Are snow tires really necessary for getting through the winter safely? Many drivers choose to rely on all-season tires throughout a snowy winter because they think snow tires are too expensive or not worth the extra hassle of having them put on. Snow tires, however, are designed to safely drive in snowy and icy conditions. If you live in a snowy climate and find yourself slipping and sliding in your car, snow tires are worth the investment.
Image via Flickr by Janitors
What Are Snow Tires?
Snow tires, also known as winter tires, are specially designed to get traction in snow and ice. Several elements set them apart from regular tires. Snow tires have wide treads, which helps them push through snow. They’re made of softer rubber than all-season tires, because rubber hardens when it gets cold. This softer rubber hardens up in winter just enough to give it great traction. The surface of winter tires also often has small, sharp elements embedded in it (like walnut shell or metal spikes) to help gain more traction.
Can All-Season Tires Handle Snow?
All-season tires do not perform well in snow and icy conditions. They’re made of harder rubber, which can get rigid in low temperatures. Rubber needs to be somewhat malleable to get good road traction. They’re designed to handle wet pavement, but when it comes to deep snow or black ice, these tires often lose traction all together.
When Are Snow Tires Appropriate?
Snow tires are best in climates where it snows regularly throughout the winter. If your roads are almost always covered in some kind of precipitation during winter months, snow tires are for you. They’re much safer than all-season tires in winter weather precipitation. If you drive on a lot of back roads that don’t get plowed often, you should invest in snow tires for your vehicle. The worse your weather conditions are, the more you need snow tires. Just remember to take them off when the season changes and the snow is gone.
Do not put snow tires on just two wheels of your car. At best, you’ll affect your ability to make turns well. At worst, the traction differences between your all-season and winter tires will cause you to spin. If you’re going for winter tires, get four.
Why Can’t Snow Tires Work All Year?
The elements that make snow tires great in winter don’t carry over to the rest of the year. Technically you can leave them on all year and you’ll still be able to drive your car, but it’s a bad idea. They wear out faster during other seasons because they’re made of softer rubber, which happens faster the warmer the weather gets. They’re also noisier, because they’ve got treads meant for getting a lot of grip.
Ultimately, spending a little more on snow tires is a better investment than risking your safety (and the body of your car) by driving on tires that aren’t equipped to handle snow. Be safe this winter, and get some snow tires on your car.