Changing Tires With The Seasons

Automotive Blog

When winter rolls around, you put away your flip flops and running shoes and change to boots because they work better in snowy or icy conditions. In the same way, your car or truck might be suffering from poor performance because its tires need to be changed to something more suitable to the conditions. To save money and experience better performance, you need to make careful selection from the tire choices available.

All Weather Radial Tires

In the upper Midwest and the Northeast, all weather radial tires are often standard equipment for new cars. If your car is not equipped with all weather tires, and you will be driving in wet, snowy, or icy conditions, it might be a good time to switch. All weather tires function fairly well in a variety of conditions, but they do not do any one thing really well.

For instance, DOT-approved summer tires have extremely low rolling resistance due to their shallow tread, which helps them to be efficient, improving gas mileage. Likewise, performance tires have a soft compound that gets good grip in dry conditions, helping with cornering.

All weather tires have slightly higher rolling resistance because of their increased tread depth, but unlike summer tires, they are at home in the wet and snow.  All weather tires have a harder tread compound that does not grip as well as performance tires - but they also do not wear out as quickly.

Do not confuse all weather (abbreviated AW) tires with all season tires, which do not perform well in snow.

Snow Tires

Snow tires differ from all weather tires in that they include features like advanced siping and soft tread compounds that grip well in the snow. Sipes are grooves cut in the tread of the tire that carry water, slush, and snow away from the treads. Siping also makes the tread more flexible, so more surface area is on the ground at any given time. Snow-specific tires have more sipes in shapes that grip snow.

Most snow tires should not be driven in dry conditions with temperatures above freezing because the soft compound will disintegrate fairly quickly. This soft compound, however, is the key to stopping and steering on snow without drama.

Studded Tires

If snow tires are not able to get the job done (probably due to icy conditions) the next step up is to try studded snow tires. These tires have metal spikes screwed into the tread to grip glass-slick icy roads. Steering, acceleration, and braking can be done with much more confidence than the other options.

The issue with studded tires is that they do not last long, especially in mixed conditions. They shed studs as you drive, especially under heavy braking. Do not expect to get more than two or three seasons out of a set of studded tires. Another major disadvantage is price - they can be several times more expensive than all weather tires.

Visit a local tire center like Gray's Tire and Auto for more information about staying safe on the road in all seasons.


25 November 2014