Winter Tires - Do you need them?

October 7th, 2016

Who needs winter tires?

YOU need winter tires! You might be thinking, “but I have an SUV or a light truck, I don’t need winter tires.” Or, “my car is equipped with traction control and ABS brakes, I’ll be fine.” No, you won’t. “OK, well I have Front-Wheel Drive or All-Wheel Drive” – that’s great, but you still need winter tires.

An SUV or light truck is a heavier vehicle, so it will not slide as much as a lighter car. Traction control will keep you from overpowering your tires, but it won’t improve your tire’s traction. All it will do is limit your car’s acceleration to the traction level of your tires. ABS brakes will keep you from locking your tires, but it will not improve traction; it simply limits your vehicle’s braking to the traction level of your tires. Front-Wheel Drive will get you going in bad weather conditions, but it does nothing to help you stop. Also, Front Wheel Drive does not offer the best handling and corner. All-Wheel Drive vehicles are the best to power through snow, slush and ice, but if you do not give it the gripping power it needs (aka winter tires) you are undermining the performance of your vehicle.

Why do you need winter tires?

“I have all-season tires, I’ll be fine,” you might say. Not necessarily true. All-Season tires are intended to provide acceptable traction for a wide variety of conditions. However, because they cover a wide variety of conditions, they are not the best in any of them. The All-Season tire tread designs and compounds are engineered to provide more mileage and durability in cool weather and hot summers. These compounds are much less effective in freezing temperatures and in snow and ice.

Winter tires are designed to provide better traction, handling and braking capability on snow, ice or slush covered roads. They have more sipes (slits in the tread blocks) to increase the number of edges in the contact patch of the tire. As the tread blocks flex, each edge bites into the snow and ice. This helps to channel snow and slush across the tire’s surface and away from the contact patch.

Winter tires are also made with special rubber compounds that stay pliable in the extreme cold and allow for more control on dry roads. Most All-Season tires are made of a rubber compound that hardens at any temperature below 32°. This makes your tires slide across surfaces, rather than grip them. If you’re going to put on a few miles between December and March, winter tires may be a better fit for you.

How many winter tires do you need?

You need to put four (4) winter tires on your car. This ensures that you will have the optimum traction and control for your vehicle. If you put 2 different types of tires on your vehicle, you will have a vehicle with a “split” personality. One end of the vehicle will act and perform differently than the other end. This could exacerbate severe road conditions.

Can I use winter tires all year round?

You can, but we wouldn’t recommend it. Your winter tires will wear out faster in warm weather because of the soft rubber compounds. This could end up costing you more than switching between two sets of tires. Bridgestone Tire uses a great analogy – tennis shoes. You could wear them all year round, whether you were on the beach in the summer or in the snow during the winter. But wouldn’t it be better to wear flip-flops in the summer heat and boots in the frigid winter?

Still don’t believe us?
Watch this short video, which compares all season and winter tires.

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  Posted in: Tire Basics