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Noob wants to know: Winter Tires for 2015 FiST?

Messages
4
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11
Location
Denver, Colorado
#1
So, I am going to preface this with "I don't know much about tires" :)

Hi all,

I recently acquired my 2015 FiST here in Colorado, and am asking around about thoughts on winter tires. I am currently running summer-only 205/40/17's and was curious about winter tires since it seems like most people downsize their rims and get tires with thicker sidewalls and more cushion for winter.

I've had 185/60/15's and 195/50/16's recommended. Can I really downsize my rim by 2"? That seems like a big downsize. Also, what about the speedometer error? I don't wanna think I am doing 50 and am actually doing 60 or something, y'know? Also, brands? I keep seeing "Blizzak" mentioned.

What are your thoughts on winter tires for the FiST? Help a noob out? :p
 


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dhminer

1000 Post Club
Messages
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1,549
Location
Burlington, NC, USA
#2
So, I am going to preface this with "I don't know much about tires" :)

Hi all,

I recently acquired my 2015 FiST here in Colorado, and am asking around about thoughts on winter tires. I am currently running summer-only 205/40/17's and was curious about winter tires since it seems like most people downsize their rims and get tires with thicker sidewalls and more cushion for winter.

I've had 185/60/15's and 195/50/16's recommended. Can I really downsize my rim by 2"? That seems like a big downsize. Also, what about the speedometer error? I don't wanna think I am doing 50 and am actually doing 60 or something, y'know?

What are your thoughts on winter tires for the FiST? Help a noob out? :p
I ran 15” wheels for snow tires. They fit over the brakes without issue. I don’t remember the exact size, but if you make sure the overall diameter is the same as OEM or close it won’t be an issue with the speedometer.
 


FiestaSTdude

Senior Member
Premium Account
Messages
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824
Location
Cary, NC, USA
#3
I run 15 inch steel rims with 185/60R15 general arctic altimax 12s and they fit fine. I've only used them once in snow and they were amazing. I mostly use them as gravel/"rally car" tires. The steel rims I use are from tire rack, they are identical to the rim for the stock spare tire. I've not noticed any speedo variation, but I made sure that the snow tire diameter is very close to my all season diameter.
 


XR650R

2000 Post Club
Premium Account
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Eerie
#4
You'll have to invest in some smaller rims. You can find some in a junkyard if you don't care how they look. The owner's manual says 16s, but you can do 15s too. Blizzaks are good, but any dedicated snow tire will work well enough.
 


Messages
94
Likes
116
Location
Northern California
#5
Echo what others have said that most of the 15” wheels fit, and that you’ll generally want narrower than stock tires for snow and ice for less forward resistance and a longer contact patch with a winter road. The only challenge is in general the wheels available for our car are limited with 4x108 lug pattern, but steel wheels are fine for winter - if you’re running them all winter you may want to find some caps to keep your axle nuts from rusting (in case you ever need to get them off)

Also limited tire options in those sizes - be aware if you’re not already that there are several significantly different categories of tire that carry the “severe snow and winter” designation with the mountain peak symbol, and there are night and day differences and compromises in each category.

The questions to ask yourself:
1) How severe are your winter conditions - do you expect to drive on a few inches of fresh snow or only light dusting on mainly plowed roads
2) Does it get really cold and/or icy where you are, or not so cold and snow/slush?
3) Do you want a year round set of tires, or dedicated tires and rims for a winter season (or road trips to snowy areas?)

All-Season and even “Mud+Snow” that aren’t winter rated do not do well in winter conditions. The rubber is too hard in cold conditions for ice, and the tread patterns aren’t adequate.

“All-Weather” tires are stiff all-season rubber with blocky winter treads. Just barely adequate for occasional dustings of snow and slush (not ice), Basically a tire that can kind of do everything very poorly except for treadwear.

True “Winter” tires are a night and day difference in both traction and confidence driving in winter. The things you give up are dry handling because of the deep blocky and siped (slit) treads which are squirmy, and also treadwear because they use very soft rubber that stays compliant at cold temperatures. In snow and ice they’ll last a long time, but if most of your winter is dry roads, they will wear down very fast - they also don’t really work as a winter tire even when the tread is still deep (7/32” is often the limit, and they start with much deeper tread)

“Performance Winter” tires are also a compromise that will do better snow and ice but sacrifice actual winter performance in favor of better dry/wet handling. They’ll still wear pretty fast if you drive mostly on dry roads, so they are a compromise you should only make if you are confident in your winter driving skill and don’t expect severe conditions.

The gold standard in winter tires are the Nokian Hakkapellita, made by the Finnish company that literally invented the “snow tire”. Unfortuntely they are expensive and sometimes hard to acquire in the US. If money is no object they are a good choice.

