What’s The Best Winter Tire Size for Your BMW or MINI? Narrow, Wide, Low Profile, High Profile?
We’ve all heard the mantra; “Use narrower snow tires (than your standard summer tire size) because the narrower tire will cut through the snow and exert a higher pressure per square inch of contact”.
Makes sense, right?
While this makes sense in basic unsubstantiated theory, it is true?
A recent independent test was performed using three different sizes of one winter tire, on the same car, on a snow covered surface. The testing showed that the narrower tire did indeed have slightly better traction on acceleration (slightly = less than 1/2 meter in about 3mph to 20mph acceleration). However, the widest tire, with the lowest profile, had very slightly better braking performance. It’s worth noting that these slight differences could look different with a different tire. The key is that there really wasn’t much difference between the narrow tire and the wide tire. Finally, if the road surface is heavily covered, this may change the results and we may see a deeper advantage with the narrower tire.
Winter tires are NOT just for snow!
While some of us, in the US, may experience snow covered roads for much (if not all) of the season, most only deal with actual snow for short periods with combinations of rain, wet or dry surfaces for the majority of the season. During these periods, we need tires that perform well in both dry and wet conditions. Winter tires are designed to stay pliable in freezing temperatures, assuring full traction in all conditions. In wet conditions the narrower tires had more resistance to hydroplaning, but the wider tires had better braking (as long as they were not hydroplaning). As expected, in dry conditions, the wider tires did better in all categories. The more rubber we can put into contact with the road surface, in dry conditions, the more traction we will have.
Ok, So what?
In actual use, it’s more important to consider the actual tire being used (tread compound, sidewall construction, tread pattern, etc.) than the specific size of the tire. We could purposefully skew the results of a test like that above by choosing different winter tires that perform better in one area than another. This is why we use and recommend the Hakkapelitta winter tires for our BMWs and MINIs.
Nokian Tires developed the Hakkapelitta line of winter tires to provide the best overall winter driving safety envelope possible. These tires are superb in snow and also offer great wet and dry performance. Click HERE for an article on the Hakkapelitta tires.
The main key is that you DO install specific winter tires if you have to drive in winter conditions. All-season tires ARE NOT snow tires and perform very poorly in winter conditions. Anyone who has claimed the phrase “BMWs are horrible in snow!”, has never run a BMW (which, of course, is no different from any other rear wheel drive car) with four good snow tires.
Click image below for BMW & MINI winter tires: