While winter may bring to mind fond memories of making snowmen and snow angels, the accumulation of ice on the roads can turn a wintry wonderland into a nightmare for drivers. Ice can cause your car to skid and slide, but you also have to worry about the behavior of other vehicles around you. The right pair of winter tires can improve your performance during the winter months and create a safer experience when you’re out on the road, but picking the right tires for your vehicle is not a decision to take lightly.
All-Season Tires Can Be Deceiving
You might hear the term “all-season” applied to tires and figure that it will be ready to withstand whatever you throw at it. But marketing can be deceiving. The appeal of SUVs and crossovers is that they’re able to withstand any conditions, but an all-wheel-drive vehicle simply isn’t going to perform as well on slick and slippery roads as a vehicle equipped with winter tires. If you expect to do any significant amount of driving in icy conditions, winter tires are an investment well worth making.
Understand Your Tire’s Qualities
Not all tires are created the same, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for all conditions. There are three identifiable features you should understand before you start shopping.
- Tread pattern has a significant impact on how well your vehicle grips the road, and you should look for patterns designed for low-traction environments.
- Tread depth allows your car to make headway in thicker layers of slush and snow. The deeper, the better.
- The tread compound is the materials the tire is made out of, and winter tires are designed not just for the demands of snow and ice but also to stay soft in colder temperatures.
Performance vs. Studded Tires
Studded and performance tires constitute the main two varieties of winter tires, and each offers its advantages.
- Studded tires are the definition of heavy duty. The metal studs built into the tires are designed to shred into blocks of ice and rip them apart, but they can also damage pavement, so many states bans or restrict them. If you’re expecting to face harsh winter conditions on a regular basis, studded tires may be the solution, but make sure you check with your local and state regulations before investing.
- Performance tires aren’t designed for the harsh conditions of studded tires, but they also produce less noise, and they perform better and achieve higher speeds during cold but not treacherous conditions. In states where ice isn’t as much of a hazard, performance tires will generally suffice.
Make Sure You Have a Warranty
Since you’ll likely only bee using your winter tires a few months out of the year, it’s worth investing in a set that will last. A five-year warranty on defects is common for higher-end models, but a few manufacturers also offer warranties for tread wear.