Drivers who grew up in the North or Midwest regions of the U.S. are likely to have heard of “snow tires” and are probably familiar with the concept of making the seasonal tire swap. Today, snow tires are increasingly being referred to as “winter tires”. While conceptually the same, the term “winter tires” has become more of a general description than “snow tires”. Winter tires are engineered for all kinds of cold weather conditions, not just snow, so the term “winter tire” more accurately represents the road-gripping capabilities of these tires.
While the name may be a bit misleading, “all-season tires” are not the best choice for winter. Though they do provide good traction for mild conditions, all-season tires fail to offer the ice control, stopping power, and superior traction of winter tires.
Not sure if you need winter tires?
Think about the weather in your region. Are winter conditions typically snowy or icy? Do you often find yourself waiting to leave until the roads in your area have been cleared? If so, then you probably do want to invest in a quality winter tire that provides superior grip when driving, stopping, and cornering. Winter tires do have the drawback of faster tread wear than all-season tires. Since the tread is designed to grip into snow and ice, and the softer rubber is formulated to stay pliable at freezing temperatures. Be sure to change back to your all-season tires in the spring, and your winter tires should last for many seasons.
If you decide you do need to invest in winter tires, now is the time to shop for them. Retailers begin to stock the newest models of winter tires in the fall, so you will have the best selection. When shopping for winter tires, keep in mind that they have a mountain/snowflake symbol on the sidewall. It assures you they have passed industry testing for severe snow use.
If your tire retailer does not have the tires you want in the size you need in stock, you can typically order them. If you order in the fall, your retailer will most likely be able to install them, at your convenience, before the winter weather rolls in.