What You Should Know about Winter Tires

winter tires

Thinking of winter tires? Here's the 411 

Unlike the winter tires of days gone by, today's models serve multiple purposes. They provide maximum cornering, supply braking traction, and they function efficiently in numerous winter weather situations.

Winter radials make seasonal driving much safer and less stressful. However, drivers still wonder if they really need them. When making a decision about whether to purchase them or not, consider the following factors:

What are Winter Tires?

Winter tires, also known as snow tires, come specially designed to handle ice or snow-covered surfaces and cold temperatures. They have small tread blocks in flexible rubber compounds.

Each tread block has many small cuts that help the tires grip wintry surfaces. Cool winter radials, when pressurized correctly, can also grip unusually well on gravel and dirt roads.

Why Don't New Cars Come with Winter Tires?

Today's automobiles come equipped with all-season tires. Vehicle manufactures do this because they want to save money and provide customers in all places with standard equipment that seems adequate. Since many people don't live in places with long, snowy winters, there's no need to outfit cars differently.

Additionally, winter radials don't work well in warmer weather.

What about All-Season Tires?

All-season radials do provide passable performance all year long, but they sacrifice on both ends. To make them suitable for mild winters, they have to give up some of the summer performance and vice versa.

However, they won't work well in climates that usually experience more than mild winters.

Do Four-Wheel Drive Vehicles Need Winter Tires?

Automobiles with four-wheel drive suspensions tend to make drivers more reckless. That's because they don't realize the limitations.

Four-wheel drives provide traction in muddy conditions, but still have to abide by physics. Since cars tend to weigh more, they require more of their tires when stopping and turning.

Types of Winter Tires

While different manufacturers produce different compounds, winter tires come in three basic types: performance, studless, and studdable. The performance tires work best for those who experience big temperature swings in areas with little snow and ice. Since these work well from early autumn to late spring, they're ideal for long-term use.

Studless tires work best for drivers who have to navigate ice or snow regularly. You should install them when temperatures at night dip below the freezing point and remove them when temperatures stay above freezing.

Studdable snow tires offer hardcore protection in areas with deep winters. While you can add metal studs to the tires, check the ordinances first because they're not legal in some regions.

If you decide to use winter tires, keep in mind that they need a certain profile in order to function. Once they have worn down to a 6/32-inch tread depth, you should plan on getting a new set. They should still last at least two seasons because their rubber hardens with age.