If you live in the Snow Belt, you’re probably knowledgeable about this scene: A tall SUV with lots of ground clearance speeds by on a snow-packed highway. Miles later you find the vehicle, spun out on the side of the road and getting pulled out by a wrecker.
What most don’t realize is that the type of tires you’re riding on have a lot to do with how secure you happen to be on a slick road.
Driving out in the blizzard within your hulking SUV with nearly bald all-season tires is downright silly; it’s like setting outside in the snow in a down jacket and all sorts of the right thermal gear but forgetting to swap the mocs for boots.
Ultimate grip is simply as good as the contact patch that the tires have along with the grip they may manage. “”That connection with the earth is all you need to work with, said Mark Cox, director of your Bridgestone Winter Driving School, in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.
If you have a job or position that requires you drive on snowy or icy winter roads before they’re properly cleared, you should get winter tires, according to Jennifer Stockburger, a tire test engineer at Consumer Reports, quite simply. “”You can’t beat the added traction of a winter tire, she said.
“”All season tires are good where you might get occasional snow, says John Nielsen, director of AAA’s Auto Repair and purchasing Network. But you should consider M S (snow and mud) tires, at the minimum, if you live anywhere that might see even occasional winter conditions.
The five main types of tires today are summer, all-season, Mwinter and S, and studded.
Not nubby anymore
Not too long ago, winter tires were easy to spot from a distance, because of their very aggressive tread and rough edges. Today’s winter tires still do have deeper, more open tread patterns that are better at digging in, but they achieve their performance all the from a different type of rubber as they do from the careful, subtle design of the tread pattern details.
“”Winter tires are created to stay pliable in cold temperatures, said Stockburger, “”and the pliability is going to help on ice, said Stockburger, especially in one of the most slippery situations, when the sun comes out and it’s just below freezing, melting just a thin top layer of packed snow or ice and creating a thin layer water on top. “”Rubber sticks to ice, so as long as you can get rid of the water in between you’ll have some grip, Cox explained, saying that the very best tires today use a compound with small pockets that trap water droplets and fling them outward.
M S is actually a designation that’s based on tread pattern, not compound-essentially the same in principle as old-style snow tires-so M S tires might not fare as well on ice. Seek out that “”mountain and snowflake”” symbol for assurance how the compound is softer, or the term “”studless ice and snow”” in referring to true winter tires.
“”Winter tires have come so far. They really are a different breed from ten years ago, assessed Nielsen.
Studded tires, which typically employ 80 to 100 small embedded metal studs into the tire’s tread pattern, to help it dig into hard-packed ice and snow, are less necessary than they used to be but remain an option for anyone in some snowy, mountainous areas-mainly portions of the Rocky Mountain states and also the Northwest. Although these tires do provide a little extra traction in some kinds of icy conditions, they do measurable damage to the roadway surface and most drivers will be equally well off using winter tires and carrying chains for extreme situations.
Tradeoffs as being the weather changes
Once you get winter tires installed, you could possibly notice an improvement on dry pavement. Specifically if the weather’s warmer, the best winter tires are going to be a little “”squishier and more compliant”” on dry pavement, said Cox, by using a slight drop in ultimate dry-road cornering grip. Lots of people initially say the vehicle feels “”a little loose, in corners, added Matt Edmonds, v . p . of Tire Rack.
But as soon as you’re on a slippery surface, you’ll notice the positives, and safer, more predictable handling as you’re sliding is one of them. “”Whenever you lose grip, winter tires give you some feedback, so there’s a better chance of regaining grip, Cox said, adding that standard all-season radials, when they become snow-packed, will lose grip suddenly and it’s more difficult to regain control until the car stops skidding.
The identical physical rules that cause winter rubber compounds to become overly soft in hot weather also make summer performance tires dangerous because the weather turns cold. High-speed-rated ones — in cold weather and on slippery roads, winter tires are a must, if you plan to get a vehicle containing low-profile performance tires — especially stiffer. Most of these tires might not exactly only forget to dig into the snow, they’re also not effective in moving moisture taken care of. And even on firm, dry asphalt, summer performance tires don’t grip as well at colder temperatures.
A relatively new segment of your market is the one about performance winter tires. In sizes to fit performance cars, and carrying higher speed ratings, they “”have a little more road feel in dry conditions”” at winter temperatures, said Edmonds, but Consumer Reports has found that “”some of the best winter tires are in reality poor for dry braking, according to Stockburger.
Don’t use those winter tires year-round, though, even though you’re happy to live with the tradeoffs if the mercury rises. “”They will wear out in no time when the weather warms up, said Nielsen.
On the notion of the overconfident SUV driver, using inadequate tires with four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive puts you in the dangerous position of being able to accelerate more confidently than other vehicles, without being able to brake or steer any much better than them. All-wheel-drive versions are usually heavier too, which might create a vehicle more difficult to control in the skid, all else the same.
According to Cox, who says the common belief is that low-slung, rear-wheel-drive vehicles are dangerous on winter roads, rear-wheel drive vehicles are going to gain the most from a winter tire, in winter conditions. “”From experience, that’s far from the truth. If you put a good winter tire upon it, you can drive it year-round.
An investment that can pay off
It’s more than that. Contemplating safety and economics, it might just save you from slick-road fender-benders, and the expense of a set of winter tires is less than a typical insurance deductible.
With no single tire that performs well enough year-round for places with harsh winters, it makes sense to possess two groups of tires, seasonally rotating the set of winter rubber with all-season or summer treads.
There’s no doubt winter tires are pricey. The standard price of V-speed-rated tires — among the higher, more costly ratings — is $99 each, as the average expense of winter tires is $101 each, according to Consumer Reports. Winter tires don’t last as many miles as their all-season counterparts. That may be adding to the impact. Stockburger said that winter tires should last three or four winters, typically, or about 30,000 miles. Cox cautioned, when you reach half of the very first tread depth, “”Even a half-worn winter tire is no superior to an all-season radial in the snow, though it would still retain an edge on ice.
“”We tend to think of winter tires like a two- to three-season investment, said Edmonds. “”While your winter tires are on the car, your other set of tires is resting.
That, and you probably possess some extra assurance.