The Retread Tire Studded Experience

Post by blogger | December 16, 2008      

All, avalanche accidents always bring out the pundit in us. But enough of that for now. I know Cory would appreciate it if we got on with enjoying the wonderful snow we’re getting. So today we’re off on a Christmas tree cutting expedition that will involve skis, snowmobiles, chain saws — and trucks. To that end, I thought I’d have some fun and depart for a moment from ski related stuff and file one of our ever popular automotive posts. These of course hearken to the sometimes dark truth that most of us need to drive cars if we want to backcountry ski. Yep, reality strikes. Thus, we need tires. Good tires. Here are some thoughts along those lines.

Backcountry Skiing

The meats in question.

“Retread” has become a pejorative. But it’s not. I recently got my latest issue of Petersen’s 4 Wheel (yep, it’s like Christmas when that comes). Lo and behold, the bubba fun bible had an article about installing and using retread (“recap”) tires from TreadWright.

The Petersen article said retreads have 90% the carbon footprint of making new tires (all you greenies should be running them or you’re a hypocrite), and keep tires out landfills, lakes, and other dumping grounds. More, you can get into a tire for about half the price of a new set! My quad for the Silverado easily came in at half price, even after shipping, installation, and studding.

Okay, I’m reading like an infomercial. The question is how do retreads last, do they ride like a new tire, and are they any more likely to fail than fresh rubber? All my research indicated they’ll be fine, but the road test will tell the tale. (Update: I’ve been on these tires about a week. On the pave they feel round and balanced, actually better than the tires they replaced. They howl a bit as aggressive AT pattern tires tend to do, but not obnoxiously so. They don’t have the deep vibrating rumble some snow tires do, probably because they’re an AT pattern rather than full-on snow tires. In terms of grip on snow and ice I’m totally satisfied, though I don’t know how they’d be without studs as they do use a fairly hard rubber. I’ll update this post as testing progresses over the winter.)

Backcountry Skiing

The rubber in question, mounted on the '02 Silverado 1500. Notice the abundant siping of this obviously snow-ready tread pattern.

Around here, part of backcountry skiing is having a snow-worthy 4×4 to reach remote trailheads. You can get away with all season tires and a set of chains for emergencies. But my all-seasons were too worn for safe winter use, so I figured this was a good time to experiment with recaps as a set of meats dedicated to winter use. What came from Treadwright uses a Bridgstone Dueler casing, with a tread pattern they call “AT,” per what we usually consider to be an all terrain tire with enough siping to perform on snow and ice, as well as being pinned for stud installation. I tested on our ice bound streets just a moment ago, and they grab like any other studded snow tires I’ve used over the years, so good.

Backcountry Skiing tires.

Closer view of Treadwright's AT tread pattern, with studs installed.



30 Responses to “The Retread Tire Studded Experience”

  1. Patrick O December 16th, 2008 2:01 pm


    I know we are trying to stop talking about avalanches but we had a huge slide up north if you have not heard yet- two confirmed dead and two missing so far. Here is the TGR thread.

  2. ScottN December 16th, 2008 4:31 pm

    I’ll be curious to see how those do Lou. Looks like a good tread pattern for winter use, and at least half the cost of full retail. Looking at their website, it was interesting to see that they use crushed walnut shells in their ultra grip tires in place of studs. Wonder how well that works. Anyways looks like they have a couple of good off road treads for trail riding in the summer too.

    I just spent a lot on a set of BFG AT KO’s. Not gonna mention the price, as I’m still trying to deny that I actually bought them. But, they have worked really well so far in the packed snow / ice around here, but at a much greater cost. And I think the new suspension on the Tacoma is keeping the tires planted on the road a lot better than the semi-worn stock suspension.

  3. Lou December 16th, 2008 5:43 pm

    Thanks for the heads up on that Patrick. We’re up for much much more avy discussion, just thought I’d lighten things up a bit with the tire post.

  4. doug December 16th, 2008 6:33 pm

    Not sure but I think the slide you reference was from last year and was brought up as a reminder to folks to be careful as I believe they are also dealing with a sketchy snowpack. For what it’s worth…

  5. Nick December 16th, 2008 6:36 pm

    That avalanche thread on TGR dates from January 2008. If you look on page 6 you will see it was bumped to remind people to be careful this season.

