If you live in an area that regularly has slush, unplowed snow and ice you will understand the importance of winter tires. They give you extra traction and handling and braking that you will need to drive on ice and snow. They have special rubber compounds and tread design to handle the colder temperatures. The treads are flexible and prevent snow buildup and help with traction on icy roads. Even at low speeds, a car with snow tires will brake a half a car length less than one with an all season type. Without winter tires you are more likely to spin out on icy hills and fishtail when cornering.
You do not want your safety features to fail on you under emergency situations. ABS or anti-lock brake systems will not work as well with an all season tire under snowy conditions. Vehicle dynamic control systems and traction control are limited by the grip that the tire on your vehicle can provide.
SUV’s and other 4AWD vehicles do not have any advantage when driving on ice. They have no grip as they are equipped with all season tires. The 4WD will assist in starts from a full stop or getting you around a corner better but they will not help you to slow down or stop any faster than any other car.
An all season tire is rated for mud and snow but this rating is for the void to rubber ratio on the tread design. In fact they will pack with snow causing a loss of traction. If you are expecting to drive in moderate to severe snow conditions you should install a set of winter tires and if you are in a very wet climate with only a little bit of snow all season would be best.
In 1999 a winter tire grading was introduced by the Rubber Association of Canada and the Rubber Manufacturer’s’s Association. They are designed for severe snow and meet snow traction requirements for performance. And they help make winter driving safer.
A few tips when purchasing winter tires are you should consider buying separate rims. This will save time and money when it comes to switching them out. When to install them depends on where you live, a good gauge is to change them out once the temperature hits 10 degrees Celsius or lower.
When you are done with winter weather, store them in a dry and cool location, a basement or garage is ideal. Lay them flat and stacked on top of each other. Ask for storage bags when you buy them to protect them from ozone in the air which can cause them to crack and rot. Wrap each tire and stack them away from welders and electric motors as they can produce ozone as well which will damage the rubber.
When installing them, install the set as just installing two of them will cause the car to spin. In excessive snow you may need to also use chains or studs. Studs are best for soft ice. In bad weather conditions bring a towing cable, ice scraper, jumper cables, a first aid kit, cell phone, flashlight, boots, gloves, food, blankets, flares and tire chains. Slow down before descending on hills and going around corners. Test your brakes and steering when you first get on the road. Watch out for black ice and ice in intersections, overpasses and on bridges. Do not use cruise control or follow other cars closely, allow extra room to brake. Check the weather conditions before driving to prevent getting caught in a storm. All of these conditions emphasize the importance of winter tires.