tires if you don’t live in an area that experiences large amounts of snow and ice during the winter.

In addition, a quality set of winter tires can provide a driver with sufficient traction. Careful driving with a solid and quality set of winter tires can help increase safety. 

Are Tire Studs Worth It?

Tire studs are worth it, but only if you live in an area that experiences a tremendous amount of snow or ice regularly and you are not on dry roads. If not, you could be wasting money and creating a potentially dangerous situation. They don’t do well on road conditions that aren’t snow or ice. So make sure you fully evaluate how and where you plan to drive on your tires.

Do you think tire studs are right for you? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of The RVers, producers of “Go North” on Amazon Prime, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for Hwy.co and an Arizona travel guide.

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