It’s Time to Put Winter Tires on Your Car

By Paul Riegler on 11 November 2019
  • Share

BMW 335d with winter tires on the Roßfeldhöhenringstraße

In many European countries, the advent of late fall or winter is a signal for drivers to switch to winter tires on their vehicles, where it’s understood to be as important as setting the clock to Winter Time.

Indeed, having winter tires on your vehicle is required by law starting in November in Germany, yet it’s a forgotten practice in most parts of the United States because so many vehicles come standard with all-season tires, a compromise arrangement that has caused FBT Editorial Director to derisively refer to them as no-season tires.

While the United States has no such laws in place, safety and common sense dictate that drivers in areas that typically experience wintry weather should follow the European model.

Blizzard-like conditions are forecast for many parts of the country and temperatures were well below the freezing mark last week in the Plains and Midwest.  And please, let’s not forget that it snowed in Hawaii last year.

Why not risk it with all-seasons then, many ask.

The answer is rather simple: Significantly improved car control. The tread on winter tires lessens the likelihood of the car skidding when the brakes are applied as well as while making turns. The improved traction they bring means drivers won’t slide through intersections nor will the car continue to go straight when the driver attempts to make a turn.

Earlier this evening, after a layer of ice had coated the roads following several inches of snowfall, I saw multiple accidents on a short stretch of road and one accident played out in front of me when a car failed to stop at a four-way stop sign, apparently unable to slow down. While having four winter tires on my car wouldn’t prevent someone from running into me in such conditions, I can rest easy that I can brake, turn, and accelerate almost as well as I could in warm and dry conditions The other drivers – presumably all on all-season tires – can’ t say the same thing.

Science backs this up.

Tests have shown that winter tires offer 50% more traction than all-season tires and, in temperatures below 45° F (7° C), all-seasons and especially summer tires harden and lose traction. By contrast, thanks to advances in rubber compound technologies, winter tires retain their elasticity and grip at the lower temperatures, allowing the tires to maintain traction on snowy and icy roads.

Winter tires have a distinct tread design and an increased tread depth (compared to all seasons and summer tires) that channels away snow and slush. If you’ve noticed that the tread grooves fill with snow, there’s a reason for that as well: as the treads get packed with snow, the tires leverage what tire manufacturers refer to as “snow-on-snow” for improved handling, taking advantage of the stickiness inherent in snow that utilizes the same principle as snowballs or snowpack in an avalanche.

BOTTOM LINE

Given that Thanksgiving is still two weeks away, it may not seem urgent to mount winter tires install winter tires on your car, but the added safety they bring to your drives could safe a life. Having them on order when the next blizzard hits simply doesn’t count.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)