Winter Tire Changeover & Installation
When installing winter tires, you should always replace all four tires. Installing four winter tires guarantees you the best possible traction.
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Installing 4 Winter Tires
Winter tires are optimized for winter conditions and temperatures at or below 45 degrees. By replacing all 4 tires with winter tires, you are enhancing the traction of both the front, and the rear of the vehicle. This improves the handling and your safety in winter conditions. If all 4 winter tires are not installed at the same time, it could drastically change the way your vehicle handles in winter conditions.
When installing only 2 winter tires on a vehicle, whether they are installed on the front or the rear axle, the handling characteristics of the vehicle will be affected. Regardless of the drive train; front-wheel, rear-wheel, or all-wheel drive, the axle with the winter tires would not be working in sync with the opposing axle. For this reason, America's Tire always recommends installing all four winter tires at once for best handling in winter conditions.
Installing 2 Winter Tires on the Rear
Installing only two winter tires can lead to mismatched handling and traction. There is a common misconception that only two winter tires are needed on a vehicle’s drive axle. This was considered true in days past when winter tires didn’t provide such high levels of grip. With advances in winter tire technology, this practice is no longer true and can be incredibly unsafe.
On a rear wheel drive vehicle, having only two winter tires on the rear axle can result in an understeer condition. Understeer is when your front tires have less grip on the road than the rear tires. This will lead to your vehicle not turning and stopping as intended, resulting in little to no control of the vehicle.
When it comes to rear-wheel drive vehicles, it is still always best to install all four winter tires at the same time. In the situation when only two tires can be replaced, the new winter tires should always be installed on the rear of the vehicle.
Installing 2 Winter Tires on the Front
On any vehicle, the rear tires typically have less traction than the front tires. This is true for many reasons. One of the reasons is your vehicle’s engine is typically in the front. The weight from your engine will help press the tires down on the road leading to better traction.
Another reason your rear tires do not have as much grip as the fronts, is the majority of braking and steering is done with the front tires. Therefore, if you were to install winter tires only on the front of your vehicle it would result in severe oversteer. Oversteer is when the rear of your vehicle loses traction and swings around sideways. This is commonly called “fishtailing” and often leads to complete loss of control.
When Should Winter Tires Be Installed?
Many people wait for the first snowfall to think about winter tires. It is best to purchase and install your winter tires once temperatures consistently dip below 45 degrees. At this temperature, all-season tires get stiff and start to lose traction. This results in less reliable braking, cornering, and acceleration. If you get in early for your winter tires, you can beat the last minute rush and be prepared before the snow starts to fall.
Winter Tire Storage
Storing your winter tires is another very important, yet often overlooked aspect of winter tire care. As with all-season and summer tires, proper storage is very important. The wrong environment can cause serious damage to your tires.
To help your tires see more than one winter, make sure to follow these storage steps:
- Store tires without a load
- Tires should be stored somewhere dark, with little or no direct sunlight
- Tires should be brushed clean thoroughly before they are stored. If they are mounted on wheels, the wheels should be cleaned
- Wrap them in airtight plastic bags and store them in a cool, dry, climate controlled area
Learn more about Common Winter Tire Questions.