Do I need winter tires? As winter conditions set in for much of North America, many drivers find themselves asking this same question. With colder temperatures and increased water, snow, and ice on the roads, all drivers should seriously consider investing in a set of winter tires. The following will provide a simple explanation of the value of a set of winter tires and help you to know when it’s time to swap your all seasons for something more appropriate for cold weather.
Determining if you need winter tires
Let’s start with the big question: do I need winter tires? If you have harsh winters where you live, winter tires will outperform standard all-season tires. The main consideration isn’t just snow, but also temperature. Standard all-season tires will become hard (tires need to be soft and sticky to grip the road) at temperatures much colder than 45 F, leading to a loss of grip and decreased performance that could lead to an entirely avoidable accident or off-road experience. The solution is to get a cold-weather set of tires that are made from a rubber compound that will remain soft and compliant at lower temperatures.
All weather versus winter tires
Cold-weather tires come in two varieties: all-weather and winter. If you live in a colder climate that does not experience much snow or excessively cold temperatures, then all-weather tires may be a good fit for your needs. They’re even a good option for all-year use on standard family vehicles. If your hometown driving includes heavy snow and consistently cold temperatures, then winter tires will provide the best grip in snowy, slushy, cold, and wet conditions. This becomes even more crucial if you are commuting in winter conditions, where you have to navigate the cold and snowy conditions at highway speeds.
Essentially, if snow is a rarity, then all-weather tires should be fine, but if snow comes at the start of winter and goes away in the spring, then get a separate set of winter tires. The safety aspect cannot be overstated, with winter tires offering a huge benefit in terms of stopping distance (30 percent shorter distance in Kal Tire’s testing of 19 different tires), cornering, and general stability in low-grip scenarios.
When to make the switch
As the temperature starts to drop below 50 F, it’s time to consider calling your local tire shop to get a set of winter-spec tires or book a time to swap in the set waiting in your garage. If you already have a set of winter tires, be sure to ask your local shop to check the tread depth and ensure there’s enough tread to be effective for another season.
Driving standard all-season tires in winter conditions might save you a few bucks now, but you’ll spend it, in the end, to get a tow out of a ditch or to settle the tab on a fender bender or worse. Winter weather is no joke and negotiating cold, snowy roads is tough, but having the right tire can help.