Do You Need Winter or Snow Tires?

Jan 10

Firstly, you might be asking yourself what are winter tires or snow tires and if they are the same thing. Both are great questions! To answer the first question, winter tires are special tires designed to withstand the low, ambient temperatures of winter. These tires provide extra braking and handling as well as traction, so you get the best rubber-to-road contact you possibly can. Snow tires are specifically exceptional when dealing with roads that are icy, slushy, or deteriorated with snow fall. (The design of these tires is the most important, but we will get to that in a little bit.) For wondering if winter tires and snow tires are the same thing: they are! The names are interchangeable.

Design.

As mentioned above, the tires’ design is the most important thing. Without their added features, they would just be like any other all-season tire (the tire type that most cars come equipped with). Snow tires have a special design that includes raised blocks of tread called lugs, and sipes that are these awesomely thin grooves that are within the tire’s tread. The combination of the lugs and sipes allows the tires to guide away the blanketed snow, ice or slush on the road. This duo also provides additional “bite,” which is perfect for when you are doing down any winter road—you’re going to want as much “physical attraction,” if you will, from the rubber to the road as you can get!

Along with sipes and lugs, some snow tires also have additional studs. These studs are small, sturdy metal pins that are inserted into the tread of the tires to provide and even better bite. Be careful with these, though! They are not legal in all areas due to how they can tear up the road, so if you are thinking you need this extra protection, please check and make sure they are legal where you are before purchase!

With the right set of tires for winter, you can drive better on those slippery roads than ever before and also know that you are safer. Making a simple turn, accelerating and braking can be terrifying in the winter. As the old proverb states, “Better a thousand times careful than once dead.”

Types.

  1. Performance Winter Tires. This type of winter tire is made so you do not have to sacrifice as much performance, for lack of a better description. You are still able to travel at higher speeds (for you dare devils) while still providing you with more traction than your standard all-season tires. These tires normally last the longest as well and can stay in good shape from the early days of fall to the latter days of spring. These tires are perfect for areas that don’t see as much snow, but have huge temperature swings. With most of these Performance Winter tires you will be trading that extra snow trudging for some great wet grip (i.e. for rain).
  2. Studless Winter Tires. These tires have the best of both worlds; if you’re looking for great performance while still getting a lot of rubber to road friction. Studless tires will give you the best grip you can have without actually having studs on your tires (as you will see below). With these, yes, you will sacrifice some of the dry-road handling and high-speed stability that you get with the Performance Winter tires, but having the extra grip (depending on where you are) could be the better option for you!
  3. Studded Winter Tires. These beasts are for all you snow plowing, winter loving, hard-core driving people out there! The metal studs that were mentioned earlier are inserted into the rubber of the tires; these studs literally dig into the ice and tough snow you may be driving on. If you are looking for absolute maximum grip, these tires are the way to go. Remember: these tires are not legal everywhere! Please check to make sure of their legalities in your area before purchase.

Lifespan.

As you probably are aware, not everything in a car lasts as long as the car itself does; there are many replaceable components of a car (tires being one of them). What really will determine how long your winter tires last will mostly depend on how they are taken care of when they are not being used. When it is no longer the winter season, you are going to want to make sure you are taking care of all the parts of your car to add a season or two to its life!

Storing your snow tires properly is going to be one of the most helpful things you can do during the off-season. To increase the longevity of your tires make sure that you are keeping them indoors and away from light and heat. This can damage the rubber and the tread of the tire.

Also, you will want to limit the use of these tires to winter time only! By using the tires solely during the time period of the winter wonderland season, you can increase the use of these tires by an entire season or two (sometimes more if you’re lucky!), since these tires are designed to work in the low degree temperatures.
All this isn’t to say that you can’t use your snow tires during other seasons; you can still benefit from the use of these tires in the off seasons, but their grip is best on the cold surfaces rather than the warm ones.

*Note: there is no standard rule to when you should switch out your snow tires for new ones, but generally speaking, it would be in your best interest to change them out when the tread depth reaches to about 6/32”. It won’t be an emergency situation if you don’t change it out right away after the tread is down that far, but that is about the time when you should consider having a tire piggy bank to save for new tires!

Fin.

After reading this, some of you may still be undecided; there really are a lot of factors to think about when investing into a new set of tires (which some would consider not necessary). I do assure you that if you are in an area with snow, a couple bags of kitty litter sitting in the back of your car can only do so much for you (a trick that a lot of snow people know—helps weigh the vehicle down). A separate set of tires for the winter season is something that you should really consider. Having these specially made tires for the rough season is comparable to having full coverage insurance: you just want the extra assurance that you are going to be taken care of. If you could have extra safety in dangerous weather, wouldn’t you want that? “Out of this nettle, danger, we pluck this flower, safety.” William Shakespeare

One comment

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