What are winter tires?
Winter tires are specifically designed to handle the challenges of driving in the most dangerous months of the year. From their tread patterns all the way down to the chemical compounds in the tread rubber, they are built specifically to provide better grip and more control in winter conditions.
THE TREAD RUBBER
Winter tires are made with tread rubber that maintains flexibility in low temperatures. All season and summer tires are made for warm climates and designed to withstand heat generated on the road. They are not designed for freezing temperatures and tend to stiffen in cold climates. When a tire stiffens, it is unable to provide the optimal traction you'll need to accelerate and stop.
THE TREAD PATTERN
Tread patterns of winter tires are very different than all season and summer tires. They feature deeper tread depths with increased slots and sipes. Sipes are tiny slits in the tire that act as biting edges on ice. Together, these unique tread elements allow the tire to dig deep into snow, grip harder on ice, and ultimately provide more control.
Many people refer to winter tires as "snow" tires, but it's important to note that "snow" tires aren't just for when it's snowing outside. Winter tires are simply the best when it comes to maintaining traction, accelerating, stopping, and cornering in ice, snow, and slushy conditions.
These features help winter tires maintain traction on unpredictable winter roads. The softer rubber compound helps the tire maintain grip on an otherwise slippery road, the deeper tread pattern helps dig deeper into snow, while unique tread designs help channel water and slush from under the tire. In the end, your vehicle is less prone to skids or slides with snow tires than with all-season tires - and they can help you accelerate and stop faster, too.
What are tire studs, and do I need them on my winter tires?
Tire studs are tungsten carbide pins surrounded by an outer jacket of steel or aluminum. They are installed into the tread of rubber tires that are designed to accept studs.
Typically 80 to 100 studs are inserted into holes molded in the tire's tread design. A special tool spreads the rubber and inserts the stud.
Extensive testing by the tire and automotive industry, as well as various government agencies, have proven that tire studs can improve traffic safety in icy winter driving conditions. Tire studs increase tire friction on icy surfaces enabling drivers to stop sooner, accelerate quicker and maintain control on turns.
The Tire Professionals at Done-Rite Tire & Auto strongly recommend tire studding. There is an additional fee to have your winter tires studded, but the additional confidence you will experience makes the $35/per tire cost a worthwhile investment.
Why do I need to install four winter tires?
Whether your vehicle is front or rear-wheel drive, winter tires are best applied to all wheel positions. While some drivers question the necessity of changing all four, there are good reasons why tire and vehicle makers recommend using a full set of winter tires.
For one thing, just mounting two means you lose some of the traction, stopping and cornering advantages a full set provides. No matter what kind of vehicle you drive, never mount two winter tires on the front axle without also mounting them on the rear axle. Only installing snow tires on the front wheels increases the risk of losing rear tire traction while braking or cornering on wintery roads. This is because the back wheels will have less grip than the front wheels, a scenario that can throw you into a rear-wheel skid.
But what about just mounting winter tires on the back wheels, especially if your vehicle is rear-wheel drive, shouldn't that be enough?
Remember that in a rear-wheel drive vehicle, the front wheels steer and the rear wheels provide the power. So if your rear tires can grip the road but the front tires can't, any effort to steer the vehicle in the direction you want to go on wintery roads will be more difficult.