Winter Tires and All-Season Tires - What to Consider
If your winters are filled with snow and ice, you know the driving hazards that come with the season. Did you know that adding winter tires can add value — and safety — to your winter drives?
Winter tires are specifically engineered to easily tackle freezing weather and wintry driving conditions by providing greater traction and control.
The Difference Between Winter Tires and All-Season Tires
Several key components of winter tires give them an edge over all-season tires when it comes to tackling cold-season driving conditions. One of the biggest differences is the rubber itself, which is different for winter and all-season tires.
All-season tires are made from a harder rubber compound that only gets harder when it gets cold, causing overall traction and vehicle control to decrease as temperatures drop. The rubber in winter tires, however, stays softer and more pliable in the same conditions, which provides better grip to help keep your vehicle moving forward, as well as increased stopping ability on slush-filled or iced-over roads.
Winter tires also feature hundreds of small cuts in the rubber called sipes that create tiny edges that provide increased traction by gripping and grabbing wet, icy and snowy roads. Coupled with deep grooves and channels in the tread, winter tires are made to dissipate water, slush and snow to provide the utmost traction and peace of mind when frigid conditions arrive.
The grooves and tread on all-season tires are generally adequate enough to perform in mud and light snow, but they aren't always the safest or best tire choice when conditions take a turn for the worse.
Whether you're driving on winter tires or all-season tires, if the tread is worn and bald (or close to bald), your safety and traction are drastically impacted. Check the treads regularly and replace your tires if the tread is worn down to 2/32 of an inch. Also, tire life can be maximized by rotating them regularly and often.
When to Install Winter Tires
The best time to change out all-season tires or "summer" performance tires for a set of winter tires is when the temperature is consistently below 45 degrees. Then change them back when the temperature remains above 45 degrees.
When to Remove Winter Tires
Removing winter tires and replacing them with all-season tires when spring arrives is important. While winter tires provide optimal grip and traction in snow and ice, they don't provide the same benefits in warmer weather.
The softer, more flexible rubber will wear much faster on warmer, drier surfaces. Plus, that softer rubber and the grippy, biting edges that are good in snow make quick maneuvers and tighter handling a challenge in warmer weather. They are also much noisier than all-season tires on dry pavement. Those factors could ultimately cost you more in the long run than switching your tires out a couple of times a year.
Drive with Caution All Year Long
Winter tires do not guarantee you won't skid, slide or lose control when weather conditions are below freezing, but they can have a big impact against those risks when coupled with cautious driving.
A good rule of thumb for cold commutes is to keep at least three car lengths between you and other drivers because that distance can give you enough space and time to stop more safely and avoid potential accidents.
Ice and snow can create treacherous driving conditions, which makes the added safety features of winter tires even more important. If you experience regular snow and freezing temperatures throughout the winter season, making the switch from all-season or summer tires to winter tires may be the right choice for you.