  6. Lou December 16th, 2008 8:18 pm

    Yeah, Louie and I were looking at that and it started to look familiar… come on Patrick! You owe us at least a 12-pack for that one!

  7. John Gloor December 16th, 2008 8:57 pm

    Hi Lou. Good topic with the tires as driving around here can be as dangerous as skiing. I have found that nothing comes close to four studded snow tires. The studs and the added siping give vastly superior traction to most “all season” tires. I have gone the cheap route and ran mud/snow tires all winter before and got away with it since I drive a good four wheel drive, but not again.
    As for the retreads, They are not like the semi tires one sees delaminated all over the highway. Modern passenger car retreads should be as safe and good as a new tire. I was curious about Green Diamond tires. They are retreads which use the belted carcass but mold new tread and sidewalls over it, not unlike a new tire. They also have carbide granules throughout the rubber, which work like mini studs. They were fairly expensive, so I bought new tires. They do mention the oil savings of the retreads in their website. Does anyone have an opinion on them?

  8. Thom Mackris December 16th, 2008 9:13 pm

    Hey guys,

    Has anyone tried Green Diamond Tires. I ran into the rep at the Earthworks Expo in Denver this Summer. It’s nearing time for tires, and I’m looking to put my money where my mouth is.

    Here’s the link:

    In my discussions with the rep, he commented on the stringent selection process for carcasses. Of course, what else would he say. Does anyone have long term experience with these?


  9. Geof December 17th, 2008 1:03 am

    I run studded snows on my little Subaru. Got me up to Handies in early June… Studded snow tires should almost be a manditory thing IMO. When they are on, my car is like a tank… We run them on my wife’s Focus… No issues!

  10. Lou December 17th, 2008 8:17 am

    The story I’m getting is that quality tire carcasses are basically what you’d call “over engineered” and will easily last more than two tread lives. Key is the selection process the recapper uses, and the quality of their work. School buses even use the things so I’m not too worried. My own knowledge says that using a properly inflated and properly rated tire is the key, recaps or new.

    Tradwright says ” We use a Full-Grade Truck rubber on all of our tires. This has anywhere for 10-20% natural rubber, leading to a higher mileage, more cut resistant tire. The tires come with a two year 24,000 mile warranty. The rubber is rated as a 40-60K tread compound.”

  11. Cory December 17th, 2008 8:45 am

    “I run studded snows on my little Subaru. Got me up to Handies in early June… Studded snow tires should almost be a manditory thing IMO. When they are on, my car is like a tank… We run them on my wife’s Focus… No issues!”

    I agree that they make your vehicle a tank, but they do bugger up the paved roads (i.e. the “ruts” in each lane of I-70).

    Being a fairly conserative individual, my father holds a strong belief that extra road tax should be assessed to those who run studs. His feeling is that since they do more damage to the roads, they should be responsible for paying for more repairs (much like the taxes being tied to weight).

    I’m still not sure how I feel…I like studs on a packed road, but then the sun comes out and I’m driving on pavement again. (I’ve even got a funny story about running studs in Mexico, but I won’t go into that now.)

  12. Lou December 17th, 2008 9:09 am

    Cory, you sure those ruts are from studs? My understanding is they’re just from heavy use, especially from trucks. As for taxes, those of us who run studs should get a tax break since we cause fewer accidents and make the roads safer. Tell your father that!

  13. Patrick O December 17th, 2008 9:50 am

    OOOPS wow thats way weird it was posted on the Dec 13th day on TGR. Yikes! I guess I shouldn’t listen to everything my coworker says. However if you want some other weird news. Some young girls died in the parking lot at Squaw from Carbon Monoxide poisoning. They left the car running while they slept and the nights snow covered the tail pipe.

  14. Lou December 17th, 2008 10:02 am

    Patrick, I hear TGR causes brain damage, you or your coworker might want to research that rumor (LOL), or at least wear a full face helmet while web surfing (grin).

