Making Your Way Through Winter Safely

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Making Your Way Through Winter Safely

Driving on snowy winter roads is never fun, but there are steps you can take to make it safer and less stressful. While many drivers feel that merely having an all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive vehicle is sufficient, the right tires are drastically more important. In fact, tests have shown that two-wheel-drive vehicles on snow tires often out-perform all-wheel drive vehicles in inclement weather. It's also essential to remember that all-wheel drive does not help you to stop, and its ability to help you safely take corners in the snow is limited, making it all the more essential that you focus on buying the right set of tires.

Do You Need Separate Snow Tires?

For wintry weather driving, you generally have three options:

  • All-season tires
  • Snow tires
  • Studded snow tires

Remember that summer tires are not designed for cold weather or snowy conditions, and you should never use them once the temperature begins to drop below 40 degrees. This leaves you with the three options above, each of which is progressively more competent in the snow. Choosing the right type of tire for your particular needs will depend on your environment. If you live in an area that sees only very light snow or you can choose to stay home on snowy days, then all-seasons may be sufficient.

For areas that see significant snowfall, however, snow tires are always the correct choice. Although buying a separate set of tires will cost more upfront, remember that you will only be using each set of tires for half of the year. Over time, the cost difference between using all-season tires year-round and separate summer and winter tires will roughly even out. If the upfront cost is too much, however, then it is crucial to buy all-season tires highly rated for snowy conditions.

Should You Buy Studs?

Studded snow tires have small metal studs installed on them to provide superior grip in extreme conditions. Not all snow tires can have studs installed, so be sure to check if your tire is designed for studded use. Even more importantly, many states restrict or ban the use of studded tires due to the extra wear that they place on road surfaces. Before considering studded tires, check your local laws to ensure that you can legally use them in your area.

In addition to the above concerns, studded tires provide worse traction on dry or wet surfaces, and they produce a large amount of road noise. If you routinely drive on snowy mountain roads, then these trade-offs may be worthwhile, but most drivers in most areas will not require studs. If your state restricts the use of studded snow tires, then that is generally a good indication that they are not strictly necessary for normal winter conditions in your area.

Choosing the Right Snow Tire

The best way to select the right snow tire for your car is to work with a qualified and experienced tire shop. The technicians at the shop can recommend a set of tires that will fit within your budget, and they can help you to choose winter wheels for mounting your new tires. Even relatively cheap snow tires will outperform all-seasons in wintry conditions, so you are sure to find a set that will work with your particular budget and help you to make your way safely through the winter.

Visit a local tire shop for more information. 

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