February 17, 2020

Getting into the Groove with Winter Tires



When purchasing new tires for your vehicle, it may be very tempting to just buy a set of quality all-season tires. Surely, they’ll work in all conditions, right? They literally have all-season in the name! What you might not realize, is that depending on where you live, owning two full sets of tires, both an “all-season” set, and a set of “winter” tires, may be very beneficial for your vehicle in the long run.

What are Winter Tires? How do they Differ from All-Season Tires?

There are several key differences between a winter tire and an all-season tire, the first of which is the rubber compound that the tire is made. As winter temperatures begin to dip below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, the rubber in an “all-season” tire begins to stiffen, which reduces overall grip on the road. Winter tires are made of a different rubber which can withstand colder temperatures, maintain the flexibility, and therefore provide a better grip on the road. If you live in an area where you are regularly dealing with sub-40-degree temperatures and snowy and icy roads, you should invest in a full set of winter tires.

Another key difference between a winter tire and an all-season tire is the tire’s tread. A winter tire has deeper treads than a typical all-season tire. With these deeper treads, a vehicle will see improved traction on roads, because it allows the snow and ice to be flattened into the trenches of the tire. Rather than driving on top of snow and ice, the deeper grooves in a winter tire allows it to move the winter precipitation, providing better contact with the road surface. The treads also have a biting edge to prevent too much snow and ice build-up on the tires.

I have a Vehicle Equipped with All-Wheel Drive. Do I Still Need Winter Tires?

You may be thinking to yourself, “I don’t need winter tires, because my vehicle is equipped with all-wheel drive”. While all-wheel drive can certainly help with acceleration, winter tires become far more helpful when trying to brake or turn in snowy or icy conditions. The wheels can all drive, but when attempting to execute even the simplest of driving maneuvers, a winter tire excels.

In a 2019 test, identical vehicles (equipped with all-wheel drive) were outfitted with a set of all-season tires and a set of winter tires, and then driven on ice. When braking to a complete stop from a top speed of 12 mph, the all-season tires needed 57 feet to come to a complete stop, while the winter tires brought the same vehicle to a stop in 34 feet. During the same test, the vehicles were tasked to make a 90-degree turn at 11 mph. The winter tires did not lose their grip, while the all-season tires attempted to make the same turn and lost traction.

Winter Tires are More Expensive than All-Season Tires. Can I Just Drive on them Year-Round? What about Two Winter Tires and Two All-Season Tires?

While it may seem like a good cost-saving idea to “split” the four tires of your car with two all-season tires and two winter tires, it’s actually not recommended at all. In reality, you only get half the control. Consider that front-wheel-drive cars still rely on the rear wheels to keep the vehicle balanced when weight shifts during a turn, and different types of tires can effectively work against themselves, resulting in an accident.

Unfortunately, because of the softer rubber and deeper treads that characterize winter tires, they have the tendency to wear out sooner if driven in warm temperatures. This would equate to having to replace more expensive tires more often, costing you more in the long run.

While it may seem like an expensive up-front cost to purchase a set of winter tires, once they are purchased, you'd only be paying to change the tires twice a year (winter tires at the beginning of winter, all-season tires at the end of winter) versus buying new tires every two to three years. By constantly changing your tires, you’re also prolonging the life of your all-season tires, and adding some extra time between needing new tires.

In the long run, would you rather have a set of winter tires, or be forced into a situation where you were underprepared for the elements, resulting in damage to your vehicle? (and repair costs for you!).

If you are thinking about which is the best set of tires for you and the safety of your vehicle this winter, contact your nearest Milex Complete Auto Care professional today.

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