There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding
winter tires. Many people assume they are only necessary for driving in the snow, and that all-season tires will suffice in milder areas—they must be called “all-season” for a reason right?
The truth is slightly more complicated than that.
While it’s true, if you live in a relatively dry region of the U.S. where it rarely snows, you don’t have to worry about
putting chains on your tires, a set of winter tires might still be a worthwhile investment.
When do you need winter tires?
Surprisingly, the amount of snow you expect each winter shouldn’t have much bearing on your decision to install winter tires.
Whenever temperatures drop below 40, the rubber compound used in all-season (and summer) tires becomes stiff and brittle. This reduced flexibility lessens their grip, even if there is no snow or moisture on the ground.
Winter tires are made from a different rubber compound, which can better withstand low temperatures and maintain good traction.
Therefore, drivers in places where it rarely snows, but the temperature frequently drops below 40, should still invest in winter tires.
Sure, all-season tires might work most of the time, but after a few years of wear and tear, or during a particularly cold spell, they could easily lead to an accident.
The initial investment in a set of winter tires is cheaper than paying a collision deductible (and facing high future insurance premiums). Plus by switching to winter tires each year, your all-season tires should last several years longer.
Winter tires in snowy weather
If you live in an area where snow is expected each winter, you really need winter tires. Currently, no U.S. states make winter tires a legal requirement, but several Canadian provinces have made them mandatory by law.
Not only can they handle the lower temperatures better than all-season tires, but they also have a deeper tread. This allows more space for snow to escape, keeping your wheel closer to the road, and further improving your car’s grip in icy conditions.
As explained by
A Girls Guide to Cars, all-season tires, even the very best ones, are designed to boost your car’s performance. They can give you a quieter ride, and even improve fuel economy, but they simply don’t offer enough traction to adequately handle snow and ice.
Sadly, many drivers ignore this, and make the mistake of trusting all-season tires throughout the year. An internal study by Jerry, which analyzed crash data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, shows that snow is responsible for an average of 600 fatal car crashes each winter.
Many of these fatal crashes are down to drivers losing control in icy conditions, a problem that winter tires are specifically designed to solve.
When to switch back to all-season tires
As we’ve established, if you live anywhere that regularly experiences sub 40-degree temperatures, you’d be wise to swap out all-season tires over the winter months.
On the flipside, as soon as the daily high is regularly above 50, winter tires should be removed, and your all-season tires reinstalled.
You don’t want to take them off too early (so keep an eye on the weather forecast), but as winter tires are made of softer rubber compounds, they can get too soft in warmer temperatures.
This will cause them to wear quickly, and your car might feel wobbly at highway speeds or when making a hard turn.