As the autumn crispness begins to fade into a cold winter chill it becomes clear that winter tires are a must. The problem that many drivers face at this time of the year is which tires are the best fit for their vehicle and driving needs. This can come down to a few different factors, and while many modern brands deliver a highly effective tread, not all tires are created equal.
Winter Tires Vs. All Season Tires
A common misconception that many drivers share is that an all season tire performs just as well as a winter tire. It's true that an all season tire can give you safe performance in a variety of weather, but they don't provide the same traction on ice and snow. All seasons are designed for a quiet ride in a variety of conditions, while snow tires have larger grooves to grip the road during slushy and slippery conditions. All season tires have a broader contact with the road surface, which is excellent for diverting water, but they don't have the same slices as winter tire tread does, which allows them to cling to ice while pushing slush away with a unidirectional groove shaped like a V. If you plan on driving in conditions that result in a 7 degrees Celsius temperature then all seasons should be fine, but after this they lose effectiveness, while many winter tires will still grip properly in -35 degrees Celsius.
Gauging Your Traction
There's a difference between mud traction and snow traction, and this can usually be seen with the labeling on the tire. Don't be fooled by the M+S logo that is often associated with all-season tires; while this does represent an ability to get through mud or snow, the M+S is actually referring to the shape of the tread, not the tire type itself in terms of performance.
Sizing Your Tires
Something that you might not know about your winter tire is that the narrower the tire, the better you're going to find that your wheels can slice throw thick snow and slush. Of course, you still have to select your tire size based on your vehicle, as a large truck is not going to roll properly on a slender tire, but you can speak with your mechanic about what is sometimes called minus sizing. This can not only give you the best tire for winter conditions in terms of getting in and out of the snow safely, but it can also sometimes reduce the cost of tires altogether, giving you the opportunity to save a few dollars as you shop.
Whether you're heading out on the open road for a winter vacation with the family, or you simply plan on using your snow tires for the everyday back and forth to work, it's important that your vehicle is outfitted for the weather appropriately. Many accidents could be avoided if the proper tires were in place, so ask questions, speak to your mechanic, and check the labels on tires before you buy them. Don't be fooled into purchasing a tire that should work during every season, because you might be disappointed.