When Should You Consider Winter Tires

Jan 18, 2016 by Darren (Driver Weekly)

A variety of variables can influence the decision on whether or not it is worth investing in a set of four winter tires. In general, winter tires are a good choice for those living and driving in the colder temperature, which is likely to dip below 45° F. But for those that rarely get snow and winters are relatively mild, a set of all-season tires is usually more than enough.

Winter tires vs. All-season

Winter tires are designed and built to operate in the most challenging winter conditions, such as snow, slush, ice, and low temperature. These tires include a particular type of rubber compound for the tread which is able to stay pliable even in the extreme conditions, which increases the ability to brake and grip the surface. On the other hand, the all-season tires are more versatile and intended for changeable road conditions like wet roads, dry roads, and even light snow showers.

All-season tires have a tread that can start to go hard in cooler climate conditions, which can lead to less traction between the tires and road surface. If you want to make sure the tires give reliable traction in the winter, make certain the sidewall of the tires has a mountain snowflake symbol. These are the type of tires that have been specially approved to provide service in severe snow conditions.

Essential for all types of vehicles

The use of winter tires is crucial for all kinds of vehicles, including the four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. While the 4WD vehicle has the ability to improve traction because of its capacity to send power to all wheels when accelerating, this vehicle isn’t much better when it comes to putting on the brakes. Winter tires are essential to improve traction in all situations from braking, turning, and accelerating.

Use sets of four winter tires

Whether a vehicle is an all-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, or front-wheel drive, it is important to put on a full set of four winter tires. Splitting the tire choices can mean the front and rear of the vehicle isn’t able to fully work in unison. For optimum safety, control, and handling of difficult road conditions, a full set of four winter tires is the best course of action that can be taken. Plus, using two different types of tires on the car would likely mean the tire wear is uneven, which will cause more difficulties with handling and performance. 

Are winter tires practical year-round?

It isn’t advisable to use the winter tires year-round. The winter tires have the softer rubber tread which is certain to start to wear out much faster than desired. So, once the temperature begins to warm up, the tire compound should be changed to the all-season tires to give the better and longer performance. The fast wear of the winter tires would likely mean it costs more to use these tires year-round than to switch and use two sets (all-season and winter) at the appropriate time of the year.

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