Anyone who lives where it gets cold during the winter months should strongly consider purchasing a set of dedicated winter tires for their automobile. The additional traction and control offered by winter tires makes them one of the smartest additions available for increasing your driving safety.
There are a few myths surrounding winter tires. Many drivers have been led to believe that all-season tires are sufficient for winter travel, and that winter tires are reserved exclusively for those who regularly have to plow through snowdrifts on their daily commutes.
Unfortunately, this is simply not true. While all-season tires are sufficient for driving in the rainy conditions many states encounter during winter months, once the temperature drops below a certain point, all-season tires can no longer be considered safe even on dry pavement. This is because the rubber used in all-season tires is incapable of maintaining maximum grip on the road once the mercury starts to drop.
According to Goodyear, once the thermometer indicates 45 degrees F or less, the rubber in all-season and summer tires begins to harden to the point where stopping distances are increased and traction is limited. Even drivers piloting all-wheel drive vehicles will notice reduced braking performance, especially during emergency stops, as well as less control in the corners. The colder it gets, the less safe all-season tires are to use on your vehicle.
Winter tires avoid cold-weather performance problems thanks to the use of special rubber formulations specifically designed to remain supple and sticky in even the lowest temperatures. The technology and engineering that go into helping winter tires defeat colder weather is considerable; as a result, the rubber used in these tires allows for braking and cornering that is well within the limits of safety, even at colder temperatures.
Special tread patterns are another important feature of winter tires. These help the rubber bite into snow, ice and slush and deliver the kind of traction drivers need to keep moving forward through blizzards and over hard packed winter roads. Special tread blocks use sharp edges to cut into the snow while certain designs also trap snow in tires’ grooves to take advantage of its sticky properties and bond the tire to the snow that remains on the ground.
Don’t make the mistake of mixing snow tires and regular tires on your vehicle. While this might seem like a thrifty option, Goodyear recommends against it because the difference in traction between winter tires and all-season tires can dramatically unbalance an automobile. Think of it as driving a car that is riding on two tires in excellent condition and two that are dangerously bald. The dangers of this kind of tire setup arise when trying to stop or turn sharply, as one end of the car could either slide out sideways or push forward, unable to respond to any driver inputs.
In the final analysis, owning a good set of winter tires is not only safer than driving on all-season or summer tires throughout the winter, but it also provides a financial advantage as well. Since each set of tires will only be driven for half the year at most, the lifespan of that rubber will effectively double, giving you many more years of service and evening out your costs over time. Winter tires offer a safe and economically sound method of getting from point A to point B during the colder months of the year.