Winter seems to have come early this year with record low temperatures and significant snowfall. If you haven’t put winter tires on yet, you may be weighing that decision and deciding if they’re worth the effort and money. We asked experts to share their thoughts on the merits of winter tires. Here’s what they had to say:
Ron Humes, VP of Operations for Post Modern Marketing, is based in Lexington, KY. Outside of his various professions, he has always been an outdoor enthusiast and a bit of a technology connoisseur, or at least a passionate gadget geek. In his spare time, Ron runs a group called Offroad Tracks with over 2,400 members who enjoy “getting off the beaten path” to explore this country.
What makes a tire a winter tire anyway?
A winter tire is a tire you run in the winter, right? Yes, but there are actually certain characteristics that qualify a tire as a winter tire. In regions with significant winter weather, a driver will see snow, ice, sleet, rain, and freezing temperatures. In these conditions, a normal tire may find it difficult to provide enough traction to keep you moving forward and on the road. Historically, tire manufacturers have tried to answer this dilemma with an “all-season” or “all-terrain” tire. They definitely perform better than a typical road tire in the winter; however they are designed to meet a variety of terrains, weather conditions, and temperatures, so they cannot be designed for the “best” performance in all seasons and conditions. Today, advances in tire technology have produced some specialized winter tires that have greatly increased siping, directional tread design, integrated holes for stud placement, and a rubber compound specifically designed to remain supple in frigid temperatures.
Do I need a specialized winter tire?
To answer this question, you will need to consider the region where you live and travel. If you live in a climate where snow, sleet and ice are rare occurrences, it might not be worth the investment. If you live in a region where the winter season is long and the weather is drastic, you may consider this a good investment for your safety. Roadways that experience drastic winter weather along with steep grades may sometimes require chains or even studs in the tires. On the other hand, there are regions where chains and studs are illegal on the roads. Since winter tires are often used in that season primarily and changed out after the season, you will also need to consider the cost of an additional set of wheels and tires along with the required storage space.
How to increase traction with or without winter tires
For years, we have used certain tricks to increase our traction in the snowy season. Lowering the tire pressure of any tire will increase the surface area in contact with the road. Adding weight to trunks and truck beds will increase the weight over the wheels increasing traction, especially if those tires are at the drive wheels. Just about any all-terrain (AT) tire will still outperform a standard road tire in the winter season. Keep in mind that it is almost impossible to get significant traction on ice without chains or studs, and it is imperative to increase your braking distance.
I split my time between northern Colorado and eastern Nebraska. Both areas get a significant amount of snow, and despite their best efforts, both areas struggle with plowing, it makes winter driving a challenge sometimes.
You can get away with having all high-end, all-weather tires if you keep them in good condition, but having actual winter snow tires makes a huge difference and is well worth the investment. Winter tires have saved me from several incidents over the last few years. I found a cheap set of wheels on Craigslist that I keep my snow tires on and swap out the wheels when the snow starts coming down.
BJ Enoch is a Colorado native who has spent the last 12+ years in digital marketing as a consultant, inhouse marketer, Director of SEO, and VP of Enterprise Accounts. BJ is currently the Director of Demand Generation for opendorse, an athlete marketing platform based in Lincoln, NE.
Lauren Fix is an award-winning author of three automotive books, was the National Automotive Correspondent for Time Warner Cable and has appeared on Oprah, TODAY, 20/20, Regis & Kelly, The View, CNBC, CNN, FOX News, HLN and MSNBC, to name a few.
Winter tires are definitely worth the investment. In areas of the country where the temperature drops below 40°, all-season tires don’t do the trick. They simply do not offer the same traction as they do when the temperatures are warmer. The difference is that there is less traction for handling, and when it’s snowing outside, you won’t be able to get the maximum adhesion, which will keep you safe on the road.
If you see snow on the roads more than twice a year, it makes sense to invest in winter tires. They are better on snow and ice. Think of it like snow boots for the winter and sneakers for the summer.
As year-round RVers, winter tires are essential to keep us on the road. Once you get into the routine of taking them on and off for winter, which is much simpler than you might think, then it means you can safely stay on the road for much longer. Also, because they aren’t on for long and get very little wear and tear, they should last you a good number of years.
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