For a while this year, it seemed like the weather didn’t know what it was doing. One day we needed to bundle up like a bunch of Eskimos and the next day we shed layers like a snake down to our shorts and t-shirts. But within the past few weeks, the weather has seemed to settle in for the winter.
It got me thinking about my car and what I needed to do to prepare for winter. First thing that came to mind were my tires. I’ve known the day was coming that I needed to buy tires for the winter, but I got to thinking about what kind of tires I wanted to go with. Do I want “snow tires” or should I go with “all season” tires? What is the difference, really? What factors should I be considering?
Here are a tire buying tips for winter tires:
Tire Buying Tips
All-season tires are simply not designed to improve traction on the snow and ice. The tread in all-season tires is flatter – which will enhance your traction on dry roads but the tread will not effectively cut into snow the way you might hope.
Winter or snow tires are specifically designed to drain water and snow. Traction is increased because of the rounder casing design on the tire, wider circumferential grooves and the special rubber compounds in a snow tire that grip the road and bite into snow. They are built to provide 25-50% more traction in ice and snow than all-weather tires.
Based on the conditions you’ll be driving in this winter, you might need tires that are built to deliver the ultimate safety and control in adverse conditions.
2. Where are you?
If you’re preparing for a winter in Birmingham, Alabama, full of 40-degree weather with maybe one or two snows per year, you’re probably going to want different types of tires than someone in Minneapolis, Minnesota who will likely not only need to go tire shopping, but snow-plow shopping as well.
Obviously different climates call for different types of tires that will keep us safe.
3. Snow tires are not just a deeper tread, they’re more porous and are designed to stay soft even in sub-zero temperatures.
4. If You Go, Go All In
You don’t want to just buy two snow tires. If you decide that the upcoming snowy and cold conditions call for snow tires on your car, you should definitely equip all 4 of your wheels.
By putting tires only on the back wheels of a rear-wheel-drive car, you’re neglecting to equip the tires that steer your car with as much grip as the wheels driving the car – which increases the chance of you being unable to turn quickly or accurately on snow or ice. Likewise, if you put snow tires on the front wheels of a front-wheel-drive car, the other wheels won’t have nearly as much grip on the road as your new tires – increasing the chances of a spin-out when you’re turning or trying to stop.
Unless you live in a place that doesn’t see much snow or ice each year, snow tires are probably the way to go. The hassle then becomes having to switch your tires a few times a year. If you’re not interested in doing that, maybe all-weather tires are the way to go, or you could buy an extra set of wheels in a junk yard that have your snow tires on them. Switching out your wheels is a lot easier than mounting a set of tires.