Aftermarket/Homebrew (ca. 2005)
Current: Yokohama Geolandar A/T-S, 215/70-16 (stock size)
Previous: Yokohama Geolandar H/T-S G051, 225/70-16
Current: Firestone Winterforce M+S, 225/70-16
Previous: Nokian Hakkapeliitta R, 215/70-16 (stock size)
Previous: Nokian Hakkapeliitta SUV, 225/70-16
I tried to buy a new set of Hakkapelittas in November 2012, but they were on national back-order. Apparently Nokian forgot that winter was coming. So now I have Firestones, which do very well in the snow.
The Hakkapelitta Rs were a new product in the fall of 2008, and Nokian now makes the Hakkas in the Element's stock size. The Rs are strictly studless, and with their new tread pattern promise to be best on ice of any of Nokian's designs to date. Purchased from a local dealer for $138 each, including mounting, balance, stems, and installation.
The snows are mounted on stock Honda steel rims. They were "takeoffs," stock items from a DX or LX that an owner left with the dealer when trading up to alloy wheels. Purchased from a local Honda dealer for $107 for four, including plastic center caps. The Honda steelies take a different lug nut, which has a built-in plastic washer to secure the center cap. The steel-wheel nut, Honda p/n 90381-SV1-981, works fine on the alloy wheel. I got 16 for $34 from a local Honda dealer. (I only needed 16, rather than 20, because my EX came with a set of four Honda [McGard] locking lug nuts.)
The Geolandar H/T-S was a big improvement over the stock Goodyear Wrangler and reasonably priced, but although they're an all-season tire, they're a little slippery on snow for my taste. Purchased from Tire Rack in 2004, four for $343 delivered, plus mounting and balancing. The current tire, Geolandar A/T-S (purchased from Tire Rack in 2010, four for $392 delivered), has a much more aggressive tread. Time will tell how well they grip, but they seem quiet considering the chunkyness of the tread.
The Hakkapeliitta SUVs were great in snow. I got four seasons out of them runing pretty much December through March, then put them to work as summer tires for a couple of seasons. Purchased from Tire Factory, four for $555 delivered, plus mounting and balancing. The Hakkapelitta Rs are also top-notch in snow and icy conditions.
The Hakka are available with or without studs. My previous experience with studs was that they're great maybe 1% of the time, but the rest of the time they're just noisy, and a little jittery in the wet. And when the roads are really glazed, they just make interesting patterns in the ice as you spin around.
The stock 215/70-16 size was somewhat unusual, with few tire choices available, when I purchased the Element in 2004. Because 225/70-16 is only 2% larger in diameter and 10mm wider than stock, there are no clearance or speedometer headaches. Chart of tire sizes here. Exhaustive discussion of tire options at Element Owners Club.