Perhaps you’ve steer cleared of winter tires to avoid added expense and hassle, but is that really the best thing for your safety? Read on to learn more.
Snow tires are greats
When snow season rolls around, I swear by winter tires. I hear all the time that all-season tires are “fine” in the snow. They may be fine, but snow tires are great.
After growing up in Colorado and spending four years in Wyoming, I became very familiar with driving in the snow. My car has always been a Honda Civic – not a car known for being great in the snow. However, with snow tires, even a Honda Civic becomes a little tank in the winter. I’ve driven in the mountains during a blizzard, ascended steep, icy residential hills, and been able to continue driving safely while cars spun out around me. If you live in a snowy area, I recommend having two sets of tires: all-seasons and snow tires.
Winter tires is essential
The answer to this is it depends on a couple of different factors, such as the climate that you live in. If you live in parts of California like LA, spending money on winter tires would be very difficult to justify as the winter is almost non-existent, whereas in some states such as North Dakota they could be a must-buy as the snowfall can be brutal.
Many people tend to overlook purchasing winter tires if their current set of summer or all-season tires has plenty of tread depth, but there is much more of a difference between the two tires than you might expect. Winter and summer tires are made from a different compound that helps improve performance in the right conditions. When the temperatures drop, each tire will naturally harden; however, winter tires are composed of a softer compound to help enhance grip in the cold weather. Summer tires fail in the winter and are dangerous as they become too hard to ‘bite’ into the snow to provide sufficient grip. Likewise, winter tires are not ideal for summer driving as the softer compound not only wears down more rapidly, the tread pattern is optimized for dealing with ice and snow, not for contact directly with the road.
When considering switching tires, you should keep in mind that tires need to be stored correctly – indoors away from water, racked up, or laid on their side. If you leave tires upright, they can warp over time. If you do opt for winter tires this season, ensure that you change all 4 tires, as mixing different sets will cause a big disparity in grip, making the car more unpredictable and more difficult to control, particularly on bends.
In my personal experience, I have relied on winter tires as when using a rear-wheel-drive car. Powerful cars in snowy conditions are dangerous and so in my use case, investing in winter tires is essential. Personally, I think low power and smaller cars benefit less as they are not particularly designed for high performance. If you don’t want winter tires, all season tires are a great compromise. They can provide safe levels of performance all year round, and can be a good choice for most drivers. Whatever you decide, ensure that the tires you choose have plenty of tread depth, and slow down in icy conditions.
Get winter tires
My father has always been obsessed with cars so when he told my husband and I that we needed winter tires for a road trip across Europe in December we dismissed his advice. We thought he was just being a bit over the top and that it was part of his “car fanaticism.”
We set off on our trip and drove across France and into Switzerland where we had to pass through a ski resort. We parked in a parking lot next to a restaurant. The whole resort had snow on the ground. After lunch, we pulled out of the parking lot and down the hill to the road, when suddenly the wheels of the car locked. They couldn’t grip the snow. The whole car slowly started sliding sideways down the hill, and my husband couldn’t do anything to stop it. He was slamming on the brakes and trying to move the steering wheel, but we kept sliding. As it was a gentle hill we luckily came to a standstill before we hit the road without having to deal with any oncoming cars. But needless to say, we learned our lesson.
If you’re going anywhere at all where there is some ice or snow, get winter tires. We do it every year now and we’ve never had any problems since then. We’ve been on a range of icy and snowy terrains in our travels.
Up here in Southern Ontario, winter tires definitely make a huge difference for me. While it’s not mandated by law to have winter tires (unlike in Quebec), I highly recommend putting them on if you live in a snowy climate.
The most significant difference I notice with winter tires is traction. When I used to drive with all-season tires during winter, I would often slide around in my vehicle, especially while turning or accelerating. Unless there’s a large snowstorm or the roads are very icy, I can pretty much drive as I do normally with winter tires. They are heavier and tend to use a bit more fuel in my car.
But for me, safety is number 1, and that is why I prefer having winter tires for our Canadian winters.
In a nutshell, yes.
Winter tires generally have a better grip for wet and unstable conditions on the road. From personal experience, it’s much easier to drive up and down hills in bad conditions than with tires designed for summer use. The car feels more stable whether driving at 20 mph or even 50 mph. You need to feel in control when driving, and winter tires help during those harsh conditions in the winter months.
Winter tires make a difference
Without a doubt, winter tires make driving in winter storms much safer. They’re made from softer rubber, so while a standard tire’s rubber gets harder in cold conditions, a winter tire’s rubber stays softer. Imagine if you wanted to slide across an ice skating rink. You would want something solid and hard underfoot.
If you wanted to slip on the ice while driving your car, you’d pick the hardest rubber tire you could find. Since that’s not the goal for anyone wishing to remain in control of their vehicle on icy roads, you’ll want to stick with a more pliable rubber that can retain traction even in cold temperatures.
While winter tires are excellent for cold temperatures and ice and snow-covered roads, they’re not ideal for warm weather driving. Because the rubber is softer, it wears out more quickly than all-season tires, so make sure to have your tires switched out seasonally so that you can maximize the life of your tires and take advantage of each tire’s strengths.
Provides proper traction
Winter tires make all the difference up here in New England. It is not uncommon for us to see vehicles on the side of the road or in ditches because they lost control while driving. I am on the road every day for work, and It would be impossible for me to get around during a storm without reliable winter tires. They provide me with the proper traction and stopping power during a snow storm.
It’s well worth the expense
I’m a big proponent of using snow tires. I had front-wheel drive SAABs from 1992-2015. The cars always handled better in the winter with four snow tires than with four all-season radials. When we moved to a home with a steep incline driveway, it was nearly impossible for me to get out of the driveway on snowy mornings without snow tires. The extra traction and bite, not to mention the different types of rubber used in snow tires, made a big difference.
I’ve had two BMW all-wheel-drive vehicles since 2015, and although they are much better in the snow than the front-wheel-drive vehicles were, they handle much better with four snow tires. It’s well worth the expense of changing the tires twice per year.
Philip Mena Weiss
They’re a must during winter
Since I travel a lot, I invested some money into purchasing quality tires for my car. In my experience, winter tires really do make a difference, especially when it’s cold and wet outside. It’s much easier to break and my car never slips when I try to stop or make a turn.
Winter tires are not necessary when it’s wet but hot outside. However, as soon as the temperature drops, they’re a must for everyone who wants to stay safe.
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