So it isn’t winter quite yet, but right about now is when you want to start thinking about buying winter tires (AKA snow tires) in preparation for what Mother Nature has in store the next couple months.
Winter tires aren’t nearly as popular here in the States as over in Europe, which goes to show how much people don’t know about them. Like the fact that they’re not just for snow, even though many drivers still call them snow tires.
So here are three things you may not have known about winter tires and how they differ from all-season tires.
1. Winter Tires Are Softer than All-Season Tires
On the surface, you can tell winter tires apart from all-season tires just by looking at the tread pattern. It’s way more edgy (as in many edges, not “edgy” like avant-garde).
But even the very rubber that winter tires are made from is different. It’s softer.
Why would you want softer rubber? Because tires grip the road by flexing and conforming to the surface. Frigid weather makes for rigid rubber, which doesn’t grip as well. That’s one of the primary benefits of winter tires — they stay pliable in freezing weather, for better grip even on dry roads.
2. Winter Tires Are More Important than All-Wheel Drive
It’s one of the most pervasive winter tire myths: “I don’t need winter tires. I have all-wheel drive.” Drivers love their all-wheel drive, but if your tires are spinning in the snow, 4-wheel drive just means all four tires are spinning in the snow.
But don’t take my word for it. Here’s what Consumer Reports had to say on the matter:
Through weeks of driving in snowy conditions at Consumer Reports’ 327-acre test center in Connecticut, we conclusively found that all wheel drive is good for getting your car moving on a slick surface, such as a snowy uphill driveway. But all-wheel drive is of little added help compared to an ordinary front-wheel drive sedan when it comes time to stop or steer your vehicle. Our evaluations conclusively showed that using winter tires matters far more than having all wheel drive in many situations.
3. Winter Tires Are Not More Expensive
Since you can only use winter tires for part of the year, you might think “Why on earth would I pay for a whole separate set of tires? I can’t afford that!”
But you can. And here’s why. Winter tires are comparable to all-season tires in price. And by swapping between all-season tires (or summer tires) and winter tires, each set lasts longer because it’s only being used part-time.
I harp on people here on the blog eeeeeeevery year about the benefits of winter tires. And you know why? Cuz it’s important. Cuz I care. Cuz winter tires can save lives.
So tell others about these winter tire facts, buy winter tires if winter temps are below 45°F where you live, and share your own experiences with winter tires in the comments!