Snow (or Winter) Tires – Part 2

In part one of this two-part series, I talked about the differences between winter tires (snow tires) and regular tires.  I also pointed out many of the complaints people had concerning buying, storing, and installing winter tires.

In this article, we will take a look at some of the benefits of winter tires. There are actually many solid reasons for owning and using winter tires, so let’s dive in.

Benefits of Winter Tires

Winter tires allow you to stop more quickly in snow and slush. There have been some studies that prove this. Stopping, obviously, is as important for four-wheel-drive vehicles as rear-wheel-drive and front-wheel-drive cars. Many people who own all-wheel-drive and front-wheel-drive vehicles tend to be more confident that they will have better traction in the snow.  While it’s true that these vehicles have less of a problem gaining traction, it is the stopping and handling that is the issue. Winter tires win out over regular tires every time in this area.

As I just stated, traction in snow and slush is greatly improved with winter tires. This is no surprise. But I have to throw in my usual argument here. I feel that winter tires, alone, do very little to help you on ice. It’s simple physics. Rubber slides on ice. I’ve driven on frozen lakes in Minnesota, and I don’t care what winter tire you have, you are going to slide if you’re not careful. Unless, of course, the winter tires have grips.

Grips, Studs, and Chains

Grips, or gripping particles, sometimes include sand or other matter added to tire rubber that makes them tread grip into ice better.  However, unless the particles are pretty big, I have my doubts about their effectiveness. However, studs are a different issue. My brother, who lived in Colorado, would never think of driving in the winter without his studded winter tires. Yes, studded tires are very effective at biting into pavement covered in ice. But, they still were not as good as chains.

For serious gripping power, very few things work as well as chains on wheels. There are many varieties of tire chains available, but some states prohibit them. So, it’s always best to check your state and local municipality before strapping chains on your tires.

Affordability of Winter Tires

One great argument in favor of winter tires is the fact that they actually save the wear and tear on your standard tires. No matter what, driving wears down the tread on your tires. When you use winter tires, you save the tread on your regular tires. So really, you are sharing tread life between your two sets of tires. Your regular tires last longer, and your winter tires are probably good for many seasons.

All-Season Tires

Before I conclude, a word about all-season tires.  These tires are made of a rubber compound that is supposed to remain hard in hotter temperatures (summer months), yet be flexible enough in winter. These are a good and viable option, especially if you live in an apartment and have no place to store your winter tires. However, keep in mind that since these tires are trying to do double duty, some compromises are made.  Many tire manufacturers warn that a new all-season tire is equivalent to about half of the effectiveness of a winter tire, and a worn all-season tire is essentially dangerous in the winter.

Conclusion

If at all possible, I would recommend buying and using winter (snow) tires. They are safer in the winter and will give you a greater sense of security when driving.

Written by Gary Pradel