Winter/Snow Tires FAQs
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about winter tires, also known as snow tires, and how valuable they can be during the cold winter months when temperatures drop below 45 degrees.
What is the difference between winter tires and snow tires?
The terms "winter tire" and "snow tire" are often used interchangeably, though these days, "winter tires" is the most apt description. These tires are engineered to perform better than all-season and summer tires in all winter conditions, not just snow and ice, and any tire being sold as a winter tire must meet certain requirements to carry that name. All-season and summer tires begin to lose traction as the temperatures drop. This means that at 45 degrees and below, winter tires offer better traction that allows for safer braking and accelerating.
Do I really need winter/snow tires?
Winter tires are distinct from all-season and summer tires in a variety of ways. The key difference is the cold weather tread compound that remains flexible below 45 degrees. This improves traction, handling, and braking in all cold weather conditions. If you deal with consistently cold weather, or anything more than light snow, winter tires are a wise investment.
How many winter tires do I need?
It is strongly recommended that you install four winter tires. This is true for every vehicle type. Previous generations of winter tires were little more than an all-season tire with an aggressive tread design. With today’s significant advancement in rubber compounding, winter tires provide significant traction benefits in all winter driving conditions. Installing less than four winter tires may lead to handling and traction imbalances, especially in winter driving conditions. The only way to get the safety and superior traction of winter tires is to install a full set of four on your vehicle.
Do I need winter/snow tires if my vehicle has traction control?
Traction control does not actually provide you with more traction. Traction control limits your wheel spin to the amount of traction your tires currently provide. Your traction control system only works effectively if your tires can deliver traction when needed. The only way to truly maximize your winter traction is with a full set of winter tires.
Do ABS brakes eliminate the need for winter/snow tires?
ABS brakes are a vital safety feature. They pulsate your brakes to keep your tires from locking up. While very helpful, ABS brakes do not eliminate the need for winter tires. Your brakes, even with the anti-lock function, do not provide traction. In fact, your braking ability is directly related to the traction provided by your tires. The best winter traction is when you have four winter tires installed on your vehicle.
My car has front-wheel drive, do I need winter/snow tires?
Vehicles with front-wheel drive have an advantage when it comes to accelerating, because of the added weight on the front end. However, this does not help when braking, and it makes steering and cornering more dangerous in winter driving conditions. The best way to maximize your front-wheel drive’s winter performance is to install four winter tires. Rather than losing the performance advantages of front-wheel drive, you can increase your safety and performance with winter tires.
Do I need winter tires if my vehicle is AWD or four-wheel drive?
All-wheel drive and four-wheel drive vehicles are great assets, and they are very valuable in adverse driving conditions. They can assist in acceleration, even in winter driving. Without winter tires, braking and turning, can be just as dangerous for all-wheel drive and four-wheel drive vehicles as it is for two-wheel drive vehicles. All-wheel drive and four-wheel drive vehicles can be very useful but are even more effective when combined with winter tires.
Do I need a separate set of wheels for my winter tires?
While it is not necessary to have a separate set of wheels for your winter tires, it is a good idea for a couple of reasons. The salt and sand that are often used to increase traction in winter can cause damage to wheels. Many drivers choose to use a different set of wheels for winter to protect the appearance of their wheels. Another benefit of having two sets of wheels is that it allows you to have both sets of tires mounted, balanced, and ready for the seasonal changeover. If you only have one set of wheels, getting the tires mounted and balanced seasonally can be time-consuming and more costly. It saves time and money to have a dedicated set of wheels for winter driving purposes.
When should I install my winter/snow tires?
It is ideal to have your winter tires installed when temperatures dip below 45 degrees and before the first snowfall. This will keep you prepared and safe on those cold fall mornings and help you beat the rush that happens during the first storm of the year.
When your area of the country is done with winter driving conditions and the temperature is consistently warmer than 45 degrees, you are ready to reinstall your all-season tires. Winter tires tend to wear faster in warm temperatures. To preserve the life of your winter tires and get the best possible traction, follow these guidelines.
Aren’t winter tires noisy and uncomfortable?
In the past, winter tires have been notoriously loud. However, this is no longer the case. When changing from an all-season tire to a winter tire, you may hear a slight difference, but the noise levels are nowhere near as drastic as in the past. Changing from all-season tires to studded winter tires will show a noticeable increase in noise. In the end, the increase in safety is well worth any incremental increase in the noise you may hear.
Do I need winter tires if I drive carefully?
We always recommend driving with care and consideration, and being diligent about driving safely can make a big difference. However, all the caution in the world will not add traction to your tires and winter tires are a way to provide you with a safety advantage.
What if I just don’t drive when the weather is bad?
It would be ideal to avoid driving when the weather gets bad. Rather than hoping to avoid bad weather, why not prepare for it? With all the weather technology in the world, it is still very difficult to know exactly when, where, and how bad the weather will be. Rather than gambling with your safety, be prepared with winter tires that are ready to handle the weather, no matter when it strikes.
Are winter/snow tires expensive?
While it may feel like an extra purchase, buying winter tires can save you money in the long run. With proper use and maintenance, winter tires can last multiple winters and allow you to preserve the life of your summer or all-season tires. Your warm-weather tires will not wear out while they are stored in the garage; this means your summer tires have more tread life for the rest of the year and that saves you money.
More information on winter tires
- Winter Tire Changeover and Installation
- Tires with the Three-Peak Mountain Snowflake Symbol
- Tires Below 45 Degrees
- Studded Winter Tires vs. Tire Chains
- High-Performance Winter Tires
- All-Terrain and Mud Tires in Snow
- All-Season vs. Summer vs. Winter Tires