I get plenty of questions about winter tires from friends and family. The most popular one is, “Do I even want winter tires? I already have all-season tires therefore I’m good right?” So let me take a moment to answer some questions about winter tires.
Do I need winter tires?
This can be a troublesome question to answer because of the numerous variables concerned. For the most part it depends on temperature. Here’s a rule of thumb: If the winter temperatures where you reside are frequently below forty five and you’re familiar with snow you should probably invest in a set of 4 snow tires. If you reside in a place where it seldom snows and the winter temperatures are comparatively mild, your all-season tires are most likely fine.
How are winter tires different than my all-season tires?
All-season tires are designed to handle a range of road conditions – dry roads, wet roads, and in several cases, light snow. Winter tires are designed specifically to perform in winter conditions like low temperatures, ice, slush, and snow. The tread compound of all-season tires will harden in low temperatures, therefore there is less traction between the road and your tires. However winter tires use special rubber compounds that keep pliable within the cold, giving them higher grip and improved braking, even in extreme conditions.
I have all-wheel drive (or four wheel drive) therefore I do not need winter tires, right?
Sorry but you are wrong. All-wheel drive and four wheel drive improve traction by causing power to all or any four wheels after you accelerate (instead of simply 2 wheels, as in front or rear wheel drive). However four wheel drive or AWD does not help once you put your foot on the brakes. Winter tires improve traction whether or not you are accelerating, turning, or braking.
Do I really need to purchase four winter tires, or am I able to get away with only two?
Winter tires should only be put in in sets of 4, regardless of whether or not your vehicle is front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, or all-wheel drive. Using 2 differing types of tires will create a “split personality” and the front and rear of the vehicle will not seem to be working with eachother. For the simplest handling, control, and safety in robust cold-weather conditions, I powerfully advocate using four winter tires.
Plus, if you were to place 2 snow tires on the front of your automobile, and keep your all-season tires on the rear, your all-season tires would not wear equally.
What’s up with “M+S” or the “mountain/snowflake” image on the sidewall?
Many people assume that these two are interchangable – that a tire is nice in snow and alternative wintry conditions. However they really mean two different things. A sidewall mark of M+S (or M/S, M&S, MS) means you’ve got an all-season tire that has been approved to be used in mud and snow by the Rubber Manufacturer’s Association (RMA). These tires can give traction in lightweight snow, however we would not want to be caught during a blizzard with a set of M+S tires.
The mountain/snowflake image on the sidewall means a tire has been approved for “severe snow service” by the RMA. These tires are tested to make certain they meet the RMA’s standards for snow traction. If you would like reliable winter traction, make certain this can be on your sidewall.
Can I use my winter tires all year round?
I definitely would not recommend it. Once these tires are used in warmer weather the softer rubber compound will wear out quicker than the compound utilized in all-season tires. If you used your winter tires year-round, it is going to end up costing you quite more than switching switch between 2 sets of tires.