You might have wondered what the term ‘winter and snow tires’ means. Maybe out of curiosity or necessity, you’ve been trying to find out what winter tires are and why you need a set for your car. Let’s demystify the quagmire by getting the facts right.
What are winter tires?
Winter or snow tires, as they are commonly referred to as, are tires built to withstand the harsh winter roads. They enable you to maneuver the harsh, snowy roads without much struggle by increasing traction.
Basically, traction is the force that causes motion between your tire and the road surface with the help of friction. The designing of treads in winter tires is the primary factor in generating traction. Treads in winter tires are usually deeper and their patterns enable them to expel water and channel the snow.
Winter tires are the alternative to tire chains; hence you don’t necessarily need the two together. However, there are no restrictions to using them both at once, especially in extreme conditions.
However, it is worth noting that some jurisdictions restrict using chains on their roads, citing road damage reasons. In this case, you will have to depend on a set of tires to take you through the winter.
Depending on motorists’ diverse needs, legal policies and technological advancement, various tire manufacturers include diverse features in a bid to optimize efficiency. For instance, some companies will manufacture tires that will allow you to insert metal studs in them if you need to. Others will make them ready for tire chains or even have them already mounted when you buy them.
These are steel wheels with winter tires mounted on them. With a set of wheels, you will not have trouble swapping the tires, since it’s as easy as changing a punctured wheel.
Difference between winter tires and all-season tires
A simple look will not differentiate winter tires from all-season tires. Basically, they look the same and they have similar sizes. That means you can always fit a set of winter tires in your favorite rims and expect no significant change in terms of look and feel.
As earlier stated, treads are the basic difference between winter tires and all-season tires. In winter tires, they will be deeper, sometimes wider, and they have special patterns to enable them to handle snow and slush while doing away with the water at the same time. Winter tires are also equipped with biting edges –thousands of tiny slits on the tire edges that offer you traction on ice.
The other major difference between the two types of tires is the tread rubber used to make them. If you ride on your all-season tires in winter, the tread rubber stiffens and is less capable of offering you the traction you need.
This happens because the tread rubber in all-season tires is affected by extremely cold temperatures. Winter tires are built to withstand the cold temperatures and give you optimum performance when driving on snow.
When to change your winter tires.
Since winter tires have deep treads, you do not expect them to visibly wear out to know that they are no longer efficient. Before you check on their physical condition, gauge your experience. You will begin to experience difficulties in maneuvering snowy roads when your tires’ efficiency is exhausted. However, there are few more ways to tell if your tires are worn out.
For instance, if your tread depth has reduced to about 6/32″, expect some inefficiency such as reduced traction if you haven’t begun experiencing them already. While it is still legal to ride on a tread depth of 2/32″, you will be struggling on the road if you wait till your tires are worn out this much.
Using only two winter wheels.
Some people argue that changing only two wheels and leaving the other pair with all-season tires is acceptable. Well, it actually is. If the four wheels are in good condition, it means you’re not essentially breaking any rules. In the case of two-wheel drives, you might think that only the wheels connected to the engine shaft need winter tires since the other pair will never skid.
This is a huge misconception since a reliable grip and efficient braking are necessary for all wheels. You need four winter tires for optimum performance and handling.
Who needs winter tires and when?
Basically, if the temperatures in your region go below the 45°F mark during winter, then you definitely need to get your car a set of winter tires. All-season tires are only good for moderate temperatures but never reliable for ice on the road, because their treads are not built to deal with slush and snow. In any case, having a set of winter tires on your car is more of a choice than an obligation if you do not experience the unfriendly snowfalls.
Are winter tires good to go during other seasons?
Ideally, winter tires are made for harsh conditions. They are built to carry you through the coldest season without having to skid on the ice every time you hit the road. If you require a set of tires that you’ll only need to change because they’re worn out and not because they let you down sometime or are too expensive for you, go for winter tires.