Do I Really Need Snow Tires?
Icy and snowy roads present challenges for drivers in the winter months. Hazardous driving conditions can cause serious accidents, with extensive damages and injuries. To help protect against this, snow tires have long been recommended for drivers who live in snowy climates like New Hampshire. With the improvements in all-season tires, many drivers have begun to question if dedicated snow tires are really worth the time and expense.
Are Snow Tires Worthwhile?
When you purchase a new car, chances are it comes standard with all-season tires. These tires are designed to adapt to a broad range of road conditions. This ability to adapt comes at a cost – they are not ideal for the cold of winter, or the heat of summer. They’re generally made of firm rubber that will stay consistent in most temperatures, with a moderate tread to give you a reasonably quiet and responsive ride year-round. While these are fine if you live in a climate without winter weather, they can pose a safety hazard when snow falls.
What are Snow Tires?
Snow tires are like winter boots for your car. When the ground is slippery, most people pull out their trusty winter boots for added traction and safety. Winter tires offer similar protections for your vehicle. Snow tires are designed with deeper treads to grip into the snow and ice, making slipping on the road less likely. They are also available with studs that further help improve your traction.
Snow tires are made of softer rubber than all-season tires. This lets them stay more flexible in cold winter weather, and conform to the changing road conditions. Overall, the combination of softer rubber and deeper treads helps you stay more firmly on the road, even when fast braking is required.
Are There Downsides to Snow Tires?
Snow tires are specifically designed for winter driving, which makes them less than ideal when the roads are clear. Snow tires are less responsive than all-weather or summer tires, giving you less precise handling and control. They also break down more easily, and can cause more damage to the roads over time.
The main factor that gives people pause is the cost. Snow tires are an investment, with the initial purchase and also the cost – either in money, or time – of changing out your tires twice a year. Many people also buy a spare set of wheels to help decrease the maintenance costs associated with changing the tires.
The bottom line is snow tires provide a safer driving experience in winter weather. Studies have shown a 35% improvement in braking in slippery conditions when using snow tires instead of all-season tires. This improvement gives you a better breaking distance, helping you to avoid getting in a crash. Winter tires also help with cornering, helping to avoid a dangerous fishtail situation.
While all-weather tires are designed for a variety of situations, they simply cannot match the traction provided by snow tires on snow and ice. Whether it’s getting out of the driveway or avoiding a pedestrian, snow tires will help you navigate the slippery roads better than your standard all-season tires.
Anyone who’s driven in winter weather knows that when the snow starts falling, the roads can get treacherous even for the most experienced drivers. While all-wheel and four-wheel drive, electronic stability, and other safety features can help your winter driving, your tires also play a critical role. Taking the time to switch to dedicated snow tires can dramatically improve your safety in winter weather. Stay safe!
This material is for informational purposes only. For an actual description of tire performance, please refer to the applicable vehicle owner's manual, or specific information provided by tire manufacturer.