  15. Chris December 17th, 2008 10:13 am

    I took a trip to the Goodyear testing facilities in Akron several years ago where I was somewhat amazed to see several tests being performed on retreaded passenger aircraft tires. It’s not uncommon for these to be retreaded multiple times. If retreads are good enough for the FAA, I imagine they’re probably good enough for your car…

  16. Patrick O December 17th, 2008 10:24 am

    Wildsnow is certainly less abrasive! Yeah maybe I should invest in a full face helmet. I hope the Drain Bamage is not permanent. Ironically while mixed climbing this weekend my partner knocked off a rock when he was rappelling. I ducked and tucked up close to the wall but got tagged in the back of the head. The rock fell roughly 70 feet and was the size of a honey dew melon. My helmet spider fractured and I had a little whiplash. If I wasn’t wearing a helmet I would have been seriously injured.

  17. Lou December 17th, 2008 10:33 am

    Wow Patrick, that’s good news you didn’t get knocked by that rock any worse! All joking aside! I’m a big fan of helmets at the base of cliffs or at belay stations, but more, when I was a more active rock climber I was a fanatic about finding zones safe from rockfall. Saved my rear many times that way. I’m always hassling the kids about that, probably sound like a nanny but I’ll keep doing it.

  18. milt December 17th, 2008 11:27 am

    i us bridgestone bizzak ws-60 on my jetta. they are a sticky snow and ice tire but not studded. my experience is studded tires are best on ice but compromise traction on dry pavement. i like to drive fast when the roads are dry.

    bottom line, at least for highway driving, to adjust speed to conditions.

    lou, what do you thoughts regarding tires on your nissan? snows or all-seasons?

  19. Patrick O December 17th, 2008 11:47 am

    In retrospect- some of my closest calls have all been in was when descending routes. When pulling the rope- the rope knocks off debris and there you go. Twice I have seen rocks that have been knocked free slice through a rope on impact- luckily both times we had finished descending.

  20. Lou December 17th, 2008 12:09 pm

    milt, we put full-bore studded snow meats (wrong word for those little things) on all 4 corners of Nissan Versa. It turned out that was essential, and is working really well. That little thing boogies, I was flying up and down the snowy icy highway in it the other day passing all sorts of SUVs and Jeeps that obviously thought 4-wheel-drive was a substitute for good tires. Pretty fun. It’s so low to the ground though it’s useless for trailheads, but that’s not what we bought it for.

  21. Geof December 17th, 2008 3:09 pm

    Sorry Cory, but your dad is pretty much wrong. As Lou mentioned, the safety implications far outweigh the minimal damage they cause. Heavy vehicles cause such a high level of damage, it is almost off the scale. Also, they are seasonal, so the roads don’t really see much overall use with studded tires.

    Ask your dad if he has ever had them on a car. If not, I’d bet his tune would change in about three seconds the first nasty storm we would deal with.

  22. Magnus December 17th, 2008 4:28 pm

    thought I’d chime in with some experiences from Norway, the land of taxes, ice covered roads, and studded tires. Most places it is fairly obvious that studded tires cause wheel ruts, as in the tunnels of Tromso township which obviously never get snow cover. Most people use studs as there’s usually plenty of ice and snow on the roads, in the city and about. However, in cities further south people have mostly gone over to using stud-less tires (over the last 15 years or so) and that drastically reduced road maintenance expenses. In spirit with Corys’ father, the government introduced a tax on studded tires and that kinda forced people to reconsider their choice of tires. Not sure, but I think this tax is based on where you live and the expected conditions for that region (North= plenty snow=no tax). I think it’s a good idea, but hey, I like governmentally induced control. But that’s probably because we elect governments who usually make sound judgments…

    Well, the greatest impact of reduced stud use was the dramatically improved air quality in the cities. Inhaling fine asphalt dust is not at all healthy. Our stud use caused some cities to have some of the worst air quality in Europe during winter, and that’s in cities with population less than 150,000, and hardly any industrial pollution. BTW, using wood for heating also contributed to this (we rely on hydro-power mostly and most heating is electrical, but woodburners are a common addition).
    One disadvantage of less stud use: steep, ice-covered roads get polished by non-studded tires which makes it dangerously slippery. Studded tires rip up the surface and creates more friction on the road for the following vehicles.
    Sorry for the long post guys!

