Snow (or Winter) Tires – Part 1

I have a confession to make—I have not used snow tires, ever. Should I? That’s a question that prompted me to write this article. What’s the big deal? I didn’t really know until I did some research and decided to look into the pros and cons of snow tires, or as they are called by some, “winter tires.” I will start with reviewing the differences, and some of the complaints vehicle owners have about winter tires. In the next article, I will look at the benefits and the upside of winter tires.  To use them or not is up to you. But at least by reading these two articles, you will be able to make a more educated decision.

Winter Tires – What makes them Snow Tires

So what makes a winter tire (or snow tire) different? By the way, I’m going to call them winter tires for the rest of the article. Some features make them very different from the regular tire or all-season tire. Some of these differences include the tread, softer rubber, and gripping particles.

Tread

It’s pretty easy to tell the difference between a regular tire and a winter tire. Winter tires look heavier and beefier than regular tires because the tread on a winter tire is much deeper. Winter tires have special, deeper grooves. This gives the tread more surface area to grip and remove snow. This helps to stop the vehicle by grabbing more of the snow. Also, this tread is actually softer.

Softer Rubber

Winter tires are made of a special rubber that is softer than regular tires. This also allows the tire to grip the cold surface more. Standard tires are made of harder rubber because they are used in the hot months when the pavement is much warmer. Winter tires, therefore, should not be used in during hot months because the will be too soft and they will wear more quickly. They are not just softer, but they most likely have special gripping particles in the rubber.

Gripping Particles

Good winter tires will have some sort of compound to help them grip the road. This is especially important for icy roads.  I’ll talk more about ice a little later.

Complaints about Winter Tires

The reason most people complain about winter tires is they are difficult to store, they are a hassle, and they are expensive. These are all valid reasons. However, let’s take a look at each one.

Where do you store your winter tires for the other eight or nine months of the year? Good question. If you’re like me, you have no space in your garage. If you live in an apartment, it’s even worse. Not only that, but they are a hassle.

Unless you can store and change the tires yourself, you’ll need to take them to a mechanic or garage that can swap them out for you. This is a pain and can cost you some money. Speaking of money, they are an added expense.

Winter tires can be very pricey; well over $120 per tire, not including the wheels. Having an extra set of wheels (or rims) is something most people don’t’ think about. You could, theoretically, have a shop unmount your regular tires and then mount your winter tires on the same rims, but I wouldn’t recommend it. So, it’s another added expense that, to most, seems needless.

Conclusion

In this article, we’ve looked at the negative side of winter tires. But fear not, winter tire enthusiasts. In the next article, we will wrap up this discussion with some of the benefits of winter tires. So be sure to read the upcoming article, part two of this two-part series.

Written by Gary Pradel