Winter & Snow Tires
All-season tires are designed for wet and dry roads, and even snowy roads. For drivers in regions that experience heavy snowfall and ice, you may consider a dedicated winter tire. Winter, or snow tires provide handling and braking in true winter conditions, which can save you from both accidents and the stress of driving in snow without proper traction.
Winter tires are engineered with special rubber compounds to stay pliable at temperatures at around 40 degrees Fahrenheit. They also feature tread block patterns designed to maintain grip on the road. Circumferential grooves create deep channels all around the tire that direct slush, snow and ice off the face of the tire's tread, creating continuous contact between the tire and road. Razor-thin grooves within the pattern of the tread, called sipes, allow the tread blocks to flex and act like teeth, biting into the snow for improved traction.
These features are great for winter conditions but winter tires are not designed for optimal performance in the other seasons. So be sure to switch back to your regular all season or summer tires as soon as the warm weather returns.
Studded Snow Tires
If you live in an area that experiences extreme winters with deep snow and ice, you may be looking for an added measure of winter traction.
Studded snow tires are basically cleats for your car. You can either buy a set with studs already embedded, or you can get a studdable set and install the studs with the proper tool.
Studded tires provide more precise handling and braking on snow and ice. The studs offer maximum grip for handling on the most unpredictable of surfaces. Made from the same cold-weather compound as standard winter tires, studdable tires may not feature the same deep circumferential grooves.
The main drawback of studded tires is that, when roads aren't covered in snow and ice, the studs may damage the pavement. Many states, cities and towns have banned or restricted the use of metal studs because of the potential damage. Check your local laws to determine if studdable tires are an option when you live. On dry roads, studded tires also produce a distinctive, and loud, noise—not a favorite with drivers.
Tire & Wheel Package
Some people are deterred from switching out their all-season tires for winter tires because of the inconvenience. Two trips to a tire shop—to get the tires mounted on the wheels and then taken off—and finding a place to store them during the off-season can be a little more effort than you might want.
You might consider a dedicated set of wheels to mount your winter tires on. When the cold weather hits, it's simple to switch from one set to another.