Winter Tire Information

Ok I promised myself I would do this a long time ago but never got around to it. I finally opened word tonight and got started thinking I would continue to write this over a few days but I couldn’t stop and finally came up with something worthy of posting. I hope this helps someone out there who is looking to drive this car in the winter.

For the winter you are going to want a dedicated set of snow tires. The reason for this is a summer compound will harden up like a rock in the cold. For the most part you can still drive in the cold on a summer tire so long as you take it slow and don’t do anything crazy. But then take into account summer tires are also meant for mostly dry grip. The tread pattern will at most be designed to take away water during a summer shower. However anything that isn’t a liquid will just fill up the tread and leave you with slicks. You also cannot run just two winter tires like people so often do. Especially with a summer tire up front the back end will have plenty of grip buy the front will not want to turn or stick to the road. Even in the dry the car will be all over the place even in a straight line. The same goes for the all-season front/ winter tire rear combo. It is dangerous to yourself and others on the road.

Now that you know WHY you need a winter tire let’s talk about what you are going to mount them on. This will save you money in the long run because you will get on average at least 2 seasons out of your winter tires. If you didn’t get a second set of wheels you would be mounting and remounting tires each spring and fall. A set of 15” steel wheels will run you about $120 on However, to get steel wheels for an “MR2” off of tire rack you have to trick the system a little. When selecting a tire/wheel package you are going to have to enter 2005 Scion XB instead of 200x Toyota MR2. If you don’t they don’t offer steel wheels for the MR2. The scion has the same bolt pattern and has an offset that will fit the MR2 just fine and many (including myself) have used them. Also for anyone interested the actual size of the 2005 scion XB steel wheels are 15×6 with a bolt pattern of 4×100 and a +40 offset.

Before you select which tire you have yet another thing to consider. What size are you going to buy? Now most of us know that in the summer at least a wider tire is going to provide more traction and make you less likely to slide. At the same time, for better or worse a lot of people believe that having a smaller tire up front then in the back will make the car less prone to oversteer. Without thinking too much about it, it would appear the same logic would apply to a tire in the snow. Greater contact patch means more room for the tire to grip right? Well, not quite. You see when you are driving along in a car on the snow the tires are trying desperately to sink into the snow to get grip. They need pressure pushing them down into the snow before they can get any significant traction. If you were to run a really wide tire in the snow you would just float on top of the snow and slide all over. If you get a narrow tire it will dig in and you will be able to get the grip needed to stay on the road. Now about that stagger, applying that principle to your traditional stagger of having a smaller tire in the front would actually be, in a sense, a REVERSE stagger. Thus, instead of helping to control the oversteer it would promote it! In theory you could run a larger tire in front and smaller in the rear but that wouldn’t be practical for those days when there wasn’t any snow on the road and you were traveling at higher speeds. To compromise it would be best to just run the same size all around. It still leaves the issue of what size you are going to choose. For that you have to analyze what conditions you feel you will facing the most. If it is mostly or completely snow a 185/55/15 will do just fine. It will dig in and give you plenty of grip when the white stuff starts flying. If you are worried about seeing ice a 195/50/15 might be a better choice. The theory behind this being ice is more like normal pavement in that a larger contact patch is better since you are not sinking into the ice itself. This theory was developed by myself and another member (WIWhite87) a while back and is just something we came up with in our heads. There is no real scientific backing behind it. However it was mentioned by Tem that in Finland they run as narrow of a tire as possible (Something like a 155mm width) and have no issues on Ice. This could mean that a narrower tire actually is beneficial on the ice as well. The idea that backs this theory is it’s not so much the ice that is slick it’s the very thin layer of water that forms between your tire and ice that make things slick. This is why a siped tire does so well on the ice. It wicks away the water so the tire is able to come in full contact with the ice instead of riding on that very thin layer of water. It is hard to tell which theory is correct but in the end if you are only choosing between a tire that is 185mm wide and 195mm wide you are probably not going to see any major differences. The tire itself will make more of a difference in the end.

Note: A 185/60/15 or a 195/55/15 can be substituted in as well if the other two are not readily available. They will however make your speedometer read a little slow. The 185/60/15 will read 2.9% slow while the 195/55/15 will read 1.6% slow.

