If the winters are even somewhat cold where you live, it isn’t a good idea to continue to use regular tires past Fall. The rubber used in these tires is poorly suited to winter conditions. While most drivers do accept that regular tires may be unsuitable for winter use, they argue that buying winter tires is overkill. When modern cars come with ABS, stability control and all-season tires, they wonder if special winter tires are really necessary anymore.
Winter tires are about more than just snow
They used to call these snow tires. This term, though, implies that you only need these tires when it snows. They call these winter tires now because the term better describes the way these tires perform – they offer better acceleration, braking and handling across the whole spectrum of cold weather conditions.
Many modern vehicle control technologies like ABS and stability control do try to help even if you don’t have the wrong kind of tires. Whatever these technologies do, though, they need to try to achieve it through the four patches of contact that the tires have with the road. These technologies perform better when you have the right tires. To better understand why winter tires are important, let’s look at how these tires are constructed.
Winter tire construction
Regular tire rubber needs warm weather to stay soft and grippy. When the weather cools even a little, this rubber becomes tough and inflexible. Their grip is compromised. Winter tires, on the other hand, are made of special rubber that stays soft and grippy even when temperatures drop. When you use regular tires in cold weather, your stopping distance doubles during instances of hard braking (compared to winter tires). All-season tires do much better; they still take 15 percent longer to stop.
The tread blocks on winter tires have many slits cut into them – called sipes. The idea is to increase the number of flexible tire edges that are in contact with the terrain. The more that the blocks of tread spread (with help from the siping), the more grip you get. These tires also have deep tread patterns made of soft rubber that are designed to spin snow out of the way.
Winter tires don’t just offer better braking – they offer improvements to a vehicle’s ability to accelerate, too. All-season tires take 20% percent longer than winter tires to go from 0 to 40 mph. Regular tires take three times as long. The conclusion is simple – get winter tires to stay safe and to save fuel.
No one’s buying these arguments
America loves tinkering with its cars. Winter tires still haven’t caught on, though. In a country where most places are bitterly cold in winter, winter tires only make up 3% of the market (Canada fares somewhat better – a third of the market buys these tires).
The problem, as experts see it, is that all-season tires have a very persuasive name. People simply refuse to see past it. The other problem is that winter tires used to be called snow tires, not long ago. People still believe that winter tires are only meant for use in the snow. They don’t realize that winter tires make them safer even in dry cold weather.
Even if one does accept that winter tires are necessary, using winter tires require that you perform a laborious tire swapping chore twice a year. It makes people reluctant to get winter tires too that alloy wheel rims and sensitive tire pressure monitoring systems can suffer damage during a tire switching. These systems don’t take well to frequent tire switches. Still, since your safety depends on good tires, getting the right tires for the weather is something you need to do.