Do You Really Need To Purchase Snow Tires This Winter?

Posted on: 11 December 2015

If you are like most drivers, you know that snow tires exist, but unless you live somewhere that receives large amounts of ice and snow, you may have never seriously considered purchasing a set. This is because snow tires back in the day made for a horrible ride unless there was ice and snow on the road. This has all changed; most of the major tire manufacturers now make snow tires that offer great handling all winter long. But do you need to replace your all season tires with a set? Here are a few factors you may want to consider. 

Exactly What Are Snow Tires?

Snow tires are tires that have been designed with a much deeper tire tread. These deeper, uniquely designed treads are created to dig down to give you extra traction on the ice and snow. Most snow tires are made from a softer rubber compound which helps to keep them from becoming hard and brittle during cold weather.

The softer rubber also helps the tire to be more flexible and helps the tire to better conform to the road's surface. This provides you with more grip, which translates to better stopping, as well as starting, in unfavorable weather conditions.

In some places, snow tires come designed with small holes in the tread of the tire. These holes are in place to allow you to be able to insert metal studs that will give you even more grip on ice and snow. Unfortunately, studs are prohibited in some areas due to the damage that the studs can cause to the roads. With or without studs snow tires are not guaranteed to eliminate all skidding that may take place on ice and snow, but they should greatly reduce the risks. 

How Do Snow Tires Compare To All Season Tires?

All season tires are normally original factory equipment on most types of vehicles. Manufacturers know that these tires will give you a quiet ride, provide good fuel economy, and are long lasting. They also know that these tires will hold up and provide an optimal performance in a wide variety of weather conditions throughout the year. 

Unfortunately, to be able to provide this type of performance all year long, there are some compromises. One of the places that these compromises occur is in the area of tread depth. All season tires have an average tread depth of 10/32 - 11/32". This gives you an average of 8/32 - 9/32" of usable tread depth before a tire is considered to be worn out, or until it reaches a tread depth of 2/32". A snow tire on the other hand will have a much deeper depth. This depth will vary by manufacturer. 

In addition to a deeper depth, snow tires will also have a different tread design than an all season tire. An all season tire will have a more straight ribbed design, while a snow tire will have a more knobby, or clustered tread appearance. 

As previously stated, this unique deeper tread is designed to give you better traction on the ice and snow. Because you need this deeper depth, you should consider replacing your snow tires once they have worn down to a tread depth of 6/32".

How Do You Tell A Good Snow Tire?

In the United States, a snow tire is identified several ways. The sidewall may be branded with the letter S for snow, or it may be branded as an M/S, which stands for mud and snow. In addition to or sometimes in lieu of the branding, a snow tire that meets all the qualifications to be called such, should be branded with a three peak mountain/snowflake symbol on their sidewall. Prior to purchasing your tires, find out what the professionals are suggesting by researching them online through different review sites. 

When Do You Put Them On And Take Them Off?

Because you will pay extra for the additional rubber on your snow tires, you will not want to run off this extra rubber during warm summer months when your all season tires will do. If you choose to install them, you need to have an idea, or a plan on when you will put them on, as well as when you need to take them off.

It is suggested that you have your snow tires put on your vehicle when it is cold enough that you are able to see your breath in the air during the day. Leave them on your vehicle until this is no longer true, or until the threat of ice and snow has passed. 

While everyone may not choose to run snow tires, they can be a real asset in areas that experience a lot of ice and snow. If you believe the Farmer's Almanac, this may be many parts of the country this year. 

For more information and assistance in choosing the best tires for your situation, talk with experts at the local tire shop, such as Collier Goodyear Car Care Center.