When winter sets in and the roads start to build up snow and ice, many Americans enter the yearly debate of “do I need winter tires?” There are a lot of answers out there, when you consider winter tires vs all-season tires or snow tires vs all-wheel drive. Before you set out on your holiday trips this year, make sure that your vehicle is fully prepared with the right tires for the job!
Why Winter Tires Work
Winter tires are specially designed to give you better grip and traction in the worst weather. They have special tread rubber compounds that stay flexible when the temperature drops, instead of becoming rigid like softer summer rubber. They also have deeper tread depths, as well, plus unique tread patterns to channel and expel snow, slush, and water. Winter tires also have more biting edges and higher sipe densities than all-season tires. Their construction means that they can bite deeper and grip better on slick roads, so that you can drive, brake, and turn confidently even when the roads aren’t ideal.
Winter Tires vs. All-Season Tires
Keep in mind, there is a difference between winter tires and all-season tires! All-season tires come standard on a lot of new vehicles these days, and they are definitely a better bet than summer or performance tires. However, they still fall short in truly wintery conditions. They’re made to offer a quiet ride and good tread life in addition to some mildly rough conditions like wet roads or light snow. Because of their year-round average capability, they don’t excel in one area like performance tires or winter tires. When heavy snow and harsh, icy road conditions hit, you’ll want to swap out those all-season tires for snow tires for better traction.
Winter Tires vs. All-Wheel Drive
You might also wonder if you need winter tires if you have all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. Traction-control systems like these help your vehicle put down power to help stay in control, but your tires still need to be able to provide grip for braking and steering. All-wheel drive gives you better traction for your start-up grip than two-wheel drive does, so you’ll be able to take off more easily. However, it doesn’t necessarily help you stop or steer in slick conditions. In order to maximize your traction control’s effectiveness, your SUV should still be equipped with winter tires. You can find winter tires that are designed and built to support the weight and higher center of gravity on your SUV, so that your all-wheel drive can let you control a heavy SUV in tough road conditions.
Safety Tips for Driving in Winter Weather
Consumer Reports finds that many drivers are nervous about driving in the snow, especially younger drivers with less experience. There are lots of ways you can prepare yourself for driving during the winter months, and snow tires are just one part of that. In addition to equipping your car with winter tires, you should be sure to prepare your vehicle to face inclement conditions. If you’re nervous about how your vehicle handles, try taking it to an empty parking lot or another wide-open space during the daytime. Get in some practice in an empty, safe, and well-lit environment so that you’re prepared to be on the road. You can see more tips for safe winter driving here!
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