Winter tires are one of the most misunderstood facets of vehicle ownership. Many people overlook the value of them, up until they experience an issue as a result. Although winter tires aren’t necessary everywhere, or on every vehicle, every driver should be familiar with these eight things about them, because we all know how expensive auto body repair can be.
You don’t need to live in a snowy climate to benefit from winter tires: There are many differences between winter tires and all-season tires, but it all comes down to grip. Winter tires contain additional compounds, whereas all-season tires have a higher rubber content. This allows winter tires to remain more flexible as it gets colder outside. It’s an awful lot like the difference between trying to walk on ice in flip-flops, versus snow boots. Flip-flops can’t grip, and afford little protection in that environment, even though they’re just fine in the summer.
The tread is different: Winter tires have deeper slots and grooves cut into them, which gives snow and slush someplace to go. This gives them improved gripping ability.
It’s best to put them on when it starts hitting 45 degrees Fahrenheit on a regular basis.: Although many people will wait until the first sticky snow comes to swap out their tires, the best time to do it is when it starts to get chilly out. As an additional benefit, those who jump on it at the right time get to beat the rush, and have the best selection to choose from.
You have to change all four tires: Some people hope they can get away with only installing winter tires on the rear of vehicles with front-wheel drive. However, the rear tires still need to provide grip, and when they can’t, the car will fishtail unexpectedly. Having mismatched tires also means that they will be in different stages of wear, which isn’t good either.
Winter tires can be saved for use the subsequent year: A major concern among vehicle owners is the cost of switching out their all-season tires. The good news is that both sets can be saved and reused, provided they still have life left. Tires that are not in use do better when stored without air, in a cool, dark location. It’s also worth noting that winter tires will last longer if you remember to switch back to your all-season tires when the temperature rises back up to 50 degrees Fahrenheit or so.
You don’t need to pay to have your tires siped: Some tire sellers will offer to sipe your tires for a small fee. In this process, additional tiny slices are made on each tire, in an effort to provide a better grip. Tire manufacturers often frown upon the practice simply because today’s designs are high-tech, and are computer-generated to provide the best-possible grip. Cutting extra slits in the tire can cause it to wear down faster, and may void the warranty in some cases.
Snow tires will have a three-peaked mountain and a snowflake marked on them: This signifies that they’ve been rated to have a traction index of at least 110. Traditional tires will normally have the letters “M” and “S,” for “Mud” and “Snow,” though they don’t have to meet the same safety requirements.
Winter tires prevent accidents and save lives: There are still naysayers out there who think that only inexperienced or poor drivers have collisions when the roads are slick, but that’s not so. Some studies have shown that snow tires reduce stopping time by approximately 25%, which is about the length of two to three cars. Regions that have implemented mandatory snow tire use have seen a drastic reduction in accidents as well. For instance, Germany saw a 50% decline in the number of collisions after a country-wide law was made. Before Quebec mandated the use of snow tires, 96% of people already used them. After the law was created, a 2% increase in snow tire use was seen, but the number of collisions actually dropped by 5%.
In some regions, it never gets cold or slick enough for a driver to benefit from switching out his tires. Much of the southwest is this way, and some parts of the south are as well. However, in most of the country, they provide an extra measure of safety. Of course, the lower risk of accidents can add up to financial savings, too.