FAQ: Do I Need Winter Tires?
As winter sets in and driving conditions become less favorable, you’re probably hearing the annual debate of “do I need winter tires?” Many people debate the merits of winter tires, snow tires, and all-season tires when winter rolls around. Before you set out on your holiday drives, make sure you’re informed and prepared for the weather with the tires you need!
Winter Tires vs. All-Season Tires
Many Americans in the snow belt don’t have winter or snow tires because their vehicles come with all-season tires. While all-season tires are definitely better than thin summer tires or performance tires, they still fall short in slippery, snowy conditions. All-season tires have a lot of perks, like a quiet ride and good tread life. They’re also very handy in lots of different conditions, including wet roads and light winter driving. If you live in an area that mainly sees winter rain and maybe a bit of snow, they’ll probably do just fine. However, because of their year-round average capability, they don’t excel in any one area. When heavy snow and harsh, icy road conditions hit, you’ll want to swap out those all-season tires for proper snow tires for better traction.
Winter Tires vs. All-Wheel Drive
You might also wonder if you need winter tires if you have all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. These traction-control systems definitely help your vehicle stay on the road and in control, but your tires still need to provide grip for braking and steering. All-wheel drive gives you better traction for your start-up grip than two-wheel drive does, so you’ll be able to take off more easily. However, it doesn’t necessarily help you stop or steer in slick conditions. In order to maximize your traction control’s effectiveness, your SUV should be equipped with winter tires. You can find winter tires that are designed and built to support the weight and higher center of gravity on your SUV, so that your all-wheel drive can let you control a heavy SUV in inclement conditions.
Why Winter Tires Work
Winter tires have a few specific features that help them give you the best traction in the worst weather. This combination of features is what sets them above all-season tires, which combine only some of these winter features with some summer and performance features, as well. Winter tires have special tread rubber compounds that are designed to remain flexible in extremely cold temperatures, instead of stiffening up like all-season tires do. They also feature deeper tread depths and unique tread patterns designed to channel snow and slush, as well as expel water. Additionally, winter tires have more biting edges and high sipe densities compared to all-season tires. Those features help provide traction on ice with thousands of tiny slits in the tread.
Driving in Winter Weather
Consumer Reports finds that many drivers are nervous about driving in the snow, especially younger drivers with less experience. There are many ways you can prepare yourself for driving during the winter months, and snow tires are just one part of that. In addition to equipping your car with winter tires, you should be sure to prepare your vehicle to face inclement conditions. If you’re nervous about how your vehicle handles, try taking it to an empty parking lot or another wide-open space during the daytime. Get in some practice in an empty, safe, and well-lit environment so that you’re prepared to be on the road. You can see more tips for safe winter driving here!