Bridgestone Blizzak, Michelin Ice-X and General Altimax Arctic are probably 3 of the best choices available in 185/60R15. I have used the Blizzaks and the Generals and found both to beexcellent and confident winter tires, if a bit squirmy in the dry on the highway (especially if your state puts grooves in the concrete). Probably going to try the Michelin next.

The Generals are categorized as “studdable” so they can be studded if you expect long hard winters with little to no dry roads, but they also perform very well as a “studless” tire without the studs installed.

I would generally choose the narrower 185/60R15 over the 195/50R16. The only exception is if you really want the performance option, Pirelli makes one in the 16” size, but I wouldn’t recommend it unless your winters are mild, you have a lot of experience in snow, and have the money to burn if you intend to drive them on mostly dry/rainy roads in the winter. True winter tires are generally a better choice if you are going to have two sets anyway, especially if you are prepared to swap them yourself.

Dealing with TPMS: Your 4 options are basically ignore them for your winter tires, disable the warning with Forscan, relearn your TPMS every time you switch, or find a shop (or by a special TPMS scan tool) that can set and clone the ID’s of your existing TPMS sensors.

Some people with short commutes have also had luck with just parking next to your summer/all seasons at home, since it takes the car several miles to notice they are missing.

Finally, it’s a good idea to still carry snow chains or cables even with snow tires. One thing to watch out for is that since snow tires have deeper treads than all seasons, you might find that with cable chains and other types compatible with tight wheelwell clearance, sometimes the “recommended” size for your tire size might not actually fit over your snow tires and you might actually need the next size up, so always fit your chains at home before you take them out in the snow!
 


Last edited:
OP
Linzeestomp
Messages
4
Likes
11
Location
Denver, Colorado
Thread Starter #6
Echo what others have said that most of the 15” wheels fit, and that you’ll generally want narrower than stock tires for snow and ice for less forward resistance and a longer contact patch with a winter road. The only challenge is in general the wheels available for our car are limited with 4x108 lug pattern, but steel wheels are fine for winter - if you’re running them all winter you may want to find some caps to keep your axle nuts from rusting (in case you ever need to get them off)

Also limited tire options in those sizes - be aware if you’re not already that there are several significantly different categories of tire that carry the “severe snow and winter” designation with the mountain peak symbol, and there are night and day differences and compromises in each category.

The questions to ask yourself:
1) How severe are your winter conditions - do you expect to drive on a few inches of fresh snow or only light dusting on mainly plowed roads
2) Does it get really cold and/or icy where you are, or not so cold and snow/slush?
3) Do you want a year round set of tires, or dedicated tires and rims for a winter season (or road trips to snowy areas?)

All-Season and even “Mud+Snow” that aren’t winter rated do not do well in winter conditions. The rubber is too hard in cold conditions for ice, and the tread patterns aren’t adequate.

“All-Weather” tires are stiff all-season rubber with blocky winter treads. Just barely adequate for occasional dustings of snow and slush (not ice), Basically a tire that can kind of do everything very poorly except for treadwear.

True “Winter” tires are a night and day difference in both traction and confidence driving in winter. The things you give up are dry handling because of the deep blocky and siped (slit) treads which are squirmy, and also treadwear because they use very soft rubber that stays compliant at cold temperatures. In snow and ice they’ll last a long time, but if most of your winter is dry roads, they will wear down very fast - they also don’t really work as a winter tire even when the tread is still deep (7/32” is often the limit, and they start with much deeper tread)

“Performance Winter” tires are also a compromise that will do better snow and ice but sacrifice actual winter performance in favor of better dry/wet handling. They’ll still wear pretty fast if you drive mostly on dry roads, so they are a compromise you should only make if you are confident in your winter driving skill and don’t expect severe conditions.

The gold standard in winter tires are the Nokian Hakkapellita, made by the Finnish company that literally invented the “snow tire”. Unfortuntely they are expensive and sometimes hard to acquire in the US. If money is no object they are a good choice.

Bridgestone Blizzak, Michelin Ice-X and General Altimax Arctic are probably 3 of the best choices available in 185/60R15. I have used the Blizzaks and the Generals and found both to beexcellent and confident winter tires, if a bit squirmy in the dry on the highway (especially if your state puts grooves in the concrete). Probably going to try the Michelin next.

The Generals are categorized as “studdable” so they can be studded if you expect long hard winters with little to no dry roads, but they also perform very well as a “studless” tire without the studs installed.

I would generally choose the narrower 185/60R15 over the 195/50R16. The only exception is if you really want the performance option, Pirelli makes one in the 16” size, but I wouldn’t recommend it unless your winters are mild, you have a lot of experience in snow, and have the money to burn if you intend to drive them on mostly dry/rainy roads in the winter. True winter tires are generally a better choice if you are going to have two sets anyway, especially if you are prepared to swap them yourself.

