It’s a common question in any area where temperatures get below 50° F. If winter in your area only means the occasional dip into the 40s with no real snowfall or ice accumulation to worry about, then all-season tires are likely fine for you. On the other hand, if you get real winter weather where temperatures get into the low 40s and remain there for a few days, that means real winter tires should be a priority for you.
Too many people use all-season tires when they’d be much better off with the real winter traction of having winter tires on their vehicles.

Benefits of Winter Tires

Genuine winter tires, with the three-peak mountain snowflake symbol, are specifically designed to give you the safest performance when winter traction is a must. That symbol on a tire means that it meets or exceeds the required level of performance to be considered “severe snow service rated.” But you don’t have to have snow or ice on the road to benefit from winter tires.

There are numerous winter tire choices for every car, truck, and SUV, so it’s easy to find one that fits your budget and driving needs. Winter tires are engineered with special rubber compounds that stay flexible in cold weather, so even if there’s no snow or ice, you’ll still have confidence-inspiring grip when the temperatures are at or below freezing. That’s why winter tires are the best choice even if you have dry-but-cold winters. Cold weather traction is ideal, and you’ll be much safer if/when you drive over ice and snow.
When winter weather is severe, the tread design of winter tires is exactly what you need to get where you need to go or to stop when you need to. The tread blocks on winter tires are noticeably larger with deeper voids than other tires. Plus, they’re designed with additional siping and biting edges for more efficient winter driving through increased winter traction. 

All of these design elements plus other technological advancements allow winter tires to grab onto the snow for grip or to give safe and predictable handling on ice. Of course, either snow or ice on the road will always require extreme caution, but snow tires/winter tires give you additional peace of mind and measurable safety benefits.

Do All-Wheel Drive Vehicles Need Winter Tires?

The simple answer for anyone wondering if their all-wheel drive (AWD) or four-wheel drive (4WD) vehicle really needs snow tires is the same for anyone with two-wheel drive. If you get real winter weather or temperatures that remain in the low 40s or colder, yes.
All-wheel drive is great for additional traction in wet weather. It might even be helpful on its own in the winter if there’s not much snow. However, with the wrong tires, AWD and 4WD vehicles aren’t much better off than anything else on the road in winter, especially when it comes to stopping. 

Accelerating with winter tires on snow or ice is noticeably better with snow tires, but it’s stopping your vehicle safely where winter tires truly excel on any vehicle. Stopping distance at even 25 MPH can be car lengths shorter with winter tires. Think about that the next time you’re in a panic stop with your family in the vehicle or as you head into an intersection.

Are winter tires worth the cost?

When it comes to safety and driver confidence in the winter, yes, winter tires are worth the cost. Simply put, a winter tire will always outperform even a great all-season tire in snow, ice, or when temperatures are at or below freezing.

What if you like to drive to the mountains for winter sports or other activities, but you live in an area where you don’t get real winter weather? In that case, they might not be worth the cost unless you have them on an extra set of wheels to mount them when needed. Even in that situation, you should check the regulations for where you’ll be driving for winter fun. In certain areas of California, for instance, tire chains are required regardless of what tires you have. If that’s the case for you, a good all-season tire plus a set of chains might be best.
Back to living in an area with winter weather. If you have consistently frigid temperatures with the chance of snow and ice, winter tires are definitely worth the cost. Regardless, you should always be aware of what type of tires you currently have and what condition they’re in. If you have summer tires on your vehicle, they simply won’t be safe when temperatures are in the low 40s because the rubber will become too hard to give safe traction, and don’t even think of using them when there’s snow or ice.

Types of Winter Tires

Once you’ve decided you need winter tires for your car, truck, or SUV, it’s time to decide specifically what type of winter tire best suits your needs. Luckily, that decision isn’t usually a tough one. 
If you get “typical” winter weather in a well-maintained city, then studless winter tires are probably best for you. In most cities, roads are cleared of heavy snow and then salted to prevent ice, so studs would be overkill and possibly even not allowed (check your local laws and ordinances if you’re unsure). It’s just the performance category you’d need to choose from beyond that.

If you live outside of a city, get heavy winters, and have roads that are almost always covered in snow and ice for long periods, studdable tires might be of consideration. However, even in those areas, if the snow and ice don’t last long and you get some wet winter weather, studless winter tires might still be best for you.
Studded winter tires are the last type of winter tires, and those are really only appropriate for vehicles that are driven in the mountains and have consistent ice built up on the roads. Studded tires work incredibly well on ice-covered roads, but studless and studdable tires are extremely efficient on snow and still offer impressive benefits on ice. Studded tires aren’t recommended for use in dry weather when the tires are in direct contact with the road.

It’s Time for Winter Tires: Now What?

Now that it’s time to get prepared for winter, but you’ve got summer or all-season tires on your vehicle, you need to plan your best course of action.

First things first, the most important thing to remember is that you can’t put winter tires on the front or the rear only. Winter tires must always be used in sets of four. Using them on only one axle will result in dangerous driving dynamics.
You’ve generally got two options. Some people find it best to get winter tires and have them mounted when the temperatures start getting into the low 40s regularly, then have their other tires remounted as winter weather ends. The other option is getting winter tires mounted to a separate set of wheels.

If you decide on the convenience of mounting your winter tires to separate wheels, keep in mind that you might need a separate set of TMPS sensors if your vehicle is so equipped. Another benefit of owning separate wheels is that it allows you to change to winter tires more easily, so you can switch back and forth more easily to extend the life of your winter tires if the weather changes often in your area.

Whether you decide to have new winter tires mounted to your car’s current wheels, a separate set of seasonal wheels, or if you need help deciding on the perfect winter tire for your vehicle, Zohr can help. Contact us online or call/text 816-800-9175. With our Mobile tire replacement service, Zohr can even come to you at your home or office for maximum convenience.

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