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Now that summer is over and it continues to get colder, some are plagued with questions as to how their “sporty” vehicle will handle the frigid temperatures and more importantly the ice and snow that follows. Due to todays economic distress, many are forced to rely on one vehicle year round. Unfortunately not everyone has the same taste in transportation. While it may be acceptable to have a truck or SUV for some, others prefer the sportiness and handling of a roadster or performance vehicle. But what about winter? Is there a way to still be able to carve up mountain roads and still drive the vehicle through slush? Yes, and the answer lies in the type of tires you use.
Snow tires or winter tires are different than regular tires. They have tread patterns specifically designed to dig down and bite into snow and ice, plus they are made from softer rubber compounds that retain their flexibility in cold weather, allowing the tire to better conform to the surface of the road. Whereas regular tires tend to get hard and brittle in cold temperatures. As a result, winter tires keep a better grip on snowy and icy surfaces than regular all-season or summer tires. Grip is critical, in not just to avoid getting stuck, but to ensure that the car can stop and steer. Life-saving safety technologies such as antilock brakes, electronic stability control and all-wheel-drive cannot do their jobs if the tires can’t maintain their grip on the road surface. What about all-season tires? Could I just use those all year round? Yes and no. All-season or all weather tires are designed to cope with all sorts of conditions, including dry roads and rain, but are not optimized for any one condition. They are generally made from harder materials that don’t conform to the road surface as well in low temperatures. While it may work, it just won’t work as well.
Think of all-season tires as sneakers and snow tires as heavy-duty snow boots. It is possible to walk down a snowy, icy sidewalk wearing sneakers, but it is a lot easier and safer to do it with proper snow boots. Adversely, it is not a good idea to use snow tires all year round. Snow tires tend to be noisier, plus the softer compounds from which they are made means they will wear out faster, especially in warm weather. Wear is critical, because winter tires rely on their deep tread to dig into snow and ice. As soon as the snow is gone for good, remove your snow tires and reinstall your regular tires. The good news is since, you don’t need to stick with the all-season tires that came with your car for the rest of the year. You can choose a “summer” tire that will provide better handling, better traction in the rain, or a smoother, quieter ride. Also when choosing a snow tire, wider is not always better. A wide, low profile or large tire has to “plow” a wide path through snow which causes more resistance. The narrower the tire, the easier you can get through snow.
Lastly, when you do decide on winter tires, always put them on in a set of four. If you were to put winter tires on only the front or rear of your vehicle, you would create a vehicle with a split personality. The traction capabilities of the tires on a vehicle play the largest single role in determining how that vehicle will react in any given situation. And with the great difference in traction capabilities between winter tires and All-Season or High Performance tires, you can understand the loss of control when one end of the car performs very well and the other end just seems to have a mind of its own. By installing four winter tires, you maintain the most balanced and controlled handling possible in all winter driving conditions. Now you just have to worry about the salt.