Dealing with TPMS: Your 4 options are basically ignore them for your winter tires, disable the warning with Forscan, relearn your TPMS every time you switch, or find a shop (or by a special TPMS scan tool) that can set and clone the ID’s of your existing TPMS sensors.

Some people with short commutes have also had luck with just parking next to your summer/all seasons at home, since it takes the car several miles to notice they are missing.

Finally, it’s a good idea to still carry snow chains or cables even with snow tires. One thing to watch out for is that since snow tires have deeper treads than all seasons, you might find that with cable chains and other types compatible with tight wheelwell clearance, sometimes the “recommended” size for your tire size might not actually fit over your snow tires and you might actually need the next size up, so always fit your chains at home before you take them out in the snow!
The questions to ask yourself:
1) How severe are your winter conditions - do you expect to drive on a few inches of fresh snow or only light dusting on mainly plowed roads
It's Colorado, the winter's can be pretty damn cold and there are definitely some days where the snow is several inches deep. I plan on occasionally driving in a few inches of snow, however the snow doesn't always stick around long. There are definitely days where several inches fall in the morning and it is super icy; however, by afternoon/evening a lot of it has melted away and it's more wet.
2) Does it get really cold and/or icy where you are, or not so cold and snow/slush?
It definitely gets below freezing and icy at times.
3) Do you want a year round set of tires, or dedicated tires and rims for the winter season (or road trips to snowy areas?)
I do not want a year-round set of tires. I am interested in dedicated winter times.
 


OP
Linzeestomp
Messages
4
Likes
11
Location
Denver, Colorado
Thread Starter #7
You'll have to invest in some smaller rims. You can find some in a junkyard if you don't care how they look. The owner's manual says 16s, but you can do 15s too. Blizzaks are good, but any dedicated snow tire will work well enough.
I'm actually thinking about swinging by a junkyard tomorrow to try and snatch a Sync3 system as an upgrade from my current Sync2 system. Might have to investigate rims while I am there. Thanks for the idea!
 


SteveS

Senior Member
Messages
996
Likes
1,163
Location
Osage Beach, MO, USA
#8
Denver, as you said, does get snow though it often clears up quickly. However, if you go into the mountains you will be dealing with real winter conditions that can last. That or if you decide to come east, even through April, you can get into some pretty serious snow and ice all the way across Kansas. Here in Missouri we get enough cold weather and snow and ice that we go from late November to early-mid April on true winter tires, since we're running summer-only tires on the Fiesta ST the rest of the year. Even without snow, the cold would render them useless and damage them.

I opted for a set of cheap alloy 15"x6" wheels because in the fall of 2019 when we bought the car, steelies were virtually unavailable, and the ones I could find cost more than the Motegis I found. That meant 185/60-15 tires, which are the same diameter as the OEM tires, so the speedometer remains accurate. We chose a set of Yokohama iceGuards, which have been great tires, and will last through at least this winter season. Of course you do have to get a set of TPMS sensors installed, and each season with the tire changeover retrain them to the car. If you have a shop do the tires they should do the training, but if you change the tires yourself the device for retraining is less than $20 at Amazon, and it's easy to do.

I would recommend the 15" because they cost less and are very common, and work well.
 


Messages
94
Likes
116
Location
Northern California
#9
The questions to ask yourself:
1) How severe are your winter conditions - do you expect to drive on a few inches of fresh snow or only light dusting on mainly plowed roads
It's Colorado, the winter's can be pretty damn cold and there are definitely some days where the snow is several inches deep. I plan on occasionally driving in a few inches of snow, however the snow doesn't always stick around long. There are definitely days where several inches fall in the morning and it is super icy; however, by afternoon/evening a lot of it has melted away and it's more wet.
2) Does it get really cold and/or icy where you are, or not so cold and snow/slush?
It definitely gets below freezing and icy at times.
3) Do you want a year round set of tires, or dedicated tires and rims for the winter season (or road trips to snowy areas?)
I do not want a year-round set of tires. I am interested in dedicated winter times.
I’d say anywhere in Colorado, you’re going to want a set of dedicated “true” snow tires, in the 185/60R15 size. It gets too cold and icy there especially at night for all-weather or “performance” types to be safe driving on, and the narrower tires are generally better for braking and steering in snowy conditions.

Also, If you are fine swapping your own tires at home, Tire Rack will ship you already mounted and balanced rims and tires of your choice with inexpensive aftermarket TPMS installed, ready to swap on the car.

One more thing is that I’ve heard (second hand) that the Firestone Winterforce, while temptingly cheap, are not up to the winter performance and traction of the tires I mentioned previously. Still better than all-seasons, but not as good as the alternatives for a few bucks more.
 


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