Does My Car Need Winter Tires?
With the many tire options available for your car or truck, it can be hard to decide which type is best. All-season tires are great options for most climates, but if you live in a place with long, cold winters where temperatures are regularly below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, or where it snows often, your vehicle would probably benefit from a more specialized, winter tire.
Capabilities of All-Season Tires
All-season tires are built to handle a variety of weather conditions, everything from dry roads to wet roads and light snow. However, the rubber that all-season tires are made of is not intended to withstand extreme cold. All-season tires can harden in low temperatures, lessening the traction between your tires and the road. An “M/S” on a tire designates an all-season tire that has been approved for use in mud and light snow by the Rubber Manufacturer’s Association (RMA).
Benefits of Winter Tires
In cold and snowy climates, winter tires are a necessity. Here’s why:
- Winter tires offer better stability and control during snowy and icy driving conditions.
- Winter tires are designed with a unique technology that allows them to stay flexible in freezing temperatures—improving traction and grip, even during braking.
- You still might need winter tires even if you have four-wheel or all-wheel drive, as the four-wheel drive system only helps when accelerating, not braking.
Proper Installation and Care of Winter Tires
- Be sure to install your winter tires in sets of four. Keeping two all-season and two winter tires on your car can give it a “split personality” where the front and rear tires are not working together properly.
- Winter tires should be changed out during the summer months. The rubber is not designed to flex the same way summer or all-season tires are, and will wear out more quickly.
- When shopping for winter tires, look for the symbol of a snowflake inside a mountain. This designates winter tires that have been approved by the RMA for “severe snow service.”
Snow Chains and Studded Tires
There are several other safety precautions you can take when driving in snow and ice. Snow chains and studded tires can increase your traction under certain conditions. Studded tires are designed for icy roads. Whether rubber or metal, studs can damage bare pavement, so most states have laws prohibiting their use during certain months. Some tires are sold pre-studded, while others have retractable studs and still others can be studded after they’ve been installed. Snow chains, on the other hand, offer additional grip and traction on packed snow, but they offer little help on ice. Locations that require snow chains, such as high in the mountains, post requirements for drivers. Snow chains can be installed by drivers or professionally in sets of one or two. See your state’s requirements for more information.
For more tips on how to make sure your car is winter ready, check out this article on how cold weather affects a car battery. And, don’t forget to schedule a maintenance check at a Sears Auto Center near you before harsh weather hits!