If you think you don’t need winter tires, think again. Here are six reasons people give for not switching to winter tires and why those reasons are wrong.
What are Winter Tires?
Winter tires are designed to handle snow, slush, ice, and temperatures below 45 degrees Fahrenheit. While all-season tires can handle light snow, dedicated winter tires have softer rubber and treads that grip the road better in heavy snow.
Winter tires come in studded and non-studded varieties. Some states ban studded tires, so check your state’s laws before buying a tire with studs. Studs grip the road best in icy conditions but are noisy and can damage dry roads. Non-studded winter tires are made from a softer rubber that remains pliable when cold, so the rubber grips the road better when temperatures drop below the mid-40s. They also have holes that release water.
The soft rubber on winter tires has a shorter tread life — a small consideration because they’re on the car for only a few months. Don’t leave them on all year — they have more traction than you need on warm, dry roads, and the tread wears quickly.
Winter tires must be installed in groups of four. To speed up the twice-yearly switching of winter and summer tires, mount winter tires on their own wheels — to save money, check salvage yards.
Myth #1 Because my vehicle has 4WD that delivers great traction, I don’t need winter tires.
4WD and AWD systems do provide optimized power transmission delivery, but they provide minimal assistance in transverse handling and braking. The weight and higher ground clearance diminish the stability and control of these vehicles. With winter tires, you optimize traction during all maneuvers, including acceleration, braking, and turning.
Myth #2 I don’t need winter tires with ABS.
Advanced electronic systems such as ESC (electronic stability control), TCS (traction control systems), and ABS (antilock braking) are designed for vehicle stability, power transmission, and controlled braking. But they aren’t substitutes for optimized traction grip during all types of winter driving maneuvers, including braking, acceleration, and handling.
Myth #3 Because it snows or is icy only occasionally during winter where I live, all-season tires are my best choice.
Although you can use all-season tires in a moderate winter environment, winter tires provide the best cold-weather performance below 44 degrees F. That includes wet and dry in addition to snow/ice/slush surfaces where greater tread flexibility gives a better grip.
Myth #4 The braking distance is the same whether my vehicle is equipped with winter or all-season tires.
The braking distance of a winter tire compared to an all-season tire, depending on speed and road conditions, can be up to 10 percent shorter or two vehicle lengths.
Myth #5 The outside temperature doesn’t affect my tires’ air pressure.
Proper inflation is critical, and you should check it checked monthly. For every 10-degree drop in temperature, tires lose one pound of air pressure — so it’s especially important to check air pressure after the first frost. Also, properly inflated tires ensure optimum fuel efficiency and prevent irregular and premature wear.
Myth #6 Winter tires are more expensive.
The cost of winter tires is generally about the same as replacement tires and can be lower. And when you consider that the months your winter tires are on your vehicle are months that your regular tires get no wear, the overall cost of buying replacement tires is the same, and the benefit is that you can drive more safely in treacherous winter weather.