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Winter Driving Safety: What to Look For When Choosing Snow Tires

Each winter, an average of 116,000 people get injured while driving in hazardous weather conditions. Freezing temperatures, limited visibility, and slippery roads create dangerous driving conditions. 

To stay safe, it’s important to prep your vehicle with the right tires. This will allow you better performance and mobility through the many snowstorms that hit each winter. But which set of tires is best for your car and driving habits?

Read on for how to select the right snow tires for your vehicle.  

What Difference Do Snow Tires Make?

When winter hits, you’ve got a few options for driving in snow.

You can risk it all by using your current tires, which is not recommended. Regular tires may last you 50,000 miles or more. But bear threads and cracks can create even more hazardous conditions in the winter. 

You can opt for all-seasons, which get known for their optimal performance. Yet, this type of tire tends to stiffen up in extreme temperatures. So they won’t be able to provide you with the best performance when driving in snow and ice.

The smartest decision is to swap your current tires with a full set of snow tires. Buying 4 brand new winter tires is an investment. But quality tires should last you a few winters. 

To save money, some people only install tires on their drive axle. But buying only two snow tires is not recommended. This can make it harder to control your steering and will wear your tires down faster. 

A Safer and Smoother Ride

Snow tires offer better grip and traction than standard tires. They provide better safety, allowing you to stop quicker and prevent sliding. They also outperform other tires in extreme temperatures. 

They feature a special tread design made to handle unfavorable weather conditions. It uses a deeper thread and a pattern of large grooves to help grip to the pavement better. 

These tires also get made from a softer compound that can perform well in cold temperatures. This helps to keep the tire from getting stiff, so it stays more malleable. The right winter tires should provide a comfortable ride without making a loud noise. 

Buying used snow tires is another option. Yet it can be hard to find the right sizing for your vehicle’s wheels. Used tires often have little tread left, so there’s also a safety factor.  

The Types of Winter Tires

The type of tires you choose should depend on your annual mileage, budget, and driving habits. Those who cover long distances through icy hills are going to need a tire tough enough to handle the trek. 

The most popular winter tire brands are:

  • Pirelli Cinturato Winter
  • Bridgestone Blizzak
  • Goodyear Ultra Grip
  • Michelin X-Ice
  • Michelin Pilot Alpin

When shopping for snow tires, check for a small snowflake logo on the sidewall of the tire. This means the tire passes the test for being able to handle harsh winter weather conditions. 

Here are the tires options you can choose from. 

Studded Tires

Studded tires get made for especially icy conditions. These have the added feature of small metal pins that can cut into the ice. This provides a better grip and more traction. 

Yet, the metal studs can produce a lot of noise when driving. They can also cause damage as they dig into roadways. So, not every state will allow them or you may only be able to use them during certain months.

Studless Tires

Many winter drivers choose to go with studless tires. These have a surface pattern that uses sharp edges and grooves to maneuver in the snow.

Most of these tire options come siped. This means they use a slit pattern on the tire to provide more edges. So, you’ll experience better traction and driving performance. 

High-Performance Tires

Another option is installing performance winter tires. Note that these are not as tough in the snow as studded and studless options. But they still perform well in colder temperatures.

High-performance tires also handle better at higher speeds, offering a more comfortable ride. They are good for shorter distances in the winter, while still protecting you from snow. 

Installing the Right Tires for Winter 

It’s best not to wait until the first snow storm to winterize your car. Make an appointment right before winter so you can avoid the long wait times. 

But before getting tires put on, you’ll need to know your car’s tire size. This is as easy as checking to see what tires are currently on your vehicle. In some cases, you can minus down a size to what came with the car’s base model. 

The size gets displayed on each tire’s sidewall. It reads like a code that includes the tread width and the diameter of the tire interior. It also shows a ratio between the height of tire’s sidewall and the tread width. 

The easiest way to buy the tires is right at the shop. Then you can have their team install them for you. Other people choose to buy tires online then install themselves. 

It helps to keep your snow tires mounted on wheels. This makes for a quick change and is less labor intensive. 

A separate set of rims makes it so much easier to prep your car for winter. To do this you’ll need to keep one wheelset for summer and then a different set for your snow tires. Browse these rims for sale to find the right fit for your car. 

Staying Safe This Winter

You never know when a nor’easter will show up in the weather forecast. So it pays to stay prepared when on the road. 

Snow tires can offer you a better grip, traction, and performance during winter. But it’s still the driver’s responsibility to practice safe driving techniques. 

This includes going the speed limit, or even much slower if the weather calls for it. You also want to avoid tailgating, running lights, and rolling through stop signs. Be sure to also keep track of your tire pressure as it tends to drop as the temperature decreases.  

For more safety techniques, check out this list of essential items to keep in your car. They will help you to stay safe and prepared when driving all winter long.  

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Winter Driving Safety: What to Look For When Choosing Snow Tires