Automotive Winter Tires

Published on November 30th, 2012 | by Jordan

Here’s How Winter Tires Work, and Why You Need Them.

Unless you’re a fan of watching your tires spin rapidly under your motionless car, you’re going to want to do your best to prep your vehicle for the approaching winter season. And when it comes to adding more control, stability and traction to your winter commutes, specialized tires are one of if not the most effective solution. This post will explain how winter tires work, offer some stats behind their effectiveness and share some affordable ways to pick up a set of your own.

How they work

Winter tires provide greater traction by having three unique characteristics: tread depth, tread pattern and tread compound. Tread depth refers to how deep the grooves in the tire extend; tires with tall, deep treads can more effectively pack snow within them, allowing for better snow-on-snow contact and increased traction as a result. Tread patterns in winter tires normally feature more slits (technically referred to as sipes) which open and provide more edges along the tire’s surface as it rolls over the surface of the road; having more biting edges allows for increased grip on snowy terrain. Lastly, tread compound determines how flexible your tire will remain at low temperatures, where more flexibility leads to better traction and control.

Why you need them

If you’re looking for some positive feedback on your decision to purchase winter tires, just ask anyone who’s already had them installed. But if positive reviews aren’t your thing, a recent report from the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) titled “Winter Tires: A Review of Research on Effectiveness and Use” recently concluded the following:

“In most of the known experimental studies and demonstration projects performed with different vehicles on various surfaces, winter tires outperform all-season tires in terms of traction, cornering and braking. With regard to braking comparisons in particular, the differences in stopping distances could be sufficiently significant to avoid a collision [emphasis added].”

Not only has the TIRF clearly stated that winter tires outperform their all-season counterparts, but they also negate the perceived cost barrier associated to their purchase:

“…some research suggests that using winter tires is, in the long-term, less expensive than using all-season tires. Alternating between winter and summer tires not only provides better fuel economy than using only all-season tires, but the superior performance of winter tires during winter conditions gives drivers an increased likelihood of avoiding a costly collision [emphasis added].”

Not only are winter tires capable of providing significant increases to stopping distances, but they actually save you money over time, since they have such a long lifespan. There shouldn’t be any reason why your vehicle should be running on all-seasons when the snow starts to hit.

Learn more

For some beginner knowledge on how tires work, common tire terms and a convenient sidewall symbol explanation, check out our tire guide. You can also get prepared for the winter driving season with part one of our Winterizing Your Car series.

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