  23. Cory December 17th, 2008 9:50 pm

    Wow Magnus! I always kinda figured my Dad was just blowing hot air.

    p.s. Are you the same Magnus who won the World’s Strongest Man Competition?

  24. Lou December 17th, 2008 10:19 pm

    Hi Magnus, When you’ve got the population density of any large city, things like studs making dust probably matter. Dust from studs is not an issue here in the American west, but icy roads are. As for studs causing the ruts we have, everything I’ve read says it’s not studs, but rather commercial truck traffic that causes the ruts in this area (though I could see how if nearly everyone was running studs it could easily wear down the pavement). This makes sense as not that many people run studs anymore anyway, and we still have ruts! And, I’ve seen plenty of pavement ruts regions where people don’t run studs. As for how wise our governments are, let’s just say the U.S. and Norway are dealing with some very different problems, and it would be interesting to swap places and see who was “wiser.” For example, you have a higher suicide rate than we do, but we have massive illegal immigration we can’t seem to control. Let’s have our wise leaders trade places and see what they come up with, eh (grin)?

  25. Geof December 17th, 2008 10:59 pm

    Looking at the “Data” there are these key words used like: could, possibly, maybe etc, but nothing like: absolutely, without doubt, etc. Point is, this debate is like a greenhouse gas debate. The “progressive” perspective uses the “data” to try to justify another “use fee” or tax etc. when really, the sourced data is based on reletively loose research, most of which was performed YEARS ago when stud technology and materials were different.

    The idea of taxing stud use is like taxing a Coke, or a candy bar because they make people fat… no, SORRY, they don’t. Personal choices make people fat, or not.

    The data doesn’t conclusively support (according to a VERY recent WSDOT study) that studs do significantly more damage than not, when considering volume of use, season, etc.

  26. Magnus December 18th, 2008 4:43 pm

    Hi, I know what is right for us isn’t necessarily right for you, I just wanted to share my perspective as we do have issues related to stud use. My personal opinion is that I’d use studs up north or in the country side, because of added security without really making a negative impact since more often than not the roads will be covered. If I was living in a larger city (and didn’t go on ski trips etc) where snow and ice usually wear off quickly, I’d use stud free winter tires because they have increased comfort (studs make a lot of noise on bare roads) and they cause less damage to the roads (and I don’t have to pay that extra tax). I also fully agree with the assumption/fact that commercial heavy transport put a great deal of wear on the roads. (And they usually wear studs or chains too don’t they?)

    As for my poorly hidden stab at your governmental system… I couldn’t help it! I’m stuck writing my thesis at the moment and I get more sarcastic and volatile each day!
    Apart from that, I am very happy about your recent election result (along with most people around the world it seems). It has restored a lot of faith in your country worldwide, and the world needs a stable US with a righteous government. Hopefully the era of political jokes and sarcasm on your behalf dies with Bush’s presidency.

    …and Cory, I’m not the worlds strongest man I’m afraid. He’s Swedish and I can’t imagine he ski tours either.

  27. al December 18th, 2008 5:51 pm

    I been using 4 studded snows since I moved north even when I had the 4×4 ,now I use studded Nokian Hak I’s, II’s and V’s cuz they are the best

  28. Mike December 18th, 2008 6:34 pm

    I haven’t even thought about retread for years. Didn’t know they were still around! Just looked at the website where you got your tires from, but didn’t see that they offered siping and studding. Did you just have that done locally?

  29. Lou December 18th, 2008 8:25 pm

    Mike, I was just mentioning how the tread already had adequate siping. The tires have the stud holes, but you have to have someone local do it. I called around for prices, found good ones, and factored all that in before I pulled the trigger. With everything included I still ended up at about 1/2 what I’d have paid for a new set of meats.

  30. Pierce January 26th, 2010 5:06 pm

    Any update on these tires? How are they working out? Did you get the walnut/glass infused rubber? If so, have you noticed a difference on snow and ice?

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