Saturday, December 6, 2008

Studded Tires for the Corvette?

Studded Tires for the Corvette?

Winter is coming--and if last winter is any indication, I need a solution. The Corvette was unable to leave the garage for three months last year because of snow. We have paved our driveway (725 feet cost almost $14K), and this should help a bit, but from our driveway to the nearest paved road is another half mile. Worse, the Corvette couldn't handle the snow on the state highway as I approached the summit last year. Adding to the frustration, I am currently working in Bend, Oregon every other week, and the natives tell me that I should plan on seeing some serious ice in town.

So, there are four possibilities:

1. Buy a 4WD to use three months of the year. (Expensive.)

2. Rent a 4WD to use three months of the year. (VERY expensive.)

3. Trade my 2000 C5 in on a 2007 Jaguar X-type, which has full-time 4WD--and enough power and cornering not to feel like I am not giving up too much.

4. Studded tires?

The source of the C5's problems with traction on snow and ice is the combination of rear wheel drive and very, very wide tires. As the tires get wider, the amount of force per square inch declines. There's roughly 700-750 pounds of force per rear tire--and with the standard tires of the Corvette, this spread over an enormously wide piece of rubber. My measurements suggest that the contact patch is about 30-40 square inches--so roughly 19 psi of pressure. At a certain point, the down force is so little that the tires simply have no hope of getting any grip on either snow or ice.

The way that chains work, and studded tires, is by concentrating the roughly 750 pounds of force per tire into a relatively tiny area--perhaps as little as three square inches for chains--so 250 psi, or a square inch for studs (so 750 psi). That's enough to break a hole in the surface of the ice, and allow you to move forward. Ditto for brakes.

So, how many of you have used studded tires on a C5? And what has been your experience?

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