We move onto one of the final decisions you will have to make and that is what type of tire you will be buying. First off let me start by saying you should always buy a “studless ice and snow” tire and not a “performance” winter tire. The reason for this is the “performance” winter will sacrifice snow and ice grip for handling and braking. Not something you want to do on a MR2, when you are in the snow in an MR2 you just want to get through it. The reason I don’t bring up studded tires is IMO they are being surpassed by studless tires. A test done by tirerack shows that for the most part studless tires are as good or better then studded tires on ice. This may be hard to believe but for the most part the reason you can’t get grip on ice is because of a thin layer of water that builds up under your tires. What a studless tire does is it takes the 5 or so sipes that are cut into each tread block and take away that thin layer of water. A studded tire relied upon little metal studs that were inserted into little holes and they would grip the ice surface. The problem is they are loud, hinder braking performance, dry traction suffers, they also hinder snow performance, and they harm the road surface. (Note: if you do end up choosing a studded tire for whatever reason you must insert the studs before using the tire. You cannot insert studs into a tire after it has been used.)

Finally we move onto the detail of which tire to buy. There are many choices out there but I will just mention the few are have gotten the best reviews and seem to hold the most promise for our little car. I’ll start off with the Bridgestone blizzak line of tires since that is what I have experience with. At this current point in time there are two blizzaks to chose from, the now older WS-50 and the new as of this year WS-60. I own a set of the WS-50s (195/55/15) and love them. They are great in the snow and ice. I’ve traveled through snow that was at least 6 inches deep on my driveway and have seen others with snow packed in the grill because it was so deep when they went through it with these tires. You can still find them at tirerack and other tire dealers but they are being phased out (which does mean cheaper pricing) for the WS-60. From what I have read so far the WS-60 is everything the WS-50 was but better. No one has run this tire on the MR2 as of yet but from the testing done by tirerack it can be seen it should be a winner. There is one catch to the blizzak line; the siping (the little grooves that allow the tire to grip so well on snow and ice) only goes through about 60% of the tread. After that it is just a normal winter compound. The other tires I will mention have the siping all the way through. But keep in mind you won’t want to run a tire all the way down to the wear bars in the snow or you will more than likely end up in the ditch. As for the competition you have the Michelin X-ice which is a strong competitor. It provides a little better traction in the deep stuff then the blizzaks but isn’t quite as good in the light snow and ice. It is debatable how much of a difference this really is though. There is also the Nokian Hakkapeliitta which is harder to find. Not as many people run this tire but it is still a solid tire especially for the snow. I have heard the X-ice and blizzaks are better in the ice though YMMV. EDIT: Here is a test done by tirerack that includes the X-ice and WS-60 (which IMO are the two best choices once the WS-50 is gone completely). It also has a winterforce studdable snow tire and a dunlop winter tire as well.…ay.jsp?ttid=94 I would also like to note that the last two years Bridgestone has had a deal where you can get 50 dollars back on their blizzak line of winter tires if you purchase them around mid November if I recall correctly. Of course the WS-50 will most likely not be included in this as it is on closeout status and is not being produced anymore.

In the end it all depends upon your needs but no matter what if you need to drive the MR2 in the winter a set of winter tires is a must. I am not sure if I will be buying another set of winter tires once these are worn out or not. The salt and ever present chance of someone smashing into the MR2 will surely take their toll in the end. Winter tires also have a way of taking the fun out of the car; they have soft sidewalls with very little grip so they allow for 0 twisties what so ever. Even if you did take them out for a spirited ride (which would be suicidal) you would quickly wear out the tires which are made of a very soft compound. In the end however running the car in the winter is an experience everyone should have at least once in their life. It can really teach you a lot about this car that you can use for the summer and can lead to some fun times in the snow.

I just thought I would include a couple of threads down here to give you guys an idea of how good winter tires really are on this car.

This thread has some pictures and movies of owners driving in the snow with the Blizzak WS-50

Here’s another thread that’s got a few talking about the new Blizzak WS-60

Michelin has just released a new tire called the Xi-2. There is very little information on it right now but I created this thread about it.…p;#entry4817515

Also the WS-50 is all but dead right now with tirerack being sold out of the top two sizes for a 15 inch wheel on the spyder. I will update this thread more as we come closer to the winter driving season. I will also be buying a set of winter tires this fall so rest assured I will be staying on top of anything new that is out there.

This documentation in no way replaces the Toyota MR2 Repair Manuals. The purpose of this content is only to provide supplementary information to fellow MR2 enthusiasts. Midship Runabout and its contributing authors will not be held responsible for any injury or damages that may occur as the result of practicing any of the methods or procedures described within this website. Article and photo submissions are property of the contributing author.

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