Snow Tires: What Are They and Do You Need Them?

Snow season is upon us and those pretty, white snowflakes can cause major mayhem on the roadways. There are several things you should do to ensure your vehicle is in tip-top shape to handle harsh winter conditions this season. One of the most important components to check is your tires. If you experience snow at any time throughout the year, you should be aware of what type of tires are available so you can make an informed decision for yourself and your car.

If you’ve never considered changing your tires based on the season, you’re not alone. In fact, in a Consumer Reports snow tires study, 67% of respondents thought that because they have all-season tires, winter tires weren’t necessary, 53% said they didn’t need winter tires because their vehicle is all-wheel drive, and 3 out of 4 drivers were generally nervous about driving in snowy conditions.

After reading those statistics, it’s easy to understand why there are so many spinouts when the snow flurries start to fly and hit our roadways. Knowing what each type of tire can offer could mean the difference between a safe drive home and a slippery one.

Difference between all season and winter tires

What is the difference between all-season and winter tires?

Given the name, it’s safe to say that we know winter tires are only meant to be used during the winter season. However, crucial changes are made to the design of winter tires that make them different than all-season tires.

What are winter tires?

Winter tires are designed to remain flexible in harsher driving conditions, which allows them to better grip the road. They have deeper tread depths, which help reduce the buildup of snow, and can expel water and slush easier. Winter tires also have an increased number of biting edges; basically, they provide better traction on ice. Lastly, winter tires usually need to be professionally changed so in addition to the higher cost of the tire itself, you’ll also be paying more at the local repair or tire shop.

What are all-season tires?

All season tires are great for mild conditions and are more durable than winter tires in those climates. They are much more cost-effective and can be more easily changed. However, they can’t stand up to temperatures that are well below freezing because the tire treads can harden, which reduces the traction to the road.

Although the benefits of winter tires can certainly help keep drivers at ease, it isn’t suggested to keep them on your vehicle all year round because they can be costly. Additionally, winter tires get worn down much quicker than all-season tires in warmer or drier conditions.

If this tire talk has piqued your interest, here is some more information to consider:

Should drivers have front and rear winter tires?

You should always install a full set of winter tires, not just the front or rear. The reason being, only changing the front tires can increase the chance that your rear tires may slide. Therefore, by only changing the rear tires of your vehicle, could lead to your front tires losing traction much more easily.

When to take snow tires off?

If you’re wondering when the best time to take your winter tires off and put your all-season tires back on, the optimal time would be Spring. As mentioned above, winter tires are not meant to be driven year-round and all-season tires are perfectly capable of safe driving in mild conditions.

Should I add snow chains to my winter tires?

If you live in very rural areas where the roads are not regularly plowed, or in an area that regularly sees severe snowstorms, you may also want to consider adding chains to your tires. Based on the climate within the state you’re in, your state may require them by law.

Deciding to purchase a new set of tires that will only be used for a few months of the year is a big investment and not one to be taken lightly. It’s not just yourself at risk when you’re behind the wheel, but also the drivers around you. There are many winter tires on the market so do your research and make the decision that is best for you and your car. While you’re at it, don’t forget to prep the rest of your car and keep checking on your tire pressure so you can enjoy driving in the snow, not dread it.