Do I Need Winter Tires?

Every year the question comes to mind… Do I need snow tires?

Some people nonchalantly oppose them, while others adamantly preach the importance of them. But… who’s right?

Around Thanksgiving, temperatures beginning dropping in colder climates and people start gearing up for winter just around the corner. Some people will change their wardrobes, get backup bags of salt, buy a snow brush, and get their snow tires on.

Others eat their leftover turkey sandwiches and look forward to Christmas without a thought of their vehicle on the slippery snow-covered roads ahead, many in fact don’t even bother with a snow blower.

If you live in a colder climate and are part of the second group, then you’re a real risk taker. Here’s why…

Are Winter Tires Worth It

The 4 Most Common Questions About Winter Tires Answered By Tire Experts

If you live in an area where temperatures drop below 45 degrees Fahrenheit each Winter, then you need to make sure you’re getting tires on as soon as December starts to roll around.

1. What if I don’t get a lot of snow where I live?

Even if your region doesn’t face a lot of snow – if the temperatures drop below 45 F, then you need to get them. They’re called “Winter Tires” for a reason. Regular tires are made out of rubber compounds that only work within a specific temperature range.

As soon as it falls outside of the range, they aren’t made to handle the roads – which can lead to potentially dangerous driving.

Regular tires have a “glass transition temperature” which, if temperatures reach that point – the tires start to behave like glass – they become hard, smooth, and will start sliding around (whether there is snow on the road or not).

Regular tires work best between 50-100 degrees F, so as soon as it starts to dip below 50, your tires will start behaving like glass, and that can be very unsafe for you or other drivers on the road.

Winter tires use different rubber compounds that are able to stay soft below 50 degrees F.

One of the biggest myths about snow tires is that if there’s no snow or ice, then you don’t need them. This just isn’t the case. Winter tires will provide good grip during cold weather, regardless of how dry or wet it is.

Getting a set of winter tires put on your car as temperatures begin to drop below 50 degrees F is a way you can reduce stress and anxiety on the road – and… you’ll save a ton of time as well.

Winter Tires vs All Season Tires

2. Can I just use all-season tires? They’re called “all-season” after all…

The rubber compound used for all-season tires is able to handle colder temperatures than Summer tires, however, their glass-transition temperature is higher than winter tires.

A true Winter tire has to meet a legal requirement in the United States for the traction level. In all-season tires, there is a very low requirement in order to get labeled “all-season”.

So… even if you get an all-season tire, you could be getting one that is almost a summer tire, or you could be getting one that is very close to a winter tire. It’s hit or miss.

The tread patterns on winter tires are able to handle the pressures of cold rain, snow, and ice. They are specifically designed to interact with dry and wet conditions at low temperatures. All-seasons just can’t handle these conditions like winter tires can.

If however you are going to choose all-season tires, you should read our best snow chains reviews and get some as a backup.

It’s very risky to assume that just because you have all-seasons, you’ll be fine. There is just too much volatility and inconsistency in all-season tires. You never really know what you’ll get.

Getting winter tires will guarantee you the peace of mind and will be able to handle any road conditions when temperatures drop.

3. What should I look for when choosing a set of winter tires?

The first thing you need to look for is a winter tire symbol on the tire: It’s an icon with 3 mountain peaks on the side of the tire. This verifies that it meets the winter tire requirements of the United States.

Official Winter Tire Logo US

Winter tires are offered by all of the main tire companies: Bridgestone, Michelin, Goodyear, Continental, Pirelli, Nokian, and others.

4. Do I have to buy a new set of wheels along with my Winter tires?

If you’re on a budget, then you don’t need to worry about buying a new set of wheels. You can just get winter tires mounted onto your current wheels each year.

However, some people like to get their winter tires mounted onto a second set of wheels. Mounting tires can take quite a bit of time, while switching wheels is much quicker.

It is quite an investment up front, but will definitely save you a lot of